Demise of the Dregs leads to youthful new rock quartet

It used to take Honey Spikes singer/guitarist Stuart Maxwell forever to write a song, but a three-letter word helped him speed up the creative process and inject it with a dose of fun: pop.

“Before, when I’d write songs, I’d try to come up with these complicated guitar parts to impress people,” Maxwell said in a recent interview Downtown, seated next to his Honey Spikes bandmates. “Once we started doing this, I was like, ‘Wait a second. I can just use a couple chords and it’ll be all right.’ That’s why I’ve been cranking out [songs]. It’s been freeing. It’s a great feeling.”

Previously, Honey Spikes recorded and performed as the Dregs, but bandmates Maxwell, singer/guitarist Nick Jacket and drummer Lauri Reponen (who also plays in noise band Stella) got a fresh start and a new name after going through a couple of bass players and eventually solidifying the lineup with bassist/vocalist Andy Padula. The four-piece recently released a five-song EP, We’re Only in It for the Honey, and the band will perform alongside Top Scrub and Dotori at Dirty Dungarees on Sunday, Aug. 11.

Maxwell, who wrote and sang three out of the five songs on the scrappy, catchy EP (co-vocalist Jacket penned the other two), is the band’s satirist, and throughout the release he plays with the idea of rock and what it means to be in a rock band. “Rock is deader than it ever was!” he sings on leadoff track “Rock is Dead.” 

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“[‘Rock is Dead’] was born out of a lot of self-consciousness and anxiety over what we were doing and what people would think about it. … I was worried about being judged poorly, so I wrote it as a disclaimer,” Maxwell said. “And once I started writing, I started thinking more about the history of rock, which is pretty crooked. A lot of the artists I worshiped as a teen are terrible people. There’s nothing noble about it. It’s worth acknowledging that.”

Elsewhere on the EP, which the band recorded with Kizzy Hall’s John Herwig, Maxwell critiques the scenes that rock inspires, particularly on “Where all the Freaks Be.” “I wrote it after I went to a show by myself. I was feeling very lonely. It really bothers me how cold people can be in the scene,” Maxwell said. “It’s supposed to be a community, and yet no one talks to each other. It’s forbidden to talk to someone you don’t know, I feel like. I’m more of an introverted, anxious person, so it could be more in my head. But I have to go other places to get that community. I find it kind of ridiculous.”

“I think that’s my favorite song of the bunch,” Padula said. “He’s picking apart the house show and the DIY scenes. What was meant to be a source of community and togetherness ends up being clique-ish and full of elitism and unspoken rules that you have to be initiated into somehow. When you don’t get that community from it, you end up feeling alienated. It’s brutal. It makes the song hilarious and sad. And it slaps.”

While listeners might assume one of Jacket’s tracks, “Mary Jane,” is a reference to a rock trope you can toke, inspiration actually came from elsewhere. “It’s not about drugs. It’s about my painting teacher,” Jacket said. “Not in a romantic way. It’s totally platonic. But it’s hypnotic to watch her paint.”