In The Studio with… Black Honey

Interview In The Studio with… Black Honey

Two years on since the release of their self-titled debut, Black Honey are back and feeling better than ever.

“Mike [Kerr] from Royal Blood took me for a drive in his car the other day and he loves to play me all the stuff that he’s working on. After that I had to follow it playing our album and he absolutely loved it,” beams Izzy B. Phillips. “He was like, ‘This is the most Black Honey thing you’ve ever made’. I know that he wouldn’t say that if he didn’t mean it…”

Catching us up on their forthcoming second record over Zoom today, the Brighton-based group - completed by guitarist Chris Ostler, bassist Tommy Taylor and recent addition, new drummer Alex Woodward - are all in agreement with Mike’s assessment: this is their finest work to date.

Set to land at the beginning of 2021, just over two years after the release of their self-titled debut, ‘Written & Directed’ (a nod to their love of Quentin Tarantino) finds the band excelling and evolving into the heavy-rocking outfit they’ve always threatened to be. “We had more fun than I even thought we could have in the studio making this record,” Izzy states. “It was like a healing process, almost. During Album One, I think I had a bit of a semi-meltdown and I needed to write loads during it just to manage the pressure. It was quite a nice thing to do, to just jump in the studio and switch off. So I started writing probably loads of shit, I had like 35 demos or something? Then we started weaning it down to some of our favourites.” “The album kind of chose itself, didn’t it?” Chris suggests. “We had that shortlist, and then we started recording and it really chose itself. It all fit really nicely together as a collective piece.”

“There was a moment when it was a bit stressful when we were like, cool so we’ve got a bit of a night-time disco album, a bit of an acoustic bedroom album and then we also had really heavy stuff. And it was like, where do all those pieces of the puzzle fit?” Izzy laughs. “We decided deliberately to curate a narrative which was like, ‘Right, we’re going to do the heavy guise for this one.’ I kind of love that because it means we’ve got a bunch of shit that we can go and revisit, and we’re already talking about what we’re doing next.”

“It feels like what we’ve made is Black Honey on steroids.”

— Izzy B. Phillips

Don’t Try This At Home

We’ve all heard mad studio stories, but BH’s producer Dimi might be the one to beat…
Izzy: Dimi got a gifting from Dyson and he got out this full-on samurai sword to open the box.
Chris: While wearing a Michael Jackson mask! Dimitri is amazing.
Izzy: I don’t think he’s ever left the studio in his entire life; like, I don’t think he’s seen daylight.
Chris: He’s like a vampire. Like a genius vampire.

Previewing their second effort with last month’s cheeky retro-leaning lead single ‘Beaches’, it turns out that Black Honey were originally going to announce their new album with the more eyebrow-raising ‘Disinfect’. “We wrote it one or two years ago, and the lyrics are ‘We’re just a virus, addicted to the violence’,” Izzy explains. “We wanted to put it out but it kind of felt wrong, which sucks because now everyone’s going to think we wrote it about the virus…” “It’s the heaviest song we’ve ever written,” Chris continues, “but ‘Beaches’ felt right [to lead with in the end].”

Inspired by The Beach Boys, Izzy’s love of Viagra Boys’ ridiculously addictive track ‘Sports’ and Shirley Ellis’ equally catchy ‘60s hit ‘The Name Game’, the self-professed “nonsense ramble” of ‘Beaches’ found the group discovering a whole new sound. “I didn’t think Black Honey could sound like that!” Izzy exclaims. “The song just kind of fell out of the air, didn’t it?” Chris smiles. “Something magic just struck with it.”

Elsewhere on the record, themes of empowerment and emotional freedom appear, with deliciously heavy bangers flowing happily between. “I listened to the whole album back to back when I was really drunk on five margaritas in London Bridge train station and just burst into tears,” Izzy remembers. “I couldn’t believe we’ve made this. ‘Fire’ is an empowering one for women and I sent it in this drunk, hysterical state to my friends and they texted me back like, ‘This song is beautiful, and it’s making me cry’. ‘No Apologies’ is a ferocious anthem for women too. That’s important and women need that right now. It’s all about taking this alpha-egotism of classic rock and roll and putting it into the female perspective, flipping the gaze.

“One of the things I definitely realised listening to the album back was going into every song I talk about having voices in my head,” she continues. “I think it’s more like the metaphorical voice of doubt or doom-spiralling; self-critique and judgement and stuff like that. There’s a song called ‘Do It To Myself’ which is all about the confrontation of your demons. I’m proud of that one. It was quite hard to open up so much but by the time we finished the record I got so comfortable, even talking about this now. I think if you feel a bit shy or a bit conscious about saying something, that’s when you need to say it. Also opening the album with a song called ‘I Like The Way You Die Boy’ is just really funny…”

Giving some of the heavy new’uns their live debut back in January, it’s clear that ‘Written & Directed’ sees the quartet more confident than ever before. “I think with Album One we didn’t really know what we were doing and we were experimenting and just trying everything,” Chris explains. “Whereas with this one we know a bit more who we are and what we want to do, and I think that definitely comes across on this record. It feels really fresh and really strong.” “It feels like what we’ve made is Black Honey on steroids,” Izzy nods. “In the time that we made it, we couldn’t have done anything else, and reflecting back on it, absolutely no one could have made this apart from us. If no one likes it and if it bombs, we don’t give a shit, because we really love it and we’ve really enjoyed making it. I really believe in it. It’s exciting.”

As featured in the September 2020 issue of DIY, out now.

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