Photo credit: Laura Coulson
Selling self-taped demos and handmade totes was the moment of Immaculate Conception for Stina Tweeddale and Shona McVicar’s band Honeyblood. The Scottish indie rock duo’s first show enticed FatCat Records founder Alex Knight to the point he bought all of their homemade merchandise and signed them to his label. Soon after, fans came to shows requesting not only totes and shirts, but also unreleased songs. Honeyblood had been riding the fast track of the internet and since the beginning, starting off with only five songs and a bundle of shows. But now, on July 14, Honeyblood can finally give fans the merch they’ve worked hard to create: their first full-length LP.
The band calls their sound "crunch pop"—a blend of blustery vocals and swirling guitars (who needs a bass guitar?)—and recorded their self-titled album with indie-famed producer Peter Katis, who has worked with bands such as Interpol, Jukebox the Ghost, and Frightened Rabbit. Vocalist and guitarist Tweeddale took some time out from preparing for upcoming shows in the US and UK to share how the recording process went, the critiques of being in a two-piece, female only band, and just how hellacious a ferry trip after a night out in New York City can be:
Noisey: You guys were near New York City. Did you spend any time in the city?
Stina Tweeddale: Yeah, we had a great time. We spent a weekend in NYC. We have been in New York a couple of times. I’ve got a friend that just moved there, so we hung out with him and went to Williamsburg. We stayed there for a night and did the touristy things. The next day we were pretty hungover after spending the night out and Shona made me get on the ferry. It was horrible. I was like I want to get off! The scene was pretty horrific. [Laughs.]
Did you guys enjoy playing Webster Hall? What was the fan reception like since it was your first real show in the States?
It was pretty mental, honestly. We were still starting out and hadn’t really released anything yet. We had only released two singles and were on tour with a band that had three albums [We Were Promised Jetpacks]. It’s not like we weren’t used to playing big shows, but not big shows every single night. So, playing in a place like Webster Hall, I was really kind of nervous. Shona and I would turn to each other and be like, “You’re not nervous, are you?” “No… Okay, maybe a little!” [Laughs.] It’s a really cool venue. It was wild because we played on a weekend. There was crowdsurfing!
Were people asking about your music after or have people approached you after a show curious about the band?
First show we did, we went to LA and there were people there who knew our songs. Not only the songs we released through FatCat, but also the ones that we had played ourselves, released ourselves, or put videos online for. People were like play this song! I was like what, how do you know that? That was weird. Even when it’s like one person that does that, that blows your mind because you don’t expect that to happen.
Have you ever received any comments on being an all women or two-piece band?
When I was a kid, I loved girly, punk rock bands like Babes in Toyland and Bikini Kill. All of these bands are really important to me because at school, there was definitely that aspect of you can’t play guitar. "What do you need an electric guitar for? You’re a girl." I got that at school a lot. It made me feel like if these bands that I love can do it, I can, too. That was something that I really connected with and something that is really important to what we do. Generally when you’re on tour, you do find a lot of that and that is just the reality. Especially when you’re on big, long tours and you’re tired, grumpy, and have been driving for hours and some guy gives you attitude. You’re just like fuck you! [Laughs.]
There have been times where people have scoffed at us and I’ve been so angry. But, after we play, they’re usually apologetic and see that we can play. But, mostly the type of stigmatism we get is for not having a bass player. I’ve had a lot of people come up to us and tell us we need to get a bass player. They could just say to me hey, you should be a guy, but instead they say we should have a bass player. [Laughs.] It’s the same deal. I wish that was not true, but it is true. You always get treated differently and I think it’s more difficult as a girl touring because you’re always the minority.
Photo credit: Laura Coulson
What was it like recording with a producer like Peter Katis, someone who's worked with such big and influential bands?
It was so weird. The first day, I think he just thought I was such a weirdo. He’s really down-to-earth. The weird thing is that he is friends with those bands and he has recorded a lot of their albums. While recording, I played one of the pianos that The National recorded songs on. To me, when I was sitting in front of it, I was like, "Why am I here? I think someone has made a really big mistake!" [Laughs.] I’m pretty proud of it, though. I think for our first album and pretty much our first proper try at this, I think I’m happy with what we did. I’m just excited for everyone else to hear it because it has been a long time where we’ve been appearing it to be released. It was supposed to be released earlier this year, but we pushed the date back.
Tell me about how you were signed to FatCat.
Our first proper show was a showcase. Alex Knight from FatCat was there. We were the first band on. We were really nervous and we played like five songs because that’s all we had. Alex came up at the end of the gig. We made our own bags, so we had totes and tapes. He probably had a giggle to himself over our crappy merch, but he bought everything. He was like, "I’ll have one of those and one of those!" I turned to Shona and was like, “Do you know who that is?!” She was like, “What, no?” I was like, “That’s Alex from FatCat!” I watched him do a speech earlier, so I knew who he was. He told us we were good, but needed to do more shows. I was gutted. But, from there we kept in touch. They helped us get established. They give this great platform for bands where they let you kind of grow and do your own thing then when you’re ready they’re like, let's make an album. They let us have our time to develop then write the songs that we wanted and do the album.
Sarina Bloodgood makes her own merch. She's on Twitter — @sarinabloodgood