Black Honey Interview: “We wanted to push ourselves as far as we could”

Backstage at Latitude 2018 we interviewed Black Honey to talk about opening the Obelisk Arena on the Sunday and their hotly-anticipated forthcoming self-titled debut album.

Black Honey first lassoed our hearts when they charged into town in 2015 with the woozy grunge of ‘Madonna’ from their first EP. Now, three EPs later and the band are finally releasing their self-titled debut album to soundtrack your life.

The earlier dirty riffs have been showered with sequins to deliver an addictive glistening pop sound: ‘Midnight’ is Lana Del Rey stepping into Studio 54, ‘I Only Hurt The Ones I Love’ is a shout-along vengeful rock’n’roll stomp and ‘Blue Romance’ could soundtrack Audrey Horne, swaying and swooning, in the Twin Peaks’ diner.

We caught up with singer Izzy B. Phillips, guitarist Chris Ostler (guitar), drummer Tom Dewhurst (drums) and bassist Tommy Taylor (bass) straight after their set on the Latitude Main Stage.

The band are so close they even finish each other’s sentences as they talk at length about what it was like to wake up the Obelisk Arena, how the new album came together and why you’ll feel like the “baddest bitch ever” when you listen to it.

You played on the Obelisk stage earlier today. How was the performance for you?

Izzy: We were really overwhelmed by how many people came to see us – it’s the third day of a festival and it’s really hot out there.

Chris: We were on at half 12 and getting everybody out of bed on the third day of a festival is pretty hard, it’s awesome that they came out.

Your self-titled debut album is coming out on 21st September. What it’s like to play tracks from the album live?

Izzy: It feels really good, it feels like a tightrope and it’s something that we’re still learning. In the same breath, it’s more fun because of that for it. I really enjoy getting stuck into songs and watching them evolve. When we first played the first song we’d ever written, we could barely f***ing play the thing…

Tommy: Speak for yourself!

Izzy: I’m still learning it three years later. I’m a slow learner, so I really enjoy the progress that I have with songs.

Tom: [To Izzy] You like sets to feel on the edge, don’t you? She likes that.

Izzy: I like the danger a bit.

Chris: It’s just really nice doing new, fresh things, isn’t it? It’s nice to have the album there and done – it’s more exciting anticipating it.

Izzy: People always say, ‘if you’re going to be The Rolling Stones, you’re going to play the same songs for four years’. I actually wouldn’t mind that.

You’ve released four EPs over four years, why’s it the right time for you to finally release your debut album?

Tom: We didn’t want to do five EPs [all laugh]. We had so much material that it felt right, didn’t it? It felt like everything, team wise in the background, had fallen into place. Experience wise, we weren’t ready to release an album until this point. It was just getting out there and doing gigs – honing your own skills – so then now we’re ready.

Chris: Also, I think we wanted to do an album that we were proud of and happy with and that we felt was complete to give it the best shot that it could possibly have. Having a lot of new material is quite important because I hate those albums where bands just put all their old songs on there, just re-release it, nothing’s new and exciting.

Izzy: It’s like album two for us.

Chris: There’s only one song on there that’s old, so it’s all fresh and new.

How did the album come together? Who did you record it with? When did you do it?

Izzy: We started it in February in Livingston [Studios]. We then did it in odds and sods around the UK and London, and tied up all the loose ends in London over the last few months. We didn’t do one block of time, we did other stuff: writing on the side, touring on the side. I really enjoyed that process…I think, if I was just doing an album every day I’d overthink it. it was nice to go and do the record and the next day do a shoot or a video and go back to the album

The tracklist for the album seems quite dark with track titles including: ‘Bad Friends’, ‘Blue Romance’, ‘Into The Nightmare’ and ‘Wasting Time’. Where did the inspiration come from?

Izzy: I think pop-wise I have a dark way of writing, in general – I think it’s bittersweet, it’s light dark. ‘Blue Romance’ is probably the most romantic song I’ve ever written and ‘Blue Romance’ also means ‘true romance’.

‘Into The Nightmare’ is actually a song we co-wrote with Royal Blood – we’ve been calling it ‘Into The Micmare’ which has been quite fun.

How would you say your sound has evolved from your previous EPs?

Izzy: I think where our listening has evolved, our lives definitely changed – loving hip hop…Before we were quite happy being an electro rock band, whereas we really wanted to challenge, with the record, the depth of where we fit in and how see ourselves in culture. Hip hop really spoke to us and trying to making something more pop, hip hop was our leverage into a more pop aesthetic.

Chris:  We wanted to push ourselves as far as we could as well. We challenged ourselves further than we thought we could go and as soon as it was uncomfortable we brought ourselves back. It felt quite liberating to push ourselves so far.

When you mentioned hip hop, was there anyone in particular you were listening to?

Izzy: I really like A Tribe Called Quest, NWA, I really like Dre. I like learning about it, really. I’m a novice in the hip hop world. For me, Beastie Boys are a big one for the record, their drum sound specifically and that they made rock crossover with hip hop.

What do you want people to take away from the album?

Izzy: In the people who have expectations, I want them to be like:  ‘f***ing hell, I didn’t expect that’ and shock people. In the long-term relationship we have with fans I want to give people a song that they can fall in love to, a song that they can stomp down the street and feel invincible, and makes them feel like their baddest f***ing bitches ever, so people can handle their lives.

Chris: Giving people a soundtrack to their life.

The video for ‘I Only Hurt The Ones I Love’ has a wild west theme and you’ve all started to wear matching embossed denim jackets. Where does the wild west theme come from? Is it a gang mentality?

Izzy: Yeah, it’s quite badass. In my head, we’re cowboys.

Tommy: We’ve always been influenced by western soundtracks as well. It’s why that Run The Jewels songs they did with DJ shadow is one of our collective favourites as they incorporated the wild west with hip hop.

What’s your ambition for this record?

Izzy: The dream is becoming real in a way that’s very real and there’s so much more to do. As soon as we do this, ‘cool, we’ve opened the main stage. What’s next?’ We’re hard working and we want to f***ing to do this every day of our life.

Are you going to catch any bands today?

Izzy: We definitely want to see our pals, Wolf Alice. We’re trying to catch alt-J, we’ve been trying to see alt-J…

Tom: We keep missing them… The way they make music is different to everybody else and I just really want to see it live and see how it all works and be a bit of a nerd. Hopefully we’ll catch a bit of that.

Are there any areas you want to explore?

Izzy: We want to go for a swim in the lake later on.

‘Black Honey’ is released on 21st September.

Latitude Festival is returning to the magical surrounds of Henham Park on 18th-21st July 2019.