Meet cinematically minded alt.rock Brit stars Black Honey: one eye on Courtney Love and another on Tarantino movies

Black Honey group shot
(Image credit: Foxfive Records)

Imagine a band that would soundtrack a Quentin Tarantino film with a powerful female lead and you’re halfway to Black Honey – the Brighton four-piece currently injecting alt.rock and indie with camp glamour and cult cinema vibes, creating a spin on rock that’s all their own. 

“I love heavy rock music, but I wanted to take that and repurpose it with more of a female lens,” says Black Honey’s singer and guitarist Izzy Baxter Phillips. “I’ve always felt like rock music has such binary rules – like it’s not been for young women. But this is for us as well.” 

Black Honey formed in Brighton just over a decade ago, with the original band members meeting at university. They released their self-titled debut album in 2018, but, as Phillips explains, they weren’t happy with it. 

“We didn’t get it right,” she says. “It nearly broke the band, so once we made [second album, 2021’s] Written & Directed, that was like, fuck, we made something that we wanted to make.” 

The title of Written & Directed was an homage to one of the band’s inspirations, Quentin Tarantino. “I always thought, wouldn’t it be amazing to have a rock band but like a Tarantino version?” Phillips says, on her love of the cult US filmmaker. David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick are also favourites of hers.

“I like cult movies and hammy horror in general,” she says. “As a kid I spent a lot of time alone, and one of my main companions was the TV. I use films a lot to soothe when I’m anxious, and I think it gets absorbed into my world through that.”

Completed by guitarist Chris Ostler, bassist Tommy Taylor and drummer Alex Woodward, Black Honey’s whole aesthetic is incredibly cinematic. For their new, third album A Fistful Of Peaches, which came out earlier this year, they created seven stylish music videos, each one feeling like it could be a movie. 

There’s Out Of My Mind, set in an eerie pastel prom world evoking Stephen King’s Carrie (if it had starred Courtney Love); Heavy, which features Dakota Schiffer from Ru Paul’s Drag Race as a faded glamour pin-up; and Charlie Bronson, where Black Honey play in a boxing ring surrounded by female bodybuilders with fake eyelashes.

“When you give things a cinema feeling, it feels magical,” Phillips says. “You don’t want to live in the real world, you want to live in the fantasy world, the cinema version with the neon lights and the flashing motel signs, you want to solve the crime and be the hero. Or be the villain! That’s a world that I want to disappear into.” 

The title A Fistful Of Peaches also nods to classic cinema; the 1964 spaghetti western A Fistful of Dollars. Lyrically it finds Phillips digging deeper than on any of Black Honey’s previous albums. 

“The third time around, I knew what I was aiming for a bit more,” Izzy explains. “I was also on a post-pandemic mission of exploding with feelings, just overflowing with them, so I needed to place them somewhere. I tried to take away any goals, and just go into the studio and think about what I was feeling. If it’s something that feels uncomfortable to talk about, then it’s good.” 

Perhaps the most raw track is I’m A Man, in which the singer/guitarist takes on the persona of a man committing sexual assault.

“I think [I’m A Man] helped me deal with processing my own experiences, and [I was inspired] by Kurt Cobain’s Polly,” she explains. “I wondered what it would be like if I took that approach with my nuanced experience of having spent the life in a body of a woman. It’s hard to listen to, but I’m proud of that song. 

“And,” she adds, “it feels really fucking good to just scream ‘consent’.” 

While Phillips admits that there is work to be done, she feels as though the music scene is changing more to make space for women like her to express themselves. 

“I met Florence Welch at a festival once, and she was talking about how when she started out there was only one slot for a woman at every festival,” she remembers. 

“I feel the space is more open now for younger women coming through. There’s so much better representation already. It’s like I’m watching culture change in front of me in a way that I fucking needed it to. 

Welch also had some advice: “I’d said to Florence, ‘I don’t fit into the rock world enough, I’m too camp, and I don’t feel like I fit into the pop world either.’ She said, ‘If you don’t fit in anywhere, then you’re doing something right.’”

Hannah May Kilroy

Hannah May Kilroy has been writing about music professionally for over a decade, covering everything from extreme metal to country. She was deputy editor at Prog magazine for over five years, and previously worked on the editorial teams at Terrorizer and Kerrang!. She currently works as the production editor for The Art Newspaper, and also writes for the Guardian, Classic Rock and Metal Hammer.