The rain pours relentlessly. It soaks through and tangles strings of limp hair and turns the ground I stand on into a pool of thick, sludgy mud. The air is bitterly cold, the clouds hanging gloomily above my head; all grey and teasing that I’m yet to see the best of them.
Before me, Black Honey are dominating the stage at this year’s 110 Above Festival. Four musicians, restless with passion for live performance. Their screams merge with the adoring fans, as fingers bleed from raucous riffs and vocals echo across the field. Behind the carnage, festival staff patch up the falling down stage with a laughable roll of duct tape. Black Honey caught the storm, and they fucking owned it. That’s my personal unforgettable highlight of your new favourite band.
Taking their rowdy show on the road, the Brighton band are about to set off on their Drive-In Theatre tour. Anticipate “madness of the highest calibre” says fiercely friendly frontwoman Izzy Phillips, reflecting on past shows when looking forward to the forthcoming sold out, “expect a lot of singing, crowd surfing, stage invasions, nude streaking, tears, tantrums, the works!”
The succulently rich sounds of Black Honey stick with vengeance. As the twang of old Americana seeped through Izzy’s subconscious as she waited on diners at TGI Friday, the band mix the classic rock and roll with both angst and cutesy blues.
Luring you into a trap, their Headspin EP has the power to do just that. From the rollicking attitude of ‘All My Pride’ to the intoxicating title track, it crackles with purity and then does the same with ferocity. Lacing with seduction and tying a messing bow at the end.
“We are constantly writing and everything is the honest truth.” Izzy says, as infatuation and betrayal register as key themes, “Sometimes it can be hard to be really honest about things, but I’ve learned that if I feel uncomfortable or ashamed about something then it’s more important to write about.”
Sultry vocals melt like butter, before the pitch is cranked up to piercing shrill. Swirling melodies collide with thunderous drums and it’s almost psychedelic. With tracks that would provide a dreamy soundtrack, “The Black Honey film would probably be a fictional narrative, set in the 60s about a girl called Peach whose emotions can control the universe.” Though, “we would score it and write it but wouldn’t feature in it.”
Transporting listeners to a story of 20th century Hollywood, their rustic glamour and heart ache induced dreariness has you seeing stars in trailer parks.
“If someone made a movie about us though, I think Tom (Dewhurst) would be by Michael Cera, Tommy (Taylor) by a young Dylan, Chris (Ostler) by Jared Leto and I would be by Brigitte Bardot or Edie Sedgwick.”
With a particular flair for simplistic yet beautiful storytelling, whether it’s an adoring love song to a friend called Corrine, or a relationship being like a Spinning Wheel; the band prefer to let the music do the talking.
Brash and loud, Black Honey really know how to use their sting when they need to. Yet they collect their pollen for the sweet, tender moments and wear them with honour. “I find it really hard to be honest,” Izzy confesses, “I have books filled with wasted lyrics just because I can’t find the moment to match them. I drive myself mad with it, so I tend to let the melodies speak to me first and let the lyrics follow.” Where some tracks seem as though they’re taken from a dusty book of fairy tales, others strut with a millennial attitude. Casually, but bluntly letting an ex know that she knows he’s done the dirty, ‘Madonna’ almost laughs ‘I say a prayer for you, ‘cause the whole world’s gonna know what you do.’
Having appeared in a puff of smoke, to them “buzz is a really weird word”, despite it being used adoringly across the blogosphere, Black Honey insist “all we really see to show for it is more mad fans going to shows and selling all the dates out.” Steering away from press shots and social media, new tracks don’t appear online, you have to be there in the flesh to hear them. “Nothing else has changed, we still spend long hours writing, rehearsing, recording and doing artwork all from inside our little Black Honey cave.”
In doing so, our worst kept secret have “enough material backed up to make about six albums tomorrow.” Sitting on music is something of high importance, to let it brew, to breathe and to evolve. “You only get one show at a debut album” says Izzy, “and we all have such high expectations between ourselves of what we want to achieve.” So don’t expect a rush.
Declaring themselves lovingly as “one big family”, she breathes “we know each other inside out.” Having performed in different projects, the old friends that create Black Honey found themselves attracted back to one another, “it’s an amazing feeling when your half way around the world but still feel at home because you have an unstoppable force of nature backing you wherever you go.”
The same applies to the fans; from the teenagers who rock the tote bags and stick the unforgiving ‘temp tattoos’ onto their foreheads (“well we like to think they reflect our music, a sticky black stain you can’t get rid of”) to the older guys who don Black Honey shirts with kids on their shoulders at festivals. “To be honest, I know everyone says this but we have the fucking best fans in the world. You can have a shit day and a hangover, then see a beautiful smiling face in the front row screaming your song back to you and it makes all your worries fly away.
“They are so dedicated, interesting and I’ve learned so much about music from meeting so many amazing people on tour. It’s really all ages and walks of life now which we celebrate and cherish.”
The thing with Black Honey, is that it’s bittersweet. Sucking up the nectar, it converts into a frenzied energy ready to be released. It’s result? “The delicious taste we leave on your tongue.”
Words by Tanyel Gumushan