With a sound rooted in the very best of 90s grunge, Honey Lung are putting their own spin on a well-loved genre.
London trio Honey Lung are grabbing attention with their dreamy, reverb-soaked shoegaze. "I grew up in Harrow," starts guitarist and vocalist Jamie Batten of his band’s origins. "I helped put on a lot of shows at the Harrow Art Centre, a gig night called 100%, kind of like an underage gig night. I met a lot of musicians up Hertfordshire way, and I was in a couple of bands.
"My first was called Life of Empire, which was an indie pop band, and then I started a heavy shoegaze psych band after that called Flood, which sort of eventually turned into Honey Lung. There wasn’t much of a scene growing up around Harrow; it was pretty much dead. I [did get] involved a lot in the Kent scene, I have friends there, and I’d go down and see hardcore emo bands.”
With Honey Lung, Jamie knew he'd hit on something worth sticking with. “All the bands previous, I had always been the co-songwriter; I was still honing my songwriting. With Honey Lung, I was starting to write music I enjoyed myself, that I felt was mature enough for me to like.
"We wrote and rehearsed for about a year. We didn’t really play any gigs, so we’ve actually been going a lot longer than people think we have. We just weren’t very serious. We had a lot of line-up changes originally. All of the attention [the band have been getting] came out of nowhere."
It wasn't long before they caught the eye of their current record label. "We got picked up by RYP Recordings, which is where we say we started doing the 'proper' band. They picked us up after our third gig; it was really weird. We played Trinity Bar [in Harrow], and our current manager was there, and it was a spontaneous 'I want to manage you guys' thing. When we did that, we started recording the tracks with Michael Smith who owns RYP Recordings.”
Honey Lung may only be in their early 20s, but their music encompasses all the golden nostalgia of the years when they’d have only been babies, as well as having a retro feel to their accompanying videos. “Most of the music I write is nostalgic to me," Jamie laughs. "I’m into all sorts of stuff, and for some reason, it’s what I naturally like. I’ve been into 90s music since I was like 15, so some of my favourite bands are Smashing Pumpkins, Pavement, Built to Spill, just really interesting guitar music."
“We’re moving away from that with our next single, and future recordings,” he adds. “We’re doing some pretty weird stuff. There’s a flute on the next track, and we’re thinking of getting a synth player. We’re going to be getting a lot of new gear. It’ll still be guitary, riffy and groovy, just with some different sounds. We’re not getting bored, but there are limitations to just having two guitars. It’s going to get pretty interesting.”
Jamie's lyrics often centre around issues he and his friends face. “I always thought it’s good to be true to how you’re feeling," he considers. “I find that a lot of the time in general if you’re sharing some experiences with someone, you’ll find they’re feeling the same. I like to write about things that anyone who is 20/21 would go through, like relationships and all that stuff.”
His songwriting has changed over the past few years, becoming more focused as the band have figured out who they are. “[2016’s debut EP 'Kind of Alone'] was a load of initial songs/demos that I had written,” he says. “I had written twenty, and I took them to the band, so the songs on it were a collection of my ideas for what Honey Lung could sound like. I guess it was a sort of intro to us.
"[With the latest single], ‘Sophomore’, we wrote it as a full band with the current line-up apart from our bassist, with more intention with developing from the EP. It’s also quite a poignant song at the moment. We wrote it about six months ago, but it’s about needing your friends. I knew a lot of my friends at the time who were really depending on people because of relationships, breakups and mental health issues, and it’s all come into focus a little bit [for me]; it’s kind of weird.”
“We tend to play the songs that are energetic and translate very well live," he continues, "but we’re still trying to figure out how to translate the quiet, more obscure and more intimate stuff live. We’re doing more Sparklehorse, Elliot Smith, Alex G kind of DIY lo-fi thing. I don’t think we sound that much like the Smashing Pumpkins,” he says of the band’s most popular comparison.
With the buzz building, what can we expect from the band for the rest of the year? “Potentially a double single [in summer], and then probably another single and b-side around November. We’re thinking of an album next year, but it depends. It’s too early to tell; we want to see how people receive the material that comes out for the rest of the year. We just want to develop the sound a bit more and explore new avenues: drum machines, synths, flute... auto-tune like T-Pain."
Taken from the July issue of Dork, out now. Honey Lung play a Dork show at Bedford Esquires on 28th July.