‘Written and Directed’ by…. Black Honey in interview
By Kate Wassell
Introducing Izzy B. Philips: Black Honey’s pink-haired and black-dungaree-clad frontwoman. Izzy joins me over zoom on a chilly March afternoon to discuss the band’s upcoming album ‘Written and Directed’, the second cinematic record for the indie four-piece.
It’s been a long road of lockdown that’s only recently picked up speed, Izzy explains. ‘I’ve completed Netflix at this point.’ We talk ‘It’s a Sin’, and Izzy’s recent obsession ‘Pose’, both uncovering the 1980s aids crisis but with ‘Pose’ set in New York, based in the ballroom drag culture. Izzy’s love for the screen is clear already.
Before we get carried away, I bring up the album, five songs of which have been released, with the full record dropping on the 19th of March. ‘At first, I wrote like three different sections of songs’, Izzy explains. ‘There was one section that was like night-time, driving kind of disco then there was a section of songs that were like Motown songs, then there was a section of heavy songs.’
‘As we did the heavier songs we were like “ah, this sounds cool, this is the kind of thing we wanna do!” Then a few of the Motown songs felt really good so we thought we’d slip those in. I’m still not entirely sure how ‘Beaches’ and ‘Disinfect’ live on the same album, but somehow it happened.’
I clarify whether the single ‘Disinfect’ was written about the pandemic. With a thudding opening bass and weighty chorus, the lines ‘We are just a virus, addicted to the violence’ feel a little too relevant. ‘No’, Izzy laughs, ‘It was written before coronavirus – I was worried that everyone would just think it’s like about coronavirus, but I actually think it’s more meaningful that it was written before. I feel like it was a premonition of everything that was going to happen…’. ‘You definitely predicted the future with that’, I tell her. ‘I did, I’m basically a psychic.’
A return to a heavier sound has Black Honey reminiscing about their early days-in 2014 the group met at Brighton university and banded together from there. I remember seeing their set at 2000 Trees festival in 2016, where they had no problem revitalising a crowd. ‘It felt really good to do a homage to that in the new album’, Izzy tells me, ‘and that’s what is really connecting for us now.’
Black Honey have always curated their own aesthetic world (think American diners, berets, sixties sunglasses and, at one point, a raw heart served ready to eat on a plate). Who’s inspiring Izzy at the most at the moment? ‘I really love Alex Prager, the visual artist, and I’m really inspired by anything Tarantino movies, any kind of cult movies, just films in general. And I’m listening obsessively to this Henry Mancini record which I found at our managers house-listening to that, you just feel like you’re living your best life.’
Prager’s work has clearly been a visual stimulus for the whole band. The vintage bird’s-eye view of a beach that she captures in her 2013 exhibition ‘Face in the Crowd’ has been replicated by Black Honey in the cover for their playful summer tune ‘Beaches’.
With the unmistakably Tarantino-esque title and cover styling for the new album, I ask Izzy if the band have had more of a visual focus than ever. ‘Maybe not more than ever’, she ponders for a second. ‘But when we went into making (the album) we were sort of trying to imagine, what scene of a film would this suit? Or what film would this be about? And we always had a cinema frame for each song–and then we realised, there’s no record called written and directed, it would be absolutely rude not to do it.’
The music video for single ‘Believer’ seems to fit in the plot of a film in three minutes (no spoilers, except let’s just say God may, or may not be a woman). I ask Izzy to choose one, Tarantino or Wes Anderson? ‘Oh god that’s tough’, she laughs. ‘Maybe Tarantino purely because he’s got more hits across the board – and he’s kind of passed the test of time, whereas Wes kind of peaked but maybe has more to give… we’re in a Renaissance of Tarantino now.’
Black Honey are pretty independent when it comes to the practical side of things. How do you find managing yourselves, I ask? ‘It’s great working with people that you trust – we own all of our own rights, and we’ve got a great support network of people that are part of it, it’s always been very family vibes.’
But it’s not always easy trying to make your way up as a small band in a towering industry. What’s something Izzy would change about it, if she could?
‘I would change the ingrained misogyny – I think its abhorrent to the entire structure of how most corporate places function, I don’t know if it’s just music.
‘I would like to see more women CEO’s and I would like to see more women employ more women and I would like to see men being more open and progressive and start to question their own internalised misogyny, and everyone in turn question that. Also, sort the fucking streaming out, pay artists!’ Spotify probably has a big role to play in that, I add in. ‘Yeah, it’s wealth distribution. 90% of artists only own 10% of the industry’s wealth.’ I’m also reminded of one of Izzy’s mantras, captured in NME, ’female is not a fucking genre!’. It’s about time the industry realises that.
We turn to gigs (for one of the first conversations about live music I’ve had in a while that’s had a real occasion to aim toward). ‘We’re gonna announce a tour tomorrow, apparently’, Izzy says nonchalantly. ‘Fingers crossed we’ll actually be able to mosh in 2021!’
Is she more nervous or excited to play a first gig in over a year? ‘It’s one of those things where I’ll believe it when I see it… I won’t believe I’m doing a gig until I’m about to get onstage. Everything at the moment just feels like it’s happening to somebody else and the gig is for some other purpose, like it’s hard to visualise it.’
More than the thought of playing live though, Izzy is looking forward to simply seeing her band in person. ‘It’s Saturday that I’m most excited about because we’re getting together for the first time in three months to sign the albums – it’s been the longest I’ve ever gone without seeing my band, so it just feels really fucking weird!’ I ask how they’ve all been staying in touch. ‘We play Among Us every week’, she explains.
Even though I’m sure Black Honey are great at video games, I can’t wait for them to get back to what they do best. We’re all counting down the days until the 21st of June, but for a nearer date to look forward to, get the 19th of March in your diaries.
You can pre-order ‘Written and Directed’ here and get first access to Autumn UK tour tickets.
Image credit 1: https://chuffmedia.com/artists/black-honey
Image credit 2: Alex Prager, Crowd #3 (Pelican Beach), 2013, Archival pigment print, 59.5 x 92 inches, 151.1 x 233.7 cm