Honey Revenge: “I wish I had a band like ours when I was growing up”

Vocalist Devin Papadol talks the growing buzz of Honey Revenge, and how community sits at the heart of all they do

The start of the new decade came with the promise of a blank slate for many, but just a few months into 2020 the world found itself thrown completely off course. It was a year where many things were lost, but amidst that chaos – great things were also born.

Comprised of vocalist Devin Papadol and guitarist Donovan Lloyd, Honey Revenge came to life within a summer of lockdowns and social media doom scrolling. A fresh start for the duo, they set about forging a project centred on reinvention, driven by the sounds of the alternative scene they both grew up within.

Maintaining a firm belief that they’ll always be fans first and musicians second, everything Honey Revenge do is underlined by community. Focused on creating a space of love and friendship where everyone feels welcome, they’re levelling the playing field; making music for anyone who feels as though they don’t belong in this world.

Following the release of their 2023 debut album, Retrovision – a vibrant collection of sunshine-soaked pop-rock songs with sprinklings of RnB, metalcore, and radio pop – the duo will soon play their biggest UK headline shows to date. Taking place either side of their appearance at Slam Dunk festival this May, ahead of their return to these shores Papadol talks us through the band’s journey so far, the appreciation they have for their growing fanbase, and what the future holds for Honey Revenge.

Honey Revenge - Distracted (Official Music Video)

Let’s go back to the beginning of Honey Revenge… How did the two of you meet? 

During the pandemic, my old band was deteriorating as the members were coming to terms with what they wanted to do in the new world we were living in. Donny was just graduating high school, and they were about to move to California. They saw a video of my old band performing, and they hit us up to ask if we knew any bands here who were looking for guitarists. They were going to be new to the California scene, so they wanted some tips. Coincidentally, my band was looking for a new guitarist at the time. They joined, and as time went on, we decided to start a new band together.

Having both grown up in the scene and seen bands take all sorts of shapes and forms, what was the vision for this project? 

When you’re 18, you’re still discovering yourself, and I think this band was a big form of self-expression. It’s hard to picture the idea of doing it for the fans when you have no fans, and when you’re just a small band, you have to do it for yourself. At the time that this band formed, I was going through a tough time. The band was like my diary, and it was my way of getting out my feelings. Donny feels that way too, but they don’t write lyrics, so it’s an interesting contrast. They convey certain feelings in their playing, but those don’t necessarily align with what I’m writing about. The inspiration is always mixed, which is the beautiful thing about music. We’re writing about completely different topics, but we both get to scratch that itch of emotional venting. What comes out of that is this candy-coated sad music.

That’s an incredibly accurate description, and sonically-speaking, Honey Revenge is a little bit of everything. It’s got the pop influences, the metalcore influences, and bits of pop-punk and alt-rock sprinkled throughout. How do you see yourselves fitting into the existing alternative scene, if at all?

There’s this niche part of the scene that’s been expanding recently, and we refer to it as ‘heavy pop’. It’s similar to the likes of Issues and Don Broco, and bands like The Home Team have been doing that sound brilliantly recently. It’s rock music with pop hooks, and it’s ever-changing and ever-growing. It feels like a brand-new thing, and I’d still say we’re a pop-rock band, but we feel like a part of the heavy pop club.

Honey Revenge - Are You Impressed? (Official Music Video)

There was a time when the idea of incorporating glossy pop production into rock songs would have caused most ‘alternative’ fans to immediately shut you down, but it feels as though people are more open to bands trying new things now…

When I was younger, I didn’t like when certain bands went in a poppier direction. As I evolved as a person though, my tastes evolved, and I’d like to think that our fans are the same. We’re a very inclusive group, and I’d like to think that you have to be an open-minded person to be an active fan of ours. We went into Honey Revenge with the idea of never being bound to one sound, and that’s why our debut album had so many different sounds and styles across it. Songs like ‘Sensitive’ and ‘Murphy’s Law’ sit in the emo realm, but ‘Habitual’ and ‘Favorite Song’ sit in that Disney Channel inspired pop-rock realm. ‘Rerun’ and ‘Distracted’ switch between pop-punk and radio pop, ‘Worst Apology’ and ‘Airhead’ are very riffy, and then ‘Scapegoat’ is an RnB song.

It’s like the food groups, and we’re giving people a full serving! We did that on purpose, but I’m sure there’re people who know just one of our songs and think that’s what we sound like. If they’re coming to our shows though, who cares? They’re going to discover the full breadth of our sound whether they want to or not, because we’re always going to make whatever feels natural. 

Something that serves as a long-running thread through everything Honey Revenge does is this idea of positivity, and whether you’re singing about heartbreak or reflecting on your mental health, there’s always some kind of uplifting spin…

I’d love to say that was intentional, but especially on our debut record, I was just writing for myself. Whatever I’m feeling is going to reflect in these songs, and sometimes I’m feeling silly and want to poke fun at myself, and sometimes I want to feel sorry for myself. That’s just the natural emotional cycle of a human, and I’m always changing. When this band started, I was 22, and now I’m 25. These are pivotal years, and especially when there’s a global pandemic, you find out a lot about yourself. I love that this music can come from me talking through my feelings and having these self-discoveries, and there’s no intention. I don’t ever want that to change. 

When we’re talking about Honey Revenge, the idea of fun also feels paramount, and your debut London show last year was like a huge, wholesome party. Is it important that your shows are a place of positivity where your fans can find an escape?

I think any band who’s not trying to do that is doing it wrong. That’s what I went to shows for when I was growing up. That’s what I looked forward to when I was a hormonal teen who felt like the world was ending all the time. Our fanbase isn’t necessarily all people of that age range, but we write music that you can cry to, but also shake your ass to. At our shows, that comes to fruition, because being onstage makes me feel so confident and comfortable. 

We played our first headliner in the US last November, and for a lot of our fans, it was one of their first ever shows. They didn’t know concert etiquette yet, and instead of punishing them for that, we took it as an opportunity to show them how it’s done. We encouraged first-time crowd surfers to try it, and it was so sweet. At the Orlando show, there was no barrier, and they didn’t realise that they were supposed to jump offstage after they’d surfed. They all stayed on the stage with us, and it was the purest thing. They stayed up there dancing, and even though that’s not what you’re supposed to do, it didn’t matter in that moment. Those people were creating formative memories, and that’s so special. That’s what we do it for.

Honey Revenge - Habitual (Official Music Video)

Whether it be through the shows, the music, or through connecting online, is it important to you that Honey Revenge is a platform for community and something that fans feel like they’re an active part of, rather than just looking from the outside in? 

Honestly, I wish I had a band like ours when I was growing up. It might sound stupid, or like I’m tooting my own horn, but I was a full-blown fangirl when I was younger. Fangirl is not a dirty word, and they run this scene. I made so many internet friends that way, and people that I’m still friends with to this day. 

Our fans run our Discord, which almost 2,000 people are a part of. There are people from all parts of the world, and there’s a tab for each show we’re playing where people can make friends so that they don’t have to go alone. They don’t have to feel like nobody else likes the same music as them, and I needed that when I was younger. There’s a place to plug your own stuff if you’re an artist, a place to talk about other shows you’re going to, a place to post pet pictures, and it’s something I couldn’t have even dreamt of growing up. It’s a place where people are so accepting and so community-driven, and the fans created it – we just made the music to allow them to meet one another. It’s crazy to see other bands who don’t acknowledge their fans. We’re only a small band, but the fans are making our careers happen. 

Having been able to take Retrovision on the road over the last year, what has it been like to see how those songs have connected with people?

Our favourite part has been seeing the fan art that’s come out of it. I’m such an admirer of art. because I can only do music. I can’t draw, I can’t play an instrument, and I’m not good with computers, but some of our fans are so creative. I can’t make my feelings into art in the way that some of them can, and being able to inspire people to make their own art is incredible. A fan of ours animated the music video for ‘Airhead’, and they made keychains that look like Donny and I which she brought to our London show. Now, we’re getting more of them made for the tour so that people can have their own keychains of us. We love to hire and outsource our fans, and we’ve hired another fan recently to design a limited run of shirts. 

That’s so cool to me, and it makes me so happy. It will never cease to blow my mind that we can inspire other people to create these incredible things, and we hang them up all over our rehearsal space. When we practise, we’re just looking at it, and it makes us feel so welcomed everywhere we go. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows in this life, and touring and making music is hard, but it makes it worth it. 

You’re going to be coming back to the UK for Slam Dunk festival soon, as well as a bunch of headline shows. How does it feel to know that so many people, especially in cities that you’ve never visited before, are wanting to come out and become a part of the Honey Revenge family?

Honestly, it’s scary, especially as it’s a headliner. We were already going to be over there for Slam Dunk though, so it would have been sad not to play more than two shows. We put together this headlining tour in Europe, and we’re playing in places that I don’t even know how to pronounce. We’re so far away from home, but these people have found a home in our music. It’s corny, but it’s so pure. It can sometimes feel like those people are just numbers on a screen, but when you get into that room you can see the real-life impact of what you’re doing. Our Manchester and Glasgow shows sold out within a week, which is crazy. Manchester is so cool because there’s bees everywhere, so it feels like coming home for a band called Honey Revenge. The whole of that city are fans of ours, even if they don’t know it.

In terms of what comes next for Honey Revenge then, is a second album in the works? 

It’s funny, because in this industry plans are always changing. This time six months ago we had a game plan, and we were playing a new song on tour, but plans changed. For me, the Retrovision era isn’t over yet though, and I don’t feel ready to start a new album yet. However, Donny wants to get writing new music, and they’ve grown so much since we wrote the last record.

There are a couple of songs that didn’t make the debut album that I would love to put out, and I’d love to do that before we start a new era. People love to make jokes about the sophomore slump, but I’m trying not to let that get in my head. There’s definitely new music in the works though, and we recently worked with Skyler Acord (Issues, Twenty One Pilots) in the studio. We’re eager to lean into our next era, but we’re still figuring out what that is. Right now, your guess is as good as mine, but we’re feeling confident. 

Honey Revenge play Glasgow, Manchester and London between 21-23 May. Find tickets here.

The band also play Slam Dunk festival on 25-26 May, with tickets available here