The Honey Brothers at Maxwell’s

Despite owning the cleverest script on television and arguably the best actor in the history of any comedy since Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander in Jeremy Piven, it is the premise of loyalty to true friends and acknowledgment of one’s roots that provides HBO’s Entourage its backbone.

For that handful of you who have never seen this wildly popular show, Entourage is the story of an up-and-coming actor (Vincent Chase, played by Adrian Grenier…whose character is based on the life of Mark Walberg), who moves with two of his childhood friends from Queens to Hollywood to join his half-brother (a has-been actor known as Johnny Drama) in Tinsletown. The realism of the show is debatable to some, but many in the movie industry have characterized it as the closest portrayal to the celebrity side of young Hollywood that has ever been produced on the small screen. The biting and quick dialogue eclipses Sex in the City levels, yet Entourage never tries to be funny every seven seconds as seen in most free-TV sitcoms just for the sake of doing so. Viewers seem to be thankful for that courtesy.

As previously mentioned, the underlying theme of Entourage is Vince’s loyalty to years of comradeship and his Queens upbringing over the lure of celebrity, which proves to be an extremely difficult task when presented with cash, fame, beautiful women and property that middle-class twentysomethings from Queens never thought they could have. But the writers balance this tug-of-war nicely, so viewers get to witness all that celebrity has to offer, but also what loyalty means to true friends as well.

When I walked away from my recent interview in Hoboken with Grenier and his band, The Honey Brothers, a friend of mine asked what the actor was like in real-life.

“To be honest, he’s exactly like Vinny Chase,” I replied. “Laid-back, doesn’t take himself seriously, and is loyal to a fault.”

The “loyal” perception lies in the fact that Grenier met his band mates back in 2000, but didn’t become the star he is today until Entourage became a hit in the summer of 2004. At that point Grenier easily could have left The Honey Brothers, a band that plays relatively small venues, counts on sales of its CD through a My Space account, and sets up and takes down their own equipment. But like his HBO character, Grainer is not interested in the superficial aspects of life.

“I’ve known these guys for 6-7 years now,” Grenier told me as I met him and his five band mates for drinks before their November 22 show at Maxwell’s (11th and Washington). “I’ve done Entourage for three some-odd years. It’s been an unusual experience for all of us, and I’ve been sensitive and insecure about that whole Entourage thing, because these are my brothers and we’re all the same in each other’s eyes. So it’s a little awkward at times to have to deal with that whole Entourage aspect… but ultimately, we’re having the times of our lives, at least I am.”

Who are The Honey Brothers? To hear one Ukulele player and one of the band’s founders, Hoyt Honey (whose real name is Ari Gold, not-so-coincidently the same name of the character on Entourage played by the aforementioned Piven), “The band has been together for five years. I originally wanted to call the band, The Honey Cow Brothers because of a Hawaiian song we sang that sounded like “ho-ni-cah”, which may or may not come from an actual language.”

“We decided to drop the “cow” part because of the smell,” guitarist Daniel Posner noted.

Hence, The Honey Brothers…

Their eclectic music sounds like a combination of G. Love and Special Sauce, Dave Matthews and The Grateful Dead. When asked to describe their sound, the answer entailed four words that I had never heard comprise a genre before:

“Appalachian-Hawaiian Glam Rock,” according to Gold.

Appalachian-Hawaiian Glam Rock may not be what people would automatically cancel plans to see in person, but the band sees a difference in the people who come to see their shows once they soak in the band’s original sound.

“We played a Katrina benefit,” recalls Grenier, 30. “A gala-like setting. We came on after Gloria Estafan and the Miami Sound Machine with special guest Queen Latifia (laughs). Obviously, we’ve had a lot of opportunities to play shows where we don’t necessarily belong. Miami Sound Machine is a good example: We have a very islandly, Miami-esque sound…but I always find that there is this two or three song period where we need to earn people’s respect and their ears. A lot of times we show up to places where people aren’t expecting to like us…for us to just be in the background. And after 2-3 songs, people can’t help but turn and listen. By the end of the show, we have new fans.”

After taking in some of Maxwell’s fries, he adds, “We don’t take ourselves seriously; that’s why we all have ketchup on our faces right now. We’re doing something that no one else is doing. We’re developing fun music, a kind of Afro-Pop, hippie-rock…that’s the latest flavor we’re working on.”

“How would you describe your core fans? I asked. “Is it 60 percent women, 40 percent men?”

“It’s mainly (age) 60,” Gold quickly responds.

“Yeah, and the under-10 with Moms crowd is exploding for us,” adds Grenier.

Much of the interview seems to entail answers like these. The band simply seems uncomfortable promoting themselves or talking about their relative success in general. In the end, they seemingly would enjoy playing places like Maxwell’s or Whiskey Bar more than a sold-out Giants Stadium.

Still, I was curious if they played the Grenier card even a little bit.

“Do you promote yourselves as The Honey Brothers, with Adrian Grenier of Enoturage?” I asked.

“No”, was the simultaneous response from all.

“Has Adrian’s fame affected attendance to your shows?” was my painfully-obvious follow-up.

“It has affected attendance,” says Posner, jokingly adding, “We have seen statistically significant increase in graph numbers… but we don’t advertise that he’s (Adrian) in the band. Other people and venues do it sometimes, but we don’t.”

“There have been some shows, certain kinds of venues, where I’m staring at a bunch of people that are looking between my knees trying to see the drummer (Grenier)”, explains Gold. “You play a show like that where there are a bunch of TV junkies, but they usually end of liking it (the music) towards the end. The people in the back are the ones that are there
because they care about the music. The people in the front are there to take pictures.”

Seeing the Honey Brothers perform, I saw first hand what Gold was describing. The crowd is 80 percent comprised of young and mostly attractive women, with 70 percent of that 80 percent flashing digital and disposal cameras whenever a clear shot of Grenier drumming away on the back of the stage is available. But as the show goes on, the flashes decrease while the swaying of hips and waving of arms increases.

The band played for about 90 minutes to the sold-out crowd and proceeded to thank everyone for coming and wished them goodnight. Of course, like any band whose fans had loved what they heard, the chants demanding an encore are inevitable.

At Maxwell’s, this process is interesting to watch considering that there is no backstage. In this case, The Honey Brothers simply walked off the stage, wandered to the back bar, stayed there for a minute, and then returned to the stage for two more songs.

“We like playing personable places where we can feel and touch and see the people,” Grenier explains. “I just think we’re nice guys that really love music. In the real world, people really don’t like what they’re doing. They’re just out to make a buck. We’re just trying to have a good time, and that’s reflected in our music.”

So after a few Pabst Blue Ribbons, the band packs up. There are no paparazzi waiting outside, no limousine…just a few mid-size cars to pack away the Ukulele, guitars, drum set and keyboards. In the end, they are just another band looking to find an after-hours place after a night’s work.

Like the fictitious Turtle, E, Drama and Vince in Hollywood, they are their own Entourage.

No need for screaming fans or VIP treatment…the music and camaraderie will do just fine for The Honey Brothers.

For more information on the Honey Brothers, visit their website at