Black Honey are a band with a real buzz about them, turning heads and blowing minds everywhere they go. Jules Pestano met up with lead singer Izzy B Phillips.
With a vintage aesthetic, devoted fanbase and a plethora of swaggering firecrackers, Brighton born Black Honey are brewing an Americana thunderstorm. Fronted by Izzy B Phillips, Black Honey are Chris Ostler on lead guitar, Tommy Taylor on bass and Tom Dewhsurt on drums. They are one of the country’s best kept secrets, but after festival season it might just be revealed. BIMM LIfe caught up with Izzy to talk London, refugees and anonymous beginnings.
What was it like to play London as part of your latest tour?
Playing Village Underground was amazing. It's my dream to play heritage venues like Koko Club, The Roundhouse, Shepard’s Bush [Empire] and Alexandra Palace. We have played at a few of these already but to be a sold-out headliner is the dream.
On stage and in photos you are the most vivid and striking to look at – do you ever that you get the bulk of attention and others tend to get ignored.
I think in a lot of bands people gravitate towards the frontman because it’s their story that they are laying on the line, it’s their heart and soul they’re bearing, whether or not they’re wearing crazy clothes- I feel that’s almost irrelevant.
You look at most bands and you can name the frontperson, but you can’t always name every band member, but that’s not because they’re important, that’s so not it. I like being in a band. My boys are really important to me; we’re a family. I guess people want your picture more than anyone else, but you come from this world where you grew up in this little family and everyone’s equal.
Does that translate into song writing and decisions within the band – is it a democracy?
It is a democracy, but I am the boss. I am the leader – there has to be a leader, there had to be one vision, one direction. If there are too many cooks in the kitchen it becomes convoluted. But there’s nobody’s opinion I trust more than my band’s. It’s a partnership, but there has to be someone who’s the leader, who’s at the forefront and sculpts the ideas – and that’s me.
You recently collaborated with bands like Wolf Alice and Peace in a project called Bands 4 Refugees, what was that like and how did it come about ?
So I am big friends with Ellie from Wolf Alice, she’s a fucking amazing, amazing person. She had this idea about doing something for charity and we felt really passionate about the refugee crisis. So we did a couple of gigs and then all the other bands got involved. We ended up having to put on a matinee show before the main show and then putting on a show the next day as well. It was just really nice to be able to know that we could help with this whole crisis situation in a way that is positive to the world.
It also got quite a lot of publicity didn’t it?
The NME came to the gig and they loved it and so invited us to go and do the NME Awards, which I think help raised the profile of the crisis. I know for a fact that I didn’t really understand, in a day-to-day, human-to-human way, that they are not criminals, they are mums and dads and kids and families just trying to escape war. I think it brought a whole human element to the whole crisis and made me see things differently.
Would you ever consider writing Black Honey songs along the same lines with similar messages, or would you like to keep it separate ?
It’s an interesting conversation. I think naturally you’re always absorbing all of this things around you. I’d never deliberately write a protest song, I don’t want to preach. I hate preaching – I don’t want to tell people what to do. I think a song should challenge people and ask questions rather than tell them what to do.
In the early days of the band, you guys stayed largely anonymous and it was hard to find anything about you, what was the reason behind that?
It was our way of rejecting what everyone’s expected to do in modern music. Everyone puts their breakfast on the internet every three seconds, and it was a way of saying fuck you to that. We wanted to do things our way, we’re going to walk our path. It’s kind of set a blueprint for how we do a lot of things; people are like, ‘Why haven’t they done the album yet?’ But do you know what, we are only going to things the way that suits us.
Festival season is coming up, do you enjoy playing them and what are the main differences between them and a normal gig for you?
Festivals can be a bit of a slog if you do a whole season. I think our festival season last year started in January and ended in October. Festivals are fun but if you’re all living in a tent or a van for three days a week, every week for 12 weeks, it can start to get tough. But, when festivals are amazing they’re absolutely incredible, like Truck last year was a highlight. We had an amazing time there – loads of crazy screaming kids, crowd-surfing, moshpits, singing along.
Being able to hang out with the other bands is really awesome; you get to watch loads of other artists and how they do it. When it’s great, it’s fabulous but when it’s not it’s dramatically bad.
Do you find that the crowds at a festival slot are different to crowds at a gig?
It’s a really nice way of turning round new faces, but it’s nothing quite the hype you get at places like Concorde, because everyone is there because they know you, they want to be there and they want to be part of the family.
That’s classic, when you have this amazing moment that you’re really sharing. With a festival if it’s raining and you’re on an outdoor stage, in the day time, and people are hung over, people might not even come. But this festival season will be different because we did a lot of early festivals– I imagine this will be the year where we see really amazing crowds.