Music Interview Interview


Like a smooth liqueur, Black Honey’s music is best served neat and without fanfare. The Brighton band keeps a low profile, but their music – tracks like Sleep Forever and Teenager from their 2014 debut EP – speaks for itself. On stage, it’s hard to tear your eyes away from their Pulp Fiction meets Bahamas look. Singer Izzy Bee Phillips has a presence that butter wouldn’t melt, while Tommy Taylor, Chris Ostler and Tom Dewhurst provide the gritty groove for her treacle vocals.

The release of double A-side Spinning Wheel/Madonna, and their single Corinne, has further propelled their name forward, as have support slots for The Cribs and Superfood, and festival dates across the UK. As the band explain, it’s these kind of experiences and musical influences that continue to drive them as they return to the studio to record their new EP.

Clementine Zawadzki: So you’ve just finished up your UK tour, how was it?
Izzy Bee Phillips: It’s pretty sad to be back, to be honest with you. We’d be on tour for the rest of our lives if we had the choice.
Tommy Taylor: I think it surprised us we didn’t kill each other in this tiny, crappy little transit van, but it was just the most fun.
Izzy: We did festivals before a real tour, so we didn’t know how different it was going to be. In summer we just slept in tents all the time. We dreamt of going to these festivals, like Secret Garden Party, and it’s surreal that this time we were being paid to do it.

Clementine: How long have you been at this before hitting the live circuit?
Izzy: It feels like it’s been going forever, but Black Honey is something that’s a new idea and it’s genuinely real. It has only happened for a year or so, but in terms of us coming together as people and writing little things down, there have been different formations and it’s been a long process.
Tommy: You just feel it when it’s right. We took our time getting started and not releasing anything for a while, because I think the longer you spend building the foundations, the more longevity it will have.

Clementine: And the band’s had quite an interesting start, you’ve deliberately kept things quiet. For instance, what was the idea behind not putting out any press shots?
Tommy: We wanted the music to come out and speak for itself, for people to like the music before anything else. Our friend, Olivia [Savage] who did the artwork had loads of great ideas, and we love doing that stuff.

Clementine: Do you think bands sometimes place too much importance on image?
Izzy: I think it’s something everyone naturally depends on, like when you hear a band, you see it in your head, and all of the visual and audio meet up. By hiding our press shots that was our way of regaining the control of what content people are associating with our sound. We wanted people to look at the artwork, rather than necessarily what we look like. We still love dressing up though, the style of the 70s and all that.

“I get a lot of weird people from the Middle East sending me porn. I think it’s homemade porn!”

Clementine: You also encouraged fans to send text messages as a way of engaging with your music, right?
Tommy: Yeah, I think that kind of started off as a joke, and then we just went with it, which was really funny for a while. We still kind of do it, and it’s really nice because it speaks to people personally rather than just through the internet or on a Facebook page. We get a lot of weird stuff too.
Izzy: I get a lot of weird people from the Middle East sending me porn. I think it’s homemade porn! I don’t really mind, everyone’s like, “You’re absolutely mental” – putting my phone number on the internet and saying, “Text me” – but it’s not too bad. I’m actually really good friends now with some of the fans and other musicians and bloggers who’ve sent me texts.

Clementine: It’s great how music can bring people together like that. Do any of your songs have a story you’d like to share?
Izzy: Corinne is about a really big fight I had with my best mate last year. I got drunk, and you know when you wake up in the morning and you’re not sure what you said, but you know it was really bad? I had this horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach, like, “What have I done?” and I said sorry, but I knew deep down I couldn’t make up for what I had done. Then she said she was moving away for as long as possible. She got rid of her phone and there was no way of contacting her for ages and I had this guilty conscience the whole time. I wrote a song about it, brought it to the boys, and it just grew into this massive thing, so by that point I needed to tell her. She finally answered one of my emails and burst into tears in the middle of this internet café in Ibiza when she listened to the single. She booked her next flight home and now she’s back. We got her on stage at one of the shows and gave her a big cuddle, which was nice.

Clementine: When you’re writing about personal experiences like that, do you ever second-guess releasing it in such a public way?
Izzy: I always think it’s really important to be honest. I couldn’t censor what I want to say, because I wouldn’t tell a very good story if I was trying to tone it down. We want everything we do to be sincere.

Clementine: What’s happening in Brighton at the moment?
Tommy: There’s always so much going on. It’s quite a small city, and there are so many good bands and producers. I guess living by the sea, it’s quite fun and chilled out, so it might have a subconscious effect on what comes out.
Izzy: There’s an angst-y vibe with a lot of Brighton stuff. There’s a lot of frustration in the music. There used to be quite a grungy thing, but there are so many different genres now.
Tommy: There are bands like Demob, Sea Bed, Tigercub, Dream Wife, The Wytches, The Magic Gang… IBP …The Big Moon. We’ve been away so much, I feel like we could really benefit from going out and listening to some new bands.

Clementine: Is it nice to come back to the seaside? What do you get up to?
Tommy: It is, but we all have jobs, so the tour is like a holiday for us!
Izzy: I’m a visual merchandiser in a vintage shop.
Tommy: I do bits and bobs at a music college, and then our drummer is a graphic designer for a screw company. He takes lots of pictures of screws, and then cuts up lots of pictures of screws, and then makes magazines out of pictures of screws. Then Chris is a guitar teacher and plays in wedding bands.

Clementine: So what’s next for you?
Tommy: We’re on a bit of a writing spell at the moment and have so much stuff to record. We’re going to film our first video, we just tried on some outfits and I think it’s going to be quite a spectacle. And more touring, we just want to get out as much as possible.
Izzy: We’re about to go into the studio to record our new EP, which will be a collection of memories with a nostalgia cherry picked from our favourite eras. Or something like that.

Black Honey play at Village Underground on 27th March, buy tickets here.

Lead image fashion credits: clockwise from top right, shirt and trousers all by PRADA SS16; bracelet and ring by PAUL SMITH SS16 t-shirt and dress by DKNY SS16; tiara by MIU MIU SS16; bracelets IZZY’s own t-shirt by POLO RALPH LAUREN SS16; jacket by PORTS 1961 SS16; trousers by EMPORIO ARMANI SS16; necklace by SHAMBALLA JEWELS; rings CHRIS’ own polo by PAUL SMITH SS16; jeans by ROBERTO CAVALLI SS16; necklace by PAUL SMITH SS16; all other jewellery TOMMY’s own.