Honeyblood’s new album, In Plain Sight, marks a point of departure for Scottish musician Stina Tweeddale. Not only is the record a stylistic step forward from its two garage-rock influenced predecessors, it’s also Tweeddale’s first as a solo artist.
Previously she had worked in a duo, first with drummer Shona McVicar, then on their self-titled album and its successor Babes Never Die, with Cat Myers.
Parting ways with her bandmate had been on the cards when Myers accepted a job touring with Mogwai. “That was for a full year so that meant I was kind of at home twiddling my thumbs, thinking about what was going to happen with the next record,” says Tweeddale. “I wrote 30 songs while Cat was away. We did do some writing together but it was very short because she was so busy, so it really did feel like I was writing this as a solo record.
“I had recently moved house into a bit more isolated area and was very much stuck in my little bubble, and when Cat came back off that tour she actually got offered another tour. Cat’s such a great drummer and an ambitious musician and it was going to be very difficult for us to juggle all those things together.
“Also what I wanted to do with Honeyblood, which is my entire vision and project in life, I think it came to a natural progression where I need to dedicate 100 per cent to this and unfortunately it seemed like I couldn’t ask the same of other people.”
Not that she found working on her own easy. “This record was the hardest to make. I didn’t want to go over old ground, which was really difficult when you’re writing for a duo. I didn’t want to play on the same old tricks every time, and it felt like it was a riddle trying to figure out what it was going to be. It was a very confusing time period for me.”
I think it came to a natural progression where I need to dedicate 100 per cent to this and unfortunately it seemed like I couldn’t ask the same of other people.Stina Tweeddale
That’s where the album’s theme of illusions stems from. “I got really fascinated with it and it runs through the full record, all the songs mention something to do with illusions or trickery. I guess it was from a very indulgent place that songwriters write from, and it’s me trying to figure out what I’m trying to do.”
The album’s opening track, She’s A Nightmare, was based on night terrors which Tweeddale began to suffer after she returned home from two years on tour. The vision was of a woman who had come to try to strangle her. “It was up to the point where it was weekly or two nights a week for months,” she says. “It was really quite a traumatic experience and I really wanted to write a song about it, because it really is one of the most intimate things I could probably write about. An interesting fact that I found out was that the people you see in your dreams, because your brain can’t create a new face, so you’ve seen all those people before. I found the idea of this fascinating, that the woman who was haunting me in my dreams I knew who she was, I’d met her before. It was really eerie, but touch wood, they stopped about a year ago.”
Where Babes Never Die had been “an abrasive record”, on In Plain Sight Tweeddale plays synthesisers as well as guitar. She wanted, she says, “to take the songwriting away from being punky.”
In LA she worked with John Congleton, who’s produced records with the likes of St Vincent, Angel Olsen and Sharon Van Etten. His preference for working “really, really fast” chimed with Tweeddale – they finished the record in nine days.
Last year Honeyblood toured with Garbage – at the request of singer Shirley Manson. For Tweeddale, it was an affirmation. “She’s such a huge legend and an inspiration to me, I’ve listened to Garbage for decades.
“She was very inspirational to watch every night and we had the most insider chats which were so important, little things that she could tell me that nobody else could about how to go about things, it was very useful and a great tour to be a part of. I think we were a good fit as well, as a support.”
Tweeddale is looking to the future with optimism. “I think I will just continue to do all the things I have been doing for years which is write these songs that I believe in and play them. I don’t think it was ever a gimmicky thing to have the duo – maybe people thought it was but for more it wasn’t because the most important thing in essence is the songs that are on the album. So yes, I’m excited to be able to pull the live show somewhere different as well. It’s always better to keep moving forwards and do something different, do a little thing that scares you a bit. I don’t ever want to get complacent.”
In Plain Sight is out on May 24. Honeyblood play at The Crescent in York on May 3, Vinyl Tap record store in Huddersfield on May 19, Jumbo Records in Leeds on May 30 and Plug in Sheffield on June 5. www.honeyblood.co.uk