“Like a film noir”: Black Honey’s Izzy B. Phillips talks new album, Quentin Tarantino movies, and the women that inspire her

Izzy B. Phillips is the fierce frontwoman of Black Honey, one of the most unique bands from the UK’s indie scene since their formation in 2014. Following their self-titled debut in 2018, the band is releasing their second album, Written & Directed, on the 19th of March. I had the opportunity to chat with Izzy over Zoom about the new album, as well as some other things.

Photo: Black Honey / Chuff Media

As an album, Written & Directed is an unapologetic statement, with Black Honey leaving their mark on the world to empower women worldwide. The singles exemplify this idea, with the anthemic ‘I Like The Way You Die’ acting as an attack on so-called alpha males. The most recent single, ‘Disinfect,’ is similarly heavy instrumentally with lyrics that fit the current climate despite being written pre-pandemic.

In her youth, Izzy felt there was a female-shaped gap in rock music. “I thought I invented the idea of a woman in rock,” she laughed, “it was great to discover Patti Smith, and Blondie and all of the amazing iconic women that were so instrumental to the making of me as an artist. I don’t know if I feel like there’s a female shaped hole as much now, more like an intersectional-shaped hole. If I was specific about it, I think there’s a lack of diversity.”

When asked about her earliest memories of music, Izzy replied, “I had really bad early memories of music. Like, I like a terrible flute teacher who was so old, and it was so boring. And I had recorder classes, which were equally bad.”

“The only good thing I can remember, my dad said to me once ‘you’ve got a good ear’ and I said ‘What? What’s a good ear?’ He meant a musical ear, it means you can think of melodies, and then I just remember going around the playground being like ‘I’ve got a good ear!’ not really understanding what it meant.”

Due to the pandemic, Black Honey’s last non-socially distanced gig happened back in March 2020, though they had the opportunity to perform at DIY’s 100th Issue Party at Signature Brew’s Walthamstow Brewery in September. “It was awesome. For me, it felt almost like a normal gig because all the people that were there, they bought tickets because they knew the songs and they were singing back and it just felt like back in the day when we played really small shows.”

“And I learned a lot about, you know how you think that a show was great if it was packed, and there was a mosh pit? Now I just feel like, it’s never about how many people or how condensed it is. It’s about who’s there, and your connection with them. I think that was a wicked lesson for us. Because we were like, oh God, this is gonna be horrible. And it was actually amazing.”

In regard to the album itself, I asked what song Izzy was most excited to perform. “’Disinfect’ is awesome because it’s so heavy, but at the same time, I’m scared that it’s gonna be really hard to sing. And I’m like, this is hard to sing or hard to sing extremely loudly in front of a very heavy drum kit. But I think I’m gonna feel ‘I Do It To Myself’ the most.”

Although the album has been finished for a while now – it was originally scheduled to release in January – Izzy mentioned some of the worries she’d had early on. “I do remember thinking, ‘how on Earth are we gonna get ‘Beaches’ and ‘Disinfect’ to fit on the same record?’ There was a bunch of Motown themed songs, and a bunch of heavier songs. And a few nighttime disco kind of ones, but we didn’t put many of them on.”

“The thing that tied it all together was the band and playing it live in the room. And then we were like, adding the brass section, the live brass, that was difficult… There were a few drum parts that were quite hard to recreate as well, because we were quite heavily sampling stuff in the demos. I really enjoy how everything came out. Like, I’m so proud of it.”

Photo: Laura Allard-Fleischl / Chuff Media

From their earliest singles, Black Honey have been explicit in their admiration of Quentin Tarantino, with their aesthetic being comparable to that found in films like Pulp Fiction. When asked about her favourite Tarantino movie, Izzy had trouble deciding. “It changes a lot. Sometimes I say Pulp Fiction, because it’s so iconic, but to be honest, I get past the first third and then I get really bored.”

“And I like watching movies on repeat. Like, if I was to repeatedly watch one, it would be Django Unchained, maybe. Too beautiful, the whole thing is just perfect.”

On Tarantino’s most recent movie, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Izzy said “I lost it. I mean, I was really stressed out going into it, because there were so many people who were like, Tarantino is just indulging himself, doing a guitar solo. I love the fact that he’s cliche. I love cliche. So I love that he just did every single Tarantino thing. And he made the story, even slower. It was so perfect for me. I was like, yeah, I’m here for it.”

Izzy also had praise for the rich and varied ways that Tarantino portrays women in his work. “I love it. I think he portrays women with these complex, detailed narratives that are like baddies and goodies all in one. It’s like the most depth that anyone in the nineties gave any woman, like past their tits, you know? That’s how women were portrayed.”

“I love the fact that it can be paralleled with things that scare people like violence, and I love the way that he approaches violence in an artistic way. I think that there’s violence every day in the world that we live in, and there is violence in humanity. I feel like the honest portrayal that he gives of everything is shocking, but it’s reflective of the world that we live in.”

Outside of music, Izzy has been inspired by many other women. “I watched the documentary on Gloria Allred the other day, and fuck me she is an absolute force to be reckoned with! I’m inspired by any woman who is against the odds.”

“I’m also really inspired by drag as a concept and as an art form. At the moment, I’d say that Bimini Bon Boulash is my winner on UK Drag Race.”

To finish off our chat, I asked Izzy what she wanted women listening to the album to take from it. “Like, boss. I want them to get on the bus to school and listen to ‘I Like The Way You Die’ and just kick some arse, and go in and talk that bully down, or smash that exam; give them that ferocity that they need for their life.”

“And then by the end of the album, I want them to go back on the school bus to ‘Gabrielle’ with rain pouring on the window, and it’d be like a film noir.”

Black Honey’s Written & Directed will be released on all platforms on the 19th of March. You can watch the music videos for ‘I Like The Way You Die’ and ‘Disinfect’ on YouTube.

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Jack Oxford

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July 2021
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