Something special happens when Rachel Kate Gillon and Sarah Bandy harmonize.
"We become one," Gillon says about her bandmate in the Local Honeys. During our interview, Gillon and Bandy are sitting with the rest of the band — drummer Camela Guevara and upright bassist Brad Edwardson — on the deck at the Tattooed Moose, and it's obvious they all get along famously. Gillon's comment prompts Bandy to break out in a Spice Girls chorus: "When two become one —" Gillon jumps in immediately with the backup vocals: "Wanna make love to you, baby."
This is the sort of band that laughs a lot together, sometimes before a real joke has even been made. They joke about making Edwardson, the only male band member, wear a skirt, and they speak affectionately about other members of the well-connected Charleston music scene. There's an earnestness here, and it shows in their music, which features Bandy on the ukulele with Gillon on the guitar and syrup ramekins — which she cups in her palms and clacks together, Monty Python-style, to make a percussive sound like a horse's hooves.
There's a sunniness and an earnestness in their music, and it comes naturally. In their song "Honeysuckle Rose," which would fit right into an episode of Prairie Home Companion, Gillon and Bandy sing, "Desert winds blow, wolves howl in the pack / I strap on my spurs and they shine through the black." There's definitely a lyrical preoccupation with what they call "old cowboy music," like the Johnny Mercer tune "I'm an Old Cowhand (from the Rio Grande)" that they've been known to cover at shows — yippie-yi-yo-ki-yays and all.
"I don't think that it's necessarily that we're thinking about being retro," Gillon says. "I think the ukulele really lends itself to those kinds of songs."
So why the ukulele in the first place? Bandy has been fascinated by music all her life, but she only picked up the instrument four years ago, and she loved having an easy conduit for expression. "It's cheap, like $40, you know, and you can buy one and you can learn it, you can teach yourself from the internet in like two weeks if you want to," Bandy says. "You can get really technical with it and learn really crazy jazz chords, or you can also just play like G-C-D and still write a song. That's what I love about it."
Their music isn't all pastoral nostalgia and Old West whimsy, though. Witness the band's cover of Gillian Welch's "Caleb Meyer," in which a female narrator kills the man who tries to rape her, or Gillon's original tune "Hell Is Your Home," and it's clear that the Honeys have teeth.
"Thanks for teaching me to hate," Gillon moans in the latter song, her voice harkening back to the dizzying fury of her previous musical endeavor, The Shaniqua Brown (the 2011 CPMA Metal/Punk Band of the Year). She wrote the song five years ago, around the end of a toxic relationship. "It was aimed at a fellow who was very angry a lot when we were together, just all around he liked to hate," Gillon says. "And I'm not really the biggest hater. I don't like to hate. So when we were together, I sort of slipped into a hater zone. I lost myself for a couple years."
Anti-hater anthems aside, the Local Honeys are a remarkably positive group of people. They gush about the Charleston music scene and love the cross-pollination that goes on between bands.
Edwardson is probably the best testament to that fact. Two years ago, he moved from Milwaukee to Charleston to join the Royal Tinfoil, and since then he has also joined the Flat Foot Floozies (see p. 28), the Honeys, and several other local acts. "A lot of musicians in town have multiple projects going on, and it's small enough to where even if you don't know somebody, you know of them, or you've seen them play," he says.
Bandy points out that Charleston is also home to "so many radical women that are at the forefront of a lot of bands" — Royal Tinfoil, Megan Jean and the KFB, and Shovels & Rope (see p. 22) among them. "I feel like maybe 10 years ago here, people would have been like, 'Oh, a girl-fronted band. That's a girl band.' But now it's like we're a band instead of a girl band," she says.
One gripe about Charleston, though: It needs more all-ages music venues. The band members all volunteer at the Girls Rock Charleston summer camp, and they'd love to have their campers come out to shows — if they weren't late at night in bars.
They'd love to see more people at concerts, too. Never been to a Local Honeys show? Just look up "2 Become 1" on Youtube. "It's a lot like that song. Instead of doing this interview, you can probably just listen to that song," Edwardson says. "That's all you need to know. We don't play that, but it's like that. It feels the same."