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Real Music - Bootleg Honeys - July 2016


Real Music - Bootleg Honeys - July 2016

by Robert Feuer

In 2011, Katie Phillips met Alison Harris and Hannah Jern-Miller while performing at an EP release party for the girl band, Three Legged Sister. They started hanging out together playing a few songs, eventually deciding to have a band, hoping “to make it, take it to the next level,” Phillips says during a recent phone interview. The name Bootleg Honeys came to them during a backyard brainstorming session. “That was the one that stuck. It’s kind of sweet, but sassy and edgy.”

Phillips describes the Bootleg Honeys, now including drummer Mark Tarlton, as “a vocal harmony group with a little bit of a country/blues/rock feel. We’re vocally and rhythmically driven. It’s all over the place.”

Fresh from their third consecutive appearance at the Kate Wolf Festival, Phillips talks about how it connects to Sonoma County, where Phillips was born and raised. “The festival is such a part of our culture. Her presence is all around us.” While attending Santa Rosa HS, she learned all Wolf’s songs. Recently, the Honeys released a live tribute album of the long-departed artist’s tunes, recorded at Sebastopol’s Gypsy Café.

Phillips describes her dad, country-western singer/songwriter Mike Phillips, who knew Wolf, as a “huge” influence. She grew up watching him play, attending one of his gigs as a two-week old. Later, she sometimes sang with him on stage. Country music records, which she heard at home “with no choice,” were an influence, she says, before gravitating to “a lot of pop stuff,” like the Beatles, Prince, and Abba, though she favored Queen.

The Bootleg Honeys write most of their songs, including all on their 2015 debut full-length release, “Paint it Red,” a concept that came to Phillips, after much indecision, during a sleepless night. “I closed my eyes and saw the whole thing in a sudden flash.”

She defines the band’s songwriting process as one person coming to the table with an idea which they work on until they get a complete song, describing their themes as “dealing with life, real stuff.”

Earlier this year, Karen Joy Brown replaced Jern-Miller. Phillips refers to this summer, one that is overflowing with performances, as a chance to “discover our new sound” and promote their album. She sees the future as one of “pursuing bigger opportunities, being sustainable and balanced, and having fun. People see we’re having fun and that’s contagious.”

She describes the need to avoid getting swept away by the glamor and excitement, but to “be healthy and functioning and keep meeting the realistic goals we set.”

Phillips also works part-time for the Living Room in Santa Rosa, serving homeless and at-risk women and their children. “I’m equally passionate about women and children’s services as I am about music,” she says. Working there involves “the same set of tools” for her as music. “It creates empathy and openness, the same as connecting to an audience. Music is healing on all planes – spiritual, physical, emotional, on a cellular level.”