Disclaimer: This interview is edited for readability only. Um’s, and’s, so’s and likes have been left for the most part to emphasize speech patterns. This is also true for carry on sentences. Fresh Music Freaks publishes what is said unless otherwise asked by the artist not to.
Super Honey, the self described dark experimental electronic music duo fronted by Tiana Husted and Melissa Randel was brought to my attention by a friend three days after moving to Eugene in August of last year.
Initially meeting the duo last year in September, I knew immediately I wanted to interview them for the Fresh Music Freaks:Spotlight Series launch. I’ve heard them perform twice before last night but due to unforeseen circumstances I had not taken in a full set. Additionally, It’s not an easy task getting both Tiana and Melissa in the same room if they are not performing…so I made it my mission to lock the interview down at their next show. My opportunity came at Sacralicious, a transformational party featuring some amazing local and touring talent. Definitely riding a high after they finished their performance for roughly 400 people, I have no shame…I asked if we could have a sit down…they agreed. I was stoked. Endorphins work in mysterious ways sometimes.
Sunday May 1, 2016 5:15 PM
Alex: Hello ladies, Last night was an epic show. The vibe was on point and the set you threw down snapped the focus of the room forward. We have been trying to set this interview for a while and…now it happens….I get you both in one setting. Thank you for setting aside some time this Sunday evening.
Tiana raises her eyebrow and smiles…
Alex: Let’s start with a little background…Who you are and why you are doing this electronic music thing?
Tiana: Well, I am twenty two years old, originally from Hawaii but spent a lot of my formative years in the Portland (Oregon) area…I spent time going to a lot of industrial electronic shows in that part of Portland…the southeast part of Portland and…just completely fell in love with the scene and everything that people were doing. I really wanted to get into performing that kind of stuff…so when I moved down to Eugene, I took classes out at Lane Community College…I’d never done that sort of stuff ever before (music production) and enrolled in their music technology program and took pretty much every class that I possibly could take…for electronic music and electronic composition. I just wanted to learned from all those wonderful faculty members…just uh…they taught me…pretty much everything I know about how to navigate my way through the digital audio workstation and all that jazz…
She pauses for a moment slightly grinning…
Tiana: Ever since then I’ve been addicted…
Alex: You have no formal music training or background?
Tiana: Not before I started making music. I found a program at U. of O…The music tech program over there…which…because it is a Bachelor of Science in Musical Form…you do have to take all of those standard music classes. So over the past two years I’ve been doing music theory and sight reading and ear training and keyboard skills and trying to become as well rounded of a musician, so that I can help aid on a performance and compositional level.
Alex: Do you feel classes like music theory, help your progression or do you feel sometimes…I guess what I’m trying to say is…sometimes when people are naturally gifted in music, taking classes like music theory limits their ability to create.
Alex: and be inspired…
Tiana: Yeah…it kind of puts a cap on where you can go creatively because you feel like you’re restricted by the spirit of all the rules….yeah…I honestly would say that I am thankful for my music theory knowledge…I wouldn’t say that I apply it in a super strong sense to my music because when it comes down to it…I go by what sounds good. If it sounds good and…It’s making me bob my head and making me feel in it and…really like…believe in what I’m doing…then I kind of put the theory stuff on the back burner. Though it is sort of funny to analyze people’s electronic music in a theoretical sense and sort of pick apart what they’re doing…even if they don’t necessarily realize it. I do love the fact that I have been educated but I don’t necessarily use it in a strict a way or when composing what Melissa and I do.
Alex: Melissa…I think this would be a great time for you to say “Hello” and give me a little background about you and explain what inspired you to take this electronic music journey?
Melissa: Ok…I am twenty-nine years old…I’m from Davis, California. I moved to Eugene and I have been in grad school for the past several years in Molecular Biology…I have about a year left on my Ph.d…But before I even got into grad school, I started a band with my little brother and several other people in town. It was our rock band called The Great Hiatum…and I worked really hard at that for about four years. I was the lead singer and It really gave me that love of performing and creating music. I wanted to keep that going…So T (Tiana) and I started to collaborate when she was taking some of her music technology classes at Lane. We started with one track “Spectacle”….It was a really fun process creating with her, getting to collaborate and build all the vocal harmonies…that is still one of our most complex songs by far. So…we just decided to keep going with it because it was continuously gratifying. But as far as electronic music in general? I’ve been exposed to a whole lot of music through a whole lot of music festivals that I’ve attended…So…really getting to sample everything that people have been creating has inspired me not only expand the different kinds of music, different genres of music that I can create…But also to create something that’s completely original. And hasn’t been done before. Something that kind of defies classification a little bit more.
Alex: So it would be safe to say that you have a little bit more of a background in music?
Melissa: I do not have an education in music…I’m not an educated, classical musician and I have been completely making music by feelings since I started making music. So I totally agree…I do think that in a way that having a formal musical education can limit the types of music we can create. So when…Tiana started taking classes I told her don’t take vocal lessons because I don’t want you to change what you’re working with here. And I’ve had a bit of formal vocal training over the years. I’ve participated in choirs in several different music projects that have challenged me to learn how to be a better vocalist… so I would say that I’m a bit more…trained…But not in a classical, technical, musical sense.
Alex: I’ve listen to you play a couple of times before I heard you last night…honestly they are distant memories because I didn’t quite make it through the night. So my first exposure to one of your entire sets was last night. One of the things that I picked up. Is the overall feel that you permeate throughout the crowd. I’m curious…how do you classify your music?
Tiana: Yeah…I’d like to kind of….
Alex: If your music goes on to Beatport. What would they file it under?
Tiana: So we talk about this pretty often between the two of us and what we finally landed on seems like the most suitable genre to classify ourselves under would be Experimental Bass Music…kind of ambiguous…but I think it fits us.
Melissa: It’s the best way to describe it.
Alex: I got a feeling with a few of your tracks that you really appreciate low end.
Alex: I do like the experimental side of it and your music doesn’t really sound like anything else out there. You fit a very specific time slot..a couple of them actually. Your time slot last night between the openers and headliners…felt as perfect as possible and your music resonated with that crowd really well. But I can totally hear your sets being played during sunrise at Burning Man. Is that your intention or is it just kind of where things fell?
Melissa: We’ve had opportunities to play in a lot of different contexts and it’s fun to experience playing music for different types of crowds, different time slots…I feel like Super Honey is really versatile in that regard actually. We played for group Professors and Ph.d. Scientists and they were lounging and listening in an educated fashion. They were engaged listeners…and then, We’re at a huge party last night where there’s one hundred fifty people. Completely drunk and…
I cut her off to clarify.
Alex: I think there was more than that actually….there was a lot more than that closer to 500 or so.
We all laugh.
Alex: I understand that there is a little bit of a story behind the name Super Honey and how that came about.
Tiana and Melissa look at each other and both grin ear to ear.
Tiana: You should talk about this one…
Melissa: So…we were jamming one day…one night actually and I was going over to Tiana’s house and as I was driving i noticed that the moon was massive that night and it actually was a full moon. They said on the weather report that it was a Super moon, because it was going to be extra large in the sky…And also that it was going to be honey colored. So it was really the Super Honey moon on the night of our practice that we found that inspiration…
Alex: It’s pretty awesome. You know. Sometimes you come across groups that have names…and it might not resonate with them personally but it’s something catchy or something that they feel that would stand out. Moving on… You are two females. In a male dominated industry. You’re doing well for yourself on the performance side of things. But give me some insight..What are your thoughts being that fold, two females, In a male dominated industry. Trying to make music that you want everybody to enjoy.
Melissa: I think it’s really powerful to be a member of a group that’s two females. Working in the music industry over the years I very rarely find other female musicians. Even on an entire bill. And I found myself, the only female musician performing any night, on a lot of occasions. So now with our group we have two females and that’s a really powerful thing. I think the lack of female musicians in the entire music industry is completely shocking to me. I can’t really explain where that came from and why it has persisted so long. But. Females make wonderful music. And more of them need to.
Tiana: I also think particularly in the electronic world it is super male dominated…But that just gives us that fire to want to bring it super hard as performers, as composers. It just makes us want to rise to the occasion and…really…really do our best and show our best.
Alex: How do you feel about criticism when it comes to your music…has anybody ever shot down your music or said…this isn’t…this isn’t right?
Tiana: Oh…. I actually…I have a funny story…
Tiana looks to Melissa…Remember the guy at the Grainery one time…?
Melissa: Oh Yeah (chuckling).
Tiana: We were playing a show at the Grainery with some good friends of ours. They sit more in the trap realm, they’re good friends…Bedroom Trax, another local Eugene duo. So they asked us to play that night and…there were a lot of people attending the event expecting to just have…like a party…like a heavy trap night. I remember about six songs into our set, this one guy comes up to me as if i were…as if i was just deejaying, and had like this whole artillery of music and is like…. “Can you play something…like dance-y?” (laughing)…obviously I just smiled and looked at him and said it depends on what you think that is…. but I think I got something for you… but…like this is dance-y to me…It makes me want to move…
Alex: I don’t know…I was shaken my butt last night you got some pretty dance-y tracks so…
Tiana: Some people are into it…. some people just want something a little more upbeat or a little harder hitting. Down tempo isn’t always dance-y to people. But that’s…that’s where my heart resonates with downtempo music and I think it goes the same with Melissa.
Alex: You know but it’s funny that you say that because I don’t think that you’re down tempo. I think you’re just above down tempo…Like I said…to me…someone who’s down tempo may open the night. Someone who comes to mind is Tipper. To me he’s more mellow than you two…you know…your production is very…you. I know you two personally and I think it’s fair to say that your music is an extension of both of your personalities…I don’t think either one of your personalities is downtempo….(we laugh)…but again that’s just my personal opinion. Last night I really just listened as I was taking pictures. It was nice because even though I vaguely remember the first two times I actually heard you play. One of those times being the New Years party. I still recognized your music. Which says a lot because now I anticipate listening to some of those… songs…and I think…to say that your music is downtempo, again puts it in a genre that doesn’t necessarily classify it the right way.
Melissa: It’s too heavy for downtempo. Necessarily. But we have a lot of fun putting different elements into it and different creative elements as well. Some of our tracks are just a lot of found sounds, things that we’ve recorded and then use. We’ve modulated those sounds and created these tracks full of actual water noises or…
Tiana joins in.
Tiana: Like synthesizing the water to make really organic music. Like…It’s heavy…heavy on the low end. That’s for damn sure.
Alex: Yeah there was a couple of tracks last night where I was like “ I might need to go take a shower after this.”
Alex: Like…I’m feeling kind of dirty.
Tiana: Yeah…we like it to be heavy but we also like to have tasteful organic textures that fit on top of that…
Melissa: But it’s also meant to be really sexy music.
Alex: You know speaking on that, Tiana you are the production side. You don’t get to see your face as much because it’s sometimes stuck behind a module or you’re playing keys or something along those lines…but Melissa your face is always front and center because you are the main vocal. And watching you perform does make it sexy. What do you feel as words are coming out of your mouth…I mean these are songs that you know and you’ve written and stuff but…What do you feel as you perform and is it different every time or is it the same rush?
Melissa: It’s different every time and I always love it. I don’t fear getting on a stage anymore, I anticipate it with joy because it’s always different really interesting experience. The biggest thing for me when i’m on the stage is…I have this overwhelming empathy thing in my life where I…I tend to feel what other people around me are feeling and when the crowd is enjoying our music, there is no high like that. So I’m just really feeling the songs and enjoying myself. I feel like that’s how you have to demonstrate to people how to get off to your music. You know…you have to know how to do that.
Watching Melissa describe her music was intense.
Alex: Wow! Okay let’s uhhh…that’s great. Touching on your production a little bit. Is it set up where like you get phone calls every twenty minutes from Tiana going…“Oh my god, I have this totally crazy idea for a song.” Or…”You totally have to listen to what I’ve been working on.” Or is it like you ladies sit down in the studio together…Wait back up…Tiana do you sit down and write one day because you’re feeling it and then you ship it over to Melissa and say what do you think?
Tiana: Yeah. Melissa is definitely my biggest critic in the best possible way. I will come to her with anything rough, anything that’s just an idea…like even a snippet and she will give me the most honest feedback about it and then I’m able to go back and make those changes. Another thing that I do is…I kind of have…like musical vomit where I just record a bunch of shit all looping on top of itself and then mess around with different combinations. And Melissa will say something to me like…”Oh I really like that bass line, that top end…Like…”Whatever the fuck that is, that’s not as great…cut that out”…and we will together and in a way that leads to the final compositions. I’ll make the changes and come up with like an initial beat. Melissa plays an equal role in the compositional end I would say…
Alex: Do you ever just bang on your keyboard?…I’ll give you a for instance. When I was producing music, I would pull up a drum kit with assorted high hats and instead of trying to lay them out in a rhythm that had the right type of swing, I would just bang on the keyboard as I was recording. No particular order. Then I would go back and I would find a 16th of a bar that had just the right swing in the hats and I would use that. Do you ever just bang on your keyboard and see what comes out?
Tiana: I’ll record for long periods of time where I’ll have sort of a back beat going I want to add another layer to it…like…a hi-hat for example and do the exact same thing…I mean I’ll try to say in time…I am a percussionist for like my informal training…
Tiana: But to make it as human as possible… always try to find a snippet like you said that is in time and that I particularly like the rhythm of and try to use that and implement that in certain parts to give certain feel to things. But yeah…I definitely will hit record and let it go for a while and then sit back and edit things out…Like, “will this work here? Not so much there.”
Alex: Well that actually makes tons of sense…Melissa is the process the same for you? Do you record yourself throughout the day? Do you write lines down that come to you? Record your vocals and melodies because you might want to integrate them?
Melissa: I write lyrics whenever they come to me and then I use lyrics that I’ve written in different songs, in different ways. So…Mostly I do my writing when we’re jamming together. That’s when I’m going to come up with melodies. I don’t generally build a melody until there’s a song behind it.
Alex: We’re talking about producing outside of the box and not utilizing the theories of music but I think you’ll find that lot of producers will tell you to start with the melody and then build a track around that… Even me…When I think back to my production…I would start with a melody and build a track around that. I felt doing it that way let me know what frequencies I could hit and what not, but again…You work differently in that you build a melody after the track has got some substance to it. You know…that’s really crazy. Well you’ve made perfectly clear that there is no formula to what you ladies do…I think your fans will agree when I say it gives your music a really good feel. The other thing that gives your sets a really good feel is the fact you start and stop during your sets. It felt like to me…you’re allowing your crowd to digest what just happened to them…that’s a little bit different because in the world of electronic dance music…Sometimes pauses aren’t necessarily the best thing. You do this on purpose. Why?
Melissa: It’s true that our songs are pretty diverse. But I think it comes down to a technical thing. We incorporate a lot of live elements when we’re performing we’re not just hitting play on a backing track and singing over the top of that. T’s doing live percussion, she’s triggering different midi tracks as we go throughout the song and that just wouldn’t be possible to do continuously for an entire hour.
Tiana: Yeah and honestly it was a fear of mine that we are kind of in an electronic realm and we play them like a band would play songs you know?…where you end and have your space in between and then you start the next one. That was a slight worry of mine at first but with the way that things go, if you take a look at our sets…the way that we set them up live…the way that they’re mapped out, each different song…kind of looks like what you would see for deejays whole set. So…In my mind that’s just so much to deal with that i like separating them by song because It’s so many white out buttons to look at so is just like…
Tiana’s face is so expressive as she talks about performing live. I can see the excitement and exhilaration she gets from just talking about it.
Alex: You play all your own music. You don’t play anybody else’s music but have you ever thought about utilizing…filler tracks…that allow you to fill the stop space where you would normally be changing your midi tracks and sounds on your controllers, even if it’s simply used to carry through to the next song?
Tiana: I have thought about it. Especially on the tracks that have tempo changes. Like it would be fun to do sort of like a tempo…glide as a transitional track which I know deejays utilize often…
Alex: Yes, beat jumpers are awesome….
Tiana: But to do that seamlessly is just super sweet because one spot you’ll be at this tempo (Tiana puts a hand in the air to show a measurement) and have this feel. And then all the sudden you know…you have this transition and are slightly disoriented for a second and then bam you’re there (Tiana shows her hand a foot higher than the other to show an increase in tempo.) the next tempo and I’ve always loved that…I think that is something that we could implement. If we wanted to but I never really did much to try to create those tracks so it’s just a thought…
Alex: We were talking about about layering…The layering of sounds and how you go about recording and everything. You know it brings to mind a producer by the name of Eskmo…
Both of them in unison…”I love Eskmo.”
Alex: Tell me a little bit about your process…do you literally go grab your microphone and bang a stick on the side of a tree?
Tiana: Exactly..that’s exactly what we do. I have a tiny portable audio interface, a highly sensitive condenser microphone and my laptop. That’s really all I need. I put my laptop in my backpack sometimes and just like pop it out to record sounds at a skate park. I was living in this apartment two or three summers ago, Melissa came over one day and we were just exploring every possible sound that we could through this apartment. We would be like…Should we fill the bathtub up?…Yes! Should we drop things in it? Yes definitely. Like whatever we could do to get interesting textures….or…replicate sounds that you think you know. But they aren’t that thing. We like to do a little bit of sonic trickery…
I chime in with a joke.
Alex: Melissa go over there and shake the Christmas tree, let’s hear what that sounds like.
Melissa: We recorded one sample through a canned telephone…Aluminum cans and a string between them and it sounds really awesome…
Tiana: Yeah, we use that to this day…it’s on a loop in the back of our song “Buoyancy” but Melissa’s singing into an actual tin can…like you’ll find tin can reverbs…You know… that sort of effect…but literally we had a pencil condenser on one end deep in the tin can and Melissa was just holding and singing on the other end and it was a blast…it was really effective.
Alex: Back to last night’s performance one of the things that I didn’t hear come out of your repertoire was…”This is something new.” So are you holding back or are you just finding the right venue to launch some new music?
Melissa: We did play a very new track.
Alex: Oh…well I guess…I love that you didn’t announce it.
Tiana: Yeah…there was…
Melissa: Yeah we just didn’t announce it but we could see it on friends faces. People who know our body of work recognized it was a new track so it was nice seeing that on their faces.
Alex: You know..I think that totally just ties into the humility and how humble the both of you are when it comes to your music…you’re not broadcasting it like…”This is new, hope you like it…” It just puts into perspective I guess…the Super Honey following. People appreciate you and adore you. I mean I do and that’s why I really wanted this to be the interview that introduced the world to Super Honey.
Alex: Last night we also saw and heard an addition to the duo…You had a Saxophonist playing with bringing the band count to three…
Melissa: Yeah…we were playing with Ben Latimer of Soul Vibrator. He is a really awesome guy because he works really creatively with his medium…he gets a lot of abstract noises. And he’s also a really talented musician in his own right.
Tiana: And he approached us which was really strange and flattering…
Melissa: It was an honor…
Tiana: We were like…you want to play with us? He normally plays…just like…really good funk and jazz. He’s very educated with his music and so it was just a like “whoa.”
Alex: Yeah it was it was a little different I keep rehashing the fact I was a little bit hazy the first couple of times that I heard you play and last night I felt like Ben didn’t necessarily add to the performance but more so infused even additional lowing and weird funkiness and it felt right. So is Ben going to be gracing another one of your sets. Maybe other special guests?
Tiana: Our idea was to feature horn player or just an extra live instrumentalists almost every time we played…like we wanted to feature him for months. Ben…we just love him so much it, kind of just stuck and no matter…he might go off and pursue his own solo stuff one day but he’ll always have a home with Super Honey…we absolutely love playing with him. We like the idea of playing with live instruments.
Alex: So will that be like Super Honey featuring…or would it be like you add a word to your name like Super Honey Pot…(everyone’s laughing). When it’s Super Honey Pot…you have somebody with you. Super Honey is just the Duo…
Tiana: (laughing) That’s awesome…we should do that.
Alex: I’m going to ask this question because I really do like to ask it. You know in electronic dance music there’s a big divide between keeping things underground and commercial success. Now we understand…I think everybody does…that music starts out as a passion. It starts out as a desire to create art…but there is also the side of it that you want your art to somewhat become commercially accepted because that’s what you want to do all the time…and in order for you to do that all the time you have to sell your art. Is there a line you both trying to walk between underground and commercial or is it just right now we’re making art and if people want us to play for them will play for them?
Melissa: I would say it’s the latter right now…
Tiana: Definitely the latter…
Melissa: I feel motivated to create this music. And it…It always feels wonderful to share it as well. And we keep getting opportunities for that. We don’t have to work to get the gigs that we’re getting the gigs are coming to us and that’s really gratifying right now.
Alex: What happens when you can’t handle your own bookings?
Melissa: I have always been able to handle all of the bookings for my projects.
Tiana: And this girl kills it. Yeah…I think it’s definitely…Just for us. We have other pursuits. Melissa is getting her Ph.d. and I’m getting a degree in music technology which of course you know it falls under that. I think right now for us it’s just such a pure outlet where we can express. That’s really what it’s all about we just thoroughly enjoy ourselves every time we go out. And yeah like you said if people want to listen and they’re down with it… that’s awesome. If they’re not feeling it. That’s ok too.
Alex: So there’s no desired to sell five hundred thousand copies of your songs or…you know…anything that would set you on a path to financial freedom? So you might not have to worry about what you’re going to do next?
Melissa: As far as monetizing the music? It’s not a prime consideration of mine…Music is my outlet and It’s not my full time job and I feel like Sometimes when you make it your full time job it ruins it for you. Sometimes studying music all the time saps you of your strength to create on your own because you’ve been playing all day already. I don’t want to ever make music into a chore and I know that may be a somewhat unique perspective. But Super Honey has been a wonderful project for that. Because we’re able to get together and work on it. And then also have time for the rest of our lives..
Alex: Well I know this has been a long time coming and I appreciate that you were so candid. I most definitely enjoy you both as musicians and look forward to hearing more…trust me I will follow up and keep the masses in the loop. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.
Use the #Superhoney on Instagram (They don’t own the account. You can check out pictures and videos of stuff they have been working on there.)
All Photo Credit: Fresh Music Freaks…except the super moon.