May 25 2011 10:08 AM

Accessible and unpretentious, locals Black Hondo play working-man’s rock

Black Hondo are just happy to play together.
Photo by Rudy Serrano

We’re all familiar with them—the bands whose rehearsals come blaring out of a neighbor’s garage. Sometimes it can be cool, but most of the time they just rape The Dark Side of the Moon or Bob Marley and we end up calling the cops.

Even if the music is good, guitarist Jason Noble must have some amazingly tolerant neighbors. Noble (disclosure: he works as an ad-sales rep for CityBeat) has turned his tiny living room into a rehearsal space for his band, Black Hondo. Every Thursday night, the six-piece busts out high-volume psychedelic rock complete with epic, jamming interludes and Lucina Gonzalez’s Joplin-channeling wails.

If you get a noise complaint and the cops have to come back a second time, they can confiscate and impound whatever’s making the noise. Miraculously, all of Black Hondo’s gear is still here.

But that may have more to do with the type of music Black Hondo make and the type of people making it. These aren’t snotty, young punks who scream and play the same chords over and over again. Nor are they a bunch of middle-aged vets who use a garage band as an excuse to drink beer, get away from the spouse and channel the rock ’n’ roll dreams they left behind. No, Black Hondo’s appeal lies somewhere in the middle and may help explain their popularity among younger hipsters and working-class domesticates alike.

“We’re not just making that stereotypical sound of the moment,” drummer Tino Gonzalez says. “I think everybody in this band played in some shitty bands at one point in time, and I think I can speak for everyone: This is the best band so far. There’s no beef, it’s easy and we keep coming up with great shit.”

This “great shit” may have spared them the noise complaints. With a lot of bands, there’s a certain amount of posturing that comes with the territory, but Black Hondo (which also includes bassist Stefanie Johnson, guitarist Danny Blas and keyboardist Joanna Sokol) are comfortable in their own skin. All of the members are north of 30. Some have families. Some don’t remember a time when they weren’t in a band.

“I’d say we’ve paid our dues,” Tino says, “playing Wednesday nights to a bartender, a bouncer and a couple of roaches.” That’s not to say that they’re bitter. They’re just comfortable with the fact that, while they’re not necessarily breaking new musical ground, they’re just happy to be playing together.

“For me, personally, these people are like my extended family,” Lucina says. “Maybe that’s to our detriment. Maybe we should have a more polished look and some synchronized dance moves, but it doesn’t feel natural. At this point in my life, I’m thankful for the experiences I’ve had, but this just makes me feel good.”

This is most evident in their live show. On stage, the band plays with a ferocity that can sometimes come across like Black Sabbath playing at a late-’60s acid test. It’s kaleidoscopic and bluesy, but thanks in large part to Lucina’s vocals, it can come across as something more sinister.

“I’m super-emotional, and I recognize that, so what the band plays brings that out,” she says. “The energy and the vocals are based on what’s going on in my life, and it’s really cathartic for me. It’s like therapy. If we don’t play or practice, I start to feel like something’s missing.”

Even if they sound like a fun-loving family, they do get into some disagreements. There were a few heated moments when it came to picking the six songs that would make it onto their recently completed EP. Some want to tour while others have too many obligations to take off for a week. Either way, Black Hondo just seem happy to have found each other, and they’re content with letting things come as they may.

“We play music for us more than anybody. It’s not contrived,” Johnson says.

“Just wait ’til we start wearing costumes,” Noble jokes, drawing laughter from his mates.

“Nah,” Johnson responds. “We are who we are, and I think people like that a lot."

Black Hondo perform with Transfer and Little Hurricane at The Casbah on Friday, May 27.