Hello, for those who don't know me, my name is Danny Shaheen
On Friday, June 22nd - with our set beginning at 9pm - I have the privilege of performing at the Aster Cafe with The Honeytones who are comprised of me on lead guitar, and my friends Rory Ziven Alt on upright bass and Laconia Koerner on rhythm guitar and vocals. Laconia is also the songwriter of the group.
Laconia and I met when I was earning my internship hours for my master’s degree in mental health counseling at the Pillsbury House Integrated Health Clinic, where she worked as clinical director. When we each discovered the other shared a passion for music, in addition to integrated approaches to healing, we decided to try a collaboration. What emerged were a handful of songs Laconia had been playing solo for a few years that, with my guitar added, sounded like straightforward Americana; a sound we each liked fine, but weren’t wholly satisfied with. One exception, though, was the song Floating Hawk.
It became quickly apparent that Floating Hawk was the model by which Laconia and I hoped to base collaborations moving forward. The vocals and guitar lines take a sort of call and response pattern, in which the lead guitar fills a role that could also have been held by an accompanying vocalist. Perhaps most notably, the vocal and lead guitar lines were written together, with each informing the other - as opposed to a song that’s fully-formed with lead guitar merely sprinkled on top for added texture.
Soon after established this Floating Hawk sound and applying a similar model to our other material, Laconia and I wound up taking a hiatus for nearly a year due to transitions in each of our lives. I needed to finish additional coursework for my degree, and Laconia wanted to take time to find firm footing in her career practicing acupuncture. Having each taken the time we needed we reconvened, worked on more songs, and decided it was time to add low end to our sound.
Rory Ziven Alt, our upright bassist, is a friend I met taking improv classes at HUGE theater a few years ago. I was always impressed with Rory’s physicality as a theater performer, which naturally seems to translate to an instrument as unwieldy as upright bass. Rory fit right in from the very beginning, and with a lineup as stripped-down as ours, the addition of low end opened up an entire universe of possibilities for both my lead playing as well as Laconia’s vocals.
The inclusion of a friend from improv class is meaningful, as improv class was monumental for me in learning how to be comfortable onstage. Further, a tenet of improv is the expectation that one accepts and builds upon the ideas of others, which leaves no room for any individual to monopolize the group; reminiscent of how Laconia and I developed the Floating Hawk sound. Simply knowing that Rory is well-versed in the give-and-take of improv led me to believe Rory would be open to others’ suggestions, and not shy with offering them as well; fortunately I was proven right.
Rory also gave a guest upright performance on the recording of Lady Tarantella; a track released on vinyl ‘45 for another band I play in, Fletcher Magellan, recorded in 2016, which gave an early indication of the caliber of bass playing we’d be in store for.
In February, we gave our debut performance as a trio at the Auk’s Roost; a DIY venue. At this point, Rory had only rehearsed with us a few times, but the performance went off without a hitch. Since then, we have had ample time to hone our sound further, and just as initially the inclusion of lead guitar led to a re-working of Laconia’s original songs, so too did the addition of bass prompt a similar period of adjustment.
We’ve had a lot of fun with the musical pallette an upright bass affords - choosing between such varied sounds as orchestral bowing to syncopated, fluid lines - as we each figure out how our individual playing styles might fit with those of the next. Laconia has also shown a flurry of songwriting activity following a deep dive into the catalog of the late, great jazz/pop singer Amy Winehouse. Rory and I can hardly keep up with all the new material, which is an ideal situation to find ourselves in.
Setting our sights to today, we’re grateful to be making our proper club debut at a venue as fine as the Aster Cafe, as well as for the opportunity to share a bill with Wilkinson James; a group whose bandleaders Laconia met through participating in Jim Walsh’s Mad Ripple Hootenanny when she was first getting her start as a songwriter in Minneapolis. Their set will follow ours, and begin at 10pm.
Our show at the Aster will also serve as the debut of an EP of some of Laconia’s solo songs, as well as a few that feature me. We are titling it For the Birds. This EP was recorded by the multi-talented Victoria Carpenter, with whom I also play in the band A Constant Cough. Speaking of multi-talented, our logo (which will grace the cover of the EP) was designed by Rory as well. This should come as no surprise, as Rory - in addition to many other pursuits - is well-versed in the visual arts also with public pieces that have been featured at Can Can Wonderland, Northern Spark, and even as part of the spectacle that was the 2018 Superbowl.
We’re glad you’ll be able to take a memento of The Honeytones home with you this Friday. Thanks so much for reading and supporting, and we’ll see you at the Aster!