For their first two albums Honeyblood operated as a duo of guitars and drums. But for their third album, guitarist and vocalist Stina Tweeddale is stepping out as the sole proprietor of the name, and ironically it’s given Honeyblood their biggest sounding record so far.
She is about to release In Plain Sight, the follow-up to 2016’s critically acclaimed Babes Never Die. But in the interim drummer Cat Myers has left the fold.
‘It feels like it happened very naturally, partly through circumstances,’ says Stina. Cat was asked to step in behind the kit for post-rock legends Mogwai after their drummer was taken ill.
‘I feel like it’s opened up this whole new lease of life for me, and my project – me being the only consistent member of the so-called band.
‘It’s kind of nice in a way, and I’ll obviously be playing live with a band, but in essence, when it comes to songwriting, it’s my artistic vision. And at the end of the day I’m such a stubborn person, it’s hard to ask anyone to come with me on my artistic journey because I cannot compromise.
‘But I think that’s good, and I can now have that power as a solo artist, and they’re my decisions to make.
‘I do have this romantic idea of what a band should be, and I always wanted to be part of a band, but it comes with the realisation that I’m better off if I take this down a solo path right now.’
So had she ever considered dropping the name and using her own?
‘I guess I feel so attached to Honeyblood – it’s an extension of my creativity – I’ve had people in the band with me and write songs with me, but when it comes to the actual entity that is Honeyblood it is an extension of my personality and my creativity so I didn’t really feel the need to get rid of it because it’s so intrinsic to who I am.’
For the new album Stina went to Los Angeles to work with super-producer John Congleton who has worked with everyone from Lana Del Rey to Modest Mouse and Marilyn Manson.
‘He’s a great musician himself, and between all of us, and the drummer who played on it – he’s going to be joining me on tour, so I was very excited we could make that happen – but all of the other instruments played on the album are me and John.
‘Although it sounds like there’s a lot on there, there’s actually not. I wrote all the parts and then John would help me and add some interesting sounds and synths – it wasn’t like there was a full band in the studio. The only thing I haven’t got a clue how to play are drums – I can programme beats at the computer, but I just don’t have the coordination for it. I find it very difficult still to play guitar and sing, I think I’ve nailed that bit now,’ she laughs.
Stina found something of a kindred spirit in John and his work ethic.
‘The way he works, it’s very similar to my own – he works super-fast which I like to do. Every album I’ve done has taken under two weeks to do – this one only took nine days. And he’s very good at making things sound... not like guitars. I was very conscious that the last album was very “rock”, you know, classic guitar sounds, and I wanted to make something a bit more alternative, sonically. It’s maybe not as clear-cut as the last record and that’s very much down to John’s input. I was quite nervous when I started working with him, but it was a great experience.’
No longer content to be tied to one genre, In Plain Sight is woven with themes of illusion and deception, Tweeddale describes the album as ‘one big trick’
‘When I was writing, I didn’t really know what was going to happen. I was about to move labels so I was really in a place of uncertainty, and with Cat being on tour with Mogwai for a year, it really did take an emotional toll on me and I didn’t know what I was trying to achieve. So I wrote all of these songs and didn’t know where I was going – it was like a jigsaw, a riddle that I’m trying to sort out through these songs. And that’s why I called it In Plain Sight, because at the end of the day, it seems so obvious – and the artwork and all of the songs play into that. Although there is some crossover from Babes - I’m still no pushover!’
Echoing that sentiment, for the album's stunning artwork, she researched optical illusionists and came across Peruvian visual artist Cecilia Parades, who eventually agreed to paint her into the ornate fabrics seen on the cover.
‘I put myself in her hands. I felt really honoured that she even agreed to paint me – she’s only ever painted one other person besides herself in her whole career and she’s in her 60s now, she’s been doing this a long time now.
‘Usually she uses her own body, so for her to choose me was a great honour and I let her do her own thing and I’m so happy with the way it’s turned out, it’s an incredible piece of art.
‘Just to be in her presence – she’s very wise, and she calls it visual empathy. It doesn’t actually look like it’s merging into the fabric, but your brain and your eye wants to believe that it’s true and that’s why it works so well. There’s no Photoshop or anything, but it did take a long time, it was 16 hours over two days of standing very still!
The Joiners, Southampton
Saturday, May 11
Pie & Vinyl – live instore
Tuesday, May 21