"I just wanted Honey to be a very positive and fun listening experience," says Cross. "When I started writing, we were on total lockdown, so things felt really bleak and uncertain. A lot of artists were releasing music that I would say was almost quarantine/COVID themed. I thought instead of making music that reminds people of all of that, I'd make something that felt like an escape. ... It was a challenge but it definitely helped me keep my head up and stay positive."
Honey is a departure from Cross' Blood Sucker EP, released earlier this year, but follows the way of 2019' Good Boy, a fuzzy, upbeat, garage-rock EP that aligns closer with Cross' band Ugly Blondes.
"[Good Boy] only turned out to be three songs because I got distracted writing the Blood Sucker EP that I released in January, which is like a weird conceptual black metal project about Dracula, which was just a total 180," says Cross. "I wanted to come back and continue working on fun garage-rock stuff, and quarantine was a perfect time to do it, and that’s how writing the songs for Honey started."
While Honey is not the first time Cross put out solo work, it's the first album he's released himself. Paired with the stay-at-home order, Cross was able to quickly get the album done and spend time discovering himself as an individual musician.
"With my band Ugly Blondes, we all have control and don’t decide on things unless we’re all on board, which isn’t at all a bad thing, but it’s more of a process," says Cross. "At the same time, the biggest disadvantage is being totally alone. There’s no one to bounce ideas off of except for yourself and that can be scary. The thing I learned over the years of writing and recording on my own was to not be afraid to lean into ideas that are out of my comfort zone. The song 'I Don’t Wanna Do Drugs' was the first time I made anything quiet and folk-inspired, and I was scared about it, but it turned out to be one of my favorites."
Fans of the Beastie Boys may recognize the 10th track on the album, "Gratitude." Cross tries to include a cover song in his own style on any project he does, and he felt now was as good a time as any to give the 1992 track a spin.
"I remember seeing the music video for that song when I was a kid and thought it was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen," he says. "I’ve never forgotten it."
Honey is available to stream and purchase on Bandcamp, and Cross is donating the album's proceeds to Mr. Smalls Theatre.
"With all of the shutdowns of venues because of the pandemic, I wanted to at least try and do something for a place that is very important to me and so many other music lovers and musicians of Pittsburgh," says Cross. "I noticed they had posted a GoFundMe early on when the quarantine started, so from the beginning, it was kind of a no brainer that that’s where I wanted to proceeds to go.
"I also wanted to raise awareness of NIVA’s (National Independent Venue Association) #SaveOurStages initiative. They’re trying to get government funding for independent venues across the country through petitions and donations. We’re going to need live music and art when the world re-opens, there’s no question about that, we cannot take it for granted."
"[Honey is about] just appreciating all the love you have in your life," says Cross. "Stay positive and try and focus on the warm and fuzzy things, all that gooey stuff."