Adam Levy

Adam Levy and the Honeydogs, who will be performing at SXSW, have put together another album of lyrical puzzles, which promises to reward careful listeners (Photo courtesy of The Honeydogs).

Editor’s Note: The Daily Texan talked with Adam Levy, singer-songwriter and bandleader for The Honeydogs, to discuss the band’s latest album, What Comes After, released today. Levy will be performing during SXSW at Lamberts with fellow Honeydog Brian Halverson on Thursday, March 15 at 9 p.m., as well as part of a free show at The Liberty on Saturday, March 17 at noon.

Daily Texan: How did this album compare with the album that you envisioned when you went into the studio?
Adam Levy:
I think we had decided that we were going to do a quick record and that we weren’t going to labor over a lot of overdubbing details. We used to make records very quickly without any heavy intensive lifting, so we just thought, because of people’s schedules, it might be fun to throw the record down as quickly as we could. The songs and arrangements that we’d been working on lent themselves to that.

DT: Could you have recorded this album 10 years ago?
No. I think the band’s much better now. In fact, with a lot of the songs, I came in the studio and showed them and we did them in one or two takes. The band is just infinitely better than we were. I certainly don’t miss the nervousness that you have when you first go into the studio when you’re younger: It’s nice to feel really comfortable as a player, performer, songwriter, singer and musician. There are things that I labor over and that have taken more time — other projects — but with The Honeydogs, I enjoy the level of comfort, familiarity and trust that everybody has. We tend to work better, more quickly.

DT: You make many obscure references in your songs. Do you expect your listeners, for example, to know what the amygdala is?
I like making records that are sort of puzzles for listeners that require repeated listening and that may require them to go back in their memory bank or go look up a word that they might not be familiar with, but I don’t expect everybody to do that. The music can operate on multiple levels, but my favorite songwriting has a puzzle quality to it so that the listener can take away multiple meanings. There can be things hidden within that the real curious can figure out, but it’s not like you miss the point of the song if you don’t know some reference in it.

DT: What’s exciting about SXSW for you?
It’s a great way to drop in on music that you had no idea existed. I feel like the serendipity of accidentally stumbling on cool stuff is exciting. There’s also this large Minnesota contingent that goes down — usually somewhere between 50 and 70 bands — and it’s a nice way to support your comrades on the road. Also, the food, obviously, in Austin is fantastic, the folks are really nice there and the weather is beautiful. It feels like a little vacation at the end of our miserable, grey, sloppy winter here [in Minnesota].

DT: How do you feel about the new album?
I’m really excited. The record’s coming out on vinyl and it should available be in stores around the country. It just feels good to be doing this after 18 years. I think, as a songwriter, you’re always hoping that the next song you write is your masterpiece and I still feel like I haven’t written my best work yet. It just feels like this is a really great batch of songs and the band played exceptionally well. I’m just happy that I get to keep on doing this.

Printed on Tuesday, March 6, 2012 as: Band readies for multiple shows, quickly completes new recording

With an opening track titled “Particles or Waves,” alluding to quantum duality and other songs that make references to Greek mythology and philosophy, one may be tempted to say that The Honeydogs’ latest album What Comes After is a bit of an unusual pop album. However, like the Minneapolis-based band’s other works, the obtuse subject matter doesn’t get in the way of catchy hooks and memorable melodies. Instead, it gives the music an added depth to reward the repeat listens that will invariably occur.

This album, the band’s tenth, harkens back to the group’s earlier works, such as their self-titled album and Here’s Luck, which worked as simple collections of songs. Their more ambitious later projects, like the concept album 10,000 Years, balanced an epic tale of a world at war with infectious tunes full of large instrumental production to match the scope of the story.

What Comes After isn’t a concept album, but it’s clearly more ambitious than the band’s earliest work and shows real growth from bandleader Adam Levy. The songs are varied and catchy, following the typical rules of pop music structure. But the subject matter is not the typical angst-ridden content one might expect. Instead it’s often somewhat cryptic, and when Levy does write a song about love, it’s more about its philosophical implications, like when he discusses it in an abstract sense in “Better Word.”

While the album is complex lyrically, there is enough comfort in the musicality of the songs themselves, so that What Comes After remains inviting and never intimidating. Listeners will likely find themselves humming along to a song before they reach a conclusion as to what it’s about. Levy manages to throw in some nice turns of phrase (such as “It’s a very thin line between vintage and vinegar” on “Death by Boredom”) that resonate even apart from the rest of the context of the song.

The album is a solid collection of Rubber Soul-style songs and a delightful return to the work of The Honeydogs from ten or so years ago. However, for their next go-around it’d be nice to see them go back to their concept-oriented material, which has led to their two best albums, 10,000 Years and Amygdala. Still, What Comes After is nothing to dismiss, as it’s a superb pop album, both energetic and inventive, catchy without being shallow and multi-faceted without being off-putting. 

Printed on Tuesday, March 6, 2012 as:Honeydog's music grows more ambitious