Interview: Black Honey

Black Honey

black honey - gaz jonesWords: Gary Lambert

Photos: Gaz Jones

In the British music blogging world there was one winner of 2015. Brighton’s female-fronted indie rock band Black Honey have had blog-bouquets and review-riches thrown at them from before the release of their single Madonna. Popped Music have had the fortune to watch Black Honey on several occasions and each time it has been a wonderful, affirming experience. Lead by Izzy Phillips, the band’s singer and primary spokesperson, they are vibrant and have that mix of confidence, weirdness and accessibility that appeals to all parts of the audience spectrum.

 

In the company of Black Honey, and honorary fifth member Jerry (The Plastic Flamingo), the Popped Team were entertained, captivated and generally made to feel like some people visiting for a chat rather than our recorded conversation being anything connected to the business of music. It was the kind of day that makes you think that you should just pack your bag and join a rock band. There were no examples of largesse to blind you as to the hard slog in the music game, but the bonds of friendship between them all were wonderful.

 

The ties that bind them have not been forged over the last twelve months, but have been years in the making as the band have known each other for a number of years as part of Brighton’s ever-evolving music scene. I lost track of how many different bands and scenarios the guys had been involved in with each other. Flats and houses were shared as well as stages. Black Honey is not the first time that they have been a four-piece together. This project is different though. As Izzy explained, Black Honey has been the first time that everything has seemed to properly connect together. “Black Honey has a more defined artistic direction. We have a unanimous vision artistically of what we want to achieve. It seems to have worked, to have clicked”.

 

The band then took this on, “this time it feels like that the band has a shared vision that has happened naturally rather than it being pushed by people and sitting down and asking what do we want to sound like and what do we want to be like. It feels that things just happen when we are together. We have a really strong relationship. We are a family, we are a team and we are a business”.

 

black honey gaz jonesThis is not a band who are obsessed with money though, just a band who are used to having to make ends meet so the business element needs to be strong for them. “We used to go to this place in Brighton called The Green Door Storeroom, and every gig I would go to I would order a Red Stripe with a straw and that would be my thing. It was the only cheap beer they did, but it was still really expensive so I would have one Red Stripe with a straw all night as I could never afford more than one drink”. Indeed during the interview one of the band members discussed their worries about losing their paid job due to the demands of being in the band. This is real life for a band on their way up. People need to be business savvy, as I would rather have Black Honey develop a real identity with their merchandise design and sell stuff as they tour than never hear another single as working life takes over.

 

In an era when only a handful of starting bands are financially supported, and that by trust funds and TV companies rather than by record labels and iconic t-shirt sales, the ethos of budget and self-determination the band have is powerful. A tour night to Glasgow saw the band all staying in bassist Tommy Taylor’s family home like students visiting a hometown for a birthday night out. The plus side of this frugality at present is that it creates such a united front. “We’ve worked so hard at many rubbish day jobs to get in this position to go out on tour that we don’t get angry and upset with each other because we are so happy to be able to do this. We have known each other long enough that we always want the best for the band and when we do disagree it isn’t for our own personal reasons, but that we want each other to achieve the best we can. We all wish we could give up our day jobs, but we can’t yet. These tours are our holidays. You do appreciate it more when you get out on the road and it is such a contrast to the day to day”.

 

Izzy famously described herself as wishing she was in a secret band, but admitted that was not a yearning for anonymity, but rather the days of yore when music had a glamour through secrecy to it:

“It’s my way of rejecting the music industry’s cultural obsession with exposing you to the absolute most in the interweb world. I just feel like if it was my way I would just release records. I would go more old school. I wouldn’t want to submit myself to the scrutiny and trolling you get online. I long for it being more sincere and the relationship being real and with the music only.

It is so much more romantic too. I only got to experience a few times when growing up the feeling of going around to your friend’s house with a new record that they must listen to before everything went viral. Those handful of times you’d get there excited and you would sit and listen and then pass between you the booklet with the words in and you would study the lyrics with your friends. Now everything is disposable and sent on an email or play listed and you don’t hear what is special because there is so much instantly”.

This was taken up by Tommy, “there is a loss of the mystique of it all. In the sixties you didn’t need to know every day what The Beatles had for breakfast when recording. You just got to know when they had a record coming out. Even when we were younger, you would get to really know what bands were like by going to the show and watching them rather than have preconceived idea that the band have to live up to”.

 

Izzy also admitted that their success in the blogging world has been difficult for her to cope with due to the intensity caused by constant examination. “Being a band supported by many critique blogs has been at times horrible to subject yourself to as for someone who spends their life locked in rooms writing songs it makes you paranoid that people are watching, waiting for you to release something. Even when they are saying good things it is tough”.

black honey gaz jonesBut back to Black Honey and the standout moments of their year. “The summer of 2015 was an absolute dream come true for us with the whole festival season, playing in front of thousands of people across a few different countries. It was wonderful. Reading Festival was a big one for us (Chris and Izzy) had been going to it for years and to be on the other side of that barrier was just amazing. A bunch of their old school friends had come along too and when we were playing they were all crying in the back row”

 

When asked if there was another major highlight for the band, it stuck to festival season too. “Rotterdam” was the unanimous reply. “Rotterdam was the first time we went out of the UK with the band and we played this cool festival called Metropolis in this community park. It was the biggest crowd too we have played for so far. It had a really cool bill and the weather was generally fantastic. Apart from when we played. Then there were sheets of rain coming down everywhere, but halfway through Teenager the sun broke through for a moment and was shining through the sheets of rain and it looked so beautiful. When we came off stage obviously the sun came out and stayed out”.

 

It wasn’t all big crowds and rainbows in Rotterdam though, Miss Izzy B Phillips had a run-in with the local authorities. There are many things legal in the liberal Netherlands, however stage diving is not one of them. “Izzy crowd surfed for the first time, but got really shouted at at the end of the show. We had just come off stage and these really big Dutch guys came up to us and said ‘really enjoyed the show guys, but DON’T be doing that again’”.

 

It isn’t just about the music that the band had a great time in the festival season. “Chris had never been on a plane before and we took him on his first flight. We had a gig at a festival out in Croatia and so we treated it like a holiday where we got to play music too. It couldn’t get any better. We can’t usually afford to go on holiday so this was on a personal level for us all the icing on the cake. We saw so many bands over the summer, it was really good. And we got taken around festivals on golf buggies. It makes you feel like you’ve made it when that happens. But always try to sit on the two seats at the back looking behind you, it’s way more cool”.

 

Black Honey proved in 2015 that they have the tunes, the power and the image to take the blog world by storm. In 2016, I wish, no we at Popped Music wish for them to get the bit of fortune needed to take the real world too.

black honey gaz jonesSee Black Honey on Tour:

01/03 YORK, FIBBERS
02/03 EDINBURGH, SNEAKY PETE’S
03/03 NEWCASTLE, THINK TANK
04/03 SHEFFIELD, PICTURE HOUSE SOCIAL
06/03 NOTTINGHAM, BODEGA
07/03 CAMBRIDGE, THE PORTLAND ARMS
16/03 SOUTHAMPTON, JOINERS
17/03 OXFORD, THE BULLINGDON
18/03 GUILDFORD, THE BOILEROOM

Tickets on sale HERE

Listen to Corrine here:

 

 

 

 

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