IN CONVERSATION: Izzy Bee Phillips from Black Honey 1

IN CONVERSATION: Izzy Bee Phillips from Black Honey

When you think about it, it’s an odd thing, interviewing people. Even odder to be interviewed you would think, being asked the same questions over and over, and talking to people about yourself and your innermost thoughts. Weird right? That probably also contributes to why some interviewees feel like they’re giving well-rehearsed answers; because they probably are.

It’s refreshing then to talk to someone like Izzy Bee Phillips, who is anything but rehearsed. Predominantly chatting to me about her band’s new album, A Fistful Of Peaches, as front person of Brighton quartet Black Honey, Izzy has a freewheeling energy, interesting and interested, and happy to cover most topics.

To start with, it’s a bit of standard fare; “is your process of writing an album the same each time?”

Uh, each album has actually been different. This one felt like it happened too quickly, like it was weird, but I think that’s kind of a good thing. I felt like how when people described albums back in the day, this album marks a period in time, like a snapshot of where you were in that moment. I think I felt like it would just go on and on and it’d be this huge project that would be a bit overblown and it’d be a bit stressful. I like the way that we’ve evolved into really enjoying the album process and I think I’ve really fallen in love with how fun it can be. 

Was that conscious thing you tried to do this time or just something that happened spontaneously?

Yeah, spontaneous. I think it was because I couldn’t write a lockdown. And so when everything opened, it felt very natural just to be jumping back into everything and playing shows. Then naturally the songs just came along with it. It wasn’t a planned thing, obviously, making an album was in the back of my mind, but we just talk about releasing EPs and stuff. But I think I’m just over that whole era now, I want to make a piece of work, I’m not really fussed by individual song drops anymore. I like the kind of vintage thing about albums, I think there’s more fun to explore different ideas. 

An album gives more room to explore themes and ideas and things that I’m maybe going through that I want to write about. I think the way that we consume content now being so immediacy culture has made me push back on it and reject it slightly. 

Then things get interesting as Izzy talks about the current culture in music, and expectations around it in 2023

We got told that Spotify wanted like a song a month and that that really fucked me off. And you have to compete with pop stars that just drop tracks. I don’t know, I just don’t feel like that’s the art. Art to me. But I guess that is art to them. But for me, I’m like fuck that. I don’t want to be playing a slot machine algorithm, I want to connect with human beings and remember that the numbers at the other end are still people. And they have feelings. I want to know that people are connecting with my music on a personal level, that’s about the depth of connection rather than just trying to access the masses by playing, basically, penny slots with your work. Also it really degrades your work when it suddenly becomes this thing that you’re just shoving down people’s throats. So I want to think about it and give it a bit of love. 

As our conversation develops the immediacy of the availability of music and the influence of social media on making music, and generally being an artist, comes up.

I think social media has been horrible to try and adapt and grow alongside. I know loads of people will argue the benefits and obviously, I acknowledge them, but for what injury it’s done it just doesn’t seem like it was worth having every song accessible to me. In terms of inspiration, it just doesn’t feel like the compromise has been worth it. 

I think everyone is mentally more ill than they were 10 years ago from the amount of invasion of their thoughts that’s happening from social stuff, songs included. My creativity feels like it’s thinner than ever and it’s disappeared into like how to make a fucking TikTok video. I want to make songs, it feels good, you know, and it’s hard to get back to that. It’s changed for sure, even when we started as a band it was like post on Instagram once a day, release one song, like less is more. Stock up all your talented art pieces and drop them as you please and that was it. Now it’s like just throw it all out there, invade everyone’s space, clog up the Internet. It’s gnarly. I think gigs are maybe the only good thing about it, where you can come away from it and think fucking hell at least we get to have this like one human connection at the end of it. 

But being an unsigned band has its positives.

We’re not signed so I can do whatever I want. I don’t have anyone telling me what to make or what to write, luckily. There is a bit in your brain that goes, hey, what if I just did 15 seconds of something really catchy, and then I’m like, what the fuck? I’m like, shaking myself; what the fuck am I saying! This is not who I am and if it’s having that effect on someone like me, who is quite staunchly themselves, then imagine what effect that’s having on people who are figuring out who they are or having their first experiences with engagement online. It’s kind of scary in a lot of ways. 

People think because I made Tiktok early on that I like it. That’s the funniest thing about it. No, I just knew what it was gonna do. I just saw what it was earlier on and was like “cool. I’m just going to get this out of the way now so I don’t have to be stressed about it later.” In lockdown I had nothing else to do so thought I might as well just build an audience there. People are like whoa, like you guys are doing so great on Tiktok; I’m like, really?

The business side of things. Numbers, algorithms, how you use those things. It’s all important. Especially as an independent band. Equally important is to not cramp creativity with the business side of things, Izzy expands on why.

Someone is looking at numbers for us all the time. We run it as a business, but it’s fun and creative. As long as you’re looking at the parts of it that are fun; looking at the audience listenership and choosing a set list are fun. Looking at what was your biggest song and figuring out why that one connected so well is cool but I try not to compete with myself too much. I try not to look at money and get bogged down by the logistical side of things. Which is kind of hard. When you’re in a band it’s so hard to live off of it. But yeah, we keep it creative and I think ultimately I’ll do anything to be able to live my life making stuff and having a nice time. I’m already living an amazing life. I love being an artist. I love being a writer. I love touring. I love being in the band. I love the memories. I love it all.

You can buy A Fistful Of Peaches from all good record shops now. It’s also streaming on all services.

Black Honey Lead Press CHARLIE BRONSON

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.