One of [according to… me, I guess] 2020’s most underrated albums was Honey Joy’s II. A blistering punk-fuelled exploration into mental health issues, this album is unmissable. I spoke with Meg (lead vocals) to find out all about the album and what it feels like to work as a DIY band in a global fucking pandemic.
Hey Mag! Thanks for joining us. You wrote the majority of this album while you were on a mental health break from your job as nurse – how was that?
It’s actually not too uncommon for nurses to need time off. But, as mental health is in general, it’s still really taboo. I was off and nobody knew why – it was only me and my manager who knew. I thought it was pretty respectful to keep it under wraps, but at the same time, it was a bit weird to think about who we can and can’t talk to about it.
[At this point the interview was interrupted by Vinnie, Meg’s dog, who was in need of cuddles. He’s really cute. Anyway -]
So I needed about three months off. I was just sort of running on empty and my work was the last thing I let drop – in nursing you just end up caring about so much! So everything else got dropped and I just kept going at work until I physically couldn’t go in one day. I spoke to my manager and arranged to have some time off, but that was also hard. I wasn’t leaving the house much and I just felt like I had no purpose. And so, naturally, I just began to write a lot of stuff down to get it out or move on from my thoughts. Being in a band, you always think it might come in useful at some point, but at the time I just wanted to get it out. Then eventually I returned to work. And a few more months passed before we sat down as a band to start planning the next record.
It was six months later and it was a completely different time. The music ended up being really upbeat and I had a lot to say. I still had a lot to write but I used those initial thoughts as a base – some of it was useful but some of it didn’t make any sense! The additional lyrics I wrote seemed to be really contradictory to what I wrote when I was unwell, and I wasn’t sure it was going to work together as an album, but hey, that’s all I’ve got!
II is an album which delves into the entire spectrum of human emotion – the best and worst of mental health states are plumbed. It’s an album which can make you cry with its bittersweet and astute lyricism about depression and social anxiety, but can also comfort and relieve you with its sense of finally finding a place which is entirely yours. What an album. An album this personal and honest takes a particularly brave person at the lyric-writing helm. And a bulletproof support network.
I have actually never spoken about the lyrics with my band even though they’re my best friends. It’s out there and people can read into it whatever they want. You do feel kind of vulnerable, yes. What’s nice about being in a band with your closest friends is, you just put it out there and they don’t ask questions about it. They won’t ask me to explain or ask where and when I felt like that. You can just express it and no one will come down heavy on you.
As for performing songs that personal, well – we haven’t really had a chance!
How did the band get together and find your sound?
There are five of us. The others have all known each other since they were 14. I infiltrated the friendship circle eleven years ago via Matt (guitar), who is now my husband. The others started to play music together and someone – not even Matt – then suggested I should join as a vocalist!
Finding our sound really just came from my anxiety about making music. The others had all been in bands before and were all really comfortable with just putting something out there, trying out new things and seeing what worked. So most rehearsals I’ll be sitting in my corner working out melodies and giving the others feedback, and then the lyrics will be added right at the end. So by that point, the instrumentation is already quite far along. Which is why you’ll get such happy melodies alongside lyrics which don’t always fit. But I quite like it that way!
Honey Joy have just been announced as part of the line up for the fabulous Loud Women festival (which, y’know, fingers crossed…) – how important is it to have female-centric platforms supporting you?
It’s really important! There are so many events where people try to get more women involved but a lot of the time it can seem like such a token gesture, or an afterthought. I love that Loud Women is out there and has a full line-up of non-male artists.
With DIY, you rely on your ability to tour – how many bands do you listen to who you saw in a support slot, or on a poster? It’s really weird to release an album without touring it. It feels like although we have a record out, it doesn’t feel like it’s really out there.
Finally, who would you pick to headline Download Festival and why?
Amyl and the Sniffers! They are properly mental live!
If you want to help the cause, sign our petition here: https://www.change.org/p/get-a-woman-to-headline-download-festival
You can follow Honey Joy on Instagram or Twitter @honeyjoyband
We’re on Instagram @dlgrl2022 and FB @DLGRL – come say hi!