Black Honey are back with incendiary second album, Written and Directed, and will hit Portsmouth's Wedgewood Rooms in October
If the huge fuzzy riff coming out of your speakers doesn’t knock you back in your seat, then the stomping glam-rock drum beat that accompanies it, will.
I Like The Way You Die, the opening track of Black Honey’s second album, Written and Directed, sets out the band’s stall in convincing fashion.
Its 10-tracks whip past in an impressive manner that manages to be both heavier and catchier than anything they’ve done before. And there’s not a trace of of fat on its half-hour running time.
Fronted by Izzy B Phillips, the four-piece have taken pop-culture, questions of identity, womanhood and power, stuck it in a blender and delivered an explosive statement.
But with the circumstances being what they are, the Brighton-based band has been sitting on the completed album for more than a year.
They recorded it around touring commitments during 2019 with the hope that it would be a swift follow-up to their well-received self-titled 2018 debut.
The day The Guide talks with Izzy via Zoom she’s not-long finished a marathon session on the video game livestreaming site Twitch. It was meant to have been with her bandmates, and ‘loads of famous gamers’ but all did not go to plan.
‘All of the technical difficulties left me on my own, just panicking, running around in circles in a cupboard.
‘So that was my morning,’ she adds drily.
Fortunately our chat – bar an interruption from her recently acquired puppy – goes rather more smoothly.
But looking back at the birth of Written and Directed, Izzy says: ‘‘Oh my god, I was getting frustrated.‘We filmed the Believer video in August 2019, so that tells you how ready we were.’
In keeping with the album’s title, all of the accompanying singles’ videos are framed as mini movies, with ‘Written and Directed by Black Honey’ title cards. The video for Believer even features what is billed as ‘the final performance’ from drummer Tom Dewhurst – he left the band at the end of 2019.
‘It was frustrating that I was ahead of the schedule for once. But then once it got to the pandemic, I started to think this album is never coming out...’
The band released the first taste from the album, Beaches last July, with the long-player pencilled in originally for a January launch. The album got pushed back to March 19, and as a result they have actually put out five of its tracks already as singles.
‘It's been really nice putting the songs out, because it means there's been something to do and talk about during the pandemic and I feel it's given me time to reflect, and it's also given me purpose. If I didn't have that I think I'd be going fully insane – which I think I am sometimes anyway...’
The straight-ahead, no-nonsense delivery of the album where every song could be a single was a conscious effort on Izzy’s part.
‘I wanted it to be compact, for sure, I know this sounds really bad, but I'm a really big fan of best ofs… I prefer a best of record – my band would kill me for saying this.
But I collect Beach Boys best ofs instead of the regular albums. I guess that's a feeling I like for an album.’
It’s not something they came to at the first attempt though.
‘We wrote three albums, really, to get to this one – one was a disco, night-time Stranger Things – I had a real Stranger Things phase; one was like Motown songs; and one was heavy rock songs.
‘As soon as the third one happened, we were like: “This is it”. We pulled a couple of songs over from the others, like Beaches and Summer ’92 was a nice middle ground.
‘For some reason we ended up putting brass on the heavy songs – I was not planning on doing a heavy rock record with a brass section on it because when you say it like that it sounds horrendous, she laughs, ‘like the worst album ever.
‘But it was quite natural – heavy rock always speaks to us because it's very much part of where we come from and our Brighton culture. I just want to see a big old mosh, ironically, now moshes are illegal.’
With the album finally out tomorrow, Izzy says: ‘It's only been the last two days where I've got really excited.
‘I'm just ready for everybody to hear it in full, and the joy of it is that people know what this album is about, but some of my favourite songs are the unreleased ones, like Gabrielle, and Do It To Myself, those are songs that haven't seen the world yet.’
Since their start, the band have had a strong visual identity, heavily influenced by kitsch, cult films and B-movies.
Izzy admits, though: ‘I was so late to film, I didn't even know who David Lynch was until I was 21 but when I discovered film, it was an artistic awakening.
‘I watched films all day in bed, and played guitar, and that's how it all burned into my skull, I guess.
‘I remember writing (early single) Corinne and watching Wild at Heart – I can see the films and the room I wrote it in – you remember that moment.’
She’s also a keen fan of Quentin Tarantino.‘I love the way he portrays women and his approach to violence. It feels very honest and reflective of the world we live in, and anyone who thinks he's inciting violence needs to have a look at the world around us...’
This love of film is clear in their videos, which often play out more like mini-movies than anything else.
‘All of the videos for this album are things we've had to do on the fly during lockdown or around what we were allowed to do.
‘In a away that's sort of freed us – it's forced us to be creative with the surrounds we've got.
‘Beaches, for example, I had this big bombastic idea where I wanted to shoot at this incredible beach in Ibiza or something and have these weird characters in it, but instead it was shot on a green screen in my garden getting the boys to do all the parts, and now I wouldn't have it any other way.
‘I can't even imagine Beaches being anything other than this DIY green-screen thing now.’
Throughout the whole of 2020 the band was only able to play live twice. Once in January, and then a socially-distanced affair in September to mark DIY Magazine’s 100th issue. They are, so far, the only gigs with new drummer Alex Woodward.
It has, however, given the rest of the band, rounded out by guitarist Chris Ostler and bassist Tommy Taylor, the chance to get to know him better outside the trial-by-fire environment of a tour immediately after he joined.
With pandemic restrictions in place the band have been well spread out with Tommy in Scotland, Alex in Brighton, Chris in Hitchin and Izzy describing herself as ‘a sort of a potato that surfs’ between various locations, including her mum's house in Crawley and a cousin’s place in London.
As a result their old habits of ‘hanging out, going to the pub, playing pool, all those sorts of things’, were gone.
Instead, they have all frequently been playing video games together.
‘We have a whole group of friends we play with and the friendship feels really natural now.
‘It doesn't feel forced, which I think it might have done if we'd just jumped straight on tour with him last year.
‘We were all scared he might turn out to be a murderer or something,’ she laughs, ‘but we've had a year to settle in with him and it feels like he's always been there. Alex is one of those people that you feel like you've known forever.’
That said, they’re itching to get back on the road this autumn.
Izzy sighs: ‘It's going to be the most sweet tasting beer before going on stage at that gig...’
Black Honey are at The Wedgewood Rooms on Monday, October 4, doors 7.30pm. Tickets £12. Go to wedgewood-rooms.co.uk.
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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