The California Honeydrops’ sound is a unique combination of Bay Area R&B, Southern soul and Delta blues.
The band has toured extensively since its inception in 2007, wowing audiences across North America, Europe and Australia with crowd-inclusive performances. Their latest studio album, Soft Spot, is all about the power of love and features special musical guests bringing their own magic into the studio.
Longtime KHOL DJ Big E (Robert Emerson) spoke with The California Honeydrops co-founder and drummer Ben Malament over the phone in advance of their sold-out show at the Center for the Arts on April 7.
The following interview transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity. This conversation was recorded on Thursday, March 30.
ROBERT “BIG E” EMERSON/KHOL: You’re familiar with the Carolina Chocolate Drops? It seems to me that there’s an opposite in colors, honey, black and in food, chocolate and honey. And you guys use some of the same old instruments. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
BEN MALAMENT: When we started the group we were more of a jug band. The name California Honey Drops comes from the jug band, the Tennessee Chocolate Drops. We played in the street with the tub bass. We called it the “Soul Tub” because we didn’t just play jug band music. We would play Wilson Pickett and Sam Cooke, Freddie Hughes and all sorts.
And the Carolina Chocolate Drops got their name also from the Tennessee Chocolate Drops. We both had the same instrumentation, more or less. But our band has changed a lot since then. It was a quartet, and then a five-piece with a saxophone. But now we have an 8-piece band on stage — a four-piece horn section with an extra percussionist and then electric bass and electric keys. We still go roots and acoustic, but it’s changed a lot since then.
KHOL: So tell us a little bit about your Oakland days and your startup.
MALAMENT: We would just sit outside of the BART station, which is our public transportation, waiting for people to get off work. And we’d play our tunes and use the change that we would make at the stations to buy ourselves some burritos and milkshakes.
We [also] had a weekly gig at a place called the Cheeseboard Pizza in Berkeley. We would do Wednesday lunches there. We just stayed in touch with everybody and the fans as much as we could. And we built the following up at different places around the Bay Area and San Francisco and Oakland. It’s all about the people, all about the party.
I’m looking forward to seeing all the new people in Jackson Hole. It’s really awesome to come to a city for the first time and have it sold out already. It means a lot.
Listen above for KHOL’s full conversation with The California Honeydrops.
Tickets can be found online through the Center for the Arts.