Amanda Anne Platt and the Honeycutters photo by Sandlin Gaither
Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters Explore Polarities with Double Album ‘The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea’
Asheville, North Carolina-based band Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters have recently released a twenty song double album with an organizing principle and concept that cuts right through the center of the creative life and its polarities, The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea, out from Organic Records. One side of the album is known as “The Devil” side, and the other side of the album is known as “The Deep Blue Sea” side. “The Devil” side represents the more active, outwardly facing aspects of the creative life in engaging with the world, and “The Deep Blue Sea” side represents the more introspective, reflective aspects of creating work out of one’s life as an artist. More pronounced than the thematic division are actually the sonic differences between the two sides: “The Devil” songs are faster, brasher, and more energetic, and “The Deep Blue Sea” songs are quieter, more mood-based, and have fewer sonic layers.
While the idea of creating an album in this way occurred to Amanda Anne Platt some years ago, it took a while to realize that the band’s pandemic project was taking this shape. It tied in perfectly with a need to record and release songs on a monthly basis to keep the band moving toward a new album in such chaotic and distracted times. Taking a cue from this need for structure, the band actually began releasing pairs of singles together, each representing a different side of the album and giving a growing picture of the project’s final form. I spoke with Amanda Anne Platt about the impressive scope of the project and how the two sides of making music play out in the songs on The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea.
Americana Highways: How did you come up with the double-single release idea for rolling out the double album?
Amanda Anne Platt: I did a few demos and it all very slowly morphed into this project. We’d actually released the first two singles before I had even attached the idea that I had about The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea to this project. Those two actually ended up being the ending songs for the album. Then I had a discussion with the label, saying that if they wanted us to finish the project, we’d need deadlines. So we came up with the monthly double-release schedule.
AH: The fact that you realized that you needed deadlines to keep yourselves moving is really interesting because it’s a creative realization rather than a market-based one.
AAP: I think as a creative person, I tend to be brimming over with ideas, but the execution of the ideas can be really difficult for me. I’m always writing stuff down but either through self-doubt or logisitical reasons, about 90 percent of the things that I get excited about never happen. So with this, once we had started the conversation about it, there was enough momentum to do this. We have a toddler and my husband had to start working full-time for his family business during the pandemic, so we just had weekends and evenings to work. It was really valuable to set deadlines for ourselves, but also have the label keeping us accountable.
AH: Everyone has had a harder task keeping a grip on time, so that makes total sense. How did you choose which songs to develop for this project, and which ones would fit best on the two sides of the album?
AAP: I’ve been very lucky that for a lot of my 20s, I was kind of a song factory and just wrote constantly. Pretty much since we started making albums, I’ve been operating off a backlog of songs. Every time we’re going to make an album, I make a big list, and that gets whittled down. There are songs that I wrote in 2006 or 2007 that I still want to record but they just never make it onto an album. Fortunately, I’ve slowed down a little. But creating this album was a way to catch up.
There’s a lot of older material on here and first I made a list, then looked at which side I thought they would fall onto, picking ten for each side of the album. What was really kind of amazing was that once we started talking about this theme and the duality of creativity, the songs kind of fell into this pattern. I didn’t know that the songs would fit so well together and talk to each other so much, but it feels like the album came together in a very cohesive way that I wasn’t even expecting.
AH: There are elements of sound difference as well as theme differences between the songs on “The Devil” side and “The Deep Blue Sea” side. Did those sound elements help you place the songs as well?
AAP: I think so, even more than the themes. “The Deep Blue Sea” songs tended to be a little more introspective. I realize that, as artists, we aren’t supposed to worry too much about what people think, and just create what feels true, but every time we create an album, I always have a handful of songs that are kind of slow and introspective. I’m always really self-conscious about how many of those I put on any one album because I want there to be more of a range of emotion and experience. I don’t want to bum people out. For me, part of the perk of having a double album like this came from having a home for these songs.
AH: There seems to be some kind of social bias that more introspective songs are somehow more selfish or not as applicable to others, but the truth is that most people I know love sad songs and love to reflect on things through music.
AAP: It’s funny because when I buy a new album, I usually gravitate towards the one or two songs that make me cry. I love to be brought to tears by a song. It’s my favorite thing. I don’t know why I don’t feel that way about my own music. But we started as a bar band, so I probably still worry that people will leave during a slow song.
AH: I did want to ask you about how this relates to live performance. Quieter songs can be a really helpful transitions.
AAP: That’s kind of the way that I feel when I get very focused on flow on an album, and I also get very focused on that with setlists. I always try to make our live shows have a good flow to them. We now have a lot of music to represent. Sometimes people do request sad songs and I can’t always play them because they would interrupt the flow! We just had a hometown show a few weeks ago in Asheville that served as an album release and we did play most of the album, which felt really good. With the new album, we now have 90 or so songs, so we do some of the older songs as well as trying to get the new stuff out into the world.
AH: One of the earlier releases off the album was “New York” in 2021, which I think is from “The Devil” side of the album. The emotion behind travelling really connected with me, and it really encapsulates the in-between feeling of knowing that you’re going somewhere but not being there yet.
AAP: That song ended up making so much sense that “New York” and its partner, “Open Up Your Door,” ended up being an introduction to how the project would be released. Multiple songs on the project were written during a mass exodus from just north of New York in my family. My family was selling the house that I grew up in, which was a big emotional hurdle for me, because I get very attached to places. It was really difficult for me to say goodbye to that house, and that’s actually where I wrote that song, with all the furniture removed.
There was amazing reverb in the empty house, so I had a great time playing guitar and writing. It was the idea of a prolonged goodbye, knowing that you’re leaving somewhere. I feel like that comes up in a lot of my work in different ways, also with relationships. You’re leaving some place, knowing something is ending, but it not being ended yet. It’s this weird liminal space. You feel like you can’t say goodbye again, but you need it to end so you can start healing.
In the same period of time, my grandmother moved out of her apartment, and I ended up moving out of my home in North Carolina of 13 years, which had been my protective pod. There was a time period right before the pandemic where everything felt like it was ending. There were a lot of things beginning, too, since I was pregnant. But there were so many goodbyes. A number of songs were inspired by that.
AH: My reading was too lightweight compared to how intense that must have been! But it’s a very universal feeling. The video for the song could be taken in different ways, but you’re packing a suitcase, but the child wants to hold onto things.
AAP: Though I’ve heard different interpretations, in my vision I see the child as a younger version of me. My childhood self had such a strong bond to that house, so it was a representation of her wanting to stay there. But at some point you have to let go of that.
AH: It’s a great way of depicting the inner child because there’s no reasoning with one’s inner child. It wants what it wants.
AAP: I think we all have inner children because it’s like trees with rings. We shed our skin cells, but emotionally, we’re just like onions and keep building outwards. The inner layers are always going to be the oldest patterns and we all have to grapple with that.
AH: One of the songs from “The Deep Blue Sea” side of things is “Always New.” It feels nice during the pandemic to hear a bright spot like this song, “some hopefulness in all this gloom,” like this song says. Do you think this fits into a broad category of love songs?
AAP: There are so many songs that I think are representative of love songs, like any song that uses “you.” I always enjoy interpreting songs in my own way and there are a lot of songs that could be interpreted in romantic ways or could be about the love of a parent for a child. There’s a Merle Haggard song, “More Than My Old Guitar,” and I always assumed it was a romantic song, but once I sang it, I realized, “This is a song that he wrote for his children.” So, yes, I think a love song can be about any kind of love.
AH: It seems like categorizing love songs in a broader way could be helpful for audiences and bring in more aspects of life.
AAP: I was recently reading an ACLU monthly publication and there was a lot about transgender rights. It made me think about the ways in which our definitions of love are expanding, too, as we become more global and accepting. We are beginning to realize the vastness of human experience where only a sliver of that has been represented in popular culture. I think it’s a good idea for us to expand our definitions of love song.
AH: We mentioned that the earliest releases ended up being the closing songs on the two sides, and one of those for “The Devil Side” is “Desert Flowers.” Does that one have an older life or a newer life story?
AAP: That one was one of the newer ones, written during the pandemic around June of 2020. Just before the pandemic, think a lot of musicians were feeling like they were getting so burned out and needed a break from it. Then, once it all got taken away, we all said, “Wait a second! I do want it! I do want to be sleeping in crappy hotels every night!” That’s kind of where that song came from.
AH: That gives me a whole different interpretation of “Desert Flowers”! Now I can see how the symbol of the desert flower could be the endearing but thorny elements of being on the road.
AAP: That’s awesome! I wasn’t even thinking of that. The first verse of that song, talking about drinking beer in the passenger seat is a totally true story. One summer, we were out west, and someone had told us to take a short cut on this mining road in the desert in Nevada. We ended up taking it all the way to our destination, which took like six hours. We were in the middle of nowhere, with no cell reception, and our van had been having fuel pump issues. If it had broken down, we would have been eaten by buzzards!
But we had a sober driver and the rest of us just drank beer in the van. It’s a funny memory. I think if I hadn’t been drunk, I would have been thinking, “This is bad!” We ended up getting to the place where we were going, and our friends we were staying with greeted us, it was this amazing homecoming. We were regaling everyone about our trek through the desert. I was thinking very fondly of that when writing the song. There are other memories in the song that are not as good, it’s a whole spectrum.
AH: It feels like a geography of experiences. There’s nothing wrong with sticking to one idea on a song, but when you include the good and the bad, and present a whole picture, it has a more human feeling.
AAP: I think a lot of times when I start writing, I do have a narrower idea, but then other things start creep in.
Thank you Amanda Anne Platt, for talking to us!
Read an earlier interview of Amanda Anne Platt, here: Interview: Amanda Anne Platt of the Honeycutters Gets to the Heart of the Matter on Defining Teamwork and Community
Find the music and more info here: https://www.honeycutters.com