By now you’ve probably noticed that Honor By August has appeared rather frequently as the subject of Press Pass. The reason for this is two-fold.
First, they’re good. To this day, the D.C.-based quartet remains one of the most polished young bands both within and without the District music scene. Their constant construction of pop melodies and memorable lyrical hooks has made them a mainstay of the Press Pass collection and their energetic live shows have made their concerts a must-make trip to 9:30 Club or wherever they’re taking the stage.
Second, they’re active. Really active. Since frontman Michael Pearsall first joined forces with lead guitarist Evan Field, drummer Brian Shanley and then-bassist Joe Wenger, the band has forever had its foot on the accelerator.
Their debut EP turned into an LP, Drowning Out The Television, which morphed into Drowning Out The Television 2.0 after remixing several songs and the addition of hall-of-fame worthy tunes “Good Enough” and “Into the Light.” They followed that effort with follow-up LP Found last May, and now they’re at it again, introducing a five-track EP to try to capitalize on the recent momentum from Found and a national tour that took them from the East Coast to California.
The reason for the quick-strike effort — recorded in no-time-flat at Falls Church’s Cue Recording Studios — record companies kept pressing the band for what’s next, as HBA continues to audition for label support.
“We kept having a lot of record label folks tell us, ‘We love the new record. Can’t wait to hear the new songs!’,” Field says. “So instead of waiting two years until we have 12 really refined songs, why don’t we take a snapshot of these five songs and show them where we are at the moment.”
As more and more young bands shun the traditional pursuit of a record-company contract, utilizing social media and cheaper distribution methods to spread their sound, HBA has stayed the course. The obvious rub is that, in the aftermath of the golden age of labels, companies have become more and more selective about which acts they bring into the fold.
To those that frequently hear the radio-friendly qualities of past hits like “Only in Photographs,” “Better” and “The Quiet Sky,” that a contract continues to elude the foursome is nothing short of shocking. But perhaps the labels have been slow-playing the band and waiting for sign of a safe bet. And one listen to On Our Own may be just the thing that changes their mind.
The band’s splendid harmonies have also been revived in full on the EP, with new bassist Chris Rafetto fully utilized for the first time after stepping into the band circa Found.
“He’s a great asset. You can really see his impact in the songwriting and he’s a great piano player too, which has added some great texture to these songs,” Field says.
The finished product is a quintet of pleasing pop songs that recalls both modern marvels like The Fray, as well as titans like Tom Petty. Third track “I Stand” shows glimpses of a Snow Patrol, with more hooks than a New England fishing boat. Closing number “On Our Own” is begging for a spot on a soundtrack for “One Tree Hill,” “Gossip Girl” or another teen-friendly TV show. Simply put, labels and fans alike will easily find the appeal in this perfect pop package.
The EP vaults out of the starting gate with the get-up-and-go “Don’t Give Up On Us,” which should provide an extra-nice surge when played (most likely) at Wolf Trap on July 1 when Honor By August splits the show bill with Pat McGee Band.
After that, bet on more shows and more new music from Field and Co. It hasn’t been an easy road they’ve traveled in pursuit of their goal. But while the hits have kept coming, Honor By August keeps giving them right back.
• For more on Honor By August, visit www.honorbyaugust.com.