Interplay — The California Honeydrops

The California Honeydrops stretch their imaginations for “Interplay commission


California HoneydropsAs the city rapidly changes, supporting local artists is vital in maintaining the sounds of San Francisco. One of Stern Grove Festival’s goals has always been to offer a space for local artists to access the community, while supporting their work.

With that in mind, this summer we’ve commissioned seven local performers to create new music and dance pieces specifically for our stage. These pieces reflect the connection between the artist, audience, and nature that creates the singular experience offered at Stern Grove Festival. Titled “Interplay”, this commissioning series allows the artists to create something special to be debuted for our audience.

Preparing for this commission wasn’t natural to Lech Wierzysnki, the lead singer (and guitarist, and trumpeter) of Oakland-based band, The California Honeydrops.  In looking for inspiration to capture what it means to be “In Concert With Nature”, he found that simply sitting down and thinking performing outside wasn’t the easiest way to become inspired.

“This commission is different, in that the work is a little more premeditated,” he adds, on the steps the band took in beginning their new song, “Long Way”. “In writing this song I tried to make the process as natural and personal as possible, while keeping a few important sources of inspiration in mind. I often use nature as a place to reflect peacefully on the complications of life – a place apart from my day-to-day routines, where I can find perspective and guidance.”

Lech Wierzynski and Johnny Bones practice “Long Way” in preparation the the Stern Grove Festival debut on June 14.

Honing their “street soul” sound in BART stations, dive bars, and crowded clubs, The California Honeydrops recognize the connection between music and the space in which it is performed. “This is a welcomed change for us,” Wierzysnki notes. “Just as the people (at Stern Grove Festival) have room to breathe, to relax, and to enjoy the sky above and the trees around, this piece of music will have an organic and meditative feeling to it.”

In writing “Long Way” The California Honeydrops pulled inspiration from their own musical upbringing as street artists. Being non-mainstream musicians with no label backing and little money, the group often plays for new fans. “We know what it takes to grab a new audience and pull them along on a ride.” Wierzysnki says, “In the end, the feeling in music is a universal language.”

In creating a piece distinctly for a crowd in San Francisco, the California Honeydrops had it easy in that, well, they’re from here. They’re well-versed in the sounds of the city. But with the cost of living in the Bay Area on the rise, many musicians like the Honeydrops are constantly under pressure to take their trade elsewhere, and many veterans on the music scene have moved on. “The sound of San Francisco is certainly changing, and reflective of an ever-narrower slice of the socio-economic spectrum,” Wierzysnki notes. “I’m most familiar with folks playing roots music, blues, rhythm and blues, funk, soul, gospel, Cajun/Zydeco. There are great young, creative musicians as well, but I learned my craft from older musicians in the Bay.”

Come check out the debut performance of “Long Way” June 14 at Stern Grove Festival. The California Honeydrops take the stage at 2 p.m., followed by The Doobie Brothers.

June 9, 2015 Stern Grove Festival