Interview with Black Honey: If I would go to a pub with Nancy Sinatra, we’d have a good time.

In Interviews by indiespect

On their second album «Written & Directed», Black Honey walk in the footsteps of Quentin Tarantino again. Singer Izzy B. Phillips' voice blends symbiotically with the powerful arrangements. Sometimes the songs take the senses on a wild road trip through the desert, sometimes they are unexpectedly intimate and reduced. In conversation, Izzy reveals how she became the strong woman she is today, what female vocalists inspired her and who the new man on the drums is.

Black Honey are:

Izzy B. Phillips (vocals, guitar)
Chris Ostler (guitar)
Tommy Taylor (bass)
Alex Woodward (drums)

Indiespect: The release of your second record «Written & Directed» has finally come. In my opinion, all of the songs are amazing. Is there one that stands out for you?

Izzy Phillips: I really like Do It To Myself and Gabrielle. Gabrielle was one of those songs where I thought that it had to go on the record. The original demo that I made was more arranged. Then the guys said: What if we do a stripped-down concept? We did it and I love it. I love it even more and it’s absolutely awesome. It’s very intimate and reminds me a bit of Dolly Parton's Jolene, somehow. Do It To Myself I like because it unveils my truth.

Indiespect: On Social Media you released a sneak peek of «Back Of The Bar» and named it as one of your favorites. What’s special for you about this song?

Izzy: Back Of The Bar is really special because that’s one that happened the other way round. We wrote it just on the piano. It was kind of a ballad. We loved it so much and we decided that it has to go on the album. But we made a slightly more arranged version of it. For the deluxe version we kept the piano version. And it's the first time I’ve ever recorded a vocal as a demo and the original demo is on the album. I’ve never been one of those artists that had amazing vocals. I never thought I could release something that is raw and I’m proud of it. I feel very connected to that song. It’s very hard, it’s like choosing between your children.

Black Honey

© Laura Allard-Fleischl

Black Honey are: Chris Ostler, Izzy B. Phillips, Alex Woodward, Tommy Taylor (from left to right)

Indiespect: Another amazing thing you do is that you always release many different and special versions of your music on vinyl. Who comes up with all those ideas and isn’t it really expensive to produce them?

Izzy: It’s me, baby! I used to work in a vinyl club called Flying Vinyl and one of my best friends has access to colored resins and designers. We’ve got people to make all the shit happen, artistically for the vinyl. It’s a really big thing for us and we allocate a certain amount of our budget towards making that vinyl and hope we make the money back. We don’t really make much profit of it but for me it’s more about the artistry of it. I love to make it physical.

Indiespect: Obviously, you’re a big fan of Quentin Tarantino and the album title is also inspired by him. If you could choose one favorite song from all his soundtracks, which one would it be?

Izzy: That’s a great question. Misirlou from Pulp Fiction. There is something really exciting about it and I just love the surfy feeling of it.

Indiespect: In one interview you said that one big inspiration for you is Nancy Sinatra. She was also featured on the soundtrack of Kill Bill with «Bang Bang».

Izzy: Nancy Sinatra is just the coolest! Sixties, boots, sass and attitude… All with a cheeky winker and a campiness that I really can identify with. I feel like if I would go to a pub with Nancy Sinatra, we’d have a good time. (laughs)

Written & Directed

«Written & Directed» by Black Honey is available in different variations. The version limited to 1000 pieces on the left is already sold out.

© Stefan Tschumi

Indiespect: «Written & Directed» is an album to show the strength of women and to empower the ones that aren’t that strong, yet. You once told, that you were very shy in school and tried to avoid eye contact with others. How did you become as strong as you are now?

Izzy: It’s funny because a lot of people that I know would report me like the loudest kid in the class. Part of being an artist is, that you have a kind of Jekyll and Hide thing. A big character mixed with this extremely sensitive introvert. Overall, I’ve always been quite outward and a big personality but the ones who know me deeply, know the more introverted side of me. I really struggled socially in school. I wanted to have intimate relationships with friends and wanted to feel closeness. But I found it so difficult to connect on a level that I thought was deep and meaningful. It always felt quite shallow. Kids probably find things funny like a YouTube video or something. I might have looked like I was above them. In reality, I felt so isolated because I didn’t find things funny they did. I found that really difficult. The rest of it was struggling with bad mental health. I had quite bad beliefs and I was an easy target because I was extremely weird as a kid. I wasn’t necessarily the quietest. I had a lack of ability to socialise, eye-contact. All of that made it quite easy for kids to be really mean. Everyday in life that I’m not in school now is a good day.

I wanted to have intimate relationships with friends and wanted to feel closeness.
But I found it so difficult to connect on a level that I thought was deep and meaningful.

Izzy B. Phillips, Black Honey

Indiespect: So, school time was the problem and then it got better.

Izzy: Yeah, I think. I walk past schools now and I feel that it’s such a caging environment for a creative. In sixth form [note an education form in England for school years 12 and 13] we do four subjects. I chose art, theater, music and literature. As soon as I got to sixth form and could do the things I wanted to do and explore them further I was so much happier. I just needed to be able to be given an inch more space to create and not be conditioned. School works well for a lot of people and don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a very privileged education but I was also quite a troubled child. I had learning difficulties, had to have extra English lessons, extra maths and everything. I’m just not sure if the format of it works for everyone. I feel like you carry that burden for the rest of your life if you get treated a certain way.

Black Honey

Screenshot from the video interview with Izzy.

Izzy's reaction when someone mistakes her real hair for a wig

Indiespect: As a stage persona you can feel liberated and express yourself in the way you want. I heard that you have plenty of blonde wigs. Do you know how many of them you have in total?

Izzy: (laughs) Do you know what? I used to have so many more and throughout the years they’ve just been lost or I’ve given them to a fan. I’ve got a drawer of them at home. But of the good wigs, the actual good ones, I’ve got maybe three. The rest is just terrible and cheap. I always wear the cheap ones. I find it quite fun to not be afraid of wearing this fake hair. So many people are weirded out by that, like: Your hair is not real! And I’m like: Do you think I’m a fraud if my hair is different? If I was wearing a hat you wouldn’t care. It’s different ways of expressing and I love it. I don’t have to do my hair in the morning and I can put it one like a hat or something else. I feel playful about it, like a dressing box.

Indiespect: That way you can look different everyday.

Izzy: Yes! And my proudest moment was when someone sent a mood board to me with their favorite examples of my wigs. Three of those photos were my real hair. I was just like: Yes! I smashed it!

My proudest moment was when someone sent a mood board to me with their favorite examples of my wigs. Three of those photos were my real hair. I was just like: Yes! I smashed it!

Izzy B. Phillips, Black Honey

Indiespect: Do you wear the stage clothes also in your everyday life or do they only reflect your stage persona?

Izzy: Stage has got a section in my wardrobe that is really sad during the pandemic. I’ve got too many clothes anyway but I had to make an entire section of sparkly and glittery things that won’t ever be worn during lockdown – really sad. If I went out for a night out in London I would wear a sparkly suit. And I definitely turned up in the studio like that. I have to feel it that day. Sometimes, I just want to be a boy and wear baggy clothes. Sometimes, I want to be some sort of FBI cop from the seventies in London. There’s sort of a feeling when you put on this outfit and you leave the house. You’re armoured for the day. It gets me to a good headspace. I like to feel that the character does the things that day.

The New Album
«Written & Directed»
Release: 19.03.2021

Written & Directed
  1. I Like The Way You Die
  2. Run For Cover
  3. Beaches
  4. Believer
  5. Back of the Bar
  6. I Do It To Myself
  7. Disinfect
  8. Summer ‘92
  9. Fire
  10. Gabrielle
Order album

Indiespect: You have a new drummer in your band. I don’t know a lot about him. May you tell me how you got together with Alex?

Izzy: Tom told us in summer 2019 that he was done. There was a period of three months where he wanted to see if he wanted to come on tour and if he wanted to do the record or not. I’m really glad that he decided to stay and do the record, because this was just such an amazing experience. We started quite early. I went on Instagram and searched for drummers in our area and across the U.K. that I felt were cool or had a weird playing style. A few people came through Chris, that he found through different agencies. He is a session musician, so he knows other session drummers. We put a list together and sat down. We went through them one by one and decided who we’d wanted to audition. We chose four people for an audition. Our favorite person that I liked the most blew us off. Then, me and Chris went on a shoot for a jewellery campaign. We were shooting with some friends and told them that we didn’t get the one in our auditions and that we need one more person. They were like: Oh! Do you know this guy, Alex? He’s friends with the guys from The Amazons, he plays in a lot of bands and is a really, really good drummer and he’s an absolute dude. We just asked: Is he gonna be a murderer? Is he gonna be a psychopath? We had to get these people off the list. They said: No, you can trust us.

Alex Woodward

© Eva Pentel

Alex Woodward at a shoot by F Word Magazine

I’ve done more press and promo for this band than gigs now.
I’ve been to more band’s birthday parties than gigs.

Alex Woodward, Black Honey

He was our last audition that day and it was so weird. Me, Chris and Tommy, we didn’t even speak. We were playing in the room, looked at each other and were like: Yeah, this is it. Because he knows all of our friends it felt like we’ve known him forever. There was this weird symbiosis about it. Obviously, for him it has been fucking weird. He joins the band and we confirm him in October. We go on tour and tell him he has got the gig. Then we come back and make the record and tell him: Tom wants to come and make the record but do you want to come in the studio and spend some time with us? We made the record with both drummers there. It was awesome for him to learn and Tom could show him his parts. The whole thing was just brilliant. Then, January comes and we play one show before the lockdown happens. We were so excited and said: We go to Hungary, we go to Europe, that is amazing! And all gets cancelled. He was like: I’ve done more press and promo for this band than gigs now. I’ve been to more band’s birthday parties than gigs.

© Eva Pentel

Indiespect: For the song «Run For Cover» you’ve worked with Mike Kerr from Royal Blood. Also the sound of it is quite similar to Royal Blood. Did he lend you his effect pedals for it?

Izzy: Me and Mike actually wrote the song for Royal Blood. It was just before they knew that it’s probably not gonna work with this new sound that they were discovering. I really liked the song and so I asked: shall I try it? I wish I could play the original demo because Mike suits that song so much better than I do. To try and sing this song was really hard for me. I had to recreate the way he delivers his vocals. Everyone liked the song and I was like: Guys, are you sure that I’m gonna be able to pull this off? We talked for ages if we should change the lyrics, make it from my perspective. Then we thought, no. It’s even better that it’s written from the perspective of a man for a man. I just literally did it word for word.

Run For Cover

Images source: Instagram

«Run For Cover» was originally written for Royal Blood by Izzy B. Phillips and Mike Kerr.

Indiespect: Not too long ago, you posted pictures from other female vocalists that inspired you, like Debbie Harry or Shirley Manson. What other women did inspire you in your style?

Izzy: I love Mazzy Star. Of this list it’s Billie Holiday, Amy Winehouse… I mean, I can never sing like Amy Winehouse but I love her attitude, her britishness. Lana Del Rey. I love Dusty Springfield, she’s not on there but could’ve been. Gwen Stefani would be a cool one. There’s lot of good women vocalists out there. For me, it’s always been more about the people that built their world or are just so fearlessly themselves. I really identify with that. It’s more about how they approach things than necessarily what they're making. Patti Smith. She made me, I adore her. Charlotte Gainsbourg. She’s one I recovered recently and I’m a huge fan of.

It feels like the world is opening. You have the optimism of spring and surviving a pandemic. Just so good! 

Izzy B. Phillips, Black Honey

Indiespect: You’ve planned to release your record in January. How was the feeling when you learnt about the fact that you had to shift your release?

Izzy: That definitely wasn’t the first of the record planning failures that happened (laughs). That was probably number three. By that point, deep into the pandemic this has happened three times and I’m done. Our first single for the album was supposed to be dropping last March and our first sketch was to drop the album in June. Then, that gets pushed back to September before we finally announced it for January. When we finally announced it for January it gets pushed back to March. I used to be quite nervous and stressed out by these things. But I feel so confident in what I’ve made, that now I feel good about it. I think, it happens at a time that’s exciting for the people. They can invest the idea of going out and seeing shows. If we would’ve done it last year, it would’ve come and gone. That would’ve been more sad. But you know, delays happen, it’s a pandemic, what can you do? We’ve landed on our feet somehow.

Indiespect: At least you have good stories to tell: You have a new drummer that couldn’t play more than one show, a record release that was shifted three times or more…

Izzy: Maybe tomorrow it gets pushed back again and there’s another delay (laughs). There’s hope, there’s potentially shows, potentially a tour and it feels like the world is opening. You have the optimism of spring and surviving a pandemic. Just so good! 

Cover image: ©Laura Allard-Fleischl