Taking a trip around the Honey Moon

“Most songs sound better with trumpets.”

Joey Julliard, Honey Moon.
honey moon

As they dance around their Motown, indie and dream-pop influences, Peckham-based band Honey Moon craft a modern and ambitious surf sound. Whilst newer singles emit playful radiance, softer tracks from previous releases are reminiscent of summer dusks with old friends. This ‘element of subversion’, as frontman Jack Slater Chandler (vocals/guitar) calls it, is truly championed on the band’s upcoming debut album.

Although their lineup expands to perform joyous live sets, Zach Urch (lead guitar/backing vocals) and Joey Julliard (bass) consistently entwine harmonies and bright guitar lines with Jack’s lilting vocals. Rewinding through the band’s oeuvre reveals the true flexibility of the band’s sound. Quiet strings tremor through the opening of “Magic”, a slow doo-wop tune, whilst “If I Could Only Dream” will circle around your head until your next listen. “I Saw You in a Dream”, the band’s most popular track on Spotify with over 1.8 million plays, indulges in reflection before spinning up to beautiful moments of falsetto.

Earning the approval of Huw Stephens, Gideon Coe and Tom Robinson is ample proof of Honey Moon’s pop potential, as publications like DIY, Clash and Wonderland are keen to emphasise.

Their tracks have been featured across BBC Radio 1 and Radio 6, but when Elton John presented Honey Moon on his Beats 1 Apple Music show ‘Rocket Hour’, he introduced his audience to a band he dubbed as simply ‘fabulous’. Fortunately, this praise doesn’t seem to have swollen the band’s ego to astronomical proportions. Honey Moon take inspiration from a huge host of artists and genres — I detected some Leon Russell with a touch of Mac DeMarco — allowing them to avoid much of the nostalgia so often attached to the surf era.

Joining the buoyant “VIP” and “Stop and Listen” as singles from their debut LP is “The Call”, which was released earlier this week. Its understated opening leads to a laid-back trumpet solo reflected in the perky guitar line. Honey Moon’s debut album, which is set for release later this year, often slips between vibrant anthems and dreamlike ballads. Following their live tour in February, the band are touring in April and could be joining this year’s Glastonbury lineup thanks to their place on the long list. Honey Moon are an obvious choice for the festival – could there be a better band for summer days (and summer nights)?

Honey Moon (left to right): Joey Julliard (bass), Jack Slater Chandler (vocals/guitar), Zach Urch (lead guitar/backing vocals) | Photography Credits: Hattie Hambridge

Hi guys! Thank you very much for teaming up with IAMUR for a chat this evening. Please can you each introduce yourselves to our readers and explain your role in the band.

Jack: I’m Jack, I sing and play the guitar.

Zach: I’m Zach, I play lead guitar and sing backing vocals.

Joey: And I’m Joey, and I play the bass.

I was wondering how you guys met and came together to form Honey Moon?

Jack: I met Zach at a party back in uni. I was looking for someone to play some songs with — not with the idea of becoming Honey Moon, just some solo stuff. Zach agreed, then woke up the next day and realised we were now in partnership with one another.

Zach: (laughs) I’ve never looked back.

Jack: Then we met Joey — it’s quite a nice story, actually — in Camden.

Joey: I was walking down the street and heard this nice music coming out of the pub, so I thought I should definitely go in and listen. The boys were playing, and we just got talking afterwards before I ended up joining the band.

Your bio on Bandcamp describes your music as ‘jangly croon pop for the soul’, which is very accurate listening to your singles from the past couple of years. I listened to your discography backwards, and was surprised by your debut Honey Moon EP from 2015 and the Best in Town / Summer Days EP from 2016. I’d say your sound back then might’ve been more ‘twinkly dream pop for heartache’. How do you think your identity as a band has changed from 2015 to 2022?

Jack: I think our songwriting is more refined, although I think everyone always prefers what they’re doing now compared to what they’ve done in the past. Our sound was under a blanket “dream-pop” vibe back then. As you said, they were pretty much all love songs back in the day – quite unashamedly, with quite direct themes. Nowadays, I’d like to think we’ve got a bit more depth lyrically, thematically and sonically too. We’ve incorporated some slightly different sounds on this first record, and a more diverse range of production elements so it’s not just, “here’re ten tracks of dream-pop”.

Honey Moon – Magic

I’ve been lucky enough to have a little listen to your first full-length LP – the release date and name of which I shall not reveal. Has this debut album been in the works since the band’s infancy, or did it find its own identity as your songwriting and style have developed over the years?

Jack: I don’t think in 2015 we were thinking “oh yeah let’s do an album” — we just did little bits at a time, a few singles and EPs and then decided to commit to a solid body of work back in…I want to say summer 2020?

Joey: I think it was the year before that…

Jack: 2019. Jesus…but yeah, going into it we didn’t know exactly what we wanted to do or how it was going to sound, we just started with the abstract concept of making an album and worked out how to do it from there.

Joey: And we wrote loads — thirty songs or something mad like that. We had a lot of time on our hands during the lockdowns, so we wrote as much as we could.

Your new tunes feature orchestral sections, backing vocalists and harmonies galore. What’s your process for deciding which arrangement suits each song? For instance, how do you know if a certain song just needs a little horn section here or there?

Jack: Trial and error, mostly. As Joe said, we like to spend a lot of time together and imagine how the songs could sound. With a couple of the songs on the record, we knew pretty much straight away that we wanted strings. I wanted to challenge us to arrange and record strings. We’ve had brass on tracks since ‘Special’ back in 2018. We have friends who play different instruments, so we get them involved. It’s nice to have a break from guitars and my voice by mixing it up with something else.

Joey: Most songs sound better with trumpets.

Jack: Exactly, that’s a general rule.

Zach: When we recorded the trumpets, we ended up putting loads in and getting a bit carried away with it.

Jack: We were like “let’s add an extra trumpet, extra trumpet, extra trumpet…”

Joey: Maybe we’ll release those tracks as solo trumpet tracks.

An entire concept album dedicated to trumpet tracks?

Jack: Yeah — that’ll be our next record.

Honey Moon – VIP

It’s the only natural progression. Listening to your music, I could hear instruments and influences from a whole host of genres – particularly the surf sound of the Beach Boys. Do you find that discovering old and new artists continues to shape your sound, or do you feel like you’ve solidified your specific ‘Honey Moon’ style?

Jack: It might be a bit of both. I think there are definitely some elements that make something sound like us. We were doing a cover the other day and we thought, “oh, maybe this song sounds a bit more ‘Honey Moon’”, but you were quite right when you said we can do whatever we want, really.

Joey: Did I say that?!

Jack: Yeah! I mean, I think there’s a certain amount of freedom within those boundaries.

Joey: Luckily, we got dropped by a record label, so maybe that gave us more freedom to do what we want to do.

Jack: And in terms of influences, I think it would be weird if we shut ourselves off from any new influences. We’d probably go stale quite quickly.

Sounds like a healthy approach to have writing for a genre that has quite a specific sound.

Jack: It is a niche sound, and the genre has quite a cult following. Maybe this album is less like that.

Joey: I know what you mean in terms of the ‘retro pop’ sound. It’s like when people just want to listen to The Beatles over and over again, but I think we try to bring in modern elements too.

I think it creates an interesting bridge between older fans of The Beatles and younger indie pop fans. From your debut Honey Moon EP to the debut album, your songs often seem connected by the concept of an upbeat or at least easy-going melody, paired with melancholy and lovelorn lyrics. Do you find that the ‘classic pop’ or ‘old soul’ element of your style influences the themes within your songs?

Jack: I think it tends to be more of a sonic theme than a lyrical one in our music — there’s a lot of old Motown and soul in there. I think, typically, some of those older records that have inspired our sound — you mentioned the Beach Boys — apart from a couple of tracks featuring Brian Wilson’s amazing songwriting, the lyrics are generally not the most thematically exciting.

Joey: They wrote all of their songs about driving cars.

Jack: (laughs) Yeah, pretty sure it’s because Brian’s dad, their manager, wanted them to be very clean and marketable.

Joey: I remember they talked about hearing a new Beatles album, they were like ‘we need to write about something else now’ — and they picked surfing.

Jack: (laughs) A different mode of transport from land to water. Anyway, in terms of our progression from the beginning to now, hopefully, there’s an element of subversion in the music. You might hear something upbeat or uplifting, but if you listen closely, the story being told might not be what you associate with that sound, and vice versa — a song might be melancholic in sound with a positive message. I think that’s been the target of this new record. 

You’ve received a positive critical response from the folks at Dork, The Line of Best Fit and BBC Introducing to name a few – but I wouldn’t be surprised if once you’ve gained the support of Elton John, all other opinions go out of the window. He immediately came to mind when I first listened to “Stop and Listen”. Do you have any idea how he came across Honey Moon? I’m just imagining him bopping away at one of your gigs.

Jack: Yeah, he’s followed us ever since our first gig — he was pissed at the bar with a friend, and then he would be the only person that would turn up at our shows, we’d play for nobody except him, and he would come in disguise (laughs) no, I wish that was true. I’m pretty sure a radio producer played a track for him — I think it was “Special” — and then he played it on his radio show.

“You have to look for the silver lining. Being in a band usually means everyone has to work and fit the rest of their lives around it – but suddenly it was like okay, the rest of your life doesn’t exist.”

Jack Slater Chandler

So far this year, you’ve released two singles from the debut LP: “Stop and Listen” and “VIP”. Could you give any insight into what made you choose these two songs over any others, or are you soon to release another single or two? Or three?

Joey: I think those two are just catchy.

Jack: When we play a set, we usually end up playing “Stop and Listen” first. It came towards the end of the album writing process, and it still had a novelty to it. I felt like there was very minimal discussion about it being the first single. And I think we went with “VIP” because you liked it — that’s the main reason why it made it to the LP.

Joey: I remember the day when we were finishing demos for the album, and we weren’t even going to demo “VIP”. We had about twenty minutes to spare until the last train home, so we just did it once. Then, we sent out about fifteen or twenty demos to our friends and a lot of them liked “VIP”, probably because it sounds quite commercial.

Jack: And different to the other stuff on the album. It’s a bit more hard-hitting with some crazy guitar stuff going on too.

It’s no secret that, since 2020, life in a band has been difficult. How did you guys spend this time together — or apart — and get through the pandemic as a team?

Jack: Quite how we got through it as a team, I don’t know, but we’d spend a lot of time together virtually on things like Messenger sending each other ideas, then meet up in the studio as soon as we were allowed to.

Joey: We’d be jamming in the park and stuff like that.

Jack: You have to look for the silver lining. Being in a band usually means everyone has to work and fit the rest of their lives around it – but suddenly it was like okay, the rest of your life doesn’t exist. We used to say that we’d do it if we had more time, then the universe gave us loads of time. It was still tricky — being in a room and meeting up is the best way to make music, rather than sending each other WhatsApp messages of a murmured chorus or a guitar solo idea sung into a phone microphone. But somehow, we did it, which I think is amazing.

Joey: When we went up to the studio there were still restrictions in London, but the studio had a pool table and an Xbox, so it was like a little holiday.

Jack: It was around the time when you go still go out to do what was categorised as ‘work’, so we went and got snowed in at a big old church in Leeds. We spent three weeks recording there, and it was like our own little pocket of…

Joey: Madness?! (All laugh). But yeah, we just kept our heads down and worked a lot. It was really tough at the time, but it’s quite cool to come out with an album. We were lucky to have that time to spend on it.

Jack: It was a really good focus point too. I’m just speaking for myself, but I think, looking back, I would’ve been in a difficult place if I didn’t have something to focus my mind on during that time. I would’ve gone a bit more stir-crazy.

Joey: Yeah, it kept us sane and drove us crazy at the same time.

That’s probably the best way to approach writing an album. As things are slowly returning to (semi) normal, I imagine you have big touring plans for this year. Are there any festival dates our listeners should jot down?

Jack: We’re on a Glastonbury longest, so that might happen. We go on tour in April, starting in Manchester on the 15th and finishing on the 28th in Newcastle. There’ll be another London show and hopefully more tour dates later in the year too.

Finally, which tracks are you most excited for your fans to experience live? I’m wondering if you’ll all agree on the same track or have a different opinion here.

Jack: “Wonderwall”? (All laugh). I think songs like “Heart Won’t Wait” and “She Don’t Wanna Stay” — or maybe those are just the ones that I’m most excited to perform.

Joey: I think the ballad at the end, “Lonesome Reverie”, is my favourite track. I also like the instrumental track. It’s just a bit different to the rest of the tracks on the album.

Jack: The instrumental won’t come out as a single, so it’ll be a nice surprise.

Any shoutouts before we finish?

Joey: Shoutout to Elton John.

Here are the essential Honey Moon tracks:

Huge thanks to Honey Moon, and we look forward to hearing more from the band very soon… Meanwhile, readers can see and hear more from Honey Moon on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Bandcamp and Spotify.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, feel free to read more of our special features. You never know who you might discover – they could become your new favourite artist!

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