Izzy B. Phillips curls up in the corner of the diner booth sporting dungarees and a Quentin Tarantino tee. Fresh from a soundcheck, she laments her decision to write such high vocals into new single ‘Midnight’. “Mate, it’s so hard to sing. We started playing it live a lot in March, and I’m only just getting my head around it now.” This is the second time Black Honey has graced Sheffield since then, as part of an aggressive touring circuit. The songstress has a fondness for the city. “We’ve had relentless support from here. It was my second favourite place on the last tour for the crowd reaction.”
This tour, in particular, has the air of a victory lap following the release of their acclaimed debut album Black Honey; a short-but-heady cocktail of catchy hooks and powerful lyrics. I suggest to Phillips that we explore themes of melancholy and toxicity in her songwriting. “I’m always looking for ways to describe the album… I’m gonna steal that and tell everyone that’s what it’s about!” She describes her Tarantino-inspired creative ethos, explaining “I love the idea of making yourself a villain rather than the victim… I want it to feel action-packed, have a thrill to it, or a sad reflective moment. It’s got to have cinematic undertones.” And though the lyrics fall to her, she is quick to dispel any ideas that this is ‘The Izzy Show’. “It so fucking isn’t. I couldn’t function without my band.”
Nevertheless, it is her rich, seductive voice that commands each track. Phillips cites vocal inspirations such as Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star and Amy Winehouse, saying “I love old souls who are tortured. I want to hear the torture in someone’s voice, and see the beauty, fragility and strength in that at the same time.”
In many ways, not least their Brighton origins, Black Honey’s path is reminiscent of bass-and-drums rock duo Royal Blood. Their similarly-eponymous first album was also lauded for its short, lean and well-produced track list. Suggesting this to Phillips reveals a deeper connection. “’Into The Nightmare’ was written with Mike [Kerr]! He cuts the fat off everything, knows exactly how, in the purest way, to make a track the best version of that track and how to direct the listener’s attention to the right thing. He spent ages talking to me about the exact placement of a snare – I’ve never heard someone so obsessed with the placement of a snare. It’s borderline genius.” She admits that her songs are unavoidably short – “I’ve got a really short attention span!” and informs me she switches off from conversations around the four-minute mark. I check my watch nervously.
Black Honey’s 2018 might have been a whirlwind of success, but it hasn’t yet been lucrative. “I can say I’ve been to Japan and graced the pages of Vogue magazine, but I’ve yet to give myself my first paycheck!” Rewards have come in other forms though. Phillips is visibly moved as she describes the influence her art has had on young fans. “I’ve had a few letters from little girls around the world saying, ‘I’m 14, I love you because your music makes me feel ok to be myself’. You touch somebody’s heart at that level of depth, and you want that again and again. It’s an addiction.”
There’s no denying the band’s big ambitions. “I want to tour the world and write songs with loads of people,” Phillips says. “I want my music to touch the hearts of people around the world.” Through the biker jackets, punchy riffs and defiant lyrics, it is her presence that anchors and even defines the band’s nostalgic aesthetic. It’s one that the industry sorely needs.
Image: Paul Hudson