An Interview with Black Honey

Words by Rubie Barker
Image courtesy of Red Light Management

The chance to sit down with Izzy B. Phillips, lead singer of Black Honey was not something I wanted to miss. I got to see them back in 2018 at Truck Festival before the release of their hit self titled debut album, Black Honey. But now with their second album, ‘Written and Directed’ about to be released, I wanted to see what has changed for them over the past few years. Without sounding cliché, they really don’t fit into one genre. Ranging from psychedelic rock to indie rock, to alternative rock, drawing on many influences plays to their advantage as they curate a unique sound and aesthetic. Their latest album explores modern-day womanhood through strong indie-rock tracks like Beaches and I like the way you die, making strives to fill the void for female voices in the music industry, which as we discussed they are still very aware of. They will be coming to Cardiff on their tour, performing at Clwb Ifor Bach on 12th October.

Quench: For the music industry, you guys have had it really tough at the start of the year. I hope you guys are all okay.
Izzy: I think the album has been keeping me sane because it has given me a happy thing I can look forward to like in the future, it’s such a symbol of our freedom at this point.

Q: I saw the band posted on Instagram some of the amazing women there have been in the industry but obviously, over the past few years, the gender inequality in the music industry has been a strong topic of conversation. Do you think this has changed at all or do you think we are still at the same place we were?
I: I think it’s a conversation that people are taking seriously now, and that change is on its way. There is something that I read the other day that said that actual cultural shift and changes happen over the course of like 10 years. So this feels like a process and we are all just little cogs in that machine and process. If you’re a kid growing up in this day and age, you’ll have so much more of a diverse perspective than our Nan and Grandads did when they were kids, so we’re giving them a really good shot at having a diverse industry.

Q: You guys are a great example of a bit more diversity within the industry which is great to see. You say that a lot of your songs are to empower a younger generation of women. How did the creative process change for you in writing this second album? You mentioned in an old interview how you would stick bits of paper up on the wall when you were writing some of your earlier songs. Has that process evolved over time?
I: Oh my god, it is always changing so much. This album was actually the album where I was like okay for this time round I wanted to work with as many people as I could and as many inspiring talented people. So I ended up writing songs with Carl Barât from The Libertines, Olly from The Prodigy and these amazing iconic people that I looked up to my whole life. It felt like a dream come true, like the Glastonbury of songwriting or whatever. Part of it was a learning process. I got an album out of it but what I can take with me going forward is learning how these different greats have done what they do, which is absolutely invaluable for an artist. You don’t get mentors in this industry.

What advice would you give people younger than yourself then? Who are trying to get into the industry and get noticed? Is there anything you wish you’d known back when you were starting out?

The question we always get asked and that I would always be asking, was how do we get discovered? How you go viral I guess would be the question now. I think that the best thing that I wish I had known would be if your songs are good enough people will come to you. I definitely thought I was this amazing songwriter and my songs were probably distinctly average. I was really lucky to have this dude come in who was actually a publisher of a label at a time, who came in and went you’re really good but your songs aren’t good enough. That really changed it for me. I think having someone come in and give really constructive criticism but only in a positively affirming way was super important. If your songs are good enough, people will come to you and if no-one is landing in your lap or whatever or your songs aren’t going viral, then you just have to work harder at your art form. Or dig deeper into your truth, and spend more time working on it. And it is a world now where you can just put everything out, so just keep writing songs and keep releasing them is what I would say.

Q: 2020 was obviously really hard and it seems like 2021 has been pretty tough for you guys too. Some artists seem to have been able to put out an insane amount of music while others of us just really struggled. How did you find 2020 in terms of creativity?
I: It was the worst creative output. If you were to measure it, it would have been my lowest output in like 10 years. I am trying not to hate on myself for that and just be like you need to chill out. This is the only time in your whole life where you are gonna have this opportunity to really reflect and process your whole life. You know? I started therapy, I started gardening, I got a puppy! Things I thought I would never be able to do. It’s been intensely challenging and really quite hard. I don’t think I feel the positive effects of the downtime yet. I don’t know if I will for a while. But having a puppy has been an absolute game-changer.

Q: What breed did you get?
I: Japanese Spitz, they’re quite rare.

Q: My dog is half a Spitz!
I: Oh my god, please send me some photos. I really want to see. I want her to have like weird babies. And Spaniel crosses and King Charles crosses are common.

Q: Having a dog in lockdown, especially a puppy, must have been so helpful.
I: Yeah, please send me a photo of your dog though!

Q: I will! Thanks so much for chatting with me today, it’s been really lovely.
I: Amazing, Happy International Women’s day!

This interview has been editorialized and condensed for brevity. “Written & Directed”, the second album from ‘Black Honey’ is out on March 19th.