The year’s been a big one for the blooming, booming sounds of Glasgow duo Honeyblood. The pairing of Stina Tweeddale (vocals, guitar) and Shona McVicar (drums) has seen its sweetly catchy but lyrically caustic indie-rock hook a host of admirers, and the reception to their eponymous debut LP for FatCat (review), recorded stateside with Peter Katis (The National, Sharon Van Etten, Frightened Rabbit), has been unanimously positive.
The band is soon to head out not only on its own headline tour of the UK, but also as a participant on NME’s New Breed jaunt, playing alongside Superfood. They’re busy girls right now – but not so busy that Stina couldn’t take 10 out of her day for a wee catch up.
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It’s been alright for you lately, hasn’t it?
Yeah! I would say so. Everything has shifted, after the release of the album. Since then, things have been different. We’re a lot busier.
Yep, I’ve seen all the touring you’ve got coming up. Is that what you’re in a band to do, most of all: to hit the road, to smash some stages, to stare into the whites of the eyes of the front row?
Definitely. We love touring, and every time we’ve been on the road before has been great fun. We love playing live, and that release that you get from it, as a band. And we love to meet people who are into our music. And so far we’ve been very lucky – we’ve been able to travel to other places in the world, playing our music. It’s amazing to have gone places already that I never thought we’d ever get to go to.
We’ve been to America a couple of times, to play – once as support to We Were Promised Jetpacks, and then again to headline, around the time of the album’s release, on the east coast. We’d never been to America prior to going there to record the album, so it’s great to have these opportunities. We’re going to go back there again, hopefully.
When we were there with Jetpacks, we played some of the less-obvious places – we started in Los Angeles, which was a rather dramatic change from Glasgow, and headed across. We ended up in Milwaukee, which is the coldest place I have ever been – I can’t think of anywhere colder. It was minus 19. We were in Virginia, and I don’t think we ever thought we’d go there – and it was a lovely place. It’s all different, but getting away from the coasts is quite the contrast to playing somewhere like New York. But hopefully we’ll get back to those way-out places.
The album’s reception was really positive. As a group emerging right now, with all of the social media channels available to any band today, was it a case of scrutinising every review that came in, or could you keep some distance?
I mean, it’s very hard to keep your distance, because when you have a responsibility to promote yourself on social media, you will post things that people have written about it. I never posted anything that I’d not read myself. It did get to the point, though, where it was a little overwhelming, all of this analysis of these songs that are so personal to me. You’d read what other people feel about the songs, and sometimes that’s good, as it gives you, as the songwriter, a different perspective on things. Sometimes, I don’t fully realise what I have written down until someone else points it out, and tells me how they feel about it.
But the response the album’s had has been amazing. When you join, or form a band, the dream is always to record and release an album. So, for us to have done that, and to get a great response, is that dream come true.
I felt like it was an album that enjoyed some decent word-of-mouth support. I’d see friends of mine talking about it, tweeting about it – but I don’t think I ever saw it get the Hard Sell, from a PR perspective. It just sort of grew quite naturally into a record I wanted to hear – so I went and heard it, without that pressure of feeling like I needed to…
I think that was definitely the case. And to see that was a pleasant surprise. I actually couldn’t be happier with how it’s all worked out.
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And as for how people have received it, and written about it, presumably it’s important to you, as the lyricist, that the prickliness of the wordplay has been commented on alongside the sweetness of the arrangements? There is a streak of bitterness in there…
Yeah there is. I guess, on my part, some of that comes across from me – and if you’re listening to it, that makes sense. But there’s nothing on there that’s really shocking. I just feel like, well… I don’t know. Take a song like ‘Killer Bangs’: some people have written about that, saying it’s this big break-up song, a love story – but the song’s about Shona, so that’s a bit weird for me to see that. A love story? Eww, not really! Stuff like that.
But a lot of the lyrics do come partly embellished, and I think you have to do that. Personally, I want that imagination in there, on a song like ‘Super Rat’. Although the songs that are written for my friends, those are written from their perspectives, so there is a mixture of that and my own angle on things. The only song that I can say is pure fiction is ‘Choker’, which is written about a short story.
Are you someone whose favourite music is the stuff that’s born from darkness? From the more moody end of the pop spectrum?
I am, absolutely. My favourite lyricist is Morrissey, which kind of makes sense, doesn’t it? I think it’s amazing to be able to touch people with your material. We had a guy come up to us when we were in America, and he said: “Your song ‘Super Rat’ means so much to me… My girlfriend dumped me on Valentine’s Day, and it expresses just how I feel.” I was really happy that our song had touched him. And my personal experience is that I’ve had songs help me get through things in my life, and I’d like to hope that our album might help people in the same way. If it did, I’d be overjoyed. I felt sorry for that guy, but was happy that we could help him out.
On the recording of the album, it evidently captures the spark, the fire, of the band’s live performances. Which some bands can lose on a first album, especially recording in unfamiliar environments. It’s pop structured, but not pop glossed, isn’t it?
That’s precisely what we were going for actually. That’s very accurate. The reason that it feels that way might be because of the short time frame we had to make it in. We recorded 13 songs in 10 days, which is quite a feat if you think about it. We explained to Peter prior to going over there that we wanted to retain that live feel, and wanted the record to be as polished as possible without losing that quality. So we recorded the drums and guitar live, often without a click track, so that helped keep that live essence, how we sound on stage.
I was really happy with how it came out – and doing it the way we did, that was how we managed to get through a full 13 songs in the time. Obviously, it would have been nice to have more time, but we used the time we had well.
You’re away from home, playing in Leeds, when the voting for the Scottish Referendum takes place on September 18th. Have you made your mind up already?
Shona and I, we’re voting yes, for independence. NME asked us this too, the other day, and I think they were a bit shocked by us saying yes! Our label is in Brighton, our management in London, so I hope Scotland becoming independent doesn’t affect us in any way! Although knowing FatCat’s reputation for working with Scottish bands, they’ll probably move up to Glasgow. But yes, we’re away for the vote, so are doing so through the post.
And after all the touring’s done, we’ll be getting on for Christmas. What’s in store?
I don’t really know yet. The NME tour takes us through into November, and after that, hopefully, we’ll have some other shows. Just a lot more touring, really. That’s what we want to be doing. And then we’ll hope to record something new at the beginning of 2015.
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Words: Mike Diver
Photo: Laura Coulson
Honeyblood are online here. See them live as follows (deep breath):
11th – Tolbooth, Stirling
12th – PJ Molloys, Dumfermline
13th – CCA, Glasgow
16th – Cluny 2, Newcastle
17th – Bungalow and Bears, Sheffield
18th – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
19th – Soup Kitchen, Manchester
20th – Southsea Festival, Portsmouth
22nd – Louisiana, Bristol
23rd – Sebright Arms, London
24th – Portland Arms, Cambridge
25th – Scholar Bar, Leicester
26th – Hare and Hounds 2, Birmingham
27th – The Hope, Brighton
31st – The Oobleck, Birmingham *
1st – King Tuts, Glasgow *
3rd – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds *
4th – Epic Studios, Norwich *
5th – o2 Academy, Oxford *
6th – Deaf Institute, Manchester *
10th – Louisiana, Bristol *
11th – Dingwalls, London *
12th – The Haunt, Brighton *
* NME New Breed Tour w/ Superfood