On a rather chilly Thursday lockdown evening I got the opportunity to sit over Zoom with the warm, vibrant and beautiful Izzy B Phillips from the badass band Black Honey. We talked new music, tour life, bus discos and so much more.
The four piece band announced their next album ‘Written & Directed’ will be released in January 2021, and we’re hopeful this will be the soundtrack to a busy and prosperous year for the band. We checked in with Izzy to see how they have been getting on following the announcement of their new album. “We’re just stoked that we’ve got this amazing record under our belt. We’ve started dropping all the content from it, and I’m really proud of what we’ve made. I feel maybe we needed this time (lockdown) away from the tour to review and reflect. I think a lot of people are like that. I’m lucky because I’ve got a wicked family set up. With a lot of people are dying right now, and I think it’s quite a privileged position to be in”.
The new album was not only finished and created pre-lockdown, there was also a prediction into what life is now. “We finished the album last February. I think if I’d been sat here now, and we hadn’t of finished it, I’d be going insane. The weirdest thing about it is I’ve written a song on the record called Disinfect, and it literally predicted the entire situation. “Disinfect the disaffected, we’re just a virus addicted to the violence” . We felt it was insensitive at the time, as we were planning on putting it out just as COVID first broke out Black Lives Matter happened. We felt it felt wrong. It is annoying, because everyone’s gonna be like, oh my God, you guys wrote a song about the pandemic”.
I have been lucky enough to see Black Honey’s debut album live, and it’s an essential album for me. I asked Izzy how she would compare the upcoming album to their debut. “Our first album felt trickier because we left it so long to build up to that moment. And there was a big expectation on what we were creating. Now I think f*ck everyone, we’re just gonna do it how we want to”.
As a Black Honey fan, I was hyped with all the new social media content creating a buzz surrounding the next album. It screamed Tarentino aesthetic, and I was interested to know if that was a visual influence for the band. “100%. We didn’t know the album title when we went in to make it. I’ve always been obsessed with cinema. All of our videos, all my style represents cinema, everything in my world is a reflection on my obsession with cinema. We went in with this framework of; where would you see the song in a film? I hate doing album titles, it’s quite a nerve racking thing where I don’t feel attached to some.‘Written and Directed’ by Black Honey feels so cliche that it’s perfect. I just can’t believe no one’s made that as an album title so far.”
In the first easing of lockdown Signature Brew celebrated DIY Magazines 100th issue with a socially distanced gig. “The gig was f*****g amazing. This one we had no idea how it was going to work. Everyone had benches and tables, and there was this beautiful sunset outside this brewery. And for me, It was like wow we’re back doing what we love”.
I have had the pleasure of seeing Black Honey at my local music venue, Bedford Esquires (a sold out, beer filled gig seems a lifetime ago!) and Izzy told us why these Independent Music Venues are so vital and important. “Do you ever get it when sometimes you have to disassociate because it’s so painful? The other day our manager sent us this article, and it was a list of every venue that’s under a level of threat of closing, and it was every venue that we’ve played for the last five years. These are places that are home to bands for most of their career. You wouldn’t have any stadium artists, without places like Bedford Esquires”.
I asked Izzy about festival season and the bands top festival moments, of which it was lovely to reminisce about trudging those in those festival fields.
“We loved all of the classics. You can’t not like playing Glastonbury. I love playing festivals in different countries where you get to see the magic of a different city. There’s an unbelievable festival called Rock Werchter. It’s like the Glastonbury of Europe, it’s amazing. The mainstage is one of the biggest mainstage crowds like I’ve ever seen. We were on the smallest stage and there was still like, thousands and thousands, of people there. I think we were watching Yungblud with Lewis Capaldi, drunk at the side of the stage”.
With HATC being run by woman it’s important to have female role models to speak out about equal opportunities for women in the music industry. “At present, there isn’t equal opportunities. I don’t walk around going like, wow, like, it’s so hard. I acknowledge I have privilege, I am a southern, white, educated, prettyish person, and that entails its own privilege. I think it’s important to acknowledge the intersections and not just to be like, ‘waaa, I’m a woman, I’m hard done by.’ I think it’s important to be like, ‘I am a woman with a position that can help other people, and bring marginalised people’s perspectives to the forefront’. Things ain’t equal right now, but I’m gonna f*****g kick those doors in where I can to make it better for everybody”.
When it comes to mental health Izzy explains “I remember thinking when I was a child going through this that I was alone, and that I was the only person in the world with it, because nobody spoke about it. I’m in a place where I can choose to address my mental health issues in a controlled way. I think it’s important to acknowledge that a lot of my mental health problems stemmed from my learning difficulties. I’ve got quite bad dyslexia, and I’ve got ADHD as well but I’m not one for labels. I think we should normalise that bad mental health is normal. We should all just be a lot kinder to each other, and stop undermining and devaluing, and denying people the right to their own sanity”.
“If you want to talk about it, talk to your friends, talk to your parents, talk to family. Sometimes when I see people talking about their childhood trauma or whatever on the internet it can be extremely triggering, but it’s also very healing to people, and I wouldn’t ever want to stop them from doing it. But what I’d love to see is people have conversations that they are having on the internet with their loved ones in person, on the phone, and face to face. It’s almost easier to go on your Instagram and say, oh, I’m struggling now, and you can frame it in a way that still makes you look cool. What I need is for someone just to be like, come on, you need a fucking hug, a cup of hot chocolate, and you need to talk to the people you love. Conversation is like the most valid thing in all of this”.
With 2020 feeling like a write off we asked Izzy what she hopes is in store for 2021. “There’s more music and videos that are going to drop. We also have a live concept of sorts that’s in the pipe line, including a behind the scenes film, so there’s a lot to finish”. We can’t wait to hopefully see the band back on stage performing their new album next year.
‘Written and Directed’ is released 29th of January 2021.
Words: Bronte Evans
Flyte (Will Taylor, Jon Supran, Nick Hill) have this magical nature to capture perfection in every single track they release. From the sublime harmonies, poetic and thoughtful lyricism, or dynamic instrumentation, they just get it right every time.
This year has been a perplexing one yet one where my admiration for Flyte has taken off. I dipped my toe in with a few singles such as ‘Cathy Come Home’ and ‘Echo’s’ back in 2017 when ‘The Loved Ones’ was released, but I threw myself into the album during lockdown and don’t think I’ve pressed paused since.
The three latest singles, including ‘I’ve Got A Girl’ have an element of wearing your heart on your sleeve. It is pure emotional storytelling from an autobiographical point of view, something I think we can expect more in the album that’s expected in early 2021
At Head Above The Clouds, mental wellbeing is at the heart of what we do, and I couldn’t think of a better band chat to about lockdown, mental health, and new music. Will Taylor from Flyte took the time to answer these questions….
M: What has the dynamic of being in a band been like during lockdown?
W: It’s made us stronger somehow. We didn’t know it, but physical time apart was maybe what we needed after years of staring each other in the face on a daily basis. We’re communicating better now.
M: How’s your mental health been this year?
W: Oh, it’s been bloody awful.
M: You seem to wear your heart on your sleeve lyrically, how does it feel to release music that is so personal to you?
W: It feels new. I was always trying to write frankly and emotionally, but in the past, I would obscure it, keep it broad and poetic, tell other people’s stories. This new record is completely autobiographical and it’s not pulling any punches. It’s cathartic and it’s terrifying in equal measure.
M: You wrote a lot of music during the first lockdown this year, tell me about that experience.
W: That was an early lockdown experiment between the band and some of our amazing writer friends. Jess from the Staves, Jade Bird, Anna B Savage, Will Rees from the Mystery Jets. The challenge was to write 20 songs in 20 days. We were all locked in our flats and had zero excuses not to write each day and miraculously, everybody pulled through with something beautiful every single day. It was a really rare moment.
M: Have you ever had messages from fans about your songs? Have they helped people cope with life experiences or their mental health?
W: When you hear you’re actually helping people get over bereavement, or you’ve played a significant role in a relationship starting, confronted people’s issues with food, depression, addiction- honestly, it’s the only currency you need to keep going. When we’re ever down about ourselves, one message coming in from someone like that literally solves everything.
M: We have had Easy Tiger, Losing You, and I’ve Got A Girl so far from your latest body of work, what vibe can we expect from the album, is this a breakup soundtrack?
W: It is absolutely a breakup album yes. It was written last year after the end of an eight-year relationship. Listening back to it, it’s almost like a concept album- it starts at day one of the relationship ending and then drags you through every subsequent stage of emotion. Jealousy, anger, shame, acceptance, rebirth. It flings you all over the place.
M: Musician/ band recommendation this month?
W: Big Thief
M: Is there another single this year? What can you tell me about it?
W: Yes, one final single for Christmas. A song I wrote when I was 14 called Never Get To Heaven.
M: A song that hits you deeply emotionally, why?
W: For the Roses, Joni Mitchell. It’s such a sad, poignant glimpse into the life of a recording artist. It’s so rare that singers can pull off a song about their own line of business. But of course, if anyone can do it, it’s Joni
M: A song that makes you feel a million times better, why?
W: Islands in the Stream by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. It just lifts you out of your seat. It is pure joy, no sadness, no grit in the oyster, just actual joy.
M: Gigging on people’s doorsteps? Will there be more?
W: Oh yes. It’s an innately Love Actually, Christmas thing to be doing and December will be seeing a lot more doorsteps visited
M: How does performing live make you feel?
W: Oh god. It entirely depends. It’s never a middling experience. It’s either the worst or the best thing that’s ever happened to you
M: 3 things you couldn’t live without during lockdown?
W: Booze I’m afraid, gardening and my guitar
M: Where do you see yourself and Flyte in 2021?
W: Well hopefully we’ll be touring this fabulous new album across a Covid free world
Words: Meg Atkinson
We had the pleasure of speaking to English singer/songwriter Jade Bird to find out about her new single ‘Headstart’, her self-care tips, and what we can expect for her in 2021. Jade joined us from Austin, Texas where she has recently moved.
“I moved here because for me and my partner we eeally just wanted to explore a little bit while we’re young, kind of as innocent as that. It’s just something you got to do when you’re 23, just explore, if that’s what you want to do if your life.” Jade is no stranger to travelling around having lived in many places growing up including South Wales and Germany, we were keen to find out if this had any significant impact on her musical style. “I think it was my family relationships in those circumstances more so than Germany itself. My parents were divorcing while we were there, and my Dad was in the army. I think that definitely inspired me more, in a really kind of morbid way, it inspired me more to write more than anything else I think.”
Music was always a ‘calling’ for Jade and something she started experiencing at a young age. “At seven, I started free piano lessons in school, which is why I feel so passionately about music lessons for kids, because my mum couldn’t afford that, and that’s why I started. Then when I was twelve, a family friend had an acoustic guitar, I use to play that a lot, and I was absolutely transfixed. I just sat on the dining room floor, and just drilled the chords until I could write, and put my words down to melody, it was just so freeing and so amazing”.
2019 saw the release of Jade’s self titled debut album, which she followed with a laborious touring schedule. She supported Hozier and The Lumineers, played a string of festivals over the Summer, toured in the UK and Ireland, and all-over North America and Canada. In what must have been both an extremely exciting but also tiresome time. “ I think touring was always a dream, and I pretty much did it for four years. It was only right at the end I got a bit like wow; this is a lot. I’m trying to work out now the self-involved nature of it, I find a little bit tiresome like me me me. I think lockdown has helped us all grow in that way, I’ve noticed a lot of artists talking about that, talking about their friends or their family, things like that instead of it being such a self-involved generation, with social media. I mean touring is my first love in a way, so I think I’ll always obviously do it”
Everyone needs their downtime, their escape, even moreso when you’ve being on the road for almost the entirety of 2019. Jade shared with us some things that help her to stay grounded and present. “It’s kind of interesting because right at the end I was finding it really difficult. There’s a few consolations, mainly because you get throat problems because of the psychology of it, so you think you’re tired, and then if your throat goes it’s like your mind and body are super connected in that way. I’ve been on a flight back from a gig I couldn’t do because I couldn’t sing, and then I get home and I’m fine. You can imagine how frustrating that it for someone that likes to work hard, and someone that wants to feel sane. But self-care tips, I meditate a lot, I do TM (Transcendental Meditation) a lot, and I switched that in lockdown to running. If I run it does the same thing for me (as TM). Without them two things I will admit it can get pretty dark.”
With lockdown putting a pause on the live music sector, it’s meant that artists such as Jade are having to push back their tours further and further. “It’s kind of a nightmare, Shepards Bush I’ve had to push back like 4 times at this point, it’s absolute chaos. I just tried to do a session in Nashville, and someone came back with a positive test, so we all had to pull it, COVID is a nightmare.” On the other hand, lockdown has allowed her to focus on getting the next album done. “The only benefit I would say is going to America to record the album. We had to go through Mexico for two weeks, and although I was locked up in the apartment for two weeks, I managed to write half my album there.”
Early November saw the release of Jade’s latest single ‘Headstart’. Recorded in the iconic RCA studios, it was put together by powerhouse producer Dave Cobb, who has worked with the likes of Prince and Lady GaGa. “Headstart is about liking someone who doesn’t like you back, and you being like wow, they spelt it out pretty obviously! But on a deeper level, it was the first word I wrote in my new notebook for my new album. I wrote it in upstate New York in this little cabin and I sat and I just kind of turned the page and there it was, and then the riff came, and it all started falling together. Headstart feels way more like a clearing in the clouds, and it feels ways more like a mantra for 2021.” ‘Headstart’ has been receiving amazing feedback, with over half a million Spotify streams already. It was even picked as Radio 1 legend Annie Mac’s ‘Hottest Record in the World’. “It’s weird because I remember finding Courtney Barnett, and I remember driving up the drive in my house in Wales when I was like fifteen years old, and I remember him coming on the radio, it was ‘Pedestrian at Best’, and I remember sitting there next to my mum and being like no no no I don’t want to go in the house, and just turning it up, and it was Annie Mac! I remember just being like wow. It really had a huge effect on me hearing that song on that station. So I guess for me it’s just indescribably cool”.
After exploring some of Jade’s self-care tips, we were interested to ask what she think can be done more to raise awareness surrounding mental health, “I think people with long term mental health issues, I wish there was more discussion on people who are trying to support them, and the fact that it’s more of a lifelong thing, as opposed to it will go overnight. I really wish there was some more talk about long term depression and the fact that you will have ups and downs. I think we’d be doing a lot if we were a bit more honest about that, and using more platforms in more ways. That’s what I would love because I feel like if you get false hope that you’re going to be fine forever after you’ve got through a bump, I feel that’s almost kind worse. I think the people who are going through it are so strong and should be made to feel like that. It’s a long-term illness in a way. I just think they’re the strongest people I know, I feel like any support, any more support would be a great thing.”
Music is an important piece in all our lives, whether you play, produce or just listen, it can instantly be a mood lifter. Putting on your favourite album and dancing around can contribute to a positive mental state. “Shania Twain, I put on that record and I’m like here we go, I absolutely adore her!”. Jade’s strong work ethic hasn’t been diminished by lockdown, and she has somebig plans for 2021. “You can expect an album, at some point next year, it’s finished it’s just a case of when we put it out. You can expect a video or two hopefully. I really pray to expect a tour, otherwise, I’m going to be playing a lot of computer games, so we’ll see how it all pans outs.”
We look forward to hearing Jade Bird’s second album and hope to see her back on the road very soon.
Words: Eloise Adger