Local Current Blog

Meet Honeybutter, a Minneapolis folk-jazz-bossa-nova-pop band who are ready to make you smile

Photo by Awa Mally, courtesy Honeybutter

In a regular series of features, we’re inviting Minnesota artists to introduce themselves to our audience. Today: Honeybutter, a Minneapolis trio making their live debut tonight at the Turf Club. Their debut EP is forthcoming this fall.

Zak Khan (guitar/production): I went to college in this small town called St. Peter. The college was Gustavus. I knew Clara because she played and sang in the in one of the jazz groups on campus. We knew each other, but we didn’t really interact much. But then when I moved to the Cities, she reached out to me to make some music. She brought Andreas by one time and we all just started making music. 

Clara Wicklund (vocals/bass): Yeah, Andreas and I have known each other since junior high and did choir together. I think I was like, these two people are really wonderful people and amazing musicians. So I wanted them to meet each other. 

Andreas Fenner (vocals/keys): One day after we had been making music a little bit I was like, “Should we do this thing?” And then Clara showed up one day and was like, “What do you guys think of the name Honeybutter?” And we both instantly said yes. 

Clara Wicklund: The name…I’m a big fan of the food honey butter. I was just driving one day, and it popped into my head. I feel like our sound has kind of always taken on the qualities of honey and butter. At least we hope it does. 

Zak Khan: I think we’ve taken a few different directions across the past couple of singles. That’s been intentional. We want to explore our options. Nowadays it’s so easy to get to any end result genre-wise. There aren’t that many restrictions in terms of resources. You just have to listen to other kinds of music and try to reproduce what you hear. What’s been cool is that since we all listen to a lot of different music ourselves, there are areas of overlap where it’s like, “Oh, this type of sound is something that we’ll all like.” And that’s kind of been like the more jazz-centered sound with a little bit of not pop necessarily, but the more songwrite-y tinge to it. It’s not straight-up jazz, it’s just got the elements of that, and Brazilian, and folk music as well. 

Andreas Fenner: A lot of people bring up the word “cinematic” when they talk about our music. I think partly because we don’t really shy away from big sounds. We like we like adding a trumpet, we like having like strings on there. 

Clara Wicklund: My background is that I grew up playing acoustic folk music. I think that we’ve come into this place where we have a lot of acoustic guitars and more bossa style. And then we’re such fans of old classic jazz stuff, too. It’s a cool mixture. I think cinematic is a good word to describe it. 

Zak Khan: Personally, I’ve always been very interested in music and culture in general. It’s always cool to see how different groups of people interpret something that’s maybe not native to them and how that transforms into their own thing. Then that thing that they make can also be interpreted. It’s always cool to see what else is out there and what’s going on in the world. I was very fortunate growing up that my mom had a radio show. The theme to her radio show was that she could play whatever she wanted. She didn’t have to do a theme or anything. My mom had traveled quite a bit by then and had made friends from all different parts of the world and collected music from everywhere. That’s where I heard bossa nova for the first time and other Latin styles of music. 

Clara Wicklund: My dad is also a musician: he’s a fiddle player. So, I grew up surrounded by a lot of folk music and a lot of world folk music. A few years ago, I went to Sweden to a camp called Ethno, which is this really cool organization that has music camps all over the world for people to come together and represent their traditional folk music. You all learn from each other and you teach each other these folk songs. That was a really amazing experience… I think music is a language. I learned that from being able to go to the Ethno music camp. We all did not know how to speak the same language, but we shared this bond of music.

Andreas Fenner: One of my favorites is the second single we released, “Bite the Bit.” I think that was really cool because it had such an evolution. It started with Clara posting an Instagram video of her singing and clapping in 2017. I played some piano over it and sent it back to her. And then we kind of just played around with it and experimented with different sounds. It had a few different faces on before we brought it to Zak. 

Clara Wicklund: I wrote that song. The lyrics are decently sad. I brought it to Andreas and he added some  beautiful layers to it. Then we brought it together as a band and Zak put some chords on it that made us go, “Ooooohhhhh.”  

Zak Khan: Our most recent single “Songbird” is really special to me is because it was made during the solo quarantine time. So we had had many, many months in between some of the sessions to get the song together. Because of that I was thinking about it a lot for a long time. I listened to so many updated mixes. It would be a month and a half before I get to do the next thing because people were trying to be safe from COVID. That song means a lot because it was the first time I got actualize some ideas like having strings, trumpet and all this stuff on a song. Also, the fact that we were still able to meet and make music during the pandemic. It’s definitely very special. 

Clara Wicklund: “Songbird” is definitely a celebration song. I think we were all getting to the point where a lot of us in quarantine realized what we really value about life. We were ready for a happy dancing song celebrating being yourself and being with people. And that all started from a jam…I feel like if we had the perfect world, we could meet with each other every day of the week. We have so many songs and ideas that are just in the Honeybutter vault. We all have other things going on in our lives. In a perfect world, we would just get together more and play more. That’d be fantastic.

Zak Khan: Yeah, that’s definitely one. Another challenge that I have to be aware of when making music is finding the right place to stop and say, “Okay, this is good where it’s at.” The challenge is always striking that balance between sophistication and serving the song with the right elements, but also keeping it simple and accessible. That’s something I’m mindful of all the time. 

Andreas Fenner: The challenge I face, and I’m not alone in this, is just not overthinking things. I think these two ground me in a really good way. Some of the best songs, the songs we all could listen to on repeat are the most simple. 

Clara Wicklund: We’re doing a lot of group singing, which has been so much fun. I think what’s important to us is, especially in like a performing music space, is just getting to perform and share music with people that we love and spreading joy. 

Andreas Fenner: And inclusivity, too. We want people to like feel comfortable singing with us. We don’t want to be untouchable. We definitely want to be approachable in all senses of the word. 

Zak Khan: I don’t like elitism of any sort when it comes to art and music.  I never want people to think that this is something they can’t do. I want everything that we create to be fun and lighthearted. Something that people can be a part of in whatever way, shape, or form that is that they would like to be a part of it.