The History Mix #10: Don’t Call It A Comeback

When the Mojo Wire reunited as Radblaster, and when Honey White reconvened too, we recorded it all for the Corridan and Hecho En Naranjastan EPs (both released 2011).

These days, band reunions seem to be clichés wrapped in cash-grabs sprinkled with nostalgia and the slight stink of desperation. So many have happened in the past decade-plus that listing them would be exhaustive, but the end result—whether it’s a one-off, a tour or a tour/album package—is often the same. Collective wild anticipation suddenly deflates when memory collides with reality. However that’s not really what happened in 2010 when Honey White reconvened to rehearse after over three years, and when the Mojo Wire’s original lineup did the same after almost twelve years. Both projects were decidedly small-scale, because we’d all long-since accepted the reality of how rare it was to indulge in our expensive hobby together, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t make some progress and track new songs.

We’d Been Here For Years

The old-school Mojo Wire reunion happened first. Bryn had roped Adam and I back into jamming in June 2008, about a year after Honey White stopped. We didn’t actually snag Kevin to play drums until March 2010, after catching up with him while he played San Clemente gigs with his main band, Los Sindicate. After we got over the bizarre novelty of it, reuniting the original Mojo Wire lineup picked up right where we left off in September 1998, tracking Seaside Hamlet Skids songs. We adopted a new band name, “Radblaster,” but we sounded basically the same and surprisingly tight. Over four rehearsal sessions that year (March, June, September and December), we built up a set of old Mojo songs and several new tunes each from me, Bryn and Adam. The old stuff was era-spanning: “Long Black Leather Boots,” “Key West Tapwater,” and “Blue Lantern Cove” emerged as the best of that.

Reviving the classics was cool, but it was even better to write and record new songs, even if they didn’t always come from pretty places. Bryn poured all his recession-fueled, job-hunting frustrations over some Black Keys-inspired riffage to create “The New Normal,” “Stagnation Blues,” and “Nero’s Inferno.” Bashing those out with the full band was pretty cathartic. Adam tackled some issues of his own on “Maintaining Grace,” which we amped up into a surly roots-rocker during rehearsal. It wasn’t all fear and loathing, though; Bryn channeled the Mermen to capture an eerie seascape at night for “Becalmed” and continued his quest to write a one-chord-wonder with the whisper-to-roar instrumental “Lluiva de Jalisco.” It wasn’t all present-day pressures either, especially when Adam tossed off a brilliant surf instrumental so reminiscent of ancient summer holidays at Dana Point Harbor that we dubbed it “West Basin Water Wars.”

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While my bandmates reacted to their present, I was still dredging up the past, thanks to my recent Low Tide semi-solo project. I’d finished “Tempting Fate” and “Winner Take All” years before, but the reunion inspired me to write the goofy Radblaster theme “Blunt Instruments” and a bizarre nine-verse fever dream called “The Bronze Age.” Of all those, “Tempting Fate” was the standout, at least until a gorgeous new Adam ballad inspired me to write “Stranded.” For me, “Tempting Fate” and “Stranded” succeeded in all the ways that my amateur novel failed; they both evoked the past with a nuanced view from the present, they both had some of my best-ever turns-of-phrase, and they helped me get mental closure on numerous angsty hang-ups. Plus the band was sounding great; I’d forgotten how gratifying it was to create something substantial together, plus we’d all grown as musicians and people over the years.

Pass the Old Gold

That went double for the two Honey White reunion sessions in November/December 2010. Brian returned to California for the holidays, fresh from starting a new band called the Neuro Farm with his fiancée Rebekah, so we reconvened with Billy at the Corridan gallery in Santa Barbara to shake off the rust. Honey White never had a problem picking up right where we left off, and this session was no different; we careened through scores of tunes old and new, recording everything. Bryn and I tried out some tunes already road-tested by Radblaster, so “Tempting Fate” and “Becalmed” got some love. I mashed up “Mercy Rule” with “Blacking Out” to create “Historical Friction,” which came to life once Billy added heavy-dub syncopation. Bryn also dug up “Nightfall” and “Green Hills,” leading us through two songs we’d played live but hadn’t yet recorded. Brian let us try out a Neuro Farm song called “Dreams,” and I lashed some new lyrics onto one of his older instrumentals to make “Dilemma By Design.”

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Those two Honey White sessions were short (Brian soon went back to DC) but as always, we got a lot done. It felt too momentous to go undocumented, so I collected the seven new (and new-ish) songs into a fun, loose freebie E.P. simply named Corridan for the venue where we rehearsed and recorded. It was a low-key, casual thing—there are bum notes here and there from the live takes, and for practicality’s sake Billy’s playing his electric drum kit—but my old impulse of “release it now and worry about it later” kicked in and by April 2011 it was up on Bandcamp. Corridan is notable for containing the only recorded takes of “Dilemma By Design” and “Historical Friction,” but the other five tunes had already seen daylight or would very soon, either in live performance years before (“Nightfall” and “Green Hills”), as Radblaster songs (“Tempting Fate” and “Becalmed”), or on Neuro Farm albums (“Dreams” was released on their debut Blissful Isolation in May 2011).

The Honey White stuff went so well that Bryn and I convinced Adam and Kevin to do a few more Radblaster recordings, to get definitive versions of that band’s best new songs. We booked two sessions at Wall of Sound in Anaheim during February and April 2011, and got to work. The isolated room at an out of the way location (Bryn and Adam drove up from Dana Point, Kevin down from Redondo and I came from Ventura) allowed us to focus and crank out take after take. We went through everything, but finally settled on the six songs that appear on Radblaster’s digital-only Hecho En Naranjastan E.P. A full album would have been ideal, but good stabs at “Tempting Fate,” “The New Normal,” “Stranded,” “Maintaining Grace,” “Lluvia de Jalisco,” and “Nero’s Inferno” was enough for the moment. One Keir-designed montage-grid album cover later and Hecho appeared on Bandcamp as well, a monument to thirtysomething men returning to (and casting off) their teenaged selves.

Don’t Call This a Regular Jam

For once, my impulse to immediately release what we had was the right choice, because the reunions proved impermanent. Brian was in DC, Bill moved to Colorado, and Kevin returned to Los Sindicate, so Honey White and Radblaster played no live shows. Both Corridan and Hecho are curious, worthy souvenirs that validated all the time we spent playing in bands when we were younger. We discovered it was something we could come back to; we’d opened the door for future sessions, and that sort of happened. The Neuro Farm took off in their own right at DC shows, but Brian and Rebekah came to California for a Honey White-Neuro Farm holiday jam with Billy and I in December 2011. Bryn, Adam and I continued to rehearse together into 2012 as well; it wasn’t Radblaster but it was still playing, and how many ex-bandmates get to do that while creeping toward middle age? The only thing left, at least for Bryn and I, was to prove to ourselves that we could go it alone if we needed to. He did just that onstage, and I would soon enough myself.

Play these albums:

Bonus tracks: Radblaster out-takes & Mojo Wire covers!

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