Even in a group environment, there is usually one person who takes control and ensures things move forward. Honeyblood have never been the most conventional of acts and on third album ‘In Plain Sight’, Stina Tweeddale is back, with the spotlight firmly on her. We caught up with her to discuss the new album, going it alone and how far she has come since the band’s early days.
Are you ready for months of questions about who the songs are about and what happened with Cat?
Yes, it’s alright, I’m prepared!
You’re on a new record label and you’re more front and centre than you’ve ever been – is this a clean slate for you?
I think it is. I didn’t even think about that, there have been a lot of changes in my life recently. I think people know what the deal with Cat was, if you care about someone, you let them go. Cat had an incredible opportunity with Mogwai, and that has led on to other stuff. It was best for Honeyblood and for Cat for her to go and do her thing.
It’s scary but it has been so liberating for me, having Honeyblood as my own thing. Maybe calling it a band was a delusion of grandeur, it wasn’t really was it?
I really like the idea and majesty of a band though.
Yeah, me too, I love that. I always wanted to be in a band, I never wanted to be a solo performer. When I started, I was writing songs but I was wanting to play the bass and do backing vocals, not be front and centre but that’s how it turned out and you can’t ask others to live your life for you. It’s like, I want Cat to achieve the best with her career and I want to do that too, so I wouldn’t sit and wait for her to finish her own thing. And she was the same for me, there’s the best of intentions for each other.
Last year you racked up a few solo shows and you had a collaboration with Carla J Easton – did that free up possibilities for the new record?
Yeah, do you know, Carla was one of the first people I spoke to about the solo thing. She was sitting in my house and the same thing happened with Teen Canteen, where the drummer had a baby, so they’re on hiatus and Carla went out by herself. She was telling me about being in full control of what you’re doing and you don’t have to wait for anyone else and it sounded positive.
It was interesting to have the perspective of someone I know who had done that in her career, and successfully as well. Her new record is brilliant.
How nervous were you before the lead track ‘ The Third Degree’ was released and how do you feel the response has been?
I’m always nervous when the first song comes out because it’s the first taste of the album for other people. I know what the album sounds like but no one else does, so it’s a nervous time.
I was a bit worried because Babes Never Die was such a rock guitar driven record whereas this new record doesn’t play on those rock traits as much. I didn’t want to do that anymore and I wasn’t sure what people would think. The feedback has been really good and it’s always lovely to have 6 Music on side, that was really nice. It’s been really positive so far.
‘Glimmer’ and ‘Gibberish’ seem to be the tracks that long-term Honeyblood fans will latch on to most readily, while there will be plenty of surprises in store. Have you always had an evolution of sound in mind?
Yes, there’s a one-word answer! Definitely, even before I started writing the first album or Babes Never Die, I wanted to make a record that was based on our live show and which showcased a rock band. When I started writing this record, one of my aims was making guitars not sound like that classic guitar sound.
I wanted to do something a bit different, so sonically, I went in with these aims and things I can build on and through the process it was going well, and it was my opportunity to do something a bit different. It became a bit of a free for all, so I started branching out. I bought a piano and the synths came in, and that allowed me to do something different.
Songs like ‘Glimmer’ and ‘Gibberish’, which may be more traditional Honeyblood songs, came in the first batch and then songs like You’re A Trick, which are a bit more out there, came in the next batch of songs.
‘You’re A Trick’ and ‘Twisting The Aces’ seem to take your sound to very different places, how was the recording process for these songs?
For those two songs, it was surprisingly easy and it came together quickly. In fact, we recorded the whole album in nine days. That’s how John (Congleton, producer) works.
John works speedy, I’ve never met anyone who works as fast as him. He was like “whatever comes to you straight off the bat, that’s fine, let’s lay that down.” At the end of it, we had 12 days booked so we had three days left! I was texting him asking can I come in and redo that vocal or this guitar and he was coming back to me saying, “no, go away, stop worrying about it”.
It made me think that doing a record doesn’t have to be perfect or planned meticulously, it is about a performance at the end of the day. There should be times when it’s easy to put it down because it is creatively me doing it, it should come from a natural place, as opposed to being this hugely planned thing.
There appears to have been a lot of people fucking you over in the build-up to the writing process for the record, are you going to have to look at finding a new set of friends?
Oh no, they’re all fine, they know me well enough! Someone asked me was it the same ex-boyfriend you’ve had from Super Rat and I was like no, it’s new people.
Also, I like to write things for other people, it’s not always my own personal perspective. I like to be that little voice in people’s heads where they think things but maybe don’t say them, and I’ll say it for them. That’s why ‘The Third Degree’ was written, I wrote that for my best friend. You never know though, sometimes you look back on lyrics and think that’s really relevant to me now.
Sometimes in life, not just with songs, the advice you give to others is probably the advice you want or need to give to yourself?
Yeah, maybe I should take my own advice a bit more then!
Have you given much thought to the mix of old and new songs in the upcoming tours?
Yes I have, I’ve made a setlist already but I’m still taking requests. It’s nice to hear about album tracks that people really love and then I’m like, oh yeah, I forgot about that. I now have three albums worth of stuff to pick from, and that’s a lot! I’m maybe going to change it up a bit as we move along. Also, with the band I’ll maybe have some more freedom to play stuff that I haven’t played before.
It’ll be an equal spread I think, so something for everyone.
Festival season is looming, any tips for people heading along?
For festivals, the thing I usually do is bring hand-gel. See if you’re standing in a queue or you are waiting about, I always bring it, share it out, it makes people’s hands all sparkly and it brings people together and spreads the joy!
In 2014, you played two sets at Stag & Dagger and now in 2019, you’re a headliner. Is that a good reminder of how far you’ve come and perhaps set new goals for you?
Yeah totally, I never even thought about that. We played twice in 2014, the first gig in a hairdressers’, that I don’t think exists any more. That was a solo set. I remember it being absolutely sweaty as well.
It was dangerously overcrowded. It was fun at the time…
Yeah, and then we played Broadcast. As did Courtney Barnett, imagine that now, Courtney playing Broadcast! We also did the ABC for Stag & Dagger the next year and I remember Thurston Moore was on after us and I was just blown away.
And that was just from his feedback…
Yeah, ha, no, just because he was hanging about and I was like, it’s Thurston Moore!
This year we’re headlining. Yeah, it totally is, it’s a pretty big thing, it stares you in the face doesn’t it? I’m excited about Stag & Dagger, think I’ve been to every single one, it’s a great day out.
As said, Honeyblood play Stag & Dagger on Sunday 5th of May. New album ‘In Plain Sight’ is released on Friday 24th of May, with a Mono in-store show on the same day. The tour also features Dundee, Aberdeen and Edinburgh shows.