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Q&A with Black Honey Lead Singer Izzy B Phillips

Updated: Mar 30, 2021

Well established Black Honey return in style and attitude within their latest ventures of Written & Directed.

Following their perfected self-titled debut, the Brighton quartet looks to set new records as they enjoy the oaths of becoming one of the UK's indie's top band. From gracing the cover of NME to smashing Glastonbury, the four-piece's offers us 10 new tracks.

Written between recorded sets and spurts of touring throughout 2019, Black Honey's album takes a cinematic approach to the exploration of identity, womanhood and power.

With their second album Written & Directed now out, Tara Davies caught up with Black Honey’s frontwoman Izzy B Phillips to talk about the start of the band, their latest release and the hopes of performing across America.

Let’s jump straight into it - how did you come up with the name Black Honey?

It's kind of a contrast thing. I felt like the words together sounded really old and almost, what to me sounds like beautiful and iconic. So, we checked it online and found there was no other Black Honey – there was one band called Black Honey, but we were like, okay, they're American, we can do it.

How did you all get together? Did you know each other from school? Did you pick up members along the way?

I and, Chris knew each other first - we were family friends. Then we went to university, but Chris was in a different year. Tommy was in his year with Tom, who was their housemate. Tommy and Tom both play the drums. And then Tommy moved from drums to bass, and then we made Tom play the drums. Then that was it. Last summer, Tom left, and we got Alex instead.

Quite often, that happens in a band – people start off playing one instrument, and then everything gets moved around.

It's interesting. Sometimes it’s not knowing the instrument which brings out the musicality of someone rather than the technicality. I always prefer this 100 times over. Tommy is by far a better bassist than he is a drummer. But mainly because he has the opportunity to explore melody. He has an intrinsic ingrained sense of rhythm.

What’s it like being the frontwoman of a band, especially because rock is so male-dominated?

It's weird because you don't know what it's like not being a female in a band. But it's interesting to see how doing what you do authentically is inspiring to other people who are marginalised or identifying women.

I never needed to see a gendered version of myself to know what I wanted to do. I could look at Kurt Cobain and be like I want to be Kurt Cobain, but not everyone is like that. But it’s cool I get to be that for other people.

The next move is intersectionality. We want to see more women, and there are some unbelievable frontwomen out there. I made a concept festival poster I put online like a month ago. Check it out, it's called Dream Fest. It's all intersectional, female-identifying or part of the LGBT community or with disability. It's all diverse and includes loads and loads of women. You should check it out because the acts are unbelievable - it was fun to research and put it all together.

Have you found that either yourself or the band as a whole have been treated differently because you are a frontwoman?

If you're a woman, you have to prove that you're as good as, if not better than, all the guys. But luckily, because you're a woman and you've suffered from basically being a second-class citizenship, you're already pretty well equipped for battling some of those things.

It's the culture in general, right? You know what you're going into if you're going into music. You know you’re not going to get treated equally. You’ve got to have a certain amount of gusto. I've been kicked out on my own shows and have been treated, like a groupie. I mean, I'm a very eccentrically dressed groupie if I am one.

I’ve dealt with horrendous sexism, but as a white, Southern, middle class, educated woman, it’s nothing compared to what other women experience. I'm like the straight white man of the female world. So, it's my responsibility to use my privilege to open those doors for everyone else. Yes, there have been struggles, but at the same time, this is about acknowledging and having a space for everyone else to come through the door.

That's how I see things now - it isn't a sympathy pie. There's absolutely no point sitting here being like, Oh, it's hard being a woman. Kick the fucking doors down and get everyone through. Get the job done.

Rightly so! Then on to the album, Written & Directed. I read that you said (the single) Disinfect is a patchwork of different things, news coverage and the concept of the end of the world. But as an album, what would you say is the inspiration behind it?

Cinema is the overarching story, but I would say it’s from a feminist perspective.

What’s your absolute favourite track on the album?

I like 'I Do It To Myself' because I feel like that one is really unveiling.

Who are your personal inspirations? Who do you look up to and model yourself off when it comes to music?

I love Debbie Harry. I love Tarantino. I love Andy Warhol. I love Kurt Cobain, Elvis, Nancy Sinatra. There's just a lot of different elements, and I think I draw from them in different places. I kind of draw on all my heroes and different ways.

And then obviously, Boris has alluded to this summer being COVID-restriction free, and you've got a few shows coming up at the end of the year. Thinking about all of this, where is your dream place to play in the world?

I would love to play America because we haven't done it yet. I want to do the classic clubs in New York and LA and try to live my 1970s fantasy. But at the same time, I would love to go to Russia. And I would love to go back to Asia and India, Japan again, because we've done it already, but I just loved it so much.