Fantasy and escapism are all well and good, but what happens when you strap in, buckle up and set a course straight to the core of your own cold, hard reality?
For two albums, Brighton quartet Black Honey – firebrand frontwoman Izzy Bee Phillips, guitarist Chris Ostler, bassist Tommy Taylor and drummer Alex Woodward – have been living in a glitter-specked, sepia-tinged magic kingdom of their own making. It’s undeniably served them well. Rising from cult underground favorites on their self-titled 2018 debut through to a genuine breakthrough success story on 2021’s Top 10-charting follow up ‘Written & Directed’, the band have amassed a legion of fans to their constantly shifting canon of fizzing, visceral indie and nostalgia-soaked pop – a following that, in the past year alone, has seen them handpicked to support Liam Gallagher, The Libertines, IDLES, The Vaccines and more, on top of their own sold out headline tour.
Black Honey announce their third studio album ‘A Fistful of Peaches’ due for release on March 17th, 2023 on FoxFive Records. This comes alongside the anthemic, grunge laden new single ‘Heavy’, on which they address the idea of grief. Written on the day the band’s fan club founder passed away from Covid, its reference to Artax’s traumatic death scene in ‘The Neverending Story’ (“Serotonin let us down/ Don’t wanna watch the white horse drown”) feels at once mystical and very real.
“We wrote this song the day I found out the founder of our fan club passed away from Covid-19. We were talking about the weight of grief and the way it holds you down, about the parallels between grief and depression. The weight of mental illness and how it brings you a deeper understanding of grief. There’s always a glimmer of light though and I love how Heavy has that kind glitter darkness. It’s in my nature to become co-dependant and I think in this song I’m reaching for someone to help me climb back out. I talk a bit about the never-ending story as it was my first dialog with death and depression as a child. Watching Artax the horse getting swallowed by the nothing whilst Atreyu screamed helplessly from the edges of a swamp really spoke to me.”Izzy Phillips
‘Heavy’ received its first play on BBC Radio 1 this week ahead of the beautifully shot video being shared. The video was directed by and stars Drag Race UK’s Dakota Schiffer who on the visual has said, “For my directorial debut it was crucial to me that Heavy centred around the themes of trans femininity. A self-portrait of a struggling trans person who’s exterior appears alluring and glamorous but is constructed out of a need for survival. That survival has led many trans people in history to endanger themselves in pursuit of euphoria. The showgirl aesthetic, the location, and the pastel colour pallet puts the creative firmly in a distinct era but everything is not as it appears. Writing the lipstick on the mirror as a reference to Butterfield 8, an infamously misogynistic movie starring Elizabeth Taylor, is the finale to a dreamscape of an evening in which the song narrates perfectly.”
On ‘A Fistful of Peaches’ – Black Honey’s most personal, revealing album yet and a record that embraces every side: the palatable and the monstrous, the hopeful and the pitch black – Izzy suggests, “If the vibe of ‘Written & Directed’ was creating this whole Tarantino world and this safe space of me almost refusing help and saying I was fine, then with this album it’s the opposite. Lockdown had happened, I’d had two years of not writing anything and feeling like my entire purpose had gone down the drain, I’d been in intense therapy which was exhausting, and what came out was just me regurgitating things from my entire life and building my brain cells back to how they should be,” she explains. “I’ve had to be more honest and vulnerable with myself, but I feel like I’d be disservicing anyone who spends their time and passion and energy into this project to not fucking unveil it all.”
Where ‘Written & Directed’ showcased a band able to dip into seemingly disparate genres and pull them together into their own, its follow-up feels more pointed and streamlined. The almighty album opener ‘Charlie Bronson’ and the first track they shared from the album, is possibly the weightiest, most gnarly track the quartet have penned to date. Then came the woozily anthemic ‘Out of My Mind’ showcasing a different side to the band’s capabilities. They are still able to swing from poppier dynamics on ‘Cut The Cord’ into a full on mosh-inducing chorus on ‘Tombstone’, but uniting them all with a more solidified outlook than ever. On the sweeping, Killers soar of ‘OK’, the singer looks outwards to a friend in need, craving a place filled with less worry.
With ‘A Fistful of Peaches’, Black Honey have done something personal, they’ve done something new and they’ve done something brave. Across the record, their third album still rings with the same musical sass that’s seen them easily find a home on the Academy and Arena stages of the country, but it’s also found a new space that’s less indebted to outside influence – to a sort of cultural moodboard of their inspirations – and more just about their real, lived experience in the world.
As Izzy summarises: “Most of this record is me trying to figure out where the line is between normal mental health and when you’re having breakdowns every day that then become part of normal. I thought everyone cried everyday, I thought everyone had traumatic flashbacks and nightmares. This album is like, what the fuck? I didn’t have to have that? It’s like opening a new door to a future that I didn’t think possible, but it’s also soured by the realisation that I had to suffer through so much that I shouldn’t have had to. I don’t know what I’ll make next but it won’t be where I was when I made this.”
As a document of a person and a band in constant development, ‘A Fistful of Peaches’ is Black Honey’s most important one yet.