Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears find something sweet

The Austin-based band incorporates blues influences in their music.

By Dani Kinnison | Aug. 11, 2010

Tags: Band interviews Music

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For the Austin, Texas blues rockers Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, making music isn’t about recreating the great sounds of the past, but making their own creation out of different elements.

“Joe has said before that there’s not gonna be a soul performer that’s better than James Brown, or there’s not going to be a blues guy better than Howlin’ Wolf,” rhythm guitarist Zach Ernst said. “There are folks who have set the bar so high that everybody else can only hope to take a little bit from what they did and make their own thing out of it, and that’s sort of the attitude we have.”

And that’s exactly what Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears did. Wasting no time since their formation in 2007 while Ernst was still in college, the band quickly made its name around Austin and caught the attention of Lost Highway Records, who signed it in 2008.

“I guess the timing was right, where we were able to get the attention of Lost Highway Records, and we all wanted to keep up the momentum,” Ernst said. “We’ve been really fortunate to make an impression the first time out. We definitely feel really lucky to have folks who wanted to put out the record [Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is] and wanted us to get moving really quick, because we all wanted to work.”

Touring with fellow Austin rock outfit Spoon in 2008, the band met drummer Jim Eno, who produced Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is. They were able to record most of the album live, which is pretty uncommon, especially for a band with seven members.

“It’d be like all seven of us playing at once, just hoping to get that magic take, and we’ve had a lot of luck with that,” Ernst said. “We’ve never tried it another way, but it’s definitely the way that has worked as far as capturing the energy of the band.”

Hoping to release their second album in the spring of 2011, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears want to expand their sound even more, incorporating their love for raw blues influences such as Lightnin’ Hopkins and Hound Dog Taylor, as well as garage and punk rock bands such as The Sonics and The Fugitives.

“I think when the next record comes out, people will see a broader idea of the kind of stuff we’re trying to make,” Ernst said.

Although the band performed in Columbia last summer, Ernst doesn’t remember much about its previous performance, save for a golf-cart ride gone awry.

“This guy was driving us on a golf cart, and I fell off and tore up my leg and side really bad,” said Ernst. “We were all not in very good shape [from] partying all day, so that’s the only thing I know about Columbia. I should have known not to trust somebody from Columbia on a golf cart.”

Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears will return to Columbia with Hacienda and John Henry and the Engine on Aug. 15 at The Blue Note. Tickets are $13 and $15 and doors open at 7 p.m.

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