Two weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic, local jazz-pop band Honeyboys released their first song, “I Just Wanna Know.” According to lead singer Ari Eisenberg, the lyrics “I just wanna know where you wanna go” undoubtedly resonated with emotions surrounding the lockdown.
During most of 2020 and 2021, Honeyboys were unable to perform in front of a live audience.
If it wasn’t for the pandemic, however, the band wouldn’t have produced and written what they did during that time. Working together primarily over Zoom, the band released six songs over the past year and a half.
“We just kept pushing through and making some good music over the internet,” pianist Greg Gallagher said.
Rehearsals have gone back to in-person for Honeyboys. The band resumed their shenanigans of arguments, fistfights and “shoving guitar picks up each other’s nostrils,” bassist Nick Reeves said.
Although the pandemic brought Honeyboys together, it wasn’t as easy for other musicians.
Garage rock band Couch Dog went on hiatus almost as soon as the 2020 lockdown started. During the break, two of the four original band members left, while lead singer Max Ferrer worked on the band’s music and bass player Tasha Lee went back home to Dana Point, CA.
Lee said living at home in Dana Point, about 250 miles south of San Luis Obispo, made her more “enthusiastic” about playing with her bandmates.
“I was just waiting and waiting and waiting until I could go back and work with my friends on music, because that’s all I wanted to do,” Lee said.
When school began again in the fall of 2020, Couch Dog filled out their roster by adding drummer Josh Cheruvelil and lead guitarist Pablo Acosta. With the new members, the band spent time rewriting their old songs.
Given delays over Zoom and the frustration of sending sound files back and forth, the band quickly realized working online was not going well for them.
“It’s better when we’re in the room because it feels like our brains are networked,” Acosta said. “Since we’re all such good friends and we love spending time with each other it’s just like, ‘let’s jam.’”
For the last several months, Couch Dog has been practicing in person. They are preparing to release a demo by Halloween, along with merchandise and getting back into live performances.
“I’m just waiting for the moment where we get to play … just an honest to goodness house show where it’s so hot and muggy inside, and you can’t take pictures because it fogs up the camera,” Ferrer said. “It’s the worst feeling ever, and I miss it so much.”
As an independent artist, Finn produced and released the album on his own.
“I thank God that I’m not in a band or something, where I rely on people for creative input, because it would have been one thousand times harder than it already was,” he said.
Finn said he struggled with the “more monotonous tasks” of creating music during isolation, like mixing and mastering. However, the added time at home allowed him to experiment with new sounds.
“Interacting with people, [which is] a big [theme] to make songs about, there wasn’t a lot of that happening,” Finn said. “It did give me a lot of time to look into myself a little bit more and write songs from that perspective.”
Finn said he plans on diving more into the live music scene and possibly getting a group to play with.
As venues begin to re-open, the upcoming year may give artists the opportunity to expand their audience and debut their new musical sensibilities.
Hakeem Sanusi and his band Silk Ocean were set to open for fellow local band High Pulp at SLO Brew Rock around the time California was first put on lockdown.
“That was us really graduating a step to play the main stage at SLO Brew Rock and then COVID[-19] hit,” Sanusi said. “I think things were really about to take a swing, like really ramp up.”
As COVID-19 infection rates worsened, the band decided to take a hiatus. During that time, Sanusi was able to do things he felt he never had time for, like learning how to play the piano.
Silk Ocean already has several gigs lined up, including shows at Frog and Peach Pub and The Siren. Sanusi said they want to perform at wineries, as well as tour through Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
“I really believe in the music that we make and the vibe that we create when we play,” Sanusi said. “Once we get our foot in the door, I’m sure they’ll want us back.”
Greg Gallagher of Honeyboys said the band will soon be performing locally at venues as well, including the Downtown San Luis Obispo Farmers’ Market and expanding their touring endeavors to Santa Barbara, Davis, San Diego and Los Angeles.
The boys also plan on releasing new music, selling more merchandise and creating CDs and vinyl records.
“There’s a new project we’re working on. [It] definitely has the same signature Honeyboys sound but a lot of different directions,” guitarist Reese Gardner said. “Stay tuned.”