If you want a template on how to operate a new Canadian band in today’s social media environment, look no further than Toronto’s Honeyrunners.
This four-man unit comprising of lead vocalist Dan Dwoskin, drummer Brandon Robins, guitarist Marcus Bucci and bassist Mike Bolton not only book themselves, manage themselves and fund their own records but are also quite happy to be self-sufficient as they gradually develop a solid fan base by continually performing and showcasing in Southern Ontario.
“We’ve had booking agents and record labels tell us that they’d sign on with us if only we had management in place,” noted Dwoskin as he and drummer Robins meet at the Rock Lobster restaurant on Toronto’s trendy Queen St West to discuss the band’s calculated development. “But our response is, these are things we can do ourselves for the time being”.
Formed by the explosion of four other local indie bands, Dwoskin, Robins, Bucci and original bassist Nick Lemieux decided to be a self-contained unit from day one in 2012. They played any bar that would have them, built up a reputation by performing at festivals like NxNe and Canadian Music Week, and forged a strong connection with the college crowd by appearing at COCA (Canadian Organization of Campus Activities) International Conferences to reach out to their target audience.
“Canadian Music Week can be a real challenge because you are playing with so many bands. There’s always the problem of being scheduled alongside music that doesn’t necessarily complement your own,” noted Dwoskin. “Eventually – after a few years – better showcase offers have come our way through friends & acquaintances, and last year we helped sell out the Horseshoe Tavern on one of the main CMW festival nights with Canadian rockers The Balconies, The Damn Truth, Head of the Herd, and King Khan & BBQ Show. It felt great.”
“It’s the same with COCA,” continued Robins. “We travelled to the COCA conference in Halifax to play for 20 minutes, but the exposure was great; the college audience is our audience. There would be people trying to kick us off the stage, but we’d be chatting away with kids in the audience, signing autographs. We hung out with the college kids at their parties – why wouldn’t we? We’re in Halifax, hanging out with some great kids. They were in awe that we would spend the time with them; made me wonder why more indie bands don’t do this? These are the kids that are booking us at their Universities.”
Again, it’s that attitude of the band being prepared to play anywhere on any date to win over an audience which has created such a groundswell of acceptance for The Honeyrunners. “I don’t understand it when bands say they can’t get decent gigs,” allowed Dwoskin. “I have no problem making cold calls to club owners. I can talk almost anyone into booking us. It’s not a question of manipulation; we believe in our music.”
“Our attitude is that at every gig we play, good or bad, we pick up new fans and build things from there,” he continued. “Everything about The Honeyrunners stems from our live performance. Most club owners usually want to bring us back for another round. It’s a slow and often thankless job, but we can see from the support growing around us that we are building a following.”[quote]“Our attitude is that at every gig we play, good or bad, we pick up new fans and build things from there” [/quote]
With a solid bluesy-rock sound that’s reminiscent of early Black Crowes, The Honeyrunners have recorded two five-song EP’s; EP 1 in mid-2013 and EP 2 released in August of this year found on iTunes, Rdio, Spotify, Bandcamp, etc. Although both musicians claim they are `album people’, they believe initially releasing EP’s is the route to go considering the current social media environment.
“Releasing albums is not the right kind of world for us right now,” explained Robins. “It’s more like, here’s a taste of what we are doing, now let’s go on the road and show them what we’re about. Here’s another taste of what we are working on, now let’s go on the road again. We’re starting to write another body of work that should see the light of day early next year; only when we think we are really ready to record a full album will we take things to the next step.”
Both Dwoskin and Robins acknowledge that there was an element of experimentation and trying to define their direction on the first EP, “We went through three bass players before we found Mike (Bolton). Starting to seem like Spinal Tap“, jokes Dwoskin. Yet both agree that The Honeyrunners’ sound is coming together on their second effort with American college radio being especially receptive to tracks like “Under Control” and “River Song”.
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As for their future, the band is currently plotting DIY tours and reaching out to festivals for Spring & Summer 2015. With steady growth of the band in a Canadian market, they’re looking to spread the music to other countries. Dwoskin and Robins do allow that at some point a major record label and management company might enter the picture. “There are a few more pieces in the jigsaw puzzle for us to work on,” explained Dwoskin. “But if we found the right partnership to help us up the ante, we’d obviously entertain the idea. That could be a year or two away; there’s no rush to make that decision, we’ll continue to grow our band until they hear what we hear.”
One sibling rivalry that Robins has set for himself is beating his brother, Autumn Hill guitarist Mike Robins to the stage of The Jimmy Fallon Show. “I would light up like a Christmas Tree if The Honeyrunners did that,” laughed Robins. “I’d be on the phone with him, ‘Hey Bro, I’m backstage on Fallon, chilling with Bruno Mars!’ That would be priceless.”
Catch The Honeyrunners perform in Toronto on Friday, October 31st at Jam Factory Co. for their annual Halloween bash and debut of their new music video for “Under Control”.