By Ashleigh Haddock
Photos by Ky Kasselman
Honest Men are an indie-rock band from Waco, Texas consisting of Seth Findley (lead vocalist), Brooks Whitehurst (guitarist), Zach Solomon (drummer), and Nate Wallace (bassist). Formed in 2015, they won The Battle of The Bands at their alma mater, Baylor University. I had a chance to sit and chat with them in College Station, Texas during the annual BYX Island Party. We talked about the origin of their band name, the inspirations behind their new singles, and what their new self-titled EP has in store!
HEM: You guys are all from Baylor University; how did you officially meet?
Brooks: We obviously all went to Baylor; we also all kind of played at church together. We were friends through that and Seth had been working on some music and wanted to get a full band together to do that. Me and Seth and Zach were the first iteration of that band. We had a different bassist at the time. About a year later that bassist stepped out and Nate stepped in shortly after and I didn’t really know Nate before he came. We rehearsed at his house the first time I met him. He was a friend of mainly Zach’s. [to Seth] You knew him as well right?
Seth: Yeah, he was in my grade. My year.
Brooks: So, yeah. That’s how we met. Nate was kind of a wild card that ended up being a perfect fit for our band. He’s been with us for 2 years now.
Seth: Yeah, we all met at church and I was kind of like, “I have these songs that aren’t worship songs if you guys want to play them.” At the time I had a solo project called Seth’s Island that was just like my own thing, and they kind of played with me some with that. I was thinking we would make Seth’s Island a full band thing and the songs started turning less singer-songwriter and more like what we have now. So we made Honest Men and we played Baylor’s battle of the band in 2015 and that was our first show ever. We won and that kind of like set us on the path.
HEM: You guys just played Dia right? [A Baylor event where students get a day off and a few bands/artists play]
Seth: We just played Dia. We’ve played the past 4 years in a row.
Seth: Yeah! They’ve had us back every single year.
Brooks: It’s always fun.
Seth: We headlined Dia this year.
HEM: Yeah, y’all did!
Brooks: We heard the rumor that they had booked Jesse McCartney, but for some reason that fell through.
HEM: I heard that! I was so upset.
Seth: Apparently the reason it fell through was that he had an inappropriate music video.
HEM: No, that sounds about right.
Seth: Sounds like Baylor.
HEM: So how did you guys come up with the name ‘Honest Men’?
Brooks: Okay, the short answer is that there isn’t a great story behind this. We got caught on TV one time asking this question and we tried to come up with a great answer, and there’s just not a great one. It was a group text. Seth had texted us asking “Hey, what do you guys like as a band name?”
Seth: I had like 8 band names written out that I had thought out with Zach, our drummer. And the last one on the list was ‘Honest Men.’ There actually was a reason I chose ‘Honest Men.’ I had gone through all the lyrics of the songs I had written through Seth’s Island and thought “surely there is something I can pull from.” And there’s this song that goes “Be honest, be honest with yourself,” and it repeats that over and over again. Honest Men! [snaps fingers]. I added that at the end of the group chat and sent it out. 95% of the people that responded back were like, “Oh yeah, choose that one.” Bottom line, it just sounds good. Sounded cool. There’s not some deep meaning behind it. I think it’s simple and people are going to remember it and that’s one reason I chose it. Some of the other options on the list are super lame. Anyway, we landed ‘Honest Men’ and I think it fits pretty well.
HEM: You guys spent some time in Nashville working on your album. Known for its growing and lively music scene, how would you say being there has affected the way you guys produce and write music?
Seth: So we worked with 2 producers in Nashville – one of them is my cousin, his name is Jacob Schrodt – and the other one is Jared Fox. Coming in with our first album Okay Dreamer, we kind of were like – we had 12 songs written and we thought we were going to record all of them, and those guys were like, “This is your first album, first project, let’s cut it down and do your best six. Let’s kind of hone in your sound a little bit.” Because we were all over the place a little bit. Even with Okay Dreamer I would say it’s kind of, stylistically, it goes a lot of places. There’s more rock kind of stuff, there’s more pop stuff, there’s more dark stuff, and we weren’t totally honed in, but I feel like those producers kind of helped us hone in each song individually as far as giving us ideas like, “Hey what if you tweak this here, tweak this here.” So then we went back the next year, last summer, when we recorded our new EP, which hasn’t come out yet. These singles are leading up to it. I feel like we were a lot more confident going in. We also honed in our sound a lot more. On the first record the ones we kind of latched onto more were “Colors” and “Shoulders Back,” kind of that synth 80s pop feel and that ended up being what our fans latched on to the most. So let’s just write what we love and what will sound really good. Not only on an album, but the live shows too. Bottom line, we wrote what we like for this album. It wasn’t so much the influence of Nashville, our producers have really helped us hone in our sound.
Seth: We’ve never co-written or anything. Everything we’ve done is between the four of us in the band. I guess the most influential outside voices are Jacob and Jared, our producers. They don’t help us write, they kill the production and helped us a lot with that.
Seth: I kind of started talking about our new music, so that’s probably another question.
HEM: Yeah, that’s my next question. So like you said you just released “Mad Love” and “I’m Okay,” what were the inspirations behind those songs?
Brooks: Yeah, that’s funny how I’m answering this question. “Mad Love” is about how Seth broke up with his girlfriend (now fiancée).
Seth: Plot twist!
Brooks: It’s a breakup song.
Seth: So “Mad Love” was the first song we wrote after we released Okay Dreamer, so I just had broken up with my girlfriend who is now my fiancée. If you listen to the words, it’s a breakup song, but “I still love you.” And like the chorus, “I’m going to wait for you on the other side.” I felt like I made a big mistake breaking up with her and so I wrote that in that time. I was mad, but I was still in love. That was the inspiration for that. The number of these songs on this record are just influenced by – I feel like all of us have gone through something really big in the last year, whether [it’s that] our bassist (Nate) got married, I got engaged, our drummer (Zach) got engaged. There’s a lot of influences about us meeting, so you’ll hear that throughout the record. We try to make it real and not something where we’re writing about a girl who doesn’t exist. The songs are about the people we know.
Brooks: Yeah, I wouldn’t say the songs are all about girlfriends. “Mad Love” is the only song explicitly about a significant other. “I’m Okay” is about… I feel like the last 2 years have been formative for everyone in the band, not just as musicians. It’s been formative for us as a band, but formative for us as individuals as well. With that are a lot of questions – pursuing music is risky. I just graduated college and I’m kind of throwing a lot of eggs into one basket right now. Hoping to make it work and do it full time. Then making a living doing it. It’s a risky thing to do and we all just felt like we were in a place. Some of us were in college, some of us just graduated, and we were all in like a place of transition or significant things were going on. So “I’m Okay” was kind of formed around those feelings. Like “What’s going on?” “How are you doing?” “Can we do this?” “Are we going to be okay?”
Seth: Yeah and that is kind of the theme of the record. We were thinking of calling the record “I’m Okay,” but we ended up just self-titling it because we feel like we fully have just become who we want to be with this record and with this sound. This is the type of vibe we want to put out. These are the type of lyrics we want to write. So our first album was a concept record. This record is a lot more personal.
Brooks: “I’m Okay” is us speaking to us.
Seth: It’s kind of self-explanatory when you’re listening to it. I would say verse 2 of “I’m Okay,” the lyrics there kind of sum up the record in general. Essentially there’s like a faith element there.
HEM: Alright. Since we were talking about the album when can we expect it?
Seth: We announced it this week!
Nate: Don’t you follow us?!
Seth: Yeah, we just announced it and it comes out May 25th. It’s six songs and the album cover is on our Instagram. We are freaking hyped about it.
HEM: What are you guys’ favorite songs to play live?
Seth: Let’s all say our favorite at the count of 3.
Zach: “Lose My Head.”
Brooks: “Mad Love.”
Seth: “Mad Love.”
Nate: “Mad Love.”
Seth: “Mad Love.” We have a little surprise at the end in the live shows that isn’t on the actual album.
HEM: Lastly, any new music you guys have been listening to?
Brooks: The new War on Drugs record.
Zach: Harry Styles.
Nate: Kanye’s new single.
Seth: Have you heard it yet?
Seth: It literally goes like this. “Poopity scoop, poo poo poo.” Like that’s all he says.
Nate: Jon Bellion and then Bleachers.
Brooks: There’s this Swedish pop artist named Sigrid. I can appreciate pop and if it’s really good, I love it. She’s maybe one of the first pop artists that I am in love with.
Seth: Tim Atlas. He was on The Voice. It’s really good. It’s kind of pop, super like indie. He plays his own instruments.
HEM: So now we can do a quick round. Pancakes or Waffles?
Zach: Waff-oh my god. Dude.
Nate: Gluten-free waffles.
Brooks: I love both, but I think in the moment I’m leaning towards waffles.
Zach: Hey, quick answer.
Brooks: Sorry I defeated the purpose of the speed round.
HEM: Pineapple on pizza?
[All except Seth]: Yes!
HEM: Cats or dogs?
HEM: Chacos or Birkenstocks?
Seth: My fiance absolutely hates chacos. I used to wear chacos all the time, but I would say birks.
HEM: Hidden talents?
Brooks: I cook a lot.
Nate: I build computers.
Seth: This isn’t a talent, but I’m super into the Marvel movies. I could talk about them for hours.
HEM: What’s one thing on your bucket list?
Brooks: I would love to sail around the world.
Zach: I want to get my marathon time under 3 and a half hours.
Nate: Seriously, I want to mix a record for Katy Perry.
Seth: I want to buy a home. Like a nice home.
HEM: Last one. Is a hot dog a sandwich?
Brooks: No, no, no. I was talking about this with a friend in Big Bend National Park. We were talking about writing a book about every single sandwich in the world and how a hot dog did not qualify, because it sits on its side.
Nate: No, I don’t think it is.
Seth: I agree, I agree with that.
Zach: Because a taco you wouldn’t call a sandwich, right?
HEM: Then what about a sub sandwich?
Brooks: But does a sub sandwich by definition have to sits on its side? I think a hot dog is not a sandwich. Like if you were to picture a hot dog the bun would be..
Nate: A hot dog opens up and a sub opens sideways.
Brooks: Yes, precisely.
Seth: Sandwiches are my go-to.
Nate: Hot dogs are not good.
The hot dog conversation continued on for a few more minutes. However, most importantly, their self-titled EP is out May 25th. Listen below!