U.K. indie darlings Black Honey are back once again with their third album, ‘A Fistful of Peaches,’ which finds the band in strikingly rare form, and poised to not only take on the scene but make it their own.
Stream: “Up Against It” – Black Honey
We always try to remember that the song is the most important thing, so your parts should do what the song needs rather than what’s fun to play. Also, not being particularly good at my instrument helps with not noodling about.
As disciples of the glorious droves of alt-rock and Britpop acts that came before them, Brighton-bred act Black Honey provide a sinfully sweet take on indie rock for the modern era.
For the uninitiated, Black Honey shuttered into the collective hearts and minds of a now-adoring fan base back in 2014 with their debut EP, Black Honey. Most who hear the young band are immediately smitten, and it’s not hard to see why, given the foursome’s – consisting of Izzy B. Phillips, Chris Ostler, Tommy Taylor, and Alex Woodward – seemingly innate ability to craft sublime melodies through their inherent songsmith.
With each successive release, Black Honey have done nothing to dispel the grand notions and heavy praise heaped upon them. And with rumblings of larger exposure afoot as their next record, A Fistful of Peaches, approaches, it appears that the best is yet to come for the young group. As they say, “It’s the big time, baby!”
Already hard at work on their next batch of songs, Black Honey’s Izzy B. Phillips and Tommy Taylor beamed in with Atwood Magazine to run through their origins, love for Squire Strats, approach to songwriting, and the skinny on their latest and greatest, A Fistful of Peaches.
A Fistful of Peaches is out March 17th via Foxfive Recoords.
Stream: “Up Against It” – Black Honey
A CONVERSATION WITH BLACK HONEY
Atwood Magazine: What first inspired you to pick up the guitar/bass?
Tommy Taylor: Grand visions of joining Oasis. [laughs] The guitar was the first instrument I picked up; I then got distracted trying to play the drums for a long time, then only really ended up playing the bass when we started Black Honey. I’ve grown to love it more out of necessity than anything.
Izzy B. Phillips: I loved the white stripes, but I had never seen a girl playing it. I thought I invented the idea of women playing guitars. I was so pleased to discover some greats like Courtney Love and Joan Jett.
Can you recall your first guitar/bass, how you obtained it, and if you still have it?
Taylor: The first bass I got for my birthday when I was a teenager – I think my parents bought it off my sister’s mate. I can’t remember the make, but it looked like the sort of thing you’d see in a crap nu-metal band – bright blue, skull and crossbones strap, and all that. I loved it and still have it somewhere, gathering dust.
Phillips: Yep, my first electric guitar was a fender Squier Strat! Super sturdy, and I love it. I got it in black when I was 15 but then repainted it with car paint when I was about 18 to a duck egg blue color that I still adore now. I love this guitar. I will be practicing on it later probably, and it will go to my grave with me.
I had never seen a girl playing it. I thought I invented the idea of women playing guitars. I was so pleased to discover some greats like Courtney Love and Joan Jett.
What were the first riffs and solo that you learned?
Taylor: I had a book of Nirvana guitar and bass tabs, so I’m pretty sure it’ll have been something like “Come as You Are.” I was really obsessed with them when I was young. I just used to stick my Nevermind CD on and play along very badly. Still do.
Phillips: Mine was “Song 2” by Blur. It’s a beauty and so easy for a beginner. I loved how everyone ever could always play “Smoke on the Water,” too.
Who most influenced your sound, and how is that best illustrated in your style?
Taylor: When it comes to bass, it’s probably Robert Been from Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and it’s probably best illustrated by the way I’ve been trying to rip him off for so long. But I like how he almost plays the bass like a guitar. People like Kim Deal, Paul Simonon, and Simon Gallup are also pretty big inspirations.
Phillips: I adore grunge and ’60s pop. I love the feel of how it’s played. I love anything with plenty of wonky character, and I think the intention and the way something is done are more important than the part sometimes.
Can you recount the origins of Black Honey?
Taylor: Izzy and Chris met first in Brighton and started playing in a band together, which I then joined a bit later on. That went through a couple of variations before we decided to start something a bit new – I went from drums to bass, and we eventually convinced our flat mate Tom Dew to join on drums. We’d learned a fair bit by doing things so wrong in the previous band, so I think that helped get Black Honey off to a good start.
You've just released A Fist Full of Peaches. Paint a picture of your songwriting approach.
Taylor: Well, our third album is coming out in March, and we’re excited about it. But we’ve started on a few new ideas since we finished A Fistful of Peaches – they’re sounding really exciting, but we’re still just trying out a bunch of totally different ideas to see where we want to go next. Generally, Izzy will come up with an idea – sometimes most of a song or sometimes just a vague lyric or sketch – then we’ll help work it up from there.
We also write with talented friends, like Dimitri [Vegas], who produced Written & Directed and A Fistful of Peaches. Most of all, we always try to remember that the song is the most important thing, so your parts should do what the song needs rather than what’s fun to play. Also, not being particularly good at my instrument helps with not noodling about. [laughs]
What recordings have you done so far mean the most to you, and why?
Taylor: There’s a song called “Teenager” from our first EP that always feels special. I think it just reminds me of the band’s early days and some great memories of us dossing around Europe playing shows in these amazing places we’d never been to. “Spinning Wheel” is another one that is still really fun to play and usually goes down well. On the other hand, I’m really proud of the new record and always most excited about playing the new songs live.
What are some of the challenges that Black Honey faces, and how do you overcome them?
Taylor: We definitely bicker like kids a fair bit, but we’re also pretty good at making up and getting on with it. It’s important to be quite aware of how everyone feels when you’re on tour and know when to give them space, etc. We’re pretty much locked in a small metal box on wheels for 90% of the time, so that it can be quite intense. The odd spa day is always a good idea when you’re on tour.
We definitely bicker like kids a fair bit, but we’re also pretty good at making up and getting on with it. The odd spa day is always a good idea when you’re on tour.
What guitars, gear, pedals, amps, and effects are you using?
Taylor: I’ve always loved playing hollow-body basses, but recently I’ve mostly been using precisions that suit the new stuff a bit more. Sometimes, I find you lack a bit of bottom end on the hollow bodies. At the moment, I’m using Ashdown and Laney bass amps with a few different fuzzes, chorus, compression, reverb, and octave pedals. Mostly ways of making myself louder.
What are your most immediate goals, and what's next in all lanes?
Taylor: To become absolutely stinking rich by writing a future Christmas classic. [laughs] At the moment, we’re just getting everything ready for the album release and for our tour, which starts in March. Beyond that, we just want to be out playing shows in as many places to as many people as we can really, and writing more music!
Phillips: Yup, the album drops on March 17! And we have a brand-new merch collection to go with it!
Stream: “Up Against It” – Black Honey
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