BLACK HONEY – Rock music as a space that is not so binary and obvious

Foto-© Jamie Noise

Black Honey sind eine der spannendsten Bands aus UK. Mit kreativem Chaos erschaffen sie eine ästhetische Welt, die Emotionalität freisetzt und auffängt. Kettenrasseln, drei Drums übereinander, niemals gleich, roh, laut. Black Honey sind mehr als eine Band – sie sind musikgewordene kreative Energie. Im Februar erschien das dritte Album A Fistful of Peaches via FoxFive Records.

Im April haben wir mit Frontfrau Izzy B. Phillips per Zoom gesprochen. Im Interview erzählt sie, warum sie künstlerisch in einer anderen Zeitzone unterwegs ist und die aktuellen Tracks schon Rückschau für sie sind. Außerdem sprechen wir darüber, warum das Schreiben von Songs ein Bedürfnis und gleichzeitig anstrengend ist, wie sie die Ästhetik rund um die Band entstehen lässt und warum sie mit dem aktuellen Album die britische Antwort auf Americana-Kultur geschaffen haben, obwohl es eigentlich andersherum geplant war.

Congratulations on the release of your third record A Fistful of Peaches. How does it feel to live with it out in the world?
To be honest, it does not feel that different. Nothing has changed for me, just everything around me changed slightly. It does feel good, but it is something that has just happened. I do not want to be like, “Oh wow, live is amazing…”. I want to be real and it feels the same. People just treat you differently.

It is your third release. Are there still surprises? As I understand it, the release is not the big deal for you; it is more about making the songs.
I put the vinyls into my shelf today and it was weird. It is like putting them in a drawer: “That is it, that is done. It is on the shelf.” It felt like the end of an era. But each album is so different. I feel like I am learning so much as I go. I hope it does not become predictable or have too much of a routine. I want it to be new, exciting, and fresh.

What is done to you is new to us. I read that you write new music before the older one is even published. You live in a different time zone. How do you experience that lag? I imagine it to be challenging to be talking about things that are old to you, but new to us.
That is so true. It is something you have to learn to get used to. You develop it before your first record. You need material for four albums and you get used to the thought of not releasing stuff that you know that you have got. In a way, it is great, because I already know what my favourite new song is going to be next, which no one will know for about two years. In a sense it also reflective. When I listen to A Fistful of Peaches, I do not see myself now. I see someone that I was two years. I see someone that was opening their eyes during lockdown gulping for air. I do not miss that person. I am quite happy to say that my life is happy. I am having some huge changes and it feels very powerful to have a piece of art to honestly reflect where you were at the time. It feels like a confrontational experience.

You see your former self through art though. Art is still interpretable. How is that relationship to look back to your former self as a person and as an artist?
The world you create artistically is ultimately an escape from the mundane. Real life is so crippling mundane if I reflected on my truth in that way, it would not serve me the juice I need. But what art does is to draw on your own real experiences and if you just let it do its thing, art tells you more than you tell it. The art is driving and you just need to lean into this instinctive part of your brain that will teach you about yourself. I think all artists are looking to crack something within themselves. They have this yearning for some kind discovery. It is something you have to do, it is very innate. There is a beauty to that and it is still escapism. It is something that my brain invented to get away from the real life a little bit.

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You said that you write songs to have a place to put your chaos. Is that what you mean?
Yes, for sure. Any feeling can be held in a song and it can be valid. In real life, you have to juggle a combination of feelings that do not feel like you or you do not feel like it is fair. Whereas in songs you can find the light in wherever you are in that moment. You can elevate it and it can be beautiful. You can always put an undertone of optimism, there is always hope in the bottom of everything. That is important too. My chaos is so overwhelming and unending. It is something that I will always be driven to try to put somewhere, whether that is art or anything.

The aesthetics around the band are like a creative universe. It is music, videos, pictures, merchandise. I experience Black Honey as a very congruent experience. How is your role in that? Does it come bit by bit and layer by layer or is Black Honey a band that exists within that universe?
I think it is layering. If I look back at this time last year, I had all of the music submitted. I did not have any videos; I did not have any artwork. I had to figure it all out and it panicked me slightly. We were still deciding on the album title up until the day that we shot the artwork for it. It is an intimidatingly large prospect if you look at it all together. I did one thing at the time. World building is something that I love. I would not just do music. I love all kinds of art. I am an artist first and music just happens to be my creative outlet that I do the most. I guess, it answers my emotional needs the most. I love the idea of this Black Honey world being “Lynchy” and having something eerie and glamourous. I am very much into drag and that kind of stuff. I find it very comforting. I love cartoons and colours. The way rock music has been done for so long is this very black-and-white-bandy-thing. It is quite uninspired. What happens if you put this kind of queer and neurodiverse lense on it? Rock music can be this universe to escape to. You can be the villain or you could be the hero, if you want. I want to give people permission to be themselves and to be held in that space that is not so binary and obvious.

You worked with producer Dimitri Vegas again. What did you tell him when you started? What was the initial vision? What did you make of it together?
The first version was supposed to be more American and it was awful. I mean really horrible. The whole direction sounded too edited. We had this realization together during this thinking of how to make it sound more international. I was ready to hear that out and we sketched out the rough edges of what that would mean. It sounded like shit for us. Black Honey is a raw, rough around the edges, messy thing. Trying to put tighten it and make it too American sounding and perfect is just really weird. Especially when lyrically I was trying to create more landscapes that were more English and felt more like Martin Parr [a British documentary photographer] than traditional Americana. Martin Parr for me is my English Americana. How he makes cinema out of the mundane and how to make magic in this weird little island that we live on. Once we figured out what was not going to work, it felt better. We went back to distortion and keeping the raw takes and staking three drum kits on top of each other for a drum sound that we had not planned, but fucking made. Just having this crustier, lo-fi, and messy approach suits us so much more. I really enjoyed it. Hand on heart – it is a very difficult and hard job. It is very emotionally taxing. It is the biggest crush for overthinkers. But for me as a writer making a record is very rewarding. Having these amazing musicians bring to life what you wrote. I am a musician, but I am a songwriter first. There is many very talented musicians out there that I love to watch and I love to engage and helping me to build something beautiful. I am still a fan of music. I love watching good people bring something I have sketched out to life. And make it sound better than I could have done. That is always a very rewarding part of the journey. Having Dimitri being classically trained in percussion ensemble feels more creative in that respect. I find it inspiring to be around. Nothing is more boring to me than a methodical approach. The best work is done creatively leading with the artistic vision. People get it wrong a lot.

Is that first part of writing quite lonely then?
I am not writing songs on my own anymore. It does get lonely when you are writing alone. For me, it is the effort of: “Here is the mood of the day, here is how I am feeling.” It is a specific skill set I had to get into. Someone told me that the best songwriters in the world are emotionally unhinged and have no sense of barriers. It is a flow of feelings…

One song that stands out to me in this respect is I’m A Man that was written from the perspective of a rapist. Have you been nervous writing something so drastic? How were the reactions to it?
That one is weird, because on the day we made it, it went very dark very quickly. Everyone trusts me enough to know that the why is very important in art. I had my why quite clear that day. Having to make that song, I had a bit of a meltdown in the studio. I could not get anything more out of myself that day. Everyone went home, it was fine. I learned something in that respect where my personal mental and emotional boundaries were with pushing and pushing and pushing with stuff that was hard to talk about. Then I played it to a bunch of people and they did not even get the lyrics, because it is a jolly groove. In that was a lesson: You can just write anything and people still will not hear what you are saying. It is liberating in a way. That is why I tell everyone that the song about consent. Because it is my voice saying “I’ll put out your light / All your light, till you’re nothing /I’ll do what I want ’cause remorse isn’t my thing”, they think that I am a sassy empowered female. It could come off like that. Maybe I am the attacking the guy. This is an insight: For most things I say, I wonder if I have done the correct social clues for someone to understand what I am trying to communicate. I have this with most sentences I say. It is like trying to learn another language.

Thank you for the interview!

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