It’s not often a song manages to deliver the aural equivalent of a gut punch, but when it happens, you don’t soon forget it. That was our reaction to “Bad Man,” the new track from Bay Area-based trio Be Calm Honcho, a delightfully named band that delivers affecting, electronica-infused shimmers of melancholy pop in their latest offering. While past Be Calm Honcho songs have included sunny indie stompers and jangly, ethereal hooks, this song buries deep into the darker side and stays there, tugging at you. “You hurt yourself again, I’ve got that in me, too,” singer Shannon Harney confesses, and while the lyric feels universal, it comes from someplace very specific, as she explains:
“Bad Man” was a phone call I couldn’t make to my kid brother because he fell off again. Off the wagon, off the map, out the back door and then silence. Pathological cycles speak for themselves, they shape shift and soothsay. It is personal, it is painful and it is predictable. Sometimes people step out of my family’s line of debris, I don’t mind. The easiest steps we can take move us away from a chaos that isn’t our own. But my kid brother is mine, mine in a way that no other person in the world can be and I had to write him this song to let me know that I am his and also him. I sing this song to him and all the men who are not the worst men and I sing it for the women in silent turmoil because we are essential and giant.
But while such expressions can too easily sound ambiguous or trite in print, the music delivers in a big way. It’s the kind of song that’s meant for staring out the window, pondering the big things, and hoping everything will be okay tomorrow. It’s West Coast sunsets meeting East Coast club basements, with some Midwest tunefulness shaping the whole thing. Be Calm Honcho’s earlier work is for sale on Bandcamp.