BLACK ROCKERS UNITED MEDIA

#BRUTALK: HONEYCHILD COLEMAN

INTRO | PUNK LIFE | CREATING OUTSIDE CAPITALISM | THE 1865

'90's NEW YORK | COMMUNITY INSPIRATION | SISTA-GRRRL

       

INTRODUCTION

NK: Nate Oakley started this: Black Rockers United in 2006 with a dream for us to rock wherever we are! Welcome to our seventh #BRU talk with Nicole Kali here!

And our guest Honeychild Coleman is an inspiration as Sista Grrrl Riot co-founder and currently The 1865 lead vocalist and baritone guitarist! Honeychild!

Honeychild: Thanks, glad to be here!

NK: How are you?

Honeychild: I'm good, I'm good! This is really exciting! I love, I really really enjoyed your interview with Flora. The things you discussed were not just timely, but just great reminders for us to hear: about ways to support each other, and be active and present.

NK: Really?? Thank you!

Honeychild: And it was really just great to see that all put together.

[Much love, my friend in punk!] NK: [Emotional] Thanks a lot. No, but for real, Honeychild because I was thinking about you, I was thinking about Flora! I was thinking about Tamar-kali and just ALL of the Black punks that have come before, that are still here and are still fighting to make that space!

Honeychild: Mm-hmm! Yeah.

NK: If you think back to the 90's and how hard it was then, and how hard much it was to look at each other and say "Yo, are we in this Black rock thing or what?"

And now in 2020, it's just we have to be DEFINITIVE, I think, about recentering ourselves like Flora and like you're doing with The 1865 so props to you! [Black power fist] Yeah.

Honeychild: Awesome. Yeah, it's, if I were to compare the '90's to now, I feel like then? I feel like in the beginning we were just so excited to find each other and have that comfort, and that innate knowledge of what the experience was. To be a Black woman picking up a guitar, it was really ground-breaking!

You know, I came from Kentucky so I knew I would find other Black artists.

NK: Yeah!

Honeychild: I couldn't even visualize finding another sister who played the kind of music that I liked.

Honeychild: ...or had her own band! Like that was next-level fantasy. But just knowing I could come here (New York City) and find somebody who understands me, was a big motivator.

So finding the other Sista Grrrls was like "Oh! I'm not the only one. We're in this together."

PUNK LIFE

NK: That is so empowering and that's, I just feel like that's a life-changing moment! Like when you see yourself, that you see someone else on the same life journey. And they're Black and they're rockin'.

Honeychild: Exactly.

NK: It's like "I'm not ALONE, let's do this! But let's do it together." You know? Yeah.

Honeychild: Yeah! And to not have to feel like you have to hide a part of yourself just to be in a band, or you don't have to push down a part of yourself to feel accepted, community-wise, is major.

NK: 100% That's why I've been looking forward to our #BRUTalk, honestly, Honeychild. Have you been doing well? I hope life's been okay pre- and during pandemic, you know?

Honeychild: Uhh, yeah...I mean, it's definitely been a bit of tragedy. I did lose one friend to COVID-19 in the music community, my friend Tony Greer. It's also been...

I won't lie, the first few months I did not feel like having anything to do with music, because my spirit and mind were in survival mode.

So I'm very grateful to be able to stay home. I have asthma so there's an extra concern there but you know, I've just been very focused on keeping my spirits and my immune system up, and just reaching out to people. And checking on people in the community. So that's kind of been keeping me going!

Honeychild: But I really can't complain, all things considered. I feel very grateful and tranquil, and safe. And you know, it could be much, much worse. Definitely.

NK: You are a comforting presence. I can definitely see you being that person in the community that goes to check on people, but also receding and kind of not really creating in that time.

...because it takes a lot to put yourself out there and to creatively express, to be in that vulnerable state with what's going on right now. I understand why you had to step back for a while.

Honeychild: Sure, sure. You know, a lot of people did reach out and check on me as well.

NK: Mm-hmm!

Honeychild: And I'm very grateful for that. My other kind of side interest is fashion accessories like, that's what I studied in school.

NK: Beautiful!

Honeychild: So when the whole pandemic happened and the price gouging and everything, I started making face masks. So that has literally been keeping me sane.

I've been able to like, gift them to people that had to keep working, and gift them to people in my community locally and then sell some as well! That's literally all I've been doing for like, going on six months now? I just started working on music again in July.

NK: I love the solidarity. That right there is mutual aid, and I wanted to actually mention: the art that you are making has a lot to do with mutual aid! When you post through C.J./Honeychild Coleman (Artiste), and The 1865, you're linking to initiatives in your city: in New York, and other cities, that's astounding to me!

I haven't really seen that many artists really using that platform for that purpose. Would you like to talk about that?

Honeychild: It's kind of similar to my approach to writing political music. Like I don't wanna beat people over the head with politics. You know, some of my friends are anarchists. Some aren't. Some are more liberal and more progressive, some aren't. But this is a time when Black life, it's so endangered. I just feel like use this platform to share information, to keep people informed!

I felt even more prompted to let people know what's happening because the media isn't.

NK: I know...

Honeychild: So I went out of my way to find different groups there to follow, then help spread their information because I have this platform at a time where so many people are disillusioned like "Oh, Facebook's horrible" and "I really hate social media" and you know, "I'm not promoting"! It's like, sharing community information is not promoting. That's communication.

NK: Exactly.

Honeychild: And I don't need to be on TV to communicate with you. I don't need to make it, I don't need to post a video of myself at the protest to let you know, the protest is happening. There's so much going on.

NK: Exactly, Honeychild. [Softly] Thank you.

Honeychild: [Laughs] And again because I have been, I had to stay home, it made me feel like "Well, I can't be in the street, what can I do?"

NK: But you're so impactful without having to...[protest]!

Honeychild: And I think that's the question that I always have, is "How can I help?" You know?

NK: Yeah. Yeah! I love that you don't feel like that you have to be attached on the on-the-ground, frontlines approach though that's absolutely radical and necessary. A lot of us, you know, we don't have that option and we do have to find ways to help, without doing that.

Honeychild: Yeah! Mm-hmm.

NK: And you found that way, and that's why I wanted to shout that out 'cause that's awesome!

Honeychild: Oh, thanks!

NK: Yeah!

Honeychild: I mean, I do have some great friends who are literally in the streets everyday. "Do you have everything you need? Do you guys need this? What are you doing? Is there something I can let people know about?" It's just...it's the times we're living in. It's the only way I can describe it.

If these were calm times, there would be a different issue to talk about and spread info about. Until now, like, maybe my main focus was more on what's happening because that's a big focus of my band Bachslider: like gender equality and things like that.

But when I step outside of my house everyday, the first thing people see is "Oh, here's a Black person" so sorry, that's my #1 priority right now is how to survive and be Black!

And then everything else is right under it, no less important but that is what's happening socially right now.

NK: [Black power fist]

Honeychild: [Returns Black power salute] And it's not my choice but it's how we stay alive, you know? [Laughs] Oddly umm, maybe because I'm a little bit of an introvert, I've been very happy to be able to stay home and create, and write everyday.

But it's also helped me realize "Oh, I can be at home and still feel like I'm connected to my community!", and feel productive in a way, not that we should be like "Oh my God, I'm locked in, I need to produce everyday!"

But I can feel like I'm making a little bit of a difference and NOT putting myself at risk. So that's been my biggest lesson during the whole [coronavirus] thing.

CREATING OUTSIDE CAPITALISM

NK: In being introverted, you kind of realized during the pandemic how much you appreciated solitude, and how much productivity didn't have to be tied to making money  for you. You were making because you wanted to.

Honeychild: True, true!

NK: And it fulfilled you to do so...yeah.

Honeychild: Yeah, yeah. Definitely, I mean I am the person in all of my bands who kinda designs merch. At the end of the day, you just want to share things with people because it gives you and them joy.

You know I've never been someone to say "Oh, my shirts are $50." You want your art to live in the world. I can't lie and it's been very nice to also get a little bit of money as well. Everyday, I was telling my partner like "Sure, I have orders for masks and all these things", but I try to do something creative at least once a week to have that to look forward to.

It's not about selling something. It might not even be something that I share online, but it's something that just gives me joy to make.

NK: That's beautiful, Honeychild. Wow. So on that note, your PUNK BLACK performance rocked last week! You killed it. It was amazing! I never would have known that—

Honeychild: Oh, thanks!

NK: Yeah, absolutely, you're welcome. I never would have known that for months up until then, you weren't performing. You were like, fashion designing and kind of delving into that artistic space.

That's really cool. So I saw your limited edition '1865 art merch too on Facebook. Really awesome!

Honeychild: Thank you.

NK: Yeah, art and alternative Black space is therapeutic. It's necessary.

Honeychild: It is. I have a lot of, I know I keep saying the word 'gratitude', but that project really kind of reminded me of the joy in creative expression. I came out of illustration retirement with this band, to illustrate our lyric book! So from there I just started designing again after not doing visual art at all for many years.

So "Oh, I'll do some hand-painted things that people who come to this special Black History Month show can get, and I'll never make them again" just to be like "Oh, here." It's like a reminder of the time.

NK: Yeah!

Honeychild: And it's been really a lot of fun: to be in a project where everybody has something else that they do and we all appreciate that in each other. Like Flora is also a bassist and a wonderful vocalist. And y'know about Maafa! They're untouchable!

NK: Yas!

Honeychild: Biz is, yeah, he's also like an actor and a dancer, and he does voice-over poetry in art and film. And then you know, Sacha's also a film director and writer. We all are in a way, I feel like, Renaissance artists [laughs] if I can't think of a better description. I don't know, I've been in some creative situations where people felt like it was a conflict if you did something outside of that band, and gave me pushback!

Like "Oh, you're not focused enough because you like to do something else," so now I feel like I'm in a situation in my life, where everyone appreciates what everybody brings to the table. And there's no way to not thrive in that environment spiritually, creatively, artistically. You just feel so much support.

NK: Nice. So you feel furthered in your goals and you're all on that journey together, helping each other. You know? Being inspired by each other in that way.

Honeychild: Yeah, exactly and just you know, if one of us has something going on, we all wanna lift them up. And that's just really invaluable. It's such a wonderful feeling of "Oh, what are you doing this week? I wanna support you.

 I wanna come out and be there, I wanna let people know. And to me, that's what community is about. You know?

NK: Artistic, Black, alternative punk community.

Honeychild: DIY, you know.

NK: It's such a beautiful thing!

Honeychild: It really is! And it's much needed, especially now. ESPECIALLY with everybody so separated, and feeling like they're stuck in place. We're all in limbo. You know, society's crazy right now [laughs].

NK: Yeah, everything.

Honeychild: It's between like a civil unrest and people standing up for the first time in their lives, younger people getting out in the streets, very exciting! And you know, forget about what's happening politically in this country. It's, it's criminal. It's tragic, but there's a lot of expression coming out of it.

THE 1865

NK: That you're a part of. And how does it feel to get those throwback-nowadays perspective through The 1865? How does it look back upon what liberation felt like in 1861 through 1865-2020?

Honeychild: It's a very eerie feeling, I won't lie 'cause when we kind of sat down and conceptualized this album, we had no idea that things would be what they are right now!

[Laughs] Then, we thought "Oh, this is an interesting thing. This is like a cool way to talk about history!" Now, we're like "Oh no, people need this." And we're so glad we did it whereas while we were doing it, it was a little scary.

The topics are very heavy, and were people ready to hear that? Was that something they really wanted? Is that something they really wanted? Could they understand there's still a little bit of joy in the darkness? And now it's like "Oh, I really needed to hear this."

NK: Mm-hmm!

Honeychild: And sometimes I forget it's us! Honestly I'll listen to something and be like "Oh, that's us..."

It's just the timing of it. It's just, anyone who is putting their heart into saying something about what's happening right now is so needed!

NK: Yeah. As soon as I found out that it was a project you were a part of, it was like [mind blown]. 'Cause we have no choice but to get it. Does that make sense? When you hear The 1865, you can't tune out to the truth. That's—

Honeychild: Sure.

NK: It's very powerful. From your amazing guitar and voice combination to Flora on bass, and Biz, and drummer Chuck Treece and Sacha on lead guitar. How does it feel? And again, does it feel like the ancestors are speaking through you and singing with you?

Honeychild: Definitely. No lie, once we really solidified the concept, I wanted to...I didn't want it to just be a boring history project lesson. You know, and beat people over the head with facts.

"Oh, Harriet Tubman did this." I was like no, what was she like? If Harriet Tubman was my friend right now, what would she be saying to me? I really tried to get into the mind of the characters in every song. That's the same approach I take when I do storyboards for my own videos.

I think of them as little movies. So each song to me is like a scene in a movie. And I actually cracked open some books! I did some reading! [Laughs] I knew about Peggy Garner 'cause I'd seen her story on The African-Americans.

And it resonated with me because she was from Kentucky, and I knew the Ohio River. Like all these different pieces of her life, it was like "Yo, I can see my ancestors during that time based on these facts." So I really wanted people to feel the characters, but also feel them in a modern way.

If you didn't know anything, if you didn't know this was a concept album, if you didn't know anything about Black history, you could still be like "Oh, this woman Harriet is showing me something. She's giving me guidance, she's giving me advice. So that's kind of the approach I took to all of it.

And it's something that comes up in a lot of interviews with Sacha as well. It's like if you don't even know anything about us, we want this album to rock! We want you to feel the music and then oh, by the way, there's a message! You know?

NK: There you go!

Honeychild: So that really motivated me to just dig in a little bit deeper with the feelings. A lot of the songs I really had fun writing like "John Brown's Gat", I probably had some of the most fun.

NK: Yeah.

Honeychild: I thought about my really good friend Luqman Brown from FunkFace...because he's also a really amazing vocal actor, in the way that he tell stories in his songs. And I'm like "This is a crunk punk song and I can't not hear Luq's voice in my head as I'm writing this chorus." 'Cause it's so him!

EVERY time I play it, I gotta give him a shout-out 'cause it really inspired me! Yeah, the music is so exciting to me that it's a record I would buy even if I wasn't involved to be honest. You know, playing with two people as talented and diverse, artistic, making this record and being in this project!

NK: And I love that about your music, Honeychild. No matter what project you're in, you definitely speak to the times and you express yourself. That is needed. And thank you for doing that, in The 1865.

Honeychild: Thank you, thanks.

NK: And thanks for making the personal political.

Honeychild: It's really liberating to, to be able to do that. And oddly I think every band that I'm in is doing something political. I first came here in 1985. Yeah, I was here from '85 to the beginning of '89 and then I came back in '93.

1990's NEW YORK

NK: Right on. What was it like?

Honeychild: [Laughs] You know, it's funny like I went to Berlin in 2003, and it reminded me of New York in the '80's. Like some parts were a little burned-out. Then there'd be these pockets of real, vibrant creativity. I can't really compare Berlin because Berlin isn't as racially diverse, obviously.

NK: Yeah, okay.

Honeychild: But I felt a lot of freedom and maybe it was because of what was happening economically as well like what we're about to come up on next year. A lot of people had abandoned the city a lot and you could really feel between people who were rich, or considered "yuppies" vs. working-class and bohemians.

NK: Yeah.

Honeychild: But the thing that I really loved about New York then was that no matter how much money you have, you could have a beautiful experience if your mind is open to it!

NK: Yeah!

Honeychild: It's not a place where I've ever felt like "Oh, I can't go anywhere 'cause I'm broke", because there is always something you can see and do. And moving here straight out of high school, that blew my mind. "Oh, I can walk most places and see, look at, hear, experience.

And I feel like that still exists to be honest. That hasn't changed so much, it takes a little more work to find but it still exists. You can have a $20 or a $200 night. It's really up to your budget.

And no place else that I've lived in America, I have felt that where you don't have to be of a certain class to feel like you belong someplace.

NK: Wow.Yeah.

Honeychild: So in the '80's, I know there was a lot of snobbery with nightlife, and the club world and whatever. But I felt like Monday through Friday, and maybe that's a New York thing too. Monday through Friday, the real New Yorkers kind of own certain places.

And on the weekend is the posh people, or the out-of-towners or as some say: "the bridge-and-tunnel", though I think the bridge-and-tunnel is an expired thing now. Because who lives in Manhattan? No one I know, hardly. So I do feel like-

NK: Everyone lives in Brooklyn now.

Honeychild: Everyone lives in Brooklyn or Queens, Jersey City, the Bronx. The people I know who are in Manhattan have been there before. They're not like " Oh, I just moved to New York, and I live in Manhattan". You know, they've been there since before I was here.

It also just made you really alert. Like I went everywhere by myself at all hours of the night, that I wouldn't do now just because I'm older and maybe a little paranoid. But I literally never felt unsafe because it was just so exciting and everything was so new.

NK: I love that. So New York has continued to be this exhilarating, bohemian, artistic place where even if there's a price point for some, it's still accessible for the most part to artists like us.

COMMUNITY IN 20/20

Honeychild: Yeah, I mean I also feel like I've become friends with a lot of these friends that play at The Rock House at Max Fish. We kind of reignited that feeling of knowing where to go, and who to find. And it's not something that's so evident on the surface.

It's like if you find out about Rebelmatic, and you look at them then you'll start to see the trickle-off of who they're connected to. And it's like a tree with many branches.


The 1865, Maafa, Rebelmatic, None Above All

But I mean, I work the door sometimes at Max Fish for some of our shows. Random people drinking upstairs, and the love on their face when they walk in and see a basement packed full of Black people moshing is priceless! Because they never knew about us!

We, and nobody's separatist but it's such a beautiful, self-contained thing. We don't need to lure them down. They're gonna show up anyway because it's cool. But it's like if they didn't come down those steps, they literally wouldn't know.

So that's really interesting to me because you know, New York has this whole reputation of newcomers who only know about Afropunk and what it is now.

They don't know about James Spooner. You know, they don't know about the Liberation Sessions or The Veldt. They don't know any of that! So those people show up, thinking that it's gonna be something so much different.

And the first thing you see is how much everybody loves each other, and is excited for each other. And that to me is what I think of when I think about the old New York in a nutshell.

NK: Yes! It's a haven for us and if you know, you know. As Biggie said, if you don't know, NOW you know [laughs].

Honeychild: Exactly!

NK: So cool! Right on, Honeychild.

Honeychild: And it's almost...once people find out, they show up and it's been really just, I'm blown away every time to be honest. There's been nights where it's sleeting outside and under 30 degrees. People still show up.

NK: They show up.

Honeychild: And it's a Thursday night in a basement, you know?

NK: Yeah!

Honeychild: I haven't seen that kind of excitement maybe since CBGB's to be honest. So it's pretty cool!

NK: This is a real family! You know?

Honeychild: Yeah, yeah, it is. We share band members. It's really exciting. It gives me hope because there's always someone new. Sometimes I don't even know half the people that came through the door! And they take something away with them.

Needless to say, I really miss that. I can't believe, like the last Rock House that I played was in February, because in March we were already starting to know about the pandemic.

And we decided not to play that gig. So yeah, it's been a long time.

I'm used to seeing everyone every month, plus used to seeing ALL of my bandmates at least twice a week, because you know how it is. Like half of band practice is socializing, catching up, checking with folks like "How are you doing? What's going on in your life?"

Like all of that came to a grinding halt so I understand people feeling antsy and feeling isolated.

NK: That's why it's really good to see you and like, talk, to really connect with you and see what's going on because you understand.

Honeychild: Yeah, definitely.

NK: ...because I understand that feeling and I don't want any of us to go through that feeling. Pick up the phone or virtually call someone and be like "What's up, Honeychild? How are you doing?" You know?

Honeychild: Yeah. No, it's great. I've been definitely, I have a really good friend in Manchester who I do a lot of WhatsApp with. But now other people are starting to be like "Oh, I can do WhatsApp! I can do a video chat.

You know, let's make a date. Put it on the calendar!" And it's really something to look forward to, to feel connected. It's so needed.

NK: Yeah, it definitely is. Have you been doing that with your band? Has that really kept y'all together through this?

Honeychild: Uhh, we haven't done a full band Zoom yet. We did a Zoom meeting for an interview. I've also done, we have this Triibe group through the Max Fish crew that Flora is kind of spearheading. So we've done some Zoom chats with them. Otherwise I do just pick up the phone and call people. And I got to see Biz in person in July because he's doing residency at Mass MOCA. And he invited me to come play!

NK: There was February, when you last saw everybody and then catching up with them in the summer.

Honeychild: Right. It was great! One: we were outside of the city, which was also nice. We were in North Adams (Massachusetts), which I don't know if you know too much about. Umm, it was my first time there. It's a small town but everything's very spread out.

So we were pretty much outdoors the entire time. And we had like, one rehearsal indoors and a giant dance studio with all the windows open, completely masked!

But it was wonderful. It was wonderful, to hear what he's working on and get some time to play. That was incredible! It made me feel like "Oh, okay, I'm ready to start playing again, which is why when PUNK BLACK invited me, that was super-fun!

I did one street performance also since then in Manhattan while my friend Constance was doing live painting. So my mind is kind of expanding as far as ideas about how performance will look, moving forward. And right now, I'm really only doing outdoor things. So that's been like...

It's been a great way to see people, and feel like you know the connection and the exchange, but also feel safe.

NK: That is a really cool approach to social distancing too. "Yo, I can perform with you and for you," and we can still like, hang out but you know, respect the health rules too! Aww, Honeychild. Right on!

Honeychild: Right. Yeah, it's been a learning curve for real. I mean, I also am still getting used to living in a bigger space because I've lived in a really tiny apartment for 18 years [laughs]! So being uh, sheltering at home, it's like literally my bedroom and my sewing studio which is so hardcore!

And it made me realize I do need to find a way to get outside. Like I can't just stay indoors. I need to get fresh air. I need to walk around, I need to see people! You know, even if it's thirty minutes a day or whatever, umm, because that's a big part of the New York lifestyle.

You're...you're used to talking to the people in the bodega. You know them all by name. You know, you have your neighborhood connections and just walking past the garden or seeing your neighbor, and waving. You have to make yourself find a way to still connect with people. I mean, thankfully I don't have any extra health things making me afraid to be outside. But I also, because I DO enjoy being alone and just being indoors a lot [laughs]!

NK: [Laughs]

Honeychild: Have to be like "Oh, it's okay, you can go for a walk." You know there's no shortage of creative things to do, to distract me indoors. I have to be like "You know what? You need to get outside." That's been a big lesson as well!

NK: Aww, I do miss that about New York! It is like, that very interconnected sense of you go to the corner store and you know the person who checks out all your stuff.

And then like, you go down the street and talk to your friend because they live down the block from you, you know? Yeah...

Honeychild: Or randomly pass by people, yeah.

INSPIRATION & REFLECTION

NK: Exactly! But then you start to pass by those people all the time and you start to talk to them more. And they become your neighbor. And then it's patching those relationships together during quarantine and it's cool that you've managed to do that.

Honeychild: Yeah, it's uh, it's slowly happening. I'm slowly re-emerging, I feel. Literally the only people I saw were the people at the post office [laughs].

NK: [Laughs]

Honeychild: Like "Oh, I should maybe check my PO box and go ship some packages". Otherwise I'm just in the house.

NK: Me too! Yeah.

Honeychild: To be able to play, I mean, I've been watching a lot of streaming concerts also. So that's been really fun! Just seeing what people do, how they set it up. So that's been inspiring, I have to say.

NK: It was BEAUTIFUL to see you perform in this place in PUNK BLACK. Was that inspirational in terms of other people's content and streaming when you did that last week?

Honeychild: It was! The funny part was probably doing it in the daytime, because most of the concerts I've been watching have been at night. You know, like people have fun lighting and things like that. I was like "Oh, this is daylight."

Like, really be a little bit aware of what this presentation is giving other people vs. what I see. But it was really cool, it was really fun actually.

It made me think, maybe just because I'd done the street performance the weekend before, just really thinking about the sound and making sure everything's really clear and more of the technical side. But my only regret is I didn't organize myself enough to be able to see if people had like, requests or comments. Like I'm not that savvy yet with the streaming!

NK: Oh! Yeah.

Honeychild: I was playing blindly, kind of. I wasn't even watching the time and I'm just like "Oh wait, maybe I should play longer". But it was great, it was good initiation into the world of streaming and audience interaction!

NK: Yeah! Aww, you did so well, Honeychild! And I never would've known that you weren't checking in, you were just naturally in tune with your audience. I think 'cause you've been performing for so long, everyone was just loving it.

Honeychild: Thanks!

NK: Props to ya!

Honeychild: Thank you. You know what it made me think of? Umm, because I used to play in the subway. It's kind of that feeling, you know someone's listening but you have to keep going! So I was kind of like "Oh, this really kind of feels like I'm playing in the subway right now". Like it was kind of intense.

NK: Mmm! You had to use the same improvisational skills from busking to be like "What do people want to hear?" even if you don't really know quite what their tastes are! Yeah!

Honeychild: Yeah! Yeah, the busking thing. Also when I was a busker, I never had a mic so I had to choose an area with really good acoustics. And in the beginning, I didn't even have an amp! I just have this big hollow-bodied guitar. And then later, I got a little amp.

But I had to be able to project louder over the cars, so that would determine what I would sing. So the dynamics of the vocals really depended on the acoustics of the subway station. And then if there was noise coming, you would re-start the song. Like there's so many nuances, but I definitely love it. I would definitely do it again.

SISTA GRRL RIOT-TODAY

NK: Aww. It was so cool to learn about that through the VICE article, yeah, your start is busking in New York and DJ'ing and performing live. And then you met Tamar-kali.

And then you started Sista Grrrl Riot that way. What are your favorite moments of those days until 2020 now?

Honeychild: Oh, wow. Probably when I first met up with my first DJ crew which was DJ Olive, and my friend Rich, whose DJ name is Lloop because Gregor AKA DJ Olive had come to a show I did...

And for some reason or another, even though I was playing these punk songs with a drum machine, he understood my idea for how vocals would work with electronic music just from seeing that show. So he was like "Hey, I have this party on Sunday night. It's at a bar. Do you think you would want to come and sing with us?"


Here

And I'm like "This is what I moved back to New York to do! Finally a DJ who can express what I'm trying to express." So that was like, really a favorite moment. And then not longer after that, around the same time, was the time that I met Tamar.

And she was really good friends with my roommate at the time. And she would come over, and we used to watch The Box and used to watch all these different videos from Underdog, No Doubt to Rage Against The Machine.

NK: What?!

Honeychild: It was all over the place and I was like "Wow, she really has diverse musical taste!" And then one day, she was like "You know what? I didn't meet you before but I saw you on the train one day with your skateboard." And I'm like whoa. That's crazy!

Like she remembered me from then. I'm like "Okay, here's another person who sees me." Who didn't just glance at me and assume something. So being seen is like a recurring theme. You feel like people understand what your mission is, maybe.

NK: Mm-hmm.

Honeychild: I don't know like, other favorite moments maybe leading up to when Sacha called me about the band idea [The 1865], which was also kind of random because I hadn't been playing guitar for five or six years. I was only playing bass

He started to tell me the concept. I hadn't heard any music yet, and I was like "I'm in"! [Laughs] "Just send me what'cha got. Hey, sounds great! I'm down!" [Laughs]

He [Sacha] was like "Oh, you know, I thought of you."

"Hey, that sounds great, send it to me!" And I literally started writing right away. And I just felt like something reawakened in a way. Like oh, this is something that I have to say and express. And here's someone who sees me, who understands that I'm the person to do it.

So there's many more but those are relived in my mind: feeling seen as an artist with potential to execute an idea! It's something that feels really important to me.

NK: Nice. I can see why those are your favorite moments!

Honeychild: And have fun! If there's no fun, you know...I mean, another favorite moment, honestly? My friend Dunia who I'm in Heavensbee: ska spooky reggae band with, on my birthday I got a message from her, saying "Hey, do you want to go on tour with The Slits? [Laughs]

And I was like "What?!" So then me, being super-, a little pessimistic? I was like "Aww, that's such a cool idea but my band's not ready. There's no way we could tour with them. And so I wrote her back anyway.

She goes "Oh, no, it's not your band. She needs a guitarist." And again I hadn't been playing guitar for years, and I'd never played reggae guitar in my life!

And I only knew two of their songs, but I was like "You know what? I'm up for the challenge." She's like "Okay, well, here's her phone number! Give her a call.

You know, Ari's so cool. She doesn't use e-mail, she doesn't even have an answering machine but you know, she saw you play at PS1 in Apollo Heights, and she remembered you were a female guitarist. She told me to call you." And I'm like "What??"

That's so insane, I saw her backstage. She didn't even say two words to me but she remembered that show. So you just never know your effect on people, I guess, is a big part of it!

NK: You NEVER know. Yeah.

Honeychild: I was blown away! I was like "What? Okay, I can guess I can learn these songs in two weeks and go on tour. Why not? This is what I'm supposed to be doing!" so definitely a favorite moment.

NK: 100%, aww, Honeychild! A measurable impact that you have on people's lives, they don't even have to talk to you. But they wanted to reach out to you and say "Would you collaborate with me?" Isn't that awesome?

Honeychild: It is and I'm grateful for it everyday. No lie like, some days I'm like "Wow, I can't believe this person that I really admire wants to work with me and believes in what I'm doing! It's wonderful. Definitely, I will never be jaded to that.

NK: Respect, 100%. What is the more challenging part about playing baritone guitar vs. the traditional?

Honeychild: For me, because I don't read music and I play by ear, finding what to play. When it was just two guitars, it was a little bit easier because I was more focused on playing really bass-y things! But now that we have Flora who is such a sick bass GENIUS...

Finding something else to play is my biggest challenge 'cause I'm like post-punk power chord grrrl. Like, but the beauty of that for me...

NK: You go, Honeychild!

Honeychild: I'm just like "Aarrgh, gimme those power chords!"

NK: Exactly!

Honeychild: You know, the louder and the dirtier, the better...but the challenge is you definitely cannot play traditional chords because it's just all different tuning, and it's all different. But I love it!

It's just like a whole different sound. And it gives that little country sound! You know, got some country/Western songs in there and it really worked. It's like my country punk dream come true.

NK: I'm lovin' it, I'm loving the Kentucky influence on your sound! So one feeling...

Honeychild: Thanks, it's uh-

NK: You're welcome.

Honeychild: Yeah, you know the other thing too, and I'm sure you feel this, to have the freedom to not be afraid to tap into the country as a Black person and not be judged. Like "Oh, Black people don't play country music." Oh, yes, we do! Yes, we do in fact! [sings, laughs]

So that's also been extremely liberating and people really react to the country songs way more than I could've imagined. Like they really feel them...it's American music, straight-up!

NK: GOOD! They have that connection that you do, when they hear them.

Honeychild: They love them, they really do! Yeah, there's an immediate physical reaction. Definitely.

Experience the full #BRUTalk from here:

Honeychild Coleman's live direct-to-vinyl sessions via Leesta Vall Recordings are here!

Rock on with Honeychild:

The 1865 (heavy blues-punk):

C.J. Coleman Artiste!

Apollo Heights:

Bachslider (feminist post-punk/psychedelic rock):

DEM (electro-dub)

DJ Sugarfree BK

GKA (political electro/post-punk):

Heavensbee (spooky reggae/two-tone dub):

we(tm)/We™


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Black Rock Coalition Profile

Interview in Cork, Ireland (6-15-17)

Alternatives to Alternatives: the Black Grrrls Riot Ignored (VICE, 8-3-15)

Underground Producers Alliance: Honeychild Coleman (Mentor)