By Dave Thompson
With their third album, Bewildered Jane (Mega Dodo), fresh on the racks, and barely a few months elapsing without some new prolusion emerging from their north Devon stronghold, the last few years have been good for the Honey Pot.And better still for their front persons, Crystal Jacqueline and Icarus Peel.
Musically, their output - solo and side projects for both - is peerless, as proved by a glance at the discography at the bottom of the page.But numerically, too, they leave the majority of their peers in the dust, as Peel in particular establishes himself among the most prolific writers and producers of the age.
In fact, he probably always has been.It’s just that, up until a decade ago, nobody had heard of him, as Jacqueline explains.Long before the duo released their first albums at the end of the last decade, on the Fruits de Mer and Mega Dodo labels,“our shelf was already filling up with CDs and before that, cassettes of songs that he'd written. He gets ideas at all times of the day and night and has to commit them to paper or recorder there and then. Then, as times passes those ideas constantly take on new shapes and forms, thus keeping the music always fresh and evolving.”
The background behind this statement was covered the last time Spin Cycle talked to the duo, back in 2014.(Here, if you need to cheat - https://www.goldminemag.com/collector-resources/spin-cycle/weird-scenes-inside-100-acre-woods-crystal-jacqueline-icarus-peel-honey-pot-full-wonder).As for how it continues, Peel asks simply, “I think the question should be ‘How can we stop?’ The songs keep coming to us and, until someone says the standard has fallen, I think we will keep going.”
Musically, the entire operation is traditionally, and most comfortably, slipped into the musical potpourri labelled “psychedelia,” although a listen through the catalog swiftly reveals there’s a lot more going on, too.
Likewise, if you don’t pay too much attention, it’s easy to see them as, primarily, purveyors of period cover versions - with their tastes hovering forensically around that late-sixties/early seventies era that blends psych with prog, and a bit of folk too, Jacqueline and Peel (and the Pot) have toyed with everyone from Dana Gillespie to Curved Air, the Troggs to Pink Floyd, sixties TV to… you get the picture.But whereas that’s a reputation from which many bands might have struggled to escape, it actually proved rather easy.Just write and record originals that are as good as the oldies.
CJ:“We were grateful for the support of many independent DJ s who helped to promote out ownsongs alongside those covers. We made sure that we included some of the covers that Fruits de Mer have released when we played at the festivals, so that the audience got to know who we were, and then they began to follow our music too. Now a lot of them also follow Mega Dodo to get our latest original releases.”
IP: “What is very noticeable is that in a live situation people do like us to do a couple of covers. I don't think many other bands do, and some have actually criticized us for doing it, but the crowd love it. I am not sure we will ever get away with not playing ‘White Rabbit’!”
A quick round-up of the last few years, since the release of Jacqueline’s Sun Arise album, and the Fairy Tale EP that were most current fans’ introduction to all this… two further Crystal Jacqueline albums, Rainflower in 2015 and Await The Queen in 2017.The Honey Pot’s Ascending Scales double, Icarus’s Acid Reign side project.A wealth of singles, odds and ends, swept up on the We Fill In Forms And Mow The Lawns compilation, a live album masquerading as an early seventies bootleg… and yes, plenty of shows.
CJ: “When we first started playing as The Honey Pot the performances of our songs were definitely much shorter than they are now, and we used to keep more faithful to the recorded versions. It was when we realised that the audience were left needing a little extra that we began to 'wig out' a lot more!
“The audiences have become familiar, too, which is wonderful. We can sense their reaction to new songs we perform, and their pleasure at hearing what are becoming standards (within our niche scene ). We're conscious of trying to become better, of course.”
Their efforts have not gone unrewarded.
IP: “We have definitely become better known; it is nice to be recognized and have friendly conversations with people, both new and those we have met before. And we do get asked to play a little more often than before and higher up the bill! I think the audience expect a lot from us now and they really do respond wonderfully well, especially to the new songs, which has been a surprise.”
Indeed, the early Honey Pot shows have since been augmented by Jacqueline’s own solo band.CJ: “Martin Needhamof the Sonic Rock festival in Bromsgrove liked the music, and invited us to play at the festival in summer 2017. So we had to form the Crystal Jacqueline band. That in itself has now grown from five members to six, with the addition of wonderful Victoria Reyes who sings along side me. Apart from her, the only member of the CJ band who's not part of The Honey Pot is the drummer, our dear friend Brian 'Comfy' Rushbrooke.”
The live album, sensibly titled Crystal Jacqueline Live, captures all the dynamism of that particular performance.
CJ: “It was beautifully recorded by the sound engineers there. We were able to have the separated tracks to use as well as the video from four songs. There was also a wonderful set of photographs taken by our good friend Pete Needham. Once John [Blaney] at Mega Dodo saw it all, he imagined it as a book release with the CD and DVD contained. Then he decided to release it on vinyl in the style of an old bootleg! The man obviously has too much time on his hands….”
GM: With three (at least) simultaneous recording careers going, you seem to have hit that “sweet spot” where it doesn’t matter what kind of song you write, or want to cover, there’s a ready-made outlet for it. Was that intentional? Or was it more organic… with Icarus’s last album probably the exception that proves the rule….
CJ: “It was definitely a natural progression. There were different ways that we wanted to express these songs which didn't quite fall into one particular style. There's so much enjoyment, too, in performing specifically as the sole named singer with the roles and nuances that demands and then as one of an intertwined group. And then for Icarus and The Acid Reign it is a different method again to really sock it to the audience!”
IP: “I think it has evolved into this. When writing for Crystal, I tend to use certain types and shapes of chord which perhaps would not suit The Honey Pot as well. The Honey Pot has a more direct and conventional song pattern. Happily, half the tracks on the new album evolved from jam sessions and I really like this form of song-writing. I think we have a certain idea of what we think each outlet is, or should be, so the song goes in the direction it should. This, it seems to me, also holds very true with covers. With The Acid Reign, quite a lot of the songs are collaborations with Mr Budge.”
GM: The last Honey Pot album, Ascending Scales was a sprawling 3CD monster.Bewildered Jane is far more concise.Beyond the obvious fact that you can’t release triple albums every time, was it a deliberate decision to work without guests, without cover versions, etc etc?
CJ: Ascending Scales was an album that [Fruits de Mer head] Keith Jones had the idea for and asked us to make for the label’s one hundredth release. He wanted us to collaborate on the songs and put forth some names. Icarus had contacts of his own, and so it grew.
IP: “It really was a huge undertaking but very rewarding. Talking to Dick Taylor on the phone in my kitchen, Judy Dyble and of course James from The Electric Prunes, one of my absolute fave bands. Writing a song with Tony from Fuschia was a huge kick too, I actually had his album when it came out back in the day. And, of course, we had to expand the thing for CD release so enter the wonderful Tir Na Nog and a truly fabulous collaboration with Tractor.”
The compilation We Fill In Forms followed, a collection of what Peel describes as “hard to get, unreleased or elongated versions of songs we had. It was fun to put together, and nice to see some of those tracks in a more solid environment. There is so much other stuff that we could easily have gone to a volume two.”
This time around, however, both the studio and the palette were a lot less crowded - Jacqueline, Icarus, bassist Andy Budge, drummer Wayne Fraquet and keyboards/slide guitarist John Wyatt.
IP: “It was good to get back to basic Honey Pot music and our own grooves. And it all came together beautifully, although I am sure Wayne will have forgotten half the songs he drummed on so long ago!”
GM: Talk us through the tracks on the album… all of them if you want to, personal favorites if you prefer.
CJ: “‘Hadron Kaleidoscope' started off as an amazing intro by John Wyatt on his keyboards. There followed a jam which resulted in the bare bones of the song. No-one could think of a lyric idea for it and I'd been wanting to write about the Hadron Collider, so I was given the task to play with.
“'Light Splinters' is a true Honey Pot hippy groove. It's a joyous thing which has already worked its magic on live audiences. There's a happy video on You Tube to go with it. 'The Partisan Returns’ was inspired by Leonard Cohen's 'The Partisan'. Although sonically the two are quite different, Icarus imagined what it might be like for the partisan once he'd returned. This is such a beautiful song. It was my favourite one to record.
IP: “‘A Simple Act’ developed from a jam session and really does not sway much from the way we played it then. It was nice to just hammer a big bluesy riff and have those tom tom drums. ‘Await You Here’ harks back almost to the first Honey Pot album in being pastoral and melodic. There are a couple of references to a Cat Stevens song in there to seek out.
“‘Bewildered Jane’ itself was another song born of a jam, I think John started it. The words would not come to me until I tried shouting anything at the mic and ‘dancing in the shadows of heaven’ and ‘Bewildered Jane’ were phrases that stuck.[Fellow Mega Dodo mainstay] Mordecai Smyth's wife is called Jane and she dances in a world of her own - it is she on the album's cover.
“‘Harmony Ambassador’ was perhaps the last song to be written and is classic Honey Pot fare, punchy and the single, if we still did that sort of thing. John loved ‘Time And Tide’ and he did a beautiful job on the keyboards for it, short but sweet. ‘Good-bye’ finishes the thing off and is possibly the oldest song there, John sings the repeating refrain at the end; at the time I wondered if it really would be “Good-bye” from us, but we metamorph constantly and The Honey Pot Mark 8 was soon in full swing!!
GM: What’s on tap for the remainder of 2019?
CJ: “We're currently working on the next Crystal Jacqueline album which will be called A Prayer For The Birds. Side one is a collection of primarily acoustic sounding songs, while side two will be a full on continuous piece comprised of sections of intricate melody punctuated with songs of varying length. Hopefully it will be ready for November.
IP: We are hoping to develop the Crystal Jacqueline acoustic show a little more this year. We used to go out with just she and me and an acoustic guitar but now take Andy Budge to add some bass and Victoria Reyes who adds wonderful harmony vocals and beautiful oboe to the songs.
GM: And finally, if you could be asked, and answer, one question about your music, what would it be?
CJ: “‘Who or what type of people are you attempting to reach out to?’People who were 'there' . We believe that everyone who grew up in the sixties and seventies, listening to some of the most incredible, innovative sounds, deserves to have access to new music that they might appreciate as much. Music today has become so mediocre, clinical, formulated and utterly bland. Most of it is aimed at the young, and the more mature audiences seem to have nothing. Those are the people we are hoping to connect with. And if any young 'uns should catch on....
IP: “‘Do you like to play with any other bands?’I always love to play with other bands but have done all too occasionally. Astralasia headlining a Kosfest was one highlight. Playing with my friends' Rolling Stones tribute band in Copenhagen (Sticky Fingers, the best in Scandanavia!!) was a golden treat. But there is nothing quite like being on stage with Crystal or the Honey Pot or The Acid Reign. I am blessed.
Heal Yourself(self released CD)
Sun Arise (Mega Dodo LP, CD)
“Cousin Jane”/“A Fairy Tale”/“Play With Fire” (Fruits de Mer Records, 7-inch)
Rainflower (Mega Dodo, LP, CD)
“Winter Deep”/“Feast Of Stephen”/“Rainflower”/“Mary Waiting” (live) (Mega Dodo, CD single)
“Morning Dew”/“Ivy”/“Moonsong:Pelog”/“Sally Go Round The Roses” (Fruits de Mer, 7-inch)
Await The Queen (Mega Dodo, 2LP, CD)
Crystal Jacqueline Live (Mega Dodo, LP, CD with DVD)
CRYSTAL JACQUELINE specials
“A Fairy Tale” on Something Old Something New (Fruits de Mer sampler)
“Again-Dragonfly” on An Introduction to The Honey Pot (Fruits de Mer/Mega Dodo joint sampler)
“All Over The World” on Strange Fruit And Veg (Fruits de Mer sampler)
“Chasing The Gawk” on “Wyrd Kalender” (Mega Dodo)
“Cousin Jane” on Goldfish (Fruits de Mer sampler)
“December Moon”/“Daisy Chains” on Crabstock 2013 (Fruits de Mer sampler)
“Grantchester Meadows” (+ Cary Grace and Ilona V) (Fruits de Mer 7-inch)
“Grantchester Meadows” on (Fruits de Mer sampler)
“Just Gotta Know My Mind” on Postcards From The Deep (Fruits de Mer flexidisc box set)
“Just Gotta Know My Mind” on Postcards From The Deep (Fruits de Mer promo vinyl box set)
“Night Of The Long Knives” 1 sided promotional vinyl single (Mega Dodo)
“On Christmas Day” on Home For Christmas (Mega Dodo)
“Play With Fire”/“Remember A Day” on Dodo Skin Music (Mega Dodo sampler)
“Rainflower”/“Who Do You Love?” 5” lathe cut promo (Mega Dodo)
“Ruby Tuesday” promotional CD single (Mega Dodo)
CRYSTAL JACQUELINE AND THE HONEY POT
Crystal Jacqueline and The Honey Pot (Fruits de Mer double 7-inch)
Electronic Memory (as above but expanded with extras, CD Box with badge, photos, Mega Dodo)
“Three Sisters Of Silence” on Games For May 2015 (Fruits de Mer/Mega Dodo sampler - 7-inch)
We Fill In Forms And Mow The Lawns (Regal Crabomophone LP/CD)
THE HONEY POT
To The Edge Of The World (self released CD)
To The Edge Of The World...And Beyond (as above but with extras) (Mega Dodo CD)
Inside The Whale (Mega Dodo vLP, CD)
“Lisa Dreams”/“Into The Deep” (Mega Dodo 7-inch)
Inside The Whale Tin (includes album, “Lisa Dreams” single and Live in Putney) (Mega Dodo)
Ascending Scales(Fruits de Mer 2LP, 3CD, 4CD with seeds)
“Dr Crippen's Waiting Room”/“Time Machine” (Fruits de Mer 7-inch)
Bewildered Jane (Mega Dodo LP)
Honey Pot Live At On Board The Craft Festival (Mega Dodo promo CD)
HONEY POT specials
“Angel In The Sky” on Home For Christmas (Mega Dodo)
“Into The Deep” on Prog magazine cover mount CD
“Sweet Orange Sunshine” on The 13th Dream Of Dr Sardonicus (Fruits de Mer sampler)
“Butterfly Ride” on The 14th Dream Of Dr Sardonicus (Fruits de Mer sampler)
An Introduction To The Honey Pot (compilation) on Games For May 2016 (Fruits de Mer/Mega Dodo)
“Shining Diamonds” 5” lathe cut promo with Acid Reign (Fruits de Mer)
Fruits de Mer Goes To Glastonbury (four songs) (Fruits de Mer DVD)
“Kites” on The Three Seasons (Fruits de Mer sampler)
Tea At My Gaffe (self released CD)
The Sunflower Army (self released CD)
Sing!! (self released CD)
Forget-Me-Not-Under-Pussy-Willow (Mega Dodo LP)
Icarus Peel Wooden Box Set (includes all above) (Mega Dodo CD)
Icarus Peel vs Mordecai Smyth (Mega Dodo 10-inch)
“The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy”(Fruits de Mer 7-inch)
ICARUS PEEL specials
“The Avengers Theme” on Postcards From The Deep (Fruits de Mer flexidisc box set)
“The Avengers Theme”” on Postcards From The Deep (Fruits de Mer promo vinyl box set)
“Aunty Powders Her Nose” on Friends Of The Fish (Fruits de Mer sampler)
“The Weeping Will Walk” on Wyrd Kalender (Mega Dodo)
ICARUS PEEL'S ACID REIGN
The Window On The Side Of Your Head (Mega Dodo LP, CD)
Live At Glastonbury (Mega Dodo DVD)
Fruits de Mer Goes To Glastonbury (three songs) (Fruits de Mer DVD)
“Half Space” 5” lathe cut promo with The Honey Pot (Fruits de Mer)
“Beck's Bolero” on The 4 Seasons (Fruits de Mer LP)