Written by: Frank Iacono
In May 2011, The HoneyBadgers formed in the southern Chester County town of Landenberg, Pennsylvania. The HoneyBadgers are a great party band consisting of former members of well-known local bands and loaded with many years of experience, so you can always expect a top notch performance.
The HoneyBadgers are a cover band that play a unique blend of music from the 90’s and 00’s Alternative & Modern Rock, with a taste of New Wave and Punk and a dash of Classic Rock. The HoneyBadgers bring lots of fun, energy and entertainment to every show!
In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Charlie Rappa, Andy DiStasio, Steve Weaver, Eric Wertman, and Greg DiStefano from The HoneyBadgers and asking them a few questions about their musical influences, their passion for music, their career as a cover band, and their upcoming performances.
TCS: How did you come up with the band name The HoneyBadgers?
HB: It was sort of by accident. After a few months of playing/practicing together we decided it was time to name ourselves, if we were ever going to play out. We had collectively made up a long list of probably 30 band names. We narrowed the list down to about 6 or 7 and were planning on deciding on a final name shortly thereafter.
Then one night during a break at practice, I started showing Charlie Rappa, our lead singer, the original “Nastyass Honeybadger” video that was going viral on YouTube at the time. He said he had never seen it before so we all watched it together a few times that night. Somebody said, “‘The HoneyBadgers’ sounds like a good name for a band”. We all kinda laughed and joked about it. But a couple weeks later, we all agreed on it and it has stuck ever since.
TCS: Introduce us to the The HoneyBadgers band lineup?
HB: The HoneyBadgers consists of:
- Charlie Rappa ─ Singer. Charlie is quite the showman and he has been involved in tons of bands over the past 30 years.
- Andy DiStasio ─ Lead Guitarist. Andy is the baby of the group, in his early 20’s. Sometimes we wonder how he ended up with a bunch of middle aged dudes like the rest of us, but the boy can shred.
- Steve Weaver ─ Rhythm Guitarist. You might catch Steve doing the chicken dance or crowd surfing on a good night and that’s no joke!
- Eric Wertman ─ Bassist. Eric is the newbie of the group, having joined us in January of this year, 2013.
- Greg DiStefano ─ Drummer. Greg had not played in a band since high school prior to joining the group 2 years ago.
TCS: As a cover band, how would you describe your music genre?
HB: Originally we started out with playing 90% Alternative Rock because most of us really love that genre of music from the 90’s and 00’s. However, over time we have grown and expanded our sets to also include songs from artists like Elvis Presley to the Beatles to Steve Miller to Rick Springfield. While we still lean heavily on that Modern Rock sound. It probably now makes up over 60% of what we play. We are always trying to add songs to our set list that we think people will enjoy and that, most times, can get them up and dancing.
TCS: At what age did you guys individually realize that you wanted to be musicians?
- HB: Charlie: My father was a professional rock/jazz bass player and had me playing drums by the age of 5. At about 16, I picked up a guitar and started playing for fun. I found out I could sing when I went on an audition for a guitar player, only to find out it was the wrong audition. They wanted a singer. They said, “Well you’re here already and no one else is coming, why don’t you try to sing a few songs”. To my surprise, I sang in tune and got the job. That was my first professional band. I was about 21. I have been singing or playing guitar part-time in one way or another ever since.
- Andy: I got into music at an early age as well. I was probably around 7 years old. I remember singing more than I would actually speak. And it grew from there into learning guitar and other instruments.
- Steve: I took an elective class called “beginner guitar” in eighth grade on a whim. It was taught by my wrestling coach. As soon as I saw him play, I was hooked.
- Eric: I was 19 before I ever picked up a bass. I’d always loved music as a kid, but never thought I’d be able to play any instrument. I picked bass because it seemed like bass players were hard for bands to find, and I really like rumbling subwoofers.
- Greg: I’ve been playing drums since I was 5 years old. My dad was a professional jazz drummer on the Philly music scene who started in the late 50’s and played until he passed in 1996. It must be in the blood, because I have a passion for music, both playing and listening to it. I have always played drums in my home, but hadn’t played in a band since high school. When I was 41 I decided that since my kids were nearly grown that I would take the plunge and not let any more time go by or continue to miss out on what I had always wanted to do, which was play in a band.
TCS: As a band, what famous musicians do each of you admire and how have they influenced you individually and collectively?
- HB: Charlie: As any musician, my influences are varied. I like singer, songwriters, and pure singing stylists such as Ray Charles. From the 70’s rock, it would be Paul Rodgers from Bad Company. He was simply the best overall stylist of that era. From the 80’s, I would say Sting and Steely Dan. From the 90’s, it was Eddie Vedder and Kurt Cobain. And finally, from the 2000’s my favorites would be Pat Monahan from Train, Dave Mathews, and John Mayer. All stylists extraordinaire.
- Andy: My influences have been mostly Jazz and Blues artists. A few of my absolute favorites would be John Coltrane, BB King, Jimi Hendrix, and Dave Brubeck.
- Steve: I was heavily influenced early on by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmy Page, and Duane Allman. My palate has changed though. Nowadays, if I am looking for some musical inspiration I will listen to guitarists like Doyle Dykes, Paco De Lucia, and Andre Segovia.
- Eric: I really can’t point to a set of musicians as influences. There are a lot of really excellent players out there that I find inspirational, but in some ways I’m influenced by everything I hear. Sometimes music I dislike has a bigger influence on me than things that I like. The nature of bass as an instrument is to support and enhance what already exists, so I try to keep an open mind and call on a wide variety of influences. It’s more about what’s appropriate, and less about what my preferences are.
- Greg: For me personally I have a wide range of musical tastes from Rock to R&B to Americana to Pop and more. As far as drummers are concerned, I would have to say Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana) and Will Calhoun (Living Colour) would be my two biggest drumming influences. Dave for the hard rock side and Will for the funk/rock side. Overall though, good music is good music, no matter what the genre. So my ears are always open to new things.
TCS: How long has this current lineup of The HoneyBadgers been playing together and how did you all get started?
HB: Well, 4 out of 5 of us have been together since May, 2011. Eric, our bassist, joined us in January. Unfortunately, he will soon be leaving the band after our next show. But it is all on very good terms and we wish him the best in his endeavors. The band was first organized by Charlie and our original bassist, Drew. Drew had asked Steve to join since they were old friends from high school and he knew Steve was a good player. We had a young guy that played a little drums just to keep the beat while we doodled around. He brought Andy to practice one day and he could just flat out play guitar. He kind of caught us by surprise. He came to one or two more jam sessions and we finally asked him to join us permanently. Greg was basically the last piece of the puzzle. He responded to an email/ad on Bandmix that we put out looking for a drummer. He auditioned with a couple other drummers and landed the spot. Then we were complete.
TCS: Why do you think cover bands have become so prominent in the past 10-15 years or so?
HB: I think it’s mainly because people want to go out and have fun and listen to songs they know and can sing to. I think local cover bands like Mr. Green Genes and Love Seed Mama Jump really opened the door for bands like us. Those guys were so good at what they did, and they were able to make a living at it. Cover bands still can get a bad rap sometimes, but we’re just out there to have fun and do what we love, just like original acts. We’re not looking to get famous. We just love playing music.
TCS: Having formed in the Southern Chester County, Pennsylvania area how would you describe the local music scene? And, how has it helped you collectively develop as artists?
HB: The local music scene right around where 3 band members live is pretty much non-existent, mainly because there aren’t any venues very close by. We have to venture out to locations in Delaware including, Wilmington, Newark, and Hockessin as well as in Pennsylvania including West Chester, Phoenixville, or even Folcroft just to get gigs. But once you get out to these clubs, there are a lot of great bands out there; original and cover bands alike. We’ve become friends with people from a few other cover bands, even swapping members on occasion when someone is sick or unavailable.
Then if you go up to Philadelphia, you will find the greatest original music scene around. There are tons of great bands up there, and the people in those bands are some of the most down to earth people you’ll ever meet. All of it is inspiring. It makes you want to play better and not just “get by”. For a cover band, we take things fairly seriously because we want to entertain the crowd and have them come back and see us again and again. But we still know how to have fun, too.
TCS: Do you have a dedicated band website? If so, tell us what your fans can do on it to learn about The HoneyBadgers?
HB: We don’t have a dedicated band website, so to speak, so instead we use ReverbNation as our home page. On this site, there’s a Bio about the band, information on upcoming shows, audio and video clips, and pictures of us.
The majority of information about everything “HoneyBadgers” can be found on the following:
TCS: How do you market The HoneyBadgers songs, merchandise, and appearances?
HB: We rely heavily on Facebook to get the word out for upcoming shows.
As mentioned, we also use ReverbNation to get recordings of our songs out there for people to hear us in a live setting, which in turn, will hopefully bring them out to a show. We also use YouTube to market promo videos for shows and a few live recordings. Without the internet and social media, things would be a lot more difficult. Currently, we don’t have any merchandise available, but we’re working on that. Hopefully by 2014 we may start selling t-shirts if there seems to be enough interest.
TCS: During your shows do you ever play any originals? Which cover songs do you perform most frequently? Do you have a set play list?
HB: The only original song we have ever played is just a blues jam that we came up with one night at practice early on. Now we rarely play it, but if we do, it’s usually our sound check song. As far as songs that we perform frequently, that can be a long list. We have a list of about 50+ songs that we pull from for any given show. From that, we usually play 36-38 songs for our typical 3 hour performance (with breaks, of course). We try to mix things up from show-to-show. But a few songs that we’ve been playing a lot lately would include the following:
- “Remedy” ─ Black Crowes
- “Mustang Sally” ─ Wilson Pickett
- “American Girl” ─ Tom Petty
- “She” ─ Green Day
- “Alive” ─ Pearl Jam
- “Rock & Roll” ─ Led Zeppelin
We think it’s a good mix of tunes, and from the feedback we’ve been getting, so does the crowd.
TCS: Tell us how one can go about booking The HoneyBadgers to play at their event or bar?
HB: For the most part, Charlie books almost all of our gigs and I (Greg) have booked a few as well. If you want to talk to us about your event or book us at your bar or restaurant you can contact Charlie or me by phone. Our contact information is listed on our ReverbNation page (www.thehoneybadgersrock.com) or you can simply email us at email@example.com. We typically play at bars, clubs and restaurants that have bands later in the evening, but we certainly are open to other events, such as private parties or charity events. We did a residency this summer at Hartefeld National Golf Course in Avondale, PA where we played once a month for their outdoor deck parties. That was a lot of fun. We do this for the love of the music and we would be open to almost any type of event or venue that will have us.
TCS: Tell us about The HoneyBadgers’ recent appearance at the 64th Annual Goshen Country Fair in West Chester, PA?
HB: The Goshen Fair was a blast! Not only was it an honor to be invited to play at an event with such a long history in the area, but it was just a really fun time. And definitely different than any other gigs we’ve played. I mean, where else would your gig feature a dog show and a tug of war during intermission? Plus we have a decent fan base in West Chester, PA so a lot of good friends came out to support us. We’re hoping to be asked back again next year.
TCS: How did you land the Friday, September 13th, 9pm performance at the Social Lounge in West Chester, PA?
HB: Like I said, Charlie books the majority of our gigs. He booked us at the Social Lounge in West Chester, PA about a year ago. It was a really successful show and we were scheduled to come back in April, but there was an unexpected illness in the band and we unfortunately had to cancel. We try hard not to cancel shows, but this was really last minute and impossible to get coverage for. So, in a sense, this will be our make-up show for the one we missed this past spring. We are really looking forward to it. There is always a great crowd in West Chester.
TCS: Are The HoneyBadgers looking forward to your Saturday, November 30th performance at Wesley’s in Elkton, Maryland?
HB: Wesley’s will be an interesting gig. We’ve never played there and have heard totally different stories about it from different people. Depending on who you listen to, it could be great or it could be a disaster. Some people have said it’s a cool place that is a good fit for us. While some others have said it may end up like the scene in the Blues Brothers where they play inside the chicken wire cage getting beer bottles thrown at them! Either way, we’re always up for trying out new places. And no matter what, we always put everything we have into our shows, whether the crowd is into it or not.
TCS: What’s the most unusual place The HoneyBadgers have ever played a gig? And, how did the qualities of that place affect the show?
HB: Other than a show we played on someone’s front porch at a farm for a Halloween party (for our second performance ever), there haven’t been any real unusual places we’ve played.
But as for disappointing circumstances, one stands out. Last year, we got booked at a nightclub in Wilmington, DE called Club 3. It was booked as a benefit show for local firefighters. There were going to be “bikini models” there to attract the crowds as well. They told us that tickets would be sold at $5 per ticket, with the majority of that going to the firefighters and a portion going to us. About a week before the show we were told by the manager that 200 tickets had already been sold and it was looking to be a profitable night. Well, the night of the show, we got there and were setting up everything, and somehow it turned out that not only had that ticket pre-sale number been false, it had been a lie. They hadn’t sold hardly ANY. On top of that, they started charging $15 per ticket that night to get in the club. Now granted, it’s a nice club, and at the time, it had been one of the biggest places we had ever played. But to ask the college kids in Wilmington to shell out 15 bucks for a cover band seemed a little outrageous, even to us. All in all, I think 30 people showed up that night, in a room that could hold 200. Half of those people were family or friends of ours. We still played our hearts out, but after our 2nd of 3 sets, they said we could end the night there. There were maybe 5 people in the club at that point. I believe we made $100 TOTAL that night. I think we handled ourselves well though, despite the disappointing turnout and circumstances. And we have been very careful about the types of gigs we accept ever since then.
TCS: Describe with us what your rehearsals are generally like? Do you have a set time each week in which you practice or are rehearsals more spontaneous?
HB: Generally, we rehearse every Monday night from about 8:00 pm to 11:00 pm. Sometimes we’ll take a week or two off if there is a long gap between shows. We rehearse at the home of our sound man, Tom Osterholm. He has a cool rehearsal space that he created just for us. We tend to go over songs we may have made mistakes on from a previous show, but lately it’s been more about learning new songs and expanding our song list. During breaks/down time we sometimes will switch instruments and make up a song or two and just jam for a bit. Greg will get on guitar, Charlie will play guitar, Steve will play bass and Andy will jump on the drums. We pretty much all dabble on other instruments, but obviously we feel most comfortable on our own. We have kicked around the idea of possibly incorporating the old instrument switcheroo into our shows, but that will definitely take some more practice.
TCS: Are The HoneyBadgers working on anything right now?
HB: Other than learning new tunes, trying to book new gigs and, of course, looking for a new bass player, that is filling up most of our time right now.
TCS: What does the short-term and long-term future hold for The HoneyBadgers?
HB: For the short-term, we plan to keep on booking shows at venues where we’ve been successful, in addition to trying to book some newer venues as well. We’ll always continue to learn new songs and try to come up with ways to improve and make our live shows more fun and interesting.
For the long-term, I think as long as we are all having fun and continuing to enjoy what we do, we’ll keep going as long and as far as the ride takes us. It’s all what you make of it. We know we’ll never be rock stars (well, Andy probably will be, someday…), but for the rest of us, we’re cool with that. We all have families, jobs and busy lives. Being in The HoneyBadgers is a great part of it, though. We’re living in the moment and fulfilling our creative sides. I see no reason for it to end anytime soon…
TCS: What advice do you have for young bands trying to get established?
HB: First and foremost, practice, practice, practice. You can book as many gigs as you want, but if you get up there and sound sloppy, people aren’t going to come see you again. We practiced every week for 4 months before we ever played our first gig.
Second, be persistent. We have found that the majority of these club owners will take forever to get back to you about booking a gig. It’s usually nothing personal. They are just busy and usually have 20 other bands trying to do the same thing you’re doing. And if they are running a restaurant on top of that, it makes it that much harder to get their attention. But if you stay on top of things and send an email or give them a call once every couple of weeks if you haven’t heard back from them, you won’t be forgotten. Just make sure you are polite about reminding them why you are contacting them. Don’t try to be forceful about getting yourself booked, because that’s a surefire way to lose your chance. Remember, you need them as much or more than they need you. You’ve got competition out there and there are only a handful of spots to be filled. Be persistent, but be nice, and usually it will work to your advantage.
Finally, connect with your audience. Use social media to your advantage. Most of it is free and you can reach a lot of people. Take the time to talk to people after a gig. You’ll find that it can only help you in the long run. Word of mouth is the greatest form of advertising. It’s worked well for us. Even if you only make one or two new fans at a gig, it all adds up in the end. Before you know it, you’ll have a nice little following. And nothing makes us happier than seeing those familiar, smiling faces coming back and having a great time at our shows. That’s what really makes it all worth it.
About Frank Iacono
Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.
Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.