It’s only a few weeks until Black Honey’s self-titled debut album is released and anticipation is certainly building. A series of festival appearances over the summer, an upcoming UK tour, taking in Manchester Academy, and the release of their truly excellent single Midnight have all helped to build momentum for the band.
And now the album, which Izzy B Phillips tells us she has been working on her whole life, is almost upon us. And we’re excited. We think it’s fair to say that anybody who has seen them live at venues or festivals up and down the country and overseas will be looking forward to this release.
We spoke to Izzy to find out about what went in to the Black Honey album, festival billings and returning to Manchester.
Her enthusiasm for Black Honey, music and touring is immediately apparent. Yes, it’s really exciting. I feel like throughout summer, everyone’s like, “You’re so busy.” And I’m like, “We’re playing one show a week.” This isn’t busy for us. I want to be back out on the big six week tours where we’re just forever in Europe and seeing the whole of the country,” she declares as I mention that Black Honey are about to get very busy with touring, the release of their latest single, upcoming album and media appearances.
The upcoming period follows a series of festival shows over the summer. Kendall Calling and Latitude were amongst their appearances over what she describes as a “brilliant summer”. “We’ve had amazing billings” she elaborates, “we kicked off the summer with opening for Queens of the Stone Age on the main stage with Iggy Pop and the Hives. Just a dream come true for all of us. That’s been a life dream. I can’t even say what that means in words to my band and me. Then we did Bestival which was amazing and we did Latitude main stage, which is great. We’ve got to catch up with loads of our mates.”
“We made it kind of Frankenstein’s monster”
But after a summer of festivals all eyes turn to their debut album. We ask what we should expect to hear. “The album style is like a cherry pick throughout decades in pop music,” she explains. “I’m originally inspired by a lot of ’60’s and ’70’s rock but we made it kind of Frankenstein’s monster by mixing some of those traditional influences with hip-hop and modern pop music and cinema stuff. The last song on the album features a symphony orchestra we managed to get in for it. It’s mad. It’s just completely mad. It’s like twin peaks or something, it’s great. Then there are ballads, there’s loads of heartbreak, there’s plenty of Tarantino in cinemas. It’s a bit of everything.”
Inspirations are also far and wide. It seems Izzy has taken her whole life and likes as a source of material. From ‘60s and ‘70s music through to Nancy Sinatra, from Hope Sandoval through to Blondie. Americana, cinema and even cheeseburgers and diners also play their part with Izzy working in an American diner when she was 16 and then in a vintage show. “I just think fucking hell, of course, I was going to make Black Honey up … those two things were my whole life.”
Black Honey have recently released their latest single Midnight, accompanied by an awesome video, which Izzy confesses is her favourite video so far. Set in the seedy underbelly of London, the video features Izzy as a scorned lover and Tommy as a dangerous gangster and a brutal demise for Charlie. “Usually, videos for us are really stressed, really last minute, really behind,” she tells us. “Because as I literally wrote the song and I played it to the visuals of Saturday Night Fever I knew that was exactly what I wanted to make. As soon as I knew that I wanted to make Saturday Night Fever, I sent the director, who I knew I wanted to commission for this, the clip of my songwriting against John Travolta dancing. As a kind of statute. I was like, dude, this is what I want to make. I want to get a star filter lens. I want to do it as a sequel to date. I want it to have all the characters in. He was like, ‘Fucking love it. This is awesome’.”
“The first meeting I took was the director. I took him to the place which we actually ended up making the location. That bit is always a huge nightmare when you want to make a video. You’re like, this is what I have in my head. Then you have to spend hours and hours and hours looking for a location that matches what you have in your head. Whereas this was the first day that we met up to talk about it. We found the location so I was like a box ticked. Every box that we went through we just ticked off. The DAP was amazing. Harry, our producer, I cannot thank him enough. He’s been a hero throughout this entire thing. And so yes, I actually work with that team a lot and it’s been a streamlined process of really clear vision, really good understanding between the director and myself. I’m really involved with that. I did loads of the casting, I did all of the scouting, I did a lot of the stuff with them. Yes, it was awesome. It was really fun. We shot it in one day which was sick. It was so hot. I mean we were fucking wearing layers of undergarments under the sequence that we had on. Then I had a wig that was glued to my head in this club with all the smoke machines and a hundred people underground in summer with no air conditioning. It was sweltering and everyone is in leather and sequins.”
She tells us about the venue itself – the disco light, disco balls on the ceiling, a solo dance podium complete with lighting controlled from a wall near the bar. It’s exactly as it appears in the video before she eagerly declares, “I’m just like damn. We’ve got to come here for a night out or some shit!”
But it’s not just the video for Midnight which Izzy has a fondness for. The single has become her favourite to perform live, despite the vocal difficulties it poses. “I love doing Midnight live, which is always just proud to say the disco song,” she enthusiastically declares. “[It’s] probably the hardest on the album to sing because it’s so high. We’ve been playing it for three months, it’s a fucking nightmare to sing! It’s awful, the mid-lay in it is a full instrumental and the whole song for me leads up to this bit where we can just rock out in this crazy French style solo thing.”
The accompanying video to Midnight formed the sequel to previous release, Dig. So in true cinematic style is there any prospect of turning this into a trilogy? “We’ve killed Charlie now, so it’s going to be hard” Izzy says before offering some hope, “We’re talking a lot about prequel and actually like tying in all of the videos of all old ones that we’ve done.”
In the aftermath of the release of Black Honey, the band are hitting the road again, coming to Manchester Academy. Her enthusiasm again shines through as we get on to this topic. “I’m so excited, especially for Manchester actually,” she proclaims. “I think Manchester’s been one of those places that we’re so well received and so welcome every time we go feels like it’s home from home. I’ve always said, if I wasn’t living in the south I’d always go to Manchester because it’s such a sick place, it’s got everything. The community is nice. People are nice. Rent’s cheaper than London.”
“A night of completely debauched, unadulterated fun”
Whilst reviews, social media posts and general commentary on Black Honey gigs is all positive, we want to hear directly from them what to expect. The answer is simple. “A night of completely debauched, unadulterated fun,” laughs Izzy. “There’s going to be loads of people drunk and singing along, and kids dancing to every word, crowd surfing, and just stage lunatic antics and fun and no phones. I want no phones this time.”
Black Honey is released on 21 September 2018. The self-titled debut album is available for pre-order now with versions also available on blue vinyl and double picture disc.
They also appear at HMV Manchester on 23 September 2018 where they will be performing and signing copies of their album.
Author: Mark Kelly
Music lover. Gig reviewer.
Often found at the merch stand.