FAIRBANKS - Live music in Fairbanks is synonymous with one group: Sweating Honey.
From its earliest inception in 1998 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks to its first gig at the Marlin, the band of seven musicians has grown, changed, altered its sound, grown some more, changed some more, experimented with what works musically and what doesn’t.
Because of its perseverance on the Alaska music scene, it has amassed one of the biggest followings in the state for a home-grown group of musicians. Fans, take heed: Sweating Honey is taking a break. Kind of.
As members Luke Beckel and Corwyn Wilkey said on a recent Friday night at the Marlin while they were setting up for one of their last gigs in Fairbanks, life just kind of happened.
“We’ve always been centered around friendship and music and getting together,” Wilkey said. “We were never about the hype.”
Wilkey and Beckel are moving to Portland, Ore., to explore music opportunities there and grow connections. Tenor sax player and percussionist Scott Caddell is moving back to California, and percussionist Nick Shier is moving to Albuquerque, N.M., where his wife will be attending art school. The band doesn’t consider itself breaking up or disbanding, but more along the lines of taking a musical hiatus to foster their creativity. And yes, they do plan to reunite in the near future and pick up where they have paused.
“It’s going to be a more exploratory phase with our music,” Beckel said.
“We’ve been touring around Alaska for 10 years,” Wilkey said. “There were weekends where we were up and down the Parks Highway every weekend. This summer, we took it easy around Alaska. We’re giving everyone space to live their life outside of the band for a bit.”
Wilkey, Beckel and guitarist and vocalist Drew Frick all lived in the same dorm at UAF and met through music classes and mutual friends. As band members came and went, the core group of members who now make up Sweating Honey — Beckel, Wilkey, Caddell, Frick, Shier, Brady Anderson and Jeremiah Bakken — have been playing pretty much nonstop these past few years, from small local venues like the Marlin, the Boatel or the Howling Dog to larger festivals across the state and even bigger venues in the Pacific Northwest.
But it’s Fairbanks that is home, and out of all the venues in all the cities they’ve played, it’s the Marlin they hold the fondest.
“It’s like playing in the living room for all of your friends,” Beckel said.
“The energy is always good here. It’s never a bad show here,” Wilkey said. “I always look at it like it’s this perfect confluence of fate. For the college and arts community, it’s kind of the cultural epicenter.”
The band is performing this weekend, tonight and Saturday, at two different gigs in Fairbanks.
And for Beckel and Wilkey and the rest of the members of Sweating Honey, one thing sticks out: The fans.
“We couldn’t have done it for all these years without the support of the fans,” Wilkey said.
Contact Features Editor Gary Black at 459-7504 or on Twitter at @FDNMfeatures.
A look at the band
• Luke Beckel — vocals/guitar/mandolin/keys. Luke has been with Sweating Honey since its inception. He grew up in New Jersey, where his love for music began in early classical lessons and listening to the acoustics in his father’s Kosher food warehouse.
• Drew Frick — guitar/vocals. Drew has been playing guitar for more than 15 years. Originally from a communal ranch in rural Oregon, Drew joined Sweating Honey in its earliest incarnation when he relocated to Alaska to study music.
• Brady Anderson — trap set/cajon. Brady has been playing drums his whole life, carrying on the tradition of his father. Born into a musical family, Brady considers himself primarily taught by his ears and instincts. Before joining Sweating Honey he was well known and respected as a versatile percussionist in Alaska’s music scene.
• Nick Shier — percussion. Nick connected with fellow band members while studying music education at the University of Alaska. Nick has played with numerous groups including the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra, the UAF Percussion Ensemble and in New York City alongside Valerie Naranjoof and the Saturday Night Live Band.
• Jeremiah Bakken — bass guitar/guitar/vocals. Jeremiah was born and raised in Fairbanks where he began playing music as a child. He has played for 20 years now, and is a true homegrown musician, playing guitar, bass, piano, drums and the cowbell. He teaches guitar and bass in an innovative Alaska music education program.
• Corwyn Wilkey — vocals/trumpet/percussion. Corwyn has been playing the trumpet for 20 years. By the age of 18 he was recognized as one of the nation’s top musical talents by the Music Educators National Conference, earning him a spot as lead trumpet in the National Honors Grammy Band. An accomplished musician in his own right, Corwyn has shared the stage with jazz legends such as Don Lanphere, Bobby Shew, Peter Erskin, Michael Breker and Conrad Herwig.
• Scott Caddell — tenor sax/percussion. Scott was raised in Marin County, Calif. Scott joined the band in 2004, and was the perfect finishing touch to the band’s robust horn section.
He’s most likely to do what?
Serious musicians they may be, but Sweating Honey is still a rock band, and rock bands are known for their antics. We posed a series of not-so-serious questions to the band to get to their lighter side.
• Most likely to get drunk and trash a hotel room? Nick Sheir
• Most likely to smash a guitar on stage? Luke Beckel
• Most likely to have Jeff Bridges play you in your biopic? Drew Frick
• Most likely to change religions for true love? Corwyn Wilkey
• Most likely to come back to Fairbanks to settle down? Brady Anderson
• Most likely to get a facial tattoo? Jeremiah Bakken
• Most likely to give a facial tattoo? Jeremiah Bakken
• Most likely to be on a reality TV show? Scott Caddell * (And it would be “Iron Chef,” Beckel says.)
• Most likely to perform a guest track on a Lil’ Wayne album? Corwyn Wilkey
• Most likely to write a tell-all book on Sweating Honey? Luke Beckel
• Most likely to star in a sex tape? Nick Sheir
— Gary Black
If you go
What: Sweating Honey
When: 9 p.m. tonight at The Blue Loon,
2999 Parks Highway, 457-5666.
Age: 21 and up
What: Sweating Honey opening for Dr. Dog
When: 8 p.m. Saturday at the UAF Pub
Cost: $10 for UAF students, $20 for general admission in advance, or $15 students, $25 general admission at the door. Tickets available at the UAF Wood Center front desk or Grassroots Guitar.
Age: 21 and up