Featured Image: Laura Allard Fleischl
A band with enough spark to light a revolution and then send the music world crashing down in their wake, indie-rock band Black Honey are determined to tackle social norms with their sophomore album, Written & Directed – all while maintaining their signature cinematic twist. The Brighton-based band consists of lead singer and guitarist Izzy B. Phillips, guitarist Chris Ostler, bassist Tommy Taylor, and drummer Alex Woodward.
We last caught up with Phillips in October and since then, not only has their powerful second album been officially released into the world, but it’s also made the Top 10 position in the charts. Acting as an ambitious follow-up to their Top 40 charting, self-titled, debut, Written & Directed was composed during 2019 while working with long-time collaborators and friends, Royal Blood. It’s culminated into a bold collection of tracks that discuss a range of topics while maintaining its coherency. While creating this album, Phillips has previously said that: “Album Two is about having a fire in you to kick ass. Girls are well overdue a perspective where they can be the protagonist and the boss bitch with a complex narrative.”
It’s a fusion of powerful, attention-grabbing tracks with contrasting vulnerable numbers too, such as the commanding opener ‘I Like The Way You Die’, with the softer and more melodic final track, ‘Gabrielle’. This unapologetic showcase of every facet of a woman’s personality is a forceful reminder that there is an innate strength, even in what others may perceive as ‘weakness’.
The multitude of genres present on the album are just as wide-ranging as its themes, such as the hint of 50’s glamour on energetic hit, ‘Beaches’. Their track ‘Disinfect’, is perhaps their heaviest track yet and is a raw commentary on the politics of the world we live in, while ‘Believer’ depicts an existential crisis and is a self-confessed ‘coming of age’ track. The explosive track, ‘Fire’, takes on female genital mutilation (FGM), child brides and the gender pay gap – Black Honey are anything but afraid to stand up for what they believe in.
If you hadn’t noticed the nod to Quentin Tarantino in the album title, this record is their homage to one of the most revered film directors of all-time. Acting as a soundtrack to their would-be feature film, their music videos are as intricately created as their music. You need only look to the gothic vampire-inspired coven in ‘I Like The Way You Die’ or the religious satire in ‘Believer’, to know that their only limit is their imagination.
The tracklist is as follows: ‘I Like The Way You Die’, ‘Run For Cover’, ‘Beaches’, ‘Back Of The Bar’, ‘Believer’, ‘I Do It To Myself’, ‘Disinfect’, ‘Summer ‘92’, ‘Fire’, and ‘Gabrielle’.
aAh! Magazine caught up with lead singer and guitarist Izzy B. Phillips over Zoom to find out more about the strangest place a song has come together, the most dangerous thing that you could throw into a conversation, and always trying to be truthful.
As a moment of reflection on this album, what is your favourite story behind creating the album?
“One day we were in the studio, and it turns out that they were gifted a Dyson Airblade. For some reason, the Dyson people are connected to the music industry now. So, the Dyson Airblade arrived at the studio. We were like, ‘Great, this is a fun project for the day. Let’s put this together.’ We needed to open the box, and someone whipped out a samurai sword and then put on a Nicki Minaj mask. They were just cutting it and sawing the edge of it with a samurai sword. And, we were like, ‘Great, we’re in the right place, in the right hands with these kinds of lunatics’.”
That’s actually amazing because I remembered that last time we did an interview, you said that behind every lyric there’s a story. So, I feel that with this album there must be quite a lot of stories behind it. What are your favourite lyrics on the album and what is the story behind them?
“I love ‘I Do It To Myself’ when I say, ‘I’m a walking contradiction. I’m drowning out I’m washing it down. I tried to hear the voices but they’re feeding my doubt. I do it to myself. Yeah, I know it’s self-infliction.’ I know it feels really on the nose, I feel like I’m just saying it as it is but in an intimate way.”
Yeah. I like how it’s about empowerment, but there’s a vulnerable side as well. Is this balance between being strong and also vulnerable something that you wanted to capture?
“100%, like you’ve smashed that because I feel like in, ‘I Like The Way You Die’, it’s this fierce, boss bitch. And then, in like, ‘Gabrielle’ or ‘I Do It To Myself’, I’m vulnerable. I think as a woman, it’s okay to have those different shades of your personality. It doesn’t make you flawed, it just makes you more complex.”
Yeah, I can imagine because, especially with the opening ‘I Like The Way You Die’, it’s such a strong and powerful track. Was this always the first choice for you to lead the album with?
“I think it was Chris [Ostler]’s idea to lead in with that, and he was quite a big player in how the album should stop and stuff. And then, I just remember when he said that and was like, ‘I know that this is actually a sick opener and think this would be a really cool idea’. That idea was one of his. I find putting the order together quite hard sometimes, especially when I’m so involved in everything, but he loves all of that stuff. So he was just like, ‘Yeah, this order, this will be sick.’”
Were the lyrics inspired by how Quentin Tarantino discusses modern violence too?
“Yeah, and I like the idea of how it’s reversed a little bit as well, from how he says it to the perspective of a female. I just thought it was kind of funny imagining in the relationship setting like, ‘I like the way you die boy.’ What’s like, the most dangerous thing that you could just throw into a conversation? What would you never say to someone? It was so ridiculous that it just felt really fun. And then, to have that from like, these kinds of beautiful vampires with this coven, to suddenly have this dark kind of campy ominous feeling, was just really great.”
I really like how with your lyrics, you’re very perceptive, such as with ‘Gabrielle’ when you say, ‘She’s caramel, whilst I am raising hell’, and ‘Dreaming of the secrets in the mirror, behind the lips that kiss her.’ It’s my favourite line. How did you come up with these?
“That is actually so interesting that you said that because that’s my other favourite line. ‘Gabrielle’ is a real person. ‘Caramel’ and ‘Gabrielle’ were just a loose rhyme. I’m really into half-rhymes. So, when it feels like a rhyme but not quite like, ‘Oh, Gabrielle, she’s caramel, her white skin, and golden hair.’ It’s almost like she’s similar to me, but she’s not quite me and she’s sort of the ‘better’ version. I love the idea of how I tell that story from the perspective of being the other woman. The secrets in the mirror is when he is looking in the mirror. The mirror behind the lips that kiss her, so the secret is held inside his lips, that he’s looking at in the mirror. ‘Secrets in the mirror behind the lips that kiss her, I’m gonna let the voices out’, is that I want to tell everyone my secret, like we’re secretly together but I’m the other woman. I’m the bad one but I’ll never be as beautiful as Gabrielle.”
I love how that came across as well. Do you have any ideal conditions for writing such as a location, type of drink, or favourite instrument to use?
“I think changing those elements can be really fun. I’ve done so many experiments with different setups. My next fun idea is that I would love to get an Airbnb in the countryside and just leave my phone off. Just immerse myself in listening and see what I can make, and that to me feels exciting. It’s so weird to think about escaping somewhere in a lockdown. But, hopefully, I don’t know maybe it wouldn’t work, maybe it would just waste a bunch of time, but that’s okay too.”
Where is the strangest place that a track has come together for you?
“Definitely when I’m in the back of the tour bus. It’s like this weird meditative sort of state where lyrics, songs, or whole melodies just pop into my head. I think it’s the motion of travelling, and because I get carsick and all the boys just watch Netflix all day. I can’t look at any screens. I can’t read a book. I can listen to stuff. I can listen to a book but my eyes have to be on the road. So, I start to jot down stuff. But I do remember the first scan of ‘Corrine’ kind of coming to me and putting together how I saw the song in my head out of my head, like mapping it out in my head before I wrote it. Quite weird. That all just happened in the back of the bus.”
That’s really interesting! The last time we caught up, you said that you’d been listening to new artists and trying to learn more about the trans community. Do you have any new recommendations at the moment that you’re quite enjoying?
“I might have said this before, but Anohni was my favourite trans artist and also Left at London.”
What do you like about Left at London?
“I think female-identifying trans artist and it’s very me. It’s very indie-pop with a bit of swag to it. I don’t know, it’s cool. She Drew The Gun, I think is female-identifying, but she’s also not trans though. Obviously, Arlo Parks just game changed everything like I just want to quit music now. She’s so good.”
Hypothetically, if your house burned down and you could only take one item what would it be?
“My teddy or my dog.”
I love that! Hopefully, gigs will soon resume and you’ll be able to embark on your album tour. What can we expect from you next, either music or tour-wise?
“Okay, so the record is coming out, and the next song we’re gonna do is a love song that’s called, ‘Back of the Bar’. And then, we’re going to put out the record. And then, we’ve actually got a second version of it, which we’re going to be putting out later in the year. It was the original demo of the song, which we wrote and recorded on the piano. We liked it so much, that we just kept it. That’s one of my proudest moments, like, that never happens to me. So, Boris said June 21st, right? We have a gig, technically a London gig on June 24th. It’s in Kingston Banquet. And, it’s seated in the venue, Pryzm. So, there’s tables and it’s seated. It’s been low capacity so far. But because of Boris’s announcement, we are hoping to upgrade it to ticket tiered and maybe make it like 50% compliant, which would be unbelievable. We’re also doing a little mini in-store tour around September, which would be cool. And, all I’m gonna say is keep an eye out for festivals. That’s like all I can say at the moment.”
Finally, is there anything which you’ve never been asked, but wished that you had?
“I used to feel like I wanted people to ask more about lyrics and like other things. But now I feel like people are really deep diving in now and it’s really good to see. So, no. I feel like I’m asked way more than I can even comprehend. I get into conversations in journalism and I just don’t even expect to go that deep with people at all. I’m also trying really hard to be super open and say it as it is, rather than like, contrive or oppress an answer. Do you know what I mean? I’m trying to make sure that I’m telling the truth because that’s the whole point in all arts. You’ve got to be truthful, right?”
Their sophomore album, Written & Directed, is available on all major streaming services. It is available to purchase here. You can also purchase tickets for their Autumn tour and Banquet Records show here.
U.K Live Tour Dates 2021
24 – Kingston Upon Thames, Banquet Records
14 – Leeds, Jumbo Records
15 – Preston, Action Records
16 – Southampton, Vinolo: Joiners
17 – Marlborough, Sound Knowledge
23 – Brighton, Chalk
4 – Portsmouth, Wedgewood Rooms
5 – Birmingham, Castle & Falcon
7 – Glasgow, St Luke’s
8 – Manchester Academy 2
9 – Newcastle, Think Tank
10 – Leeds, Brudenell Social Club
12 – Cardiff, Clwb Ifor Bach
13 – London, Heaven
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