Ahead of their huge UK tour and stream of festivals, I had a chat with Izzy, the “Queen of the Outsiders” and singer of Black honey, to find out more about the band.
Did you think the band would become so adored when you released ‘Sleep Forever’ all that time ago?
When we started releasing music, that all happened very quickly, and then it’s been a nice kind of steady, world-touring experience, and writing songs and growing and learning. I think when you start releasing music you don’t really have expectations, so it always feels like you’re growing but it never feels like you’re too fast or too slow or anything. We quickly blew up, that’s the thing; I wrote Sleep Forever like five years before we even put it out and no one gave a shit, then we re-released it as Black Honey and suddenly everyone cared.
You have a cinematic, whimsical, Tarentino sort of aesthetic associated with your music – has always been the case for you or was it born with Black Honey?
It was a really good mix of the two. When we decided we were going to call ourselves black honey I was in an era of really experiencing cinema, and my ex-boyfriend showed me a Wes Anderson film for the first time, and I’d never seen a Wes Anderson film. I was like – this is me, like, everything I want to be. And at the same time he showed me David Lynch, and got me the twin peaks boxset and I would just be watching twin peaks all the time writing songs; thinking yeah, this feels like me; this kind of music and this kind of visual.
“To me aesthetic is just the way I can control the perception of us, and change how I view what we make”
How important is that visual identity now to you as a band?
It feels like a blessing and a curse. People tell us all the time like – your band is only doing well because they’ve only got strong visuals, and stuff like that. Or you’ll get complimented on your aesthetic before you get complimented on your song writing and it’s like, that is so bizarre. To me aesthetic is just the way I can control the perception of us, and change how I view what we make and what we do, and the story I have to tell. I wonder if music videos will even exist in the future, or if it’ll just be Instagram, all behind the scenes videos.
Some of your lyrics have the imagery of James Dean, Lolita, Stick and Poke’s – are the lyrics at all autobiographical or more to fit in to that conceptual idea?
They’re really autobiographical, every single word is the truth. I usually find that when I’m writing songs I’m either writing premonitions to myself with a weird sort of – I don’t think it’s actually real or applicable – and then two months later I’m like oh, right okay; that was just my subconscious trying to tell me something. Or its super like; I feel something, and I just sit and write a poem, and then – if I’m lucky – I can manifest an entire song from the poem, exactly to how that poem was originally spurted out. When that works for me I find that quite a rewarding time, because I find that sometimes music can be really jeopardising of poetic vision – you’re always trying to find a fucking rhyme, or something that adulterates the honesty of whatever the first thing is that came to you. So when it does happen its fucking rewarding – I love it.
Would you say you’re a writer before a musician then?
Kind of? Like I’d say I’m … well I’d say I’m naturally a writer … well, I feel like naturally I’m a drawer, actually – my best talent, natural talent, is drawing. I’m really good at drawing. Maybe not now, because my passion is music so I work hard to try and learn all the things in music that I think can be used to express myself, and I love music more. Drawing and poems are so important because I started a journal when I was 14 after being sent to the doctors for really bad mental health, and I got diagnosed with ADHD, and they gave me a journal to see if I could cope a bit better; and you know, draw and write and stuff in that. I suffered with really bad nightmares as well, so I would draw the nightmares down and write my feelings out, and I think that became a really a really inherent part of my creative process, and I’d say that’s sort of a blueprint of everything I do now.
Are you ever scared about putting that much honesty into your work?
It’s really scary. You get used to that though because you sort of learn like – if something feels really uncomfortable you’re like, right, here’s the juicy bit. If it feels really cutting or really hard to say then that’s what you should be saying. No one wants to hear the easy stuff in songs; everyone wants to hear the hard stuff.
“I think on stage I feel like I’m Queen of the losers. Or something. Queen of the outsiders.”
Do you think your bands been so well received because you bring that darker element into your music?
Maybe. Its hard to know why people like you or why you relate to people because everyone has their own relationship with our music, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m just so grateful that I have people that can relate to me.
Do you have any fears with your music?
I worry about fucking social media ruining my fucking life. Yeah, I think it is making me insane, like with my self worth. Its fucking up my head and making me feel like I’m not good enough. And I’m pretty sturdy – it takes a lot to like bum me out about something, because I know who I am, I know what I fucking stand for – and if its bumming me out, what’s it doing to everyone else?
You never seem to run out of creativity; do your influences change or have they remained much the same?
My influences don’t change but my attention span changes a lot. At the moment I’m probably the speediest I’ve ever been in my entire life with my writing. And it’s been amazing; I feel like I’m absolutely on fire. The band has this new joke with my writing, that the songs are completely dependent on what Netflix series I’m watching at the time, like in my new writing I feel a real stride of Stranger Things.
One of my favourite songs off the new record is Blue Romance; is there any interesting story surrounding that track?
Yeah, so – the stick and poke mention earlier was funny because my ex boyfriend was covered in tattoos, and I practised my stick and poke on him. So I think blue romance is sort of like – I wanted it to be a twisted sort of love, like blue velvet, where the love that you have is really beautiful but it’s got this really very heavy, undercurrent to it. But, as like an overriding thing. I’m really interested in the relationship between light and dark, and where darkness takes the relationship. Just a classical love story. It feels like a screenshot of a still in time.
Is your stage persona much different from yourself in everyday life?
Oh my god, yeah. In real life I think I’m very introverted, and very weird. I think I’m a big loser. And I like that- I like being a loser. Now. Now I do – now not having to be in school it’s great. But I think on stage I feel like I’m Queen of the losers. Or something. Queen of the outsiders.
Finally, what are you excited for this year?
This year I’m really excited to be playing Live at Leeds soon. We’re also going to be playing all around the UK in May; we’re going on a headline tour. We’re doing crazy amounts of festivals, we have Reading and Leeds in the pipe. You can expect some unexpected pieces of music to arrive.
Talking to Izzy was by far one of my favourite interviews. She’s at once immensely interesting and grounded; she puts huge amounts of energy and thought into all aspects of her music, and isn’t at all pretentious, though she so easily could be. If there’s one set you want to catch at a festival, or one gig to go to in May, its Black Honey’s.