Exclusive interview with Izzy B Phillips – Black Honey
Bursting out of the ether in 2014 with their squalling guitars, vivid colours and cinematic vignettes, there’s no other British band out there quite like Black Honey.
Having spent the last four years perfecting the indie game, everything you think you know about them and their unique surrealist world is about to be wonderfully shaken up as they prepare to release their hugely anticipated debut album.
With contradiction at every turn, it’s an album that celebrates being human, in all its different forms and by doing so, will touch the hearts of everyone that hears it.
We’ve already heard ‘Bad Friends’ earlier this year, but with the exception of 2016’s ‘Hello, Today’ (the track that saw the band become a household name at Radio 1), and the 2017 closer ‘Dig’, the album is made up of entirely new music with 9 brand new songs on offer.
Across the entirety of the record, you can always feel the bare bones of front lady Izzy B Phillips diary scribbles are just around the corner as the varying tracks switch between chart-headed bangers and scuzzy, industrial David Lynch inspired strangeness.
It’s the weird and wonderful mind of Philips – her lovable but villainous, Milky-Bar-kid-meets-Debbie Harry persona – that you find very much at the heart of ‘Black Honey’. An open sufferer of both dyslexia and ADHD, she’s a huge advocate for self-expression without limit and has relied hugely on her band – Tom Dewhurst (drums), Tom Taylor (bass) and Chris Ostler (guitar) – to channel everything that comes from her obsessive and dizzyingly creative head and bottle it into music.
The album as a result is ultimately a collage of chaos, shot straight at the heart – honest, inspiring and deeply infectious.
Rachel Ducker caught up with Izzy B Phillips, songwriter, frontwoman, and all-round creative force behind guitar-pop band Black Honey,
R: Hey Izzy…
Hello right I’m ready for you.
R: Could you tell me about how you initially got involved with music?
I did the whole theatre school, singing thing when I was a kid, and really hated it! [laughs]
I was in all of the musicals, I quite liked the songs but I didn’t really like the way that people would sing them.
When I was young, my dad said to me, “you’ve got a musical ear”, and I was like “what’s a musical ear”? So he said “its an inner ear”. So I remember going around the school playground going “I’ve got a musical inner ear, it’s an ear inside my head that hears music better than everyone else”. [laughs]
R: Amazing, well what a start! Who were your musical influencers growing up?
Well, I don’t actually have any memory of there being records played in our house. My dad used to play the jazz trumpet, and also played the piano. I remember watching him over his shoulder once and watched it long enough that I kind of learnt it. Which is amazing, as now I cant seem to learn anything, it takes me hours to even learn my own songs!
R: When did your music career actually begin?
I would say officially, when we launched Black Honey and we started touring. I had been writing songs for ages and I was in many bands, but I just used to play on the local Brighton scene. We never really did anything, and then when we formed Black Honey people were like, “hey do you want to come to Holland and be on the radio”? And we were like “whoa this had suddenly become a thing, this is very real”.
R: Did you have a vision in mind when you were first starting the band?
Yeah! It was really strange, I remember telling the guys I wanted to make this retro, almost rival idea, and everyone was just like “what the f*ck is she talking about, she sounds completely mental”? So I was like “just hear me out”. I then I made a college out with Liz Savage and I started looking at guitar tones that to me spoke 60’s cinema, and then it was the time when Lana Del Rae started coming through.
Then everyone kind of had a point of reference and seemed to understand that vintage kind of idea. So I said imagine if we did a retro rock and roll band and then from there we went into a complete rabbit hole. Before we were listening to a lot of grunge and 70’s rock anyway so it was quite natural for us to develop that into what is now Black Honey.
R: How did you find your gang of collaborators? Could you tell me about how the four of you met and came to create Black Honey?
So I met Chris in college, and we started playing guitar together. Then we met Tommy because he was living with Chris at the time and he was a drummer whilst we went through a string of bass players, and then we couldn’t find a bass player so we made Tommy play bass and roped Tom in to play drums – it was only meant to be a short term thing, but he is still here to this day and now he’s like everyone’s favourite member.
R: Where did the band name come from?
It’s like bitter sweet, light and dark, you know, contrast. Everything contrasts and it’s a beautiful thing.
R: They always say there is no light without the dark.
R: How do you approach writing?
I like to use different techniques, I think of writing as an evolving process, so I like to write lyrics in a journal. I write a lot of poems, at the moment I am more poem based than chords, I’m sort of board of the guitar at the moment. Sometimes I will just take the poems into the boys and be like “hey, what’s up I’ve got this poem lets make something out of this”, and other times I will write an entire song on an acoustic guitar and will go in and be like “yo! this whole songs done” and we will just go for it.
R: Your self-titled debut album is coming out on 21st September.
Yeah, it’s my birthday!
R: Oh wow, well happy birthday for then!
What it’s like to play new tracks from the album live?
We’ve been playing a lot of them live already, for example we’ve been playing ‘Midnight’ since March, mainly because it’s the hardest song in the world to sing!
So we needed a good six-month build up before it comes out to get comfy with it. We are just piecing together all of the last bits for the upcoming shows and its rewarding, its really rewarding. It feels really good.
R: You’ve released four EPs over four years, why’s it the right time for you to finally release your debut album?
I think because I felt I had so much more to say. You only get one shot at your debut album. Previously we did 6 weeks on the road in arenas and I came back thinking, “nah I need a song I can play in arenas and its going to go off”! So then I came back and wrote five songs for the record between December and January.
R: What do you want people to take away from the album?
I want people to be like “Oh my f*cking god, what has just happened to me”! But at the same time thinking, “I didn’t expect that but actually it’s so addictive”, I want people to feel addicted.
R: You’ve been playing the festival scene pretty hard this year, what’s been your festival highlight so far?
I think the highlight would have to be Queens of the Stone Age, opening the main stage the day after we announced the album, when we all had our wicked jackets on. There is no better feeling in the world than when your with your four best mates on stage having the best time of your life.
R: We are actually right by Latitude, I think you played there too…
Yeah, I loved Latitude, I think that was my discovery of this year. It was brilliant, people can go swimming in a lake, they have nice cocktail bars, I love cocktails and I am usually on a mission at festivals to find one bar, and there were like six at Latitude.
R: You have your own tour starting in October; can you tell us more about that?
Yeah, we are really stoked, we are hitting the road in October and coming to Norwich and f*ck loads of towns, we are going to play the sh*t out of the record. We’ve got some crazy merch, we’ve got a new light show coming for you, its all kicking off. We also have some special limited edition vinyl’s – double picture disc deluxe, which will have lips on the actual record.
R: How can people get a copy?
Its available on our website www.blackhoney.backstreetmerch.com or any of our social media pages.
R: Once the tour is finished, what are the plans for the rest of the year?
We have a big European tour, it’s dead exciting! I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life to do this tour. Then next year it’s going to be crazy we are going to be playing live shows all around the world yeah watch this space!