Bells’ Toll: Let Independents Ring – Our Q&A with The Wild Honey Pie

Although our “Let Independents Ring” series typically focuses on independent artists, we’ve decided to highlight an organization doing a world of good in the independent music scene this time around – The Wild Honey Pie. When Eric Weiner, CEO of The Wild Honey Pie, first started the organization, he was interning at MTV UK and writing a personal food blog. Now, 10 years later, the organization has blossomed into a musical discovery collective, in which artists, filmmakers, writers, and other creatives work to expose the world to up-and-coming musicians through various multimedia efforts and communal experiences, backed by organic marketing partnerships with like-minded brands.

Named after a super short Beatles’ song, the organization is not only doing a world of good in the independent music scene, but also in the LA and NY communities, in general, in too many ways to list, here, and they have been broadening their efforts, spreading that honey pie around, so to speak. They produce videos focusing on emerging talent, including animated, live action music videos and Buzzsessions; host events, including Welcome Campers, an adult summer camp turned music festival; throw dinner parties, which are now being held across the country, merging fine dining and the gap between artist and fan; and curate playlists, including "Buzzing Daily" and others, centering around various themes and showcasing a mix of well-known and unknown indie artists. They’ve also gotten very creative with branding relationships, building special events around their partners’ products, such as Vapur water bottles and Slow & Low whiskey, and making sure to limit their carbon footprint in the process, whether by including vegan and/or vegetarian options on their menus or using recyclable goods during meals and activities.

We first discovered The Wild Honey Pie while researching L.A. Edwards, who was recently featured in a Buzzsession and on our own blog, but they’ve done more than their part to introduce a multitude of budding artists to the music world in the last decade. The list is, indeed, quite staggering, but some of the most recent Buzzsessions have featured No Vacation, Calliope Musicals, Lauren Ruth Ward, and Jennah Bell. Really, they are at the cutting edge of discovering and supporting artists, which again, is what we love most.

Besides turning the spotlight on these artists and many others, as well as on various restaurants from the NY and LA food scenes at their dinner parties, and giving back to the community by supporting nonprofits, The Wild Honey Pie also advocates for mental health awareness, an issue close to Eric’s heart. As we mentioned, the lyrics to the Beatles’ “Wild Honey Pie” are short and sweet – “Honey Pie…I love you” is basically the gist of the song – but we feel The Fab Four’s (or just Paul’s?) sugary sentiment when it comes to this organization.

In fact, we recommend that you catch up with them by attending one of their upcoming events, including a Dinner Party with RIAH at Checker Hall in LA on October 28th, a Halloween Costume Dinner Party with Brad Oberhofer in Brooklyn, NY, also on October 28th, and the next installment of Welcome Campers, to take place over Memorial Day weekend later next year. OR, you can listen to one of their newest playlists, “Growing Hearts,” which was curated by Eric and consists of obscure love songs by such artists as Wilco, Ashe, Sidney Gish, and Fake Dad, or “Guest List,” which was curated by Ellen Kempner from Palehound. OR, you can watch their newest Buzzsession, and we highly recommend this one, as it features L.A. Edwards debuting their new single, “The Crow” and a Townes Van Zandt cover of "Loretta."

Our Q&A with Eric, in which he reflects on The Wild Honey Pie over the last decade, along with what his hopes for the future hold, follows below.

Bells’ Toll (BT): As a music discovery collective that started out as a food blog, it seems that The Wild Honey Pie has evolved quite a bit since 2009. You’ve been celebrating your 10-year anniversary (congratulations, by the way!), so what does that mean to you? What have been some of your best memories over the years? What goals do you have for the years to come?

Eric Weiner (EW): It means the world to me and all of us, here. I launched the blog in 2009 in a very different age of music discovery, and, as you mentioned, here, we have evolved quite a bit. We have been around in some form longer than I could have ever anticipated. I have had too many incredible memories to count at this point, but two of my most treasured were during SXSW in both 2012 and 2014, when we had Kishi Bashi play our yearly showcase, The Beehive. He is one of my very favorite artists, and, in 2012, had just come on the scene with new music. I stood there in awe of his talents and was in tears by the end of the set at Uncorked. Two short years later he headlined the same party, which was held at a venue at least 10 times the size of Uncorked. We were all side stage dancing and oozing with joy, and when he decided to stage dive, our minds basically exploded.

Kishi Bashi stage dives
Kishi Bashi stage dives (Photo Credit: Eric Weiner)

I have loads of goals for the next years to come, and they mainly pertain to putting my business in a position to best serve the artists we collaborate with. With continued growth, we will be in an even better place to introduce more artists to avid communities of fans who will care deeply for them and the music they create. We are looking to expand our dinners to more cities across the country and to launch internationally. We are also looking to produce Welcome Campers as many as four times a year as the demand increases. Everything we do is and will continue to be about serving our community of music fans by introducing them to their next favorite artists.

BT: We know The Wild Honey Pie is a collective of creatives who work together to bridge the gap between independent artists and fans, but does the company operate as a non-profit?

EW: We are a for-profit company. We do work with nonprofits that support causes that are important to us and will look to further our integration of these partners as we grow.

BT: You (Eric Weiner) have our dream job. You, with your collective, get to discover and write about and/or film new artists every day. Do you ever find yourself asking, “how did I get here?” (you know, in Talking Heads’ style)?

EW: I am thankful every day to have the opportunity to do what I love and enable others to do what they love, as well. I rarely have the opportunity to stop and smell the roses, because I am not really all that satisfied with a few aspects of the business. More than anything, I want to put more people in a position to be paid doing what they love.

BT: When did you develop an interest in supporting independent artists? Were you ever in a band yourself, or have you just always been a music fan? We know you once interned for MTV, and we wonder if you were exposed to the local music scene during that time, or if you sought it out after working with more mainstream artists.

EW: I developed an interest in music when I was very young. My grandfather brought me to Broadway shows and I always found the music to be enchanting. I also fell in love with oldies music around this time and was always in control of the radio on family trips. I even made mixtapes for my friends on cassette and was the “on-air radio host,” which they all got a kick out of.

Independent music became a passion when I was in college and was hooked by music blogs. When I was at MTV, it was clear that indies had very little power at a company like that, but it was interesting to see the inner workings, nonetheless. It was certainly great to see that I introduced many of my colleagues there to a musician named King Charles, who would become their official “artist to watch” the following year.

BT: In Buzzsessions, artists are showcased through short articles and professionally produced videos, filmed at various locations around NY and LA. What are the goals of the Buzzsessions? How do you decide where to film (i.e., what works on your rooftop vs. a studio rooftop or a studio chair), and does it have to do with the artists themselves and what you or they think is the most fitting?

EW: We provide a set number of these sessions a month to artists pro bono and have done so since 2010. The goal is to create a piece of sharable content that will support the artist, introduce their music to our fans, and give their existing fans something to cherish. We also do this to give young filmmakers the opportunity to work with artists they might not otherwise have the chance to work with, and to showcase their work to a larger audience. When it comes to location, it all depends on the input list and what we need to do with audio. If we need a studio, we get in touch with one of our dozens of partners or find a location and call on one of our mobile audio engineers.

BT: Can you tell us about some of the companies that you’ve collaborated with to support your Buzzsessions, like Growler Werks?

EW: The Wild Honey Pie stays alive and can thrive with support from brands who believe in our work and want to reach new customers who are tuned into what we do. We have worked with hundreds of companies, such as Sonos, Squarespace, CLIF Bar, Jansport, Mailchimp, and more. We take a ton of pride in how we activate for our partners, and the innovative approaches that create opportunities for everyone involved.

BT: We love the animated videos you’ve created for such bands as Mind of Max and the Cloud Nothings. Did these artists approach you to produce their music videos or the other way around? Are there fees involved for doing so?

EW: We provide our video production services to artists and labels who want videos for their releases. These videos do cost money, and, unlike our sessions, they are owned by the artist and can be used however they wish. We also make live action official music videos!

BT: Have you found all of the brilliant illustrators, animators, and filmmakers that you work with so frequently on social media, or how do you typically recruit them?

EW: We spend a lot of time on Instagram seeing what these inspiring people are doing on their own and if we think they would work well in our ecosystem. We have team members of many ages, from all around the world, contributing, and we feel truly blessed to be in this position. They are working with us to achieve our vision while also building up their portfolios of work.

BT: Your “Reuse” playlist, in collaboration with Vapur water bottles, in which you featured artists who have covered songs by other artists, is such a creative idea. Can you tell us about how you’re working with organizations and artists to curate playlists?

EW: We are not alone in believing that playlists are a great way to discover new music and also companies who are all about music and the arts. Not every brand can do what Vans and Converse have done and spend the resources to develop an entire music program. Instead, many companies can use affordable tools like our playlists to put a spotlight on musicians who could benefit from new listeners while also sharing a bit about their company mission. With Vapur, it was a way for us to showcase how they are helping the environment by providing a really badass bottle that eliminates the need for single use plastic. Beyond just including artists in the playlist, we got in touch with every single one and offered them a batch of water bottles that they could design themselves. Just imagine if some of these artists only used these bottles instead of the endless plastic bottles provided by venues across the country. Not to mention water bottles make a great addition to the merch booth.

BT: Your recent collaboration with Vapur also extended to your Welcome Campers event, in that campers received Vapur water bottles to stay hydrated. Can you tell us about how you’ve continued to partner with brands to produce your content and events? What do you think makes these partnerships successful?

EW: Our partners, including brand partners, are integral to the sustainability of our company. In some senses we act as a creative agency for brands who want to utilize music to share their stories. Brands who believe in the power of music as the universal language. We are incredibly proud of our branded work and ability to create genuine opportunities for our clients. It only works because it comes from a place of love and authenticity.

BT: The dinner parties you host seem to meld all of your loves. You initially had a food blog that you wanted to turn into an avenue for discovering new artists, but you only started hosting these parties about two years ago. Did you immediately connect your two loves with your dinner party idea and it just took a while to get off the ground, or how did shooting live music videos and enjoying (and writing about) fine dining eventually merge?

EW: The “dinner parties" were inspired by dinners I used to host at my own apartment very informally. I love to cook and to host. At a certain point in 2017, I was thinking about Welcome Campers and creating something similarly unifying that required less of a commitment. Dinner parties fit the mold for such an experience.

BT: We read that all ticket sales from your Dinner Party with Ian Sweet on 9/16 went to RAICES, a nonprofit benefiting refugees and immigrants. Can you tell us how you started working with nonprofits, and how you choose which ones to focus on? We applaud your efforts to support such worthy and relevant causes!

EW: We worked our butts off to sell as many tickets as we could for this one so we could donate all the profits from tickets to RAICES, a nonprofit we care very much for. We really hope that as we continue to develop our business, we will be able to raise more substantial funds for nonprofits. We are working with Pollinator Partnership to raise awareness for their cause and will donate a portion of our ticket profits to their cause.

BT: We’ve also noticed that you’re an advocate for mental health awareness. We read and loved the honesty of your “Mind Control” collaboration with The Wishart Group, and also appreciate your efforts to promote individuals seeking support and healthy work environments. Can you tell us about your experience?

EW: I am bipolar and have learned a lot about being classified as such since the diagnosis in 2015. I see it as a responsibility to share my story and let anyone who struggles with their mental health know that they can find peace and they can find happiness despite all odds. Being bipolar does not come without its difficulties. I have been told by a Wall Street extended family member not to reveal my diagnosis if I want to fundraise and have been treated like absolute shit by those close to me for no more reason than the fact that I have had issues with mental health. It can suck, but it always gets better.

BT: Do restaurants approach you to participate in the dinner parties, or how do you decide which restaurants to host the events? We’ve noticed a few parties have been hosted at some of the same restaurants, such as Guadalupe Inn and Checker Hall, so it’s apparent that you’ve been able to build relationships with some of these establishments. Do you work with the restaurants to plan the menus/overall themes of the events? Can you tell us about some of your regular partners for these events, like Slow & Low and CLIF?

EW: We have had restaurants approach us in the past, but more typically we reach out to well-reviewed restaurants and see what they are doing on their slow nights. If they like the sound of what we do, we then meet in person with management, sample the food, and take it from there. We work with these restaurants on the menus and make sure there are always vegan options. Most often, our dinners are vegetarian to reduce the environmental impact and also to make food service as seamless as possible. Our “dinner parties” are one of a handful of ways we help brand partners connect with music fans in a unique and authentic way; in the past we have worked with Slow & Low, CLIF, Pilot Kombucha, Partida Tequila, and more on dinner partnerships.

BT: What’s in store for the next Welcome Campers (your adult summer camp and music festival) at Camp Lenox? Can you tell us about some of your collaborations for these camp weekends (e.g., Vapur, as previously mentioned, Recover Brands, Rise Brewing Co., White Claw, etc.) and how you build activities around the brands, like nature hikes, dances, and cocktail hours? How far in advance do you book the musical acts?

EW: We are currently booking artists for Welcome Campers 2020. We will be back at Camp Lenox during Memorial Day weekend and are counting down to our favorite three days of the year. We have to keep much of what we have planned a secret, but we will tell you now that we are putting the pieces together to have our most exciting year yet. We will work, as we do every year, with purpose-driven brands who love the bands we book, to include food, drinks, and lodging in the ticket price, and subsidize the price of the ticket to make it as affordable as possible. We will find creative ways to introduce our campers to these partners through activities, such as a s’mores and whiskey tasting, cocktail hours, movie night, free shirts made from recycled water bottles, free water bottles, and more.

BT: Who are your favorite artists right now (we’re always looking for recommendations)? What’s the topic of your next playlist?

EW: I have been a huge fan of Phoebe Bridgers and Julia Jacklin since they started releasing music. They are both so inspiring to me. I have been listening to a lot of Charli XCX, Faye Webster, Ashe, Bedouins, Hovvdy, and Brittany Howard, as well. My next playlist is a love song playlist for my girlfriend for her birthday, actually.

BT: Thanks so much for your time, and for all of the work you do to support independent artists, and artists, in general! We look forward to many more years of The Wild Honey Pie!

(Please note: this interview was proofread for grammar and clarity).

 

About the “Let Independents Ring” series:

When we first started writing for IE Weekly back in 2007, we wrote a few columns on mainstream artists before we began covering the local IE music scene, mainly discovering bands via MySpace. Around the same time, we started collecting records more obsessively. We met and fell for so many bands and have continued to support both independent artists and record stores. Through this series, we plan on highlighting bands and musicians that want to be “heard” amid the vast and competitive musical landscape, hopefully contributing to their growth. In her master’s project, Kady compared local bands to non-profits, as they typically put most of what they have into creating art, thereby providing a service to their communities. By sharing independent bands' stories through short Q&As, our goal is to inspire more listens, follows, likes, and, perhaps, success, to let them loudly ring. We hope you’ll also lend them your ears (and, us, your eyes).

If you're an independent artist or band and would like to be featured in this series, please contact us for consideration. We can be reached at jkbellstoll@gmail.com or via Instagram (@thebellstoll).