INTERVIEW: Izzy Bee Phillips from Black Honey discusses new album Written & Directed

Brighton’s Black Honey have just released their second album, Written & Directed, following on from their Top 40-charting debut back in 2018.

We caught up with lead singer Izzy Bee Phillips over Zoom to discuss the upcoming tour, the meaning behind ‘Written & Directed’, and what can be done to make the music industry more equal & safer for women.

How has lockdown been for you? What have you been doing besides working on the album release?

So all the stuff that comes with that, like videos and that. I also got a puppy in October which has been absolutely game changing! I absolutely love it – I’ve been going on lots of walks with my dog. I also do a bit of creative direction for DJs and other artists. And then I’ve been writing songs for the next album as well.

How are you feeling about gigging again after so long? Has the long break from it impacted on how you’d approach it going back?

It just feels like it’s happening to somebody else at the moment – it’s hard to believe that it’s real! I think that I’m going to be going absolutely crazy when we go back on it – maybe I’ll be more nervous because I feel a bit out of practice? And sometimes I’m like, can I even do this now? But I think it’ll be great and I can’t wait to get back to what I love to do best of all. I feel like a fish out of water at the moment so it’ll be great to dive straight back in! Can’t wait to go to gigs too – it will be amazing.

Did you go to any socially distanced gigs?

We played one socially distanced one [DIY’S 100th Issue Party in September]. I was also supposed to go to a different day, but I couldn’t go because I was shielding.

Obviously when you released your debut in 2018 the world was a very different place and a lot has changed since and in the industry generally. Would you say you’ve grown a lot since then, personally and musically?

I think I’ve grown musically more than personally, I still have the same struggles that I had back then. Maybe I’m just a bit more aware of myself now and my emotional responses to things. But on a musical level, I feel like worlds apart from where I was just in terms of learning. It was a really intense learning experience for me for two years and hopefully I’ll be able to take all of that forward. I feel like I’m still on that journey, which is quite exciting.

I read this album was recorded whilst you were on the road touring your debut, did this make a difference to your writing process? Did you write the album to be intended to play in front of an audience?

We wrote the album before we recorded it so a lot of it came together in the recording process, which is quite fun as well. And that happens. But I guess you could say that I wrote it whilst touring – I mean, I like to write, but I don’t like to have really long periods of time to write. I like to write for a bit, tour for a little bit, write for a bit and do it in little bite-sized chunks. And that really suits me because I have to do things really intensely and then short sharp bursts so in that respect it’s better. I found writing then a lot easier than I find it now in the pandemic. But for live music especially, I just really wanted to play songs that fans could mosh to and the songs on this record feel like we’ve done that.

What events in your life will you associate with this album?

A really happy time – I think, like, a flower blossoming or something. When I listen to this album, I see a person in it that I’m proud of. I feel like I did so much work artistically that now is the catching up time to work on myself too. I just feel so rewarded by all the moments in my life that collided when we were making it and when I listened to the whole album back the first time I just burst into tears. It just feels like the most honest thing I could have ever done and I feel so lucky that I managed to access that because as a musician, you always feel frustrated that you can’t access this truth or whatever. But I really believe that I did it with this record and that is an amazing feeling to have, especially after years of banging your head against the wall just trying to get something sincere across. If no one else connects with that I know that I connected with this and that was a weird, quiet confidence that I felt like I had with it.

So ‘Written & Directed’ aims to send out a message championing strong, independent women, why did you think an album with this focus was necessary right now?

I didn’t do it as a necessity – I did it thinking about how I was at the moment and it wasn’t like the world needs this record in it. I was just like, how can I best just express something, from my perspective? Because the only perspective that you can do is your own; the uniqueness of your perspective is what makes people real and what makes people valid. So I feel like I just tried to reflect that rather than necessarily prescribe something.

What do you think needs to be done for women in the industry? 

I think men need to hire people more diversely and I think that we need to see a lot of black female CEOs. We need to start paying artists properly too and we should be paying women in the music business the same amount – all of the people that work at labels, women should be getting equal pay.

What can men and male artists do to make the industry safer and more equal for women?

I think that the joy of that question is beautiful, because men have the biggest power of all of us as they have an ability to communicate to other men better than anyone else – men respect other men’s opinions. So having a man take on feminist values in a progressive way is magic – and that’s why my band is so important, because they are the biggest feminists. It’s like they’re the ones doing the work, not me. It’s obvious that I’m going to be doing that and I’m just going to be shouting into an echo chamber, whereas when the guys do it, it resonates deeper. It also means that you have not got a sense of threatened masculinity by the concept of equality, which is something that you do see as a reaction to feminism a lot.

Finally, what’s something you’d like to be asked but never are?

We used to think that it was about the lyrics of songs more, but people definitely have done that more on this record. I would like people to ask me more about, I don’t know, I feel like it’s really well covered. I feel like that was a really valid question two years ago but now all the people interviewing me are women and all of the people are interviewing me about feminism. I just think that it’s really good – we’re in a really good time for journalism. And because of the way that magazines have all sort of dissipated into the internet it means that you get people actually coming with real perspectives and asking real questions, which feels great.

Written & Directed is out now and you can listen here.

Follow Black Honey on InstagramTwitterFacebookSpotify & Apple Music. Visit their website here.

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