For many of us, by Christmas day the holidays will have officially entered the excruciating phase. The presents are unwrapped, everyone has eaten, but the extended family still refuses to leave. You’ve already watched “A Christmas Story” four times, but the only other thing on television is NBA basketball. You need to find somewhere to go for a couple of hours, and fast.
That’s what Gray Henderson is hoping for, at least. The lead singer and guitarist for local rock band Nuclear Honey, taking the stage Christmas night at the Pour House in Raleigh, is counting on the lack of options for Triangle residents’ entertainment dollars bringing some new blood into the venue – and some new ears to check out the trio’s sound.
“There’s not a whole lot of competition that night, and hopefully people will want to go out and get away from their families for a little bit,” Henderson says. “We just figured it would be a good opportunity to get in front of some new people.”
The band just played Winterfest, downtown Raleigh’s holiday festival, and Henderson says behind that gig was the same idea: “Get in front of new people and make some new fans.”
Local music fans may be familiar with Henderson’s work with a couple of other Raleigh-based bands from years past: Ascella Vega and Sign of the Rhino. Both those bands came and went, as many young bands do, but both taught the young singer valuable lessons.
“Ascella Vega, which I was in during college, started out as a straight-ahead pop-punk band before we got into the whole fraternity party cover band territory,” he says. “None of us really liked it, because we all wanted to write our own original music, but we weren’t going to make any money that way and it’s hard to turn down high-paying gigs.”
After college, Henderson, now 29, helped form Sign of the Rhino, which lasted about a year. “Basically I wrote the songs, but then everyone else in the band added their own pieces to it, so in the end all of the songs kind of sounded the same. That just didn’t feel natural to me. When Nuclear Honey was created, all of our music was written and performed on acoustic guitar. All of the songs ended up just sounding more natural, as well as making each song sound a little more varied.”
Henderson continues to use “we” when discussing the creation of Nuclear Honey, as longtime friend and creative partner Reaves Greer was there at the beginning, and continues to cast a shadow. While Reaves is no longer with the band permanently, Henderson promises a treat for longtime fans who make it to the Pour House.
“For this Christmas show, Reaves is actually going to come out and play with us on some songs,” Henderson says. “He got married about a year ago, and between that and his other commitments, he just had to drop out pretty indefinitely. ... We hang out all the time, so it’s not like there is any bad blood there or anything.”
With Reaves out, Henderson found himself the undisputed bandleader of a rock trio. Now, Henderson has no one but himself to rely on when it comes to the future of Nuclear Honey. “There is a little more pressure in knowing that I’m really the one that gains or loses in the end,” he says. “It’s more pressure in knowing what shows and venues are the best for us.”
So with Friday’s show, Henderson, who also has a day job, hopes to not only sell enough tickets and T-shirts to make the outing worthwhile for the band, but also to set it in the right direction for a bigger 2016.
“It’s hard, because once you’ve started taking on full-time jobs and then you add mortgage bills and all of these other financial commitments, you really can’t just go after your dream in the same way,” he says. “I certainly plan to continue to try, and that’s kind of my hope, because I obviously still haven’t figured out how to do it yet.”
Who: Nuclear Honey
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Where: The Pour House, 224 S. Blount St., Raleigh