2016 has been an accumulation of highs for Black Honey. The seemingly unstoppable Brighton bunch have taken their hometown by storm at The Great Escape, released the gripping Headspin EP, been on unforgettable trips to play in Dubai and Japan, and are now out on their biggest UK tour to date – including two London sell-outs at The Lexington. In short, they’re smashing it.
To be quite honest, it’s been heading that way ever since last year when they took off the cloak of secrecy they’d worn in their formative days – the time they spent getting their “shit together” as their leader Izzy B. Phillips puts it. “I’m glad we did that,” she says, admitting she’s equally “glad that we’re not a secret band any more as well.” Throughout it all, they’ve come across as an act in complete control, never allowing themselves to get carried away with the hype. All they’ve done is justify it.
That control derives from an unbreakable self-belief and determination that Izzy has always had. “Everyone used to think I was mad,” she says, “when I used to be like, ‘I’m going to be a star’ – and they’d be like, ‘She’s a mental girl working in a cocktail bar’ and in my head I was like, ‘You fucking wait; you absolutely wait.’” There are worse ways to silence the doubters than by fronting one of the most enthralling new bands in the country.
What Black Honey have achieved so far is exciting in itself, but what’s to come is even more so. Talk and anticipation of a debut album is par for the course for any new act, but they’re showing no signs of satisfying people’s craving yet. “So many people are asking us about it,” Izzy says, “and I get that [it’s] a really important thing for everyone but for me, we’re writing so much material and it’s changing and evolving so quickly, and we’re touring so much and there’s so much to see and so much to do and so many people to meet and songs to write that it’s like, ‘Why would I put an album out now? Why?’” She laughs, almost as if to ridicule such an idea, before continuing, “I’m not doing this for anyone else. We’re doing it ‘cause we want do it, in our time, [at] our pace, and how we want it. And by the way, when people do wait for it, they’re going to see why they waited.”
“Life isn’t just happy or just sad…it’s a big weird and wonderful mess – and the songs reflect that.”
But even if the question of when we’re going to be treated to Black Honey LP1 is unanswerable, Izzy already seems sure of what it’s going to be. “Imagine Black Honey on steroids,” she says. “It’s going to be like one amazing monster…I think we’ve all got a strong vision that we want to have something that feels like a pop album, it feels really big, it feels exciting – but at the same time, it’s got all of the narrative, the cinematic vibes, the weird, dark undertones, the contrast of light and dark. The journey as well is important. I think all of those things, I would want for the album.” Such is the conviction with which Izzy speaks, you’d be surprised if the eventual record isn’t exactly as she envisages it.
In everything they’ve put out up to this point, Black Honey have shown they possess an impressive, intriguing ability to flick a switch from dejection to elation in the space of a couple of songs. There’s a very good reason for that, as Izzy explains. “I think as a person, I have a sort of schizophrenic nature to my emotions,” she says. “The songs are really, really reflective of that. In one instant, I can be really heartbroken and forlorn about something and then the next, I can be just really empowered. Life isn’t just happy or just sad; life’s up and down. It’s not a perfect picture – it’s a big weird and wonderful mess – and the songs reflect that.”
What’s quite astonishing is that they’re not thinking in terms of an album, but albums. Not only does Izzy express a desire “to be one of those bands that puts out their second album really quickly after their first”, but she also points out they’ve already got “60/70 songs” stored away. “Because I’ve been writing for so long,” she continues, “and there’s so many different experiences, in my head, they’re already kind of curated into albums.” Let’s just go over that: Black Honey have 60 or 70 songs “in the bank”, all of which Izzy claims she could release “in a heartbeat”. So far, they’ve released eight.
The latest to see the light of day is new single ‘Hello Today’. A swaggering, punch-packer of a pop song that might as well come with its own dedicated repeat button, it’s their best yet, and it also accompanied by their debut video. In it, Izzy assumes the role of a “femme fatale character” she describes as “not really me but an extension of me”, who’s followed around the Californian desert by an omen in the form of a heart after something “really, really bad’s happened”, trying as she might to rid herself of it. The narrative comes from a story she wrote herself, and the whole thing is testament to how invested she is in Black Honey not only as a band, but as an all-encompassing art project.
“I like to think when you hear a Black Honey song, you see similar visuals to what I present visually,” Izzy says. “The combination of music and visual is just the most inspiring and immersive experience, and why the fuck wouldn’t I want to make an amazing visual that felt like it represented what the song speaks to me?” The “cinematic vibes” she alludes to have always been there in the artwork but with a video at long last, they’ve truly been brought to life. Followers of Black Honey on social media may have seen Izzy pictured wearing a t-shirt bearing the slogan “Indulge Black Honey”. Now there’s a whole new way to do just that.
And the temptation to indulge is only going to grow stronger and stronger – there are even bigger and better things to come from Black Honey, and you can expect them to keep on outdoing themselves. After all, as Izzy says, “this is literally the start for us.”