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Take a Trip Back in Time with Haunt Era's "Psychic Honey"

Article by Melanie Macpherson

Photos by Tracy Creighton (Copperblue Photography)

Psychic Honey is the brand new debut album by Saskatoon band, Haunt Era. I’ve been waiting for this album since I first saw Haunt Era play live.  Consisting, at the time, of Paul Kuzbik on lead vocals and guitar, Aspen Beveridge on bass and backup vocals, and Dave Wickstrom on drums, their unique brand of guitar driven nostalgia rock made an impression.  The band describes itself as “Spacious indie rock with hints of western psychedelia”, which is about as enigmatic as their name itself.  Come along for the trip, as we dive into this album to figure out just what psychic honey is and what era is haunting it.  

After my first listen while driving to work, left me strangely unsatisfied, I decided to do this properly and on the next round give it my full attention from the comfort of my couch. From the very first notes, “Manitou Apples” hits like an apple pie with a soft, warm sense of nostalgia.  It makes you want to settle into a comfy chair and listen; pour a drink or spark one up, and let that feeling melt into your bones and take over your mind.   “Carry On” gently builds the tempo without undoing all the melting that “Manitou Apples” managed.  There’s a subtle sexiness to Kuzbik’s voice that warms the blood and a driving bass line that makes it hard not to move along to it.  As it plays you notice the edge of psychedelic influence, like you’re still waiting for it to kick in fully, but there are signs it's coming.  

With “Midwestern” we’re much deeper into the effects, so by the time “Feel It” turns heavier and darker, we’re ready to ‘feel it’ fully and plunge into the swirling void.  “Velvet Door” pushes up the pace and intensity, skirting around the edges of too much before we’re pulled back from the brink. “Nowhere” brings a respite from the intensity so we can come down gently with a song that feels like sitting on a porch swing at sunset.  

There’s a little country dust in the air and it hangs around for the more fast paced “Writing’s on the Wall” as we head out to finish the night in our favorite small town bar.  It’s noisy and busy but still feels comfortable… and there might be dancing.  “Flower” digs even deeper into the good time country crowd feeling, with a song made for a jukebox.  As the night comes to a head and we all start leaning on our friends “Amigo” takes over. It’s the song that everyone sings along to at the top of drunken lungs as we head out into the night and head for home, the sun just a hint on the horizon. “This Is It” finds us back on the porch swing, watching the sun rise, just letting it all sink in before heading to bed.

The entire album does a phenomenal job creating a mood, but provides enough space for your imagination to fill in the details.  There is a feeling of being transported back in time; a nostalgic elegance that feels authentic.  It’s not easy-listening by any means, but even the heavy bass lines, driving drum beats and the intense guitar solos have enough psychedelic edge to still feel trapped in the soft technicolor lines of a bubble in time.

Imagine falling into a buddy road trip movie in the ‘70s; shearling jackets, Burt Reynolds mustaches, aviator sunglasses and a 1970 Impala convertible with Jimi Hendrix on the stereo.  The world passing outside the window has an aged appearance; every vista tempered with sepia toned softness.  The light of early evening casting long shadows across the desert. Do you have the mental image yet?  

With this all in mind I headed to Amigo’s Cantina in Saskatoon on May 31 for Haunt Era’s album release party. It wasn’t a nice warm summer evening or a small town bar, but it would have to do.  As the room slowly filled I wondered how the laid back mellow mood of the album would translate to the Amigo’s stage.  

The night started off with Conor Cassidy and his back up band.  With his easy stage presence, sexy accent, and singer-songwriter style country he is quickly becoming a favorite of mine.  His songs like “Magnolia Lane”, “1934”, and “Radio Silence” are beautifully written; painting pictures with the lyrics.  It’s not beer and trucks country; it’s porch swings and wildflowers country.  

After a great start to the night, Haunt Era takes the stage and the crowded room erupts.  The biggest surprise is the addition of Stephen Fischer on guitar, as a fourth member.  By the time they finish “Carry On” it's apparent that we’ve left the porch swings behind, and this music is going to rock.  I always appreciate when music adapts to its surroundings, and Haunt Era did this perfectly.  “Feel It” in particular dipped into the psychedelic roots of metal as a genre and really leaned into the dark side of the recorded version. The entire album transferred beautifully to the stage and is a whole new experience live.

While working on the article I had some questions, and Aspen Beveridge was happy to help me out.  I asked about Stephen Fischer’s addition to the line up, and how that came about.  “We started out as a three piece, but while working on the album we realized there was so much guitar we wanted to be featured in the songs, so we needed an additional guitar player.”  With Leot Hanson helping write and record some of the lead guitar parts on the album, the need for another accomplished guitar player in the band is not all that surprising.  

I had my impressions of the album and the live show and I wanted to know how well it harmonized with what the band had in mind.

“It most definitely has some 70’s movie vibes. That likely comes from our love of psychedelic guitar tones, many of which were made iconic in the 60s and 70s, by Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead and of course Jimi Hendrix. Paul is a Hendrix enthusiast and I think it often pours out of him unconsciously. I’ve also been obsessed with Tame Impala for long enough that I think it heavily influences my songwriting. Kevin Parker (Tame Impala) is known for writing infectious grooves and using psychedelic tones to create a sonic landscape. I love that style of songwriting and do my best to incorporate those elements as well.  

We didn’t have any specific vision of what we were creating when we made Psychic Honey. To be honest, we wrote about what we were experiencing at the time and it made its way into the songs organically.  ‘Manitou Apples’ was inspired one night while we were sitting by the fire and apples kept falling from the trees around us.  ‘Feel It’ was inspired by watching live footage of the James Webb Space Telescope. I was enthralled by it and wrote the music and some of the lyrics for the chorus in that moment.

We didn’t stick to any recipe or plan, we just hoped that people would experience joy and fulfillment when they listen to it or come to a show to hear us live! My favorite songs seem to transport me into a different time, place or imaginative destination, so I hope that it does that too.”

Psychic Honey is, in short, food for the imagination.  It can take you everywhere and nowhere.  It's both as down to earth as an apple and as far removed as infinite space.  Best enjoyed with a wide open mind, and a willingness to be haunted by the nostalgia of a bygone era.

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