Babes Never Die: Honeyblood interviewed
We speak to Honeyblood's Stina Tweeddale and Cat Myers about the dreaded second album syndrome, drawing inspiration from Britpop, and the meaning behind the mantra Babes Never Die
“It was David Bowie who said you should always be just outside of your comfort zone when you’re creating stuff, and now I know how that feels. This is the first time I’ve really felt like that. I don’t really get nervous on stage, but last night I was very nervous before we went on.”
The Skinny has caught up with Scottish duo Honeyblood in Glasgow’s intimate haunt The Hug & Pint, just a few hours before they're due to take the stage. Tonight’s show is only the second in a string of UK dates, with Stina Tweeddale and Cat Myers on the road to promote their new album Babes Never Die. As the pair calm their nerves with whiskey – and the chat briefly deviates to a discussion on the correct pronunciation of the brand Jameson – Tweeddale expands on her reservations: “We have done everything new. We have played new material, we have new gear, a new show, now we have new lights…”
“It’s very different to the old Honeyblood, basically,” chimes in Myers, who joined the band in 2014 after the departure of drummer Shona McVicar.
You may be wondering why, after the success of Honeyblood’s self-titled debut release, the two would so willingly seek to alter the blueprint? In the short space of time that has elapsed since Honeyblood was released in 2014, the duo have clocked up an intimidatingly impressive résumé of shows that has seen them play the likes of The Great Escape, T in the Park and SxSW, as well as support slots for Palma Violets, Belle & Sebastian, and Foo Fighters at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh last year.
Following-up on Honeyblood
As Tweeddale explains, Babes Never Die is the product of a refocused energy that reflects the new writing partnership: “Musically, we wanted it to have more of an urgency. The first album was very shoegazey, and quite dreamy. We wanted to be attacking and quite high-octane. Lots of drums. Because that’s what our live show is like now!
“The first album was written without me even thinking that anyone would ever hear it,” she continues, laughing. “I wrote it to play in my bedroom, and then put some gigs on. But this album obviously started off with, ‘Oh shit, now we have to do a follow-up’. It’s the whole second album syndrome – you want to progress, you want to do better, you still want to keep that integrity that your band has developed… but then you’ve got a completely different writing partner and you’re trying to morph the band into a different place.”
This different place has resulted in a super-charged, 12-track assemblage of songs that retain the caustic wit, sugared melodies and 90s nostalgia that made their first release so appealing. But this time, the riffs are fuzzier, the lyrics are spikier and the drumbeats fall with ever-increasing insistence. Recorded at London’s Fish Factory studio with acclaimed producer James Dring (Jamie T/ Gorillaz) at the helm, Babes Never Die wears its anthemic mantra on its sleeve, with the duo sounding markedly more formidable than before. The new album also reveals what are, perhaps, some of Honeyblood’s more unexpected inspirations.
Myers begins: “Before we jammed Love Is A Disease, Stina just had a marathon day of staying in a house just listening to Blur.
“I was supposed to be doing work,” Tweeddale admits sheepishly. “She [Myers] phoned me, like, ‘How’s it going?’ and I said, ‘Oh, I’ve just been listening to Blur all day.’ A Blur hole! That’s what it was. So I’m sitting like, 'Gotta write this song, gotta finish this song, cos we’re in rehearsals tomorrow and I want it to be done by then.' I was just under my table, lying down listening to Blur for eight hours.
“That’s a very thing strange to do,” she admits. “But I do think that sometimes you can get so wrapped up in your own music, that the best thing to do is listen to someone else’s. That’s what happened, and Love Is A Disease was born.”
On Babes Never Die
With titles like Sea Hearts, Love is a Disease and Ready For the Magic, the songs on Babes Never Die reflect a self-assured mentality, and an overarching narrative that conjures an image of an army of strong, brave, take-no-prisoners women. Tweeddale agrees: “The first album is a collection of songs, over a long period of time. There’s hardly any consistency between them all. This one, they were written in a really short period of time, but every single song links into the next one.
“The whole album’s got a sort of imagery that goes all the way through, which includes all the videos and the artwork and everything. It’s pretty much just a big, witchy horror movie!”
Just don’t pigeon-hole Honeyblood as yet another retro-act mimicking the riot grrrl bands of the 90s: “There are a lot of bands that intentionally go down that route. I don’t think we do it intentionally,” Tweeddale confirms. “We get the riot grrrl thing, there is influence from it, but it’s not technically what the music is. I think we’re more of a 90s Britpop band now. It’s like a mixture between Britpop and pop-punk.” They both laugh.
Finally, we discuss that assertively affirmative album title. “I really didn’t think it was going to become an album title,” Tweeddale muses. “It was kind of a joke, in a way.
“I always think it’s so much better to have something to say and be passionate either way on something, than just sit on the fence,” she says after a pause. “That’s kind of where the whole idea of it comes from. The ‘never die’ bit, I guess, is like, you’ve got to have self-respect, that’s number one. No matter if anyone’s going to tell you you’re shit, or your music’s shit, or whatever. Just know where you’re going yourself.”
Babes Never Die is released via FatCat on 4 Nov; Honeyblood play St Luke's, Glasgow on 8 Dec