Last week, I had the chance to chat to Izzy B. Phillips of Black Honey ahead of their slot at Meadowlands Festival in Nottingham on 3 June. We discussed tour life, neurodiversity, new music and stage outfits.
Hi Izzy, how are you doing?
Good mate, how are you?
I'm good, thank you! I’ll get right into it. What is your preparation like before a live show?
So usually I have to revise a few things, strum on my guitar and check the things I need to work on, like tuning and stuff. Then we will have a band hug, maybe do a shot of tequila, and we used to all kiss my old drummer on the head before we went onstage – but then he left, so we don't do that anymore. When he came back the other day for Hammersmith Apollo, we all gave him a kiss, so that was quite a nice little throwback.
I love that so much! It’s nice to have those little traditions, I’d imagine. I've got to ask, you're always so well dressed on stage – all of you – and I just want to know how much thought and planning actually goes into the outfits?
Actually not that much, I think if you were to measure the time that we plan against the time that we spend rehearsing, it would be around a hundred to one. We spend a lot of time rehearsing, but we have a system that we go by. So before I go on stage, the guys will just ask me what I'm wearing today, and then plan some sort of colours that feel like they fit. I like to do my makeup on the day as it's a good stabiliser, so I like to spend time creating fun looks with crystals and doing crazy colours and stuff.
It really works! Everything just looks so cohesive and well put-together. You're billed to play Meadowlands Festival in Nottingham on June 3rd, and I'd really love to know what it means to you to perform to such a big audience?
Well it feels really good! Also, I guess it's not to be ignored that The Kooks were a band that we were all obsessed with as kids, so that's kind of a mental, sort of, pinch my younger self moment. I guess if you'd have told 13 or 14 year old me that we'd be playing with The Kooks, I'd have like, died. I'm really excited for The Mysterines as well.
Yeah, I mean the lineup looks incredible; it looks like such a fun day. What is it about a Black Honey show that makes it special?
Well first of all we are a rare celebration of diversity in what we can all argue is a stale, pale, male world, and I think it's fun because everyone can just get loose and hopefully lose themselves in the moment. I guess it's like something we can share together.
Yeah for sure, I mean Black Honey are becoming such a role model band, especially for young women, and women that are in the music industry, so that must mean quite a lot to you I’d imagine?
Thank you, that's a huge compliment! I mean I wouldn't necessarily describe myself as a role model because I feel like I'm literally a human mess, but I'm a really big fan of when other people can feel empowered for different reasons than what they were traditionally raised to feel empowered by, and that's really sick.
You definitely are role models! Black Honey is being discussed as the next big thing, and it's celebrating what it is to be a woman, especially in the music industry, because it is such a male-dominated industry.
I guess recently it's figuring out that we're more part of a queer community, and there's an actual conversation around neurodiversity – not many, even women, in music have that, either. Since the internet has been educating me on all of that, I'm like, ‘oh, yeah - there is actually quite a lot of nuance to this that I maybe didn't even realise’. But I’m proud to be weird, I'm pleased to be rare; no one wants to be the same as everybody else.
How do you manage to navigate all of the stuff surrounding your neurodiversity as a band? Especially on tour, what kind of things do you do to accommodate for it?
Well I get accommodated for by everyone else more than I accommodate other people. I just get a lot of help with organisation because I've got ADHD, and so I deal with a lot of organisational problems, emotional dysregulation, sensory overwhelm is a really big one, and I sleep a lot on tour. I get help with my bag, my cases, my schedule obviously gets planned in advance, that sort of thing. Then if I lose something or whatever, everyone usually helps to jump in and find it or sort it out, which is great, because I guess I would be a mess if I didn't have that.
Yeah, having that support system around you is absolutely crucial isn't it? Beyond all of that support from the tour members, is there anything that you consider to be a staple in touring? Something that you just absolutely couldn't go without?
Dance pants! Because if you want to wear stage outfits, there's not very many places that you can fix a monitor system - like if you want to wear a dress, for example, they haven't designed them for women to wear with dresses. So if you wear dance pants, they hold your monitor pack on, and that's pretty necessary. My other personal thing is shoes – a really confident pair of shoes will make me feel like I can get through a day. Also, tea bags if you're in Europe, because the tea in Europe is disgusting, and they have that 3% milk. On the last tour we brought lots of teddies too, which was fun.
There's a lot of things that can make it easier to tour. You’ve just gotta download your movies and books in advance, think about the travelling and the time that you're gonna be spending, and find ways to fill the gaps.
Again, it's just having that support network and having ways of incorporating those home comforts to make touring life enjoyable, isn’t it? With that being said, what is something that you are excited about for the future of Black Honey?
I'm really excited for the songs. I know like I’ve got a sick thing that I'm working on and it feels like a little weaponry set when you've got this amazing thing that you can access. All the stuff that we've been working on, we've been listening to loads, and it's just like this thing where you get drunk on a train and listen to something that you've made – which I only did, like, twice with album two, and was really proud of it – but this time over it feels like I've just been obsessed with what we've made and just completely taken aback by it.
It's almost like a lot of the work that's happening is stuff that I didn't really think about too much or plan too much, but it sort of started happening naturally. It's really exciting, and it's like watching a flower blossom after two years of being in a lockdown; just thinking thoughts for that length of time, twiddling my thumbs feeling depressed all the time, and now I’ve actually put all of those feelings somewhere, and I feel great about it.
I'm really glad to hear that, that's really exciting – and I'm very much looking forward to hearing it. Is there anything about coming out of lockdown and that process of the world opening up again that kind of reinvigorated that passion for songwriting?
I think so. If I had to write a song over Zoom with people, I'd just be like… no. I find that quite difficult. I realise now that walking around, and travelling… I love that. I'm absolutely addicted to coffee – not even like normal coffee now, I'm addicted to like a bougie £3.70 coffee from a bougie shop where I can sit with my headphones on, and I can write and sketch. That's like, my little artist's happy space, you know? I’m allowing myself to really enjoy that now that lockdown is over. It's quite a simple pleasure, but an expensive one!
But yeah, I just think that just to be able to all go to the pub after the studio is just sick, you know? Solving the world's wrongs over politics, and talking to friends, and learning from people… absorbing conversations, I think, is something we take for granted now. How hard some of the lockdowns actually were I guess, looking back, some of it was unthinkable. Something will happen now I'm back to normal and I'll go through the motions of what I did in lockdown, and I'll just sort of get a flashback to how stagnated I felt at the time, or how much desperation you felt. Because people need human contact to survive really, and now it's a mental health epidemic that we're dealing with now as well as a physical one.
I think there's a lot of reparations that people are still having to make. Everyone's growing and we've all improved as people or whatever since lockdown, and I think we're all way more conscious of people's mental health and people's wellbeing. We've got to figure out a way of stopping the internet from eating our souls because it's gonna head that way, if it isn't already.
Yeah, the toxicity behind it all is genuinely quite terrifying, but it's really nice to hear that you can kind of take all of that from lockdown, and use those experiences to appreciate what we actually have now. As you say, that social contact between other people that we were so deprived of really does keep us moving; it keeps us going and it gives us so much inspiration and I'm glad that you can just sit in the coffee shop with your headphones on. It's the simple pleasures, and the little things that we've all missed, so it's really good to hear. Are there any particular artists at the minute that are inspiring you?
I'm actually listening a lot to bands that we've toured with, because we've been with them every night, and I find it really interesting and insightful to explore something that I feel like I know well. On tour I got like, really, really obsessed with Lil Nas X, specifically the song Someone to Love - you know that one? I got like, fully obsessed – I would only listen to that for like, four days. My habits of obsessing over things coming into fruition, I guess I just like how they transfer the tones and the different hooks in that song. The little bass thing that kind of sounds a bit like Lou Reed - it's panned so well isn't it? It’s an absolutely great song.
So let's say you're on the tour bus after a long gig and you've had a long day; you're all tired and in need of a little bit of a morale booster. Who are you passing the aux cord to on the tour bus?
Definitely Jordan, our sound engineer. He always has the right music for that time of night, whereas usually it's my tour manager Emily who does the music in the front because she's got to drive. So she's obviously gonna put on what she needs to pick herself up, but it's always like, screaming metal. And don't get me wrong, I am a fan of metal, like I went to Download [Festival] when I was younger and I probably listen to more metal than the average indie fan probably does. I could name back-to-back my favourite artists… While She Sleeps, Architects – like loads of nu-metal. I could give you a solid little playlist of it.
I love that so much. System of a Down are always my go-to.
Yeah! For sure.
Well, Izzy, it’s been absolutely great to chat to you. Thanks so much for taking the time today!
No problem babe, have a good day.
Black Honey will be appearing at Meadowlands Festival in Nottingham on June 3rd. More info and tickets can be found here.