Honeyblood’s Stina Tweeddale on life with a different beat
Musical partnerships are not always what they seem. In the case of Honeyblood – a guitar and drums duo since its inception in 2012 – the project has always been the songwriting vehicle of Stina Tweeddale.
While hardly Spinal Tap in terms of percussionists, she lost first drummer Shona McVicar to the dentistry profession, and recently, Cat Myers had a rather more rock’n’roll departure, touring with Mogwai and KT Tunstall.
During that percussion-less period Tweeddale wrote new album ‘In Plain Sight’ – the album now complete, the Edinburgh-born songwriter is speaking before a mammoth UK tour, with new drummer Deborah Knox-Hewson, plus bassist Anna Donigan, signed up for the 46 shows.
But the Edinburgh-born singer is positive about the new setup. “It’s actually been really freeing, a revelation,” she says of her new solo status. “I’ve been doing this for seven years now, and I’ve learned a lot from my past and the paths I’ve taken in my career – it’s a natural progression, so I’m excited now, it’s like a new lease of life”.
However, the dynamic of a three-piece live band may be quite different from the previous guitar/drums setup. “I’m so used to being the frontperson and carrying the majority of the melodies and the bulk of the music, I don’t know how I’m going to find sharing with someone else,” confesses the singer.
And of course, not just sharing the stage, but a tourbus as well… for two months! What was she thinking?
“I very much chose (the band) not only on musical abilities but banter as well,” she laughs.
“Because I’ve not been on tour for so long I said ‘that’s fine, sounds like a good idea’, Tweeddale confesses, “‘Now I’m: ‘Oh God, I hope I can do it!’”
Before Honeyblood there was Boycotts, her teenage band based in her native Edinburgh who were a familiar face on the scene. Any chance they might reform, perhaps for a tour support?
“They wish!” Tweedale laughs. “We’re still pals, best mates, maybe they’ll be at a couple of gigs. It’d be good to see them.”
As if this change wasn’t enough there’s the small matter of a new record label as well. Marathon Artists, who Tweeddale encountered when supporting Australian songwriter Courtney Barnett.
“I’ve been working with them on and off for a very long time,” she reveals,” I was always in their office and hanging about, so I had a good relationship anyway. They let me do whatever creative things I want,” she says simply.
Although this is the first full tour in a while, Honeyblood haven’t been completely absent from the live circuit – with a string of one-off guest slots. “There’s always a great atmosphere,” she says of the shows which have included the Jesus and Mary Chain, Teenage Fanclub and Foo Fighters. “And getting to watch a band you really love... I wouldn’t take those gigs if I didn’t like the band.”
And one band she certainly likes is Garbage, fronted by Shirley Manson.
“I love her,” Tweeddale says of the Edinburgh-born frontwoman. “We’re so privileged to have a relationship with her because we were chosen, every night she’d give me a little bit of advice and a cuddle, and just say ‘You’re great – don’t let anyone tell you’re not’.”
“She’s been there and done it and has that insider knowledge that she can share with upcoming female artists that are still hitting the roadblocks that she did.”
Are there still roadblocks improving over her short career?
“There’s always something, like any other career in life – previously when I started the band there was a lot but it is slowly but surely getting better.”
“Fender are at the forefront of making female artists visible, when I started there weren’t, so I’m proud of that, I love my Telecaster more than anything else!”
The new album has a strange, almost supernatural theme running through it – the cover art, by Peruvian visual artist Cecilia Parades, tying in with a theme of illusion, the Honeyblood crew also shooting a video at the mansion of magician Simon Drake, who created Channel 4’s Secret Cabaret series.
“Illusion is very much a theme running through the record," Tweeddale confirms, "the idea things are not always what they seem.”
“Things are completely right in front of your face and so obvious that you don’t see it.”
Do the lyrics hide what’s going on behind?
“I‘ve always been quite open in my songwriting,” insists the sniger, “but do mix truth with imagination.
“If you just write specifically about what happened, it’d be pretty boring, so I jazz things up a bit.
“Even I don’t always know what’s true and what’s not…”
‘In Plain Sight’ is out on May 24. More at www.honeyblood.co.uk