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Vakili Band Drops The Intrinsically Organic “Honey”

On September 8th, Vakili Band released their third album, Honey. The album is a raw look at human sensuality, and all the messiness that surrounds it. It’s a forceful 9-track album that leaves the listener thrumming with the energy of the band. I had the opportunity to sit with the front-woman of the band, Lily Vakili, to discuss the album with her. 

A black and white image of Vakili Band, standing behind a light flare.
Vakili Band, photographed by Lara Callahan

The album is filled with the nostalgic tropes of rock music that Janis Joplin, Patti Smith and Joan Jett planted into my childhood. There’s been a lot of newer music coming out that have these classic sounds to it. “I draw from a lot of different inspirations,” Vakili starts, “and sometimes it’s where the band is at. And this is where we got to for this album, this feeling we want to generate. We’re hitting on that drum, bass, guitar, and we’re, uh, we’re having a blast with it! So you know, I’m happy if that’s coming through, that’s great.” 

When I first looked at the album, the name Honey was an interesting name for such a passionate rock album. I’ve always associated the term with a soft, sticky noise. However, when I listened to the first tracks that were released from the start, including the titular track, I was blown away but how much it crashed through my expectations. Vakili’s voice is rich, like the honey I would get from the Saturday morning farmer’s market. But it has this deep, rumbling gravel to it that evoked the image of the honeycomb rather than the nectar. Backed up by her incredible bandmates (Ben St. Jack on guitar, Joel Dorrow on the harmonica, Matt Jovanis on bass, and Gordon Kuba on guitar), the album felt like the very essence of nature. So, I had to ask. Why the name Honey?

“I associate honey, the use of that term, with endearment. It has a lot of different meanings. You know, people use it with their romantic partners, their friends, their children. It’s used in so many different ways, but it has this connotation of love,” Vakili says. “I also like the organic nature of honey itself – honey the object. And the way it is created is so far out!” Her voice trailed off, mystified by the thought.

“And I like, you know, the fact there are these bees and they create this hive and they exist in this state of business and production and mutuality. And this byproduct of all this is this sweet liquid that humans, bears, and other creatures consume. And I like to free associate, and when I was thinking about the title of the album, I knew that all of these tracks have to do with our explorations of desire, love, sex, obsession. And honey to me, seems to be the title to do that. Both the song as well as the concept, the multi-layered idea: as the feeling, the organic matter created by insects. All that seemed to come together to say: this is what we’re talking about. This should be the title.”

Centered in a square against a black background, Lily Vakili is sitting in a pool of honeycombed water. A crown is floating above her headm and she is looking up at it with closed eyes.
Honey album art - Courtesy of Vakili Band

Lily brought up the idea of the hive. The idea of the bees working together. It was clear that the idea of collaboration was important to the band. They recorded their parts for the album together, save for Kuba, who was in a glass section of honeycomb with his drums. This emulation of the hive harvested an amazing, organic atmosphere to the music. 

“One of the things I advocated for was the idea of A Band. That’s what creates this sound. Yes, I write the lyrics. Yes, I come up with the composition. But the arrangement is also being built in real time, being physically present with each other in my basement where we make this sound together. It doesn’t exist, it will not exist, it will not be created but for five people deciding – choosing – to be together and make music,” Vakili emphasized. “That intentionality, that collaboration, that supportive environment that I think comes through, hopefully, in how tight the band is, how live it feels.” 

There is no hope to be needed. Each track, from “Mapplethorpe” to “Honey”, is full of the love the group put into this project. There is no word other than for what they created other than organic. It is a creature created from nature. There is a rawness that they all bring to the room. 

“It feels very scary, very hard-fought and hard-won to get that, to be able to express yourself in the way you feel the most free and to be able to do that with friends who are members of the band,” Vakili said of her and her hive.

“And then to be able to go into a recording session! And all of this you kinda, you have to fight for. You have to go into it saying ‘We’re going to do this! We have an intention and we’re going to do this.’ And you know, you take the risk that you might not pull it off. If you do pull it off, then what you achieve is deeply satisfying. Sometimes we’ll say stuff like ‘we’re not going to click track.’ And a click track has its place, and it makes copying and editing easier, of course, but when you don’t have that click track it kinda preserves the fact that the band is super tight and focused when playing together. You have this barely perceptible way in which the music moves around and the tempo moves around and each breath is not identical to the breath before or the one after. That feels … alive. And it all comes back to this idea of honey. Honey is organic, it’s sweet, it’s messy! And it’s this perfect thing that is this byproduct of animalistic activity.” 

When speaking about her music, Lily would blossom, getting louder, more definitive of what she was saying. She had a control over her passion that was dazzling. I was more often than not stunned into an awed silence because of how much passion she held. This was her byproduct of so much time and effort and she was so proud of it. She took a chance on this album, and for the first time in the band’s career, she produced it herself.

“Oh my god,” she said, laughing and suddenly out of breath like she was remembering the process. “Well, it was terrifying. But you know, a lot of people who know far more than I about the creative process say that ‘If you’re not a little bit scared, you’re not doing something right.’You’re missing the point, you know?” She stated this simply, like nothing else made more sense. 

“I just felt like… I’ve worked with some amazing producers and I’ve learned an incredible amount from working with them. And it’s like having a mentor and paying attention. I’ve always felt like if you’re going to do something, educate yourself on how it’s done. I don’t care if it’s changing a tire, or hemming a pair of pants. Understand how it’s done. It doesn’t mean you’re going to be the best at it, but you are going to come to action with much more determination and I think humility. You appreciate how hard something is and how much skill goes into doing something.” 

Her effort paid off. There is a stickiness to the album that really ties everything together. And that stickiness comes from how home-brewed it is. The band rehearsed in Lily’s basement, and when it was time to record, they replicated their habitat to the best of their ability. This created a comforting environment for all of them to truly perform in.

Lily and I talked for a brief, but eternal thirty minutes. I was hooked on every word she said, and I came out having my biggest question answered. Of course this album is named Honey. It’s only natural. Lily was right, this album is a raw devotion to all the messiness of human attraction. It’s a massive labor of love. And Lily herself, well, she’s a bee. She was put on this world with a singular purpose: to find her hive and harvest her music. And she’s harvested an amazing batch this season. 

Honey is available now on major streaming platforms like YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music.

Percy Sampson headshot for Alchemical Records

Percy Sampson

Percy Sampson, New Orleans born and Virginia bred, is finishing up their time at University of Mary Washington, where they are double majoring in English and Theatre. A passionate writer, they spend most of their free time working on (mostly horror) scripts and short stories.

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