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Merging bands into swamp opera

The Honey Tongues are an eight-piece collective with lots of music on the go

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The Honey Tongues is a new Whistler-Vancouver Island super group of talented musicians.

They play swamp opera.

What?

"Heh, heh. There are a lot of influences going on. It was quite a process to boil down what we were creating in terms of presenting our music," says drummer, guitarist and singer Jesse Thom.

"Swamp opera is a mixture of American, roots, grime, indie-swing and with beat boxing and lots of harmonizing. We also have this hip-hop element. It's got a raunchiness and humour to it."

Two smaller bands merged to bulk up their music. The result is a richer sound, quirkier tunes, and more styles than you can shake a stick at. They are prolific.

"The people in the band are some of my favourite songwriters in the whole country," says Thom, describing them as some of the best swing-indie-R&B musicians in British Columbia.

"I feel super lucky to have somehow ended up in a band with all these folks," Thom says. "They're amazingly talented."

The Honey Tongues is made up of Thom, Betty Supple, Marley Daemon, Aubrey Burke, Logan Thackery, Brendan Steele, Jennifer Charters, and Nathan Turner.

"The Honey Tongues formed out of the ashes of our former three-piece band Dirty Grace, which toured extensively across Canada for about eight years. We joined up with a band that is still in existence called Red Haven. They were four and we were three, and then we took on another player," says Thom.

"Betty, Marley and myself had been touring for years and honing the harmonies. Red Haven didn't have as much experience in the vocal realm. They were locked in the instrumental part. That's what we were missing, a rhythm section."

The band is an eight-piece collective — which means they now sing eight-part harmonies — and its members take the collective part seriously.

"Everybody in the band is a singer, everybody writes songs and everybody plays at least two instruments. There's been a LOT of material," Thom says.

"It has been interesting. The songs have changed as they've been filtered through the other members. Only the cream of the crop of the songs makes it into our sets. We can only do one song by one member per set, so we are really picky with what we play live."

Many of the members are clown school graduates, which Thom says means they are performance minded. One suspects it also means that they like to have a laugh.

"We have a lot of costumes and a lot of playful interactivity," he says, as if reading my mind.

"We're viewing The Honey Tongues as like an arts collective. Music is our predominant thing, but we are silk-screening our own merchandise and art prints and there is a big visual element to it."

It's almost the antithesis of the trend in music these days, in which musicians tour in duos or solos.

"The band has taken on a life of its own and become a creature that none of use could have anticipated," Thom says.

What sealed it was a month-long tour of the U.K. in the summer of 2016, where the bands shared their skills, loved what they heard and performing together more permanently suddenly made sense.

"It was so smooth. Everyone was so mature and willing to be honest and communicate openly. It has become an amazing family," Thom says.

The Honey Tongues has been working at Monarch Studios in East Vancouver on their first EP — Live at Monarch Studios. They are gradually releasing songs; four of the six on the EP have come out so far, the full album was released on July 11.

"We recorded the album live there and we made videos at the same time," Thom says.

The Honey Tongues are performing at Garibaldi Lift Company (GLC), along with Blame the Weekend, on Friday, July 21, at 9 p.m. Advance tickets are $10; $15 at the door, and can be purchased at the GLC or online at www.whistlerblackcomb.com.

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