Photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

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These days, everyone seems to be talking about the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ last studio album “Abbey Road.” When the band first formed, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were all in their teens.

Like the Fab Four, Northwestern University undergrads Jacob Galdes and Oliver Holden also co-founded their band, Honey Butter, when they were teenagers. The members of Honey Butter describe themselves as a sextet “that blends elements of R&B, soul and pop to create a groove-heavy, new-school sound.” Formed in 2018, “out of a desire to share musical ideas and spread joy with their work,” Honey Butter has a mission that includes getting “listeners on their feet,” something at which they are succeeding.

The RoundTable spoke with drummer Holden and guitarist Galdes shortly before their October gig at SPACE in Evanston.

Gregg Shapiro: Jacob and Oliver, please say something about how you met?

Jacob Galdes: Oliver and I met the day before school started our freshman year at Northwestern University in 2017. We were both in the jazz program at the time. We were taking part in auditions to be in a combo, which is a small jazz ensemble, for jazz majors. We got picked for the same combo. When we first started, I think we kind of disliked each other. When I walked in, I was like, “Who is this angry dude not smiling behind the drum kit [laughs]?”

Oliver Holden: I felt the same way. “Who is this frat boy?” He pulled out a guitar, and I was like, “Of course he plays guitar!” Over the course of the year, I got to be a little less angry behind the drums and we got to be good friends.

GS: At what point are you both now in your studies at Northwestern Bienen School of Music?

OH: We’re both juniors.

GS: Do your post-graduation plans include music?

OH: Absolutely. I’ve never felt like I wanted to do anything else. It’s always been my greatest love. I’ve never not wanted to come back to music. Sometimes I’ll get upset because something didn’t go my way and I’ll take a couple of days to regain the love and the fire and the passion. But it always comes back. Music is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

G: My post-graduation plan is the same. I want to do stuff with Honey Butter. I want this group to be as famous as we can be – to tour the world and share this music with people. I came to Northwestern as a biology/pre-med student. Coming in,
I thought I was going to be a doctor. Then I realized it wasn’t for me. I didn’t have the same joy when I was studying that I did when I was playing music. I’m still a science major, but music is what I want to do coming out of school. That’s the dream.  

GS: How did Wop Street Bass Ritual, the original name of Honey Butter, come about?

OH: Wop Street Bass Ritual is an extended acronym. When we originally formed, we were asked to play some shows in a friend’s basement. Jacob threw the band together. We had to come up with some stuff to play. What spoke to us was the music of Stevie Wonder and Roy Hargrove. Wop Street Bass Ritual is “we only play Stevie tunes but also sometimes some Roy Hargrove to mix it up a little”. It was good for the time, but we’ve moved on from that.

GS: Why was now the right time to change the name of the band and how did you come up with Honey Butter?

JG: Whenever we would play, people would mispronounce the name, and it was just too complicated. It wasn’t our vibe. We had changed from a basement cover band to a band that was writing its own music. We wanted something different. That was the fall of 2018. I went to Oliver’s house in Oklahoma over winter break. We were going to write a bunch of music and change the band’s name. We sat there with a whiteboard between us, throwing out names, picking words that we like, asking what we could do with them. Honey Butter was on the list of names and we liked it.

OH: At first, it wasn’t that popular, and then everyone started to like it. People started to gravitate towards it.

GS: It’s a good fit for the band’s sound.

OH: Good, I’m glad to hear that.

GS: What can you tell me about the songwriting process for original material, such as “Pages” and “The Answer”?

OH: Jacob brought this song to me in Oklahoma over winter break at the same time we were changing the band’s name. I really liked the chord progression, and I got a vision for what the melody needed to be. I asked Jacob to have faith in me and let me mess with the song, change the lyrics and the melody. Fortunately, he was willing to trust me. It turned into “The Answer.” Everyone in the band is a talented writer. We have a lot of different voices bringing in work.

GS: What was it like for Honey Butter to perform at the NU Dance Marathon in March 2019?

JG: We were scheduled to go on at 9 a.m. We were getting our stuff set up around 8:30. At 8:43, Oliver isn’t there and Oliver is never late. When he’s late, something’s wrong. He wasn’t answering his phone. I went over to his dorm at 8:46, 14 minutes before we were supposed to go on, and I pound on the door.

OH: It was terrifying. It felt like there was a SWAT team about to break down my door.

JG: He rips open the door, eyes half-shut, super-tired. I said, “We’re playing.” He grabs his stuff and we head back over. We get there just in time and we walk on. It was in the middle of the Dance Marathon, and people had been up for 35 hours at that point. We had to bring some energy. People were clapping along. There wasn’t too much dancing. You could tell they were so tired that all they could do was clap along.

GS: What does a gig at SPACE mean to the band?

OH: It means a lot to me. The most important thing in music, for me, is getting to share music that I think is really cool, share things that I and these people I love and respect have been working on, with as many people as I can. It feels really validating to get to work somewhere such as SPACE. They really care about the listening experience and the music that is being played. It’s somewhere I feel like we can not only put on a show, but an experience. We want people to have fun and dance.