On the road: Back in Black (Honey’s van)

Back in Black (Honey’s van)

Taking on the biggest tour of their career to date, we join the Honeys for three days of glorious, game-changing madness.

Every day, for at least an hour before doors open in whatever increasingly large venue the band happen to be stopping at that night, frontwoman Izzy B. Phillips turns the merch stand into an immersive window through to Black Honey’s world. There are a revolving cast of helpers – friends and associates of the band and, for the three days across Derby, Reading and Brighton that we join them, DIY too – but really it’s the singer’s vision. More art installation than two-bit t-shirt shop, it’s truly a thing to behold. Alongside a growing range of custom-designed pin badges, patches, shirts and vinyl, there are glowing flamingoes (a nod to avian mascot Jerry), fairy lights, vintage suitcases and a temporary tattoo parlour to set the scene. On this tour, the band have even whipped up a huge batch of disposable red drinks cups nodding to a certain famous cola brand (no lawsuits please) that are given to everyone who passes by.

It’s overblown and brilliant. In every city, people enthusiastically label it the most impressive merch display they’ve ever seen. “I want it to be a really immersive experience. To go to a gig and have a massive light display and merch stand, and come back with a cup and ridiculous mementoes. I want it to be a whole world,” enthuses Izzy, sat backstage with her band mates on the final, homecoming night of the tour. “Bands are caught up in thinking that they’re trying too hard because it’s very uncool to do that in the ‘band world’. Everyone’s all about wearing baggy jeans and not giving fucks, but we’re outrageous and we don’t give a fuck about giving all of the fucks.”

Since posting a mysterious phone number online back in 2014, asking fans to text asking them anything, Black Honey have marked themselves out as a group unafraid to go their own way. From their frequent Tarantino reference points, to the stylised artwork that’s been there since day one, the band have set about unveiling the full scope of their vision piece by piece, grabbing each opportunity by the balls as it comes. Rather than roll out a half-arsed lyric video with each track, they waited to release a clip until recent single ‘Hello Today’ when a little more income allowed them to head to the California desert to make a badass short film to accompany it. Recently they’ve been touring with an enormous lightbulb display emblazoning their name. It fills up half the van and half the stage in most venues, but every day it gets hauled out all the same.

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“I thought bands had jacuzzis backstage that they sat in all day and drank champagne. But we want to be approachable.”

Izzy B Phillips

“I see it like Hogwarts or something,” she continues. “Each time [you take the next step] you’re letting different characters come out. You know how extensive Harry Potter’s world is? When she [author JK Rowling] writes there’s Hogwarts in the centre but then there’s all these peripheral ideas and that’s without the stuff that didn’t even make it.” She pauses as her bandmates groan in a way that suggests that this is not an unusual tangent: “You just have to build your world outwards from this vision in your head until it’s Hogwarts.”

Over the three days and nights we spend with the band as they tackle one of the biggest crowds at Derby’s 2Q festival before rerouting back to their headline dates in Reading and Brighton (a sold out, 600-cap homecoming), it’s easy to get lost in the Honeys’ world. Having known each other for nearly a decade, Izzy, Chris (Ostler, guitar), Tommy (Taylor, bass) and Tom (Dewhurst aka Dewboy, drums) have the easy familiarity of family. When Izzy rolls into a late night off license during a pit stop in Derby on a small, pink, just-acquired children’s scooter singing Whigfield’s ‘Saturday Night’, she’s greeted with a patient sigh from Tommy and told to get back in the van. They may look like Blondie incarnate in photos, but it’s fair to say they’re a lovable bunch of idiots behind the lens.

“You just have to build your world outwards from this vision in your head until it’s Hogwarts.”

Izzy B Phillips

This approachability, however, is what makes all the difference. Stopping in a service station after Reading’s sweaty madness - “That’s the first time we’ve had to ask people to move backwards for their safety,” notes Tommy. “It was like The Walking Dead” - Izzy is half-heartedly rubbing off some stray lipstick and attempting to cover a spot. Although, she notes, their imagery is so strong, she likes meeting fans and having photos with people looking like a normal, flawed person. Their world is escapist, not intimidating. “When I was younger, I couldn’t believe you could be in a room with someone who made music that you loved so much,” she says later. “I thought bands had jacuzzis backstage that they sat in all day and drank champagne. But we want to be approachable. We have a strong connection with our fans, we spend a lot of time with them.”

Black Honey are committed entirely to their own plan, happy to wait out getting signed until the full scope of their ideas are ready to unfold. “We’re inventing our own route as we go. We’re an indie rock band, but we operate like a pop band project. That’s how I see it in my head.” “Yeah, we’re like Katy Perry with the awkward shark,” deadpans Tommy. “Except all of us are left shark.” Ferocious, determined to get what they want but just a little bit ridiculous, he might have something there.

Taken from the May 2017 issue of DIY. Subscribe below.

Photos: Lindsay Melbourne, Poppy Marriott