Interview: HONNE

Photo by Claire Rothstein

Honne is an electro-soul duo hailing from the land of tea, scones, great accents and even greater music. What started out as a chat over a shared love for Radiohead in University has grow into a beautiful musical project, boasting tens of millions of plays worldwide. James Hatch and Andy Clutterbuck along with their band recently played a show in Montreal. We sat down with them before the Sala Rossa performance to discuss coming together, creative processes and of course, their music.

April: We’re here with Honne. Thank you guys for sitting down with us. So you guys just came out with your first album – Congratulations. How has the response been to the album? Is it what you were expecting or hoping?

James: Yeah, everything we’ve wanted and more. It’s incredible the response has been really really great. It’s been cool. It’s so nice to finally get all these songs out on a full-length album. It’s been 2 years in the making so it’s a nice feeling.

April: Yeah for sure! So, one of the things I really like about the album is that it’s super open, expressive and raw. I found that kind of funny since we’re in a world of “giving no fucks.” Has that sort of made it refreshing or challenging when you that album out to open up so much like that?

James: We wanted to write about stuff that means something to us. So, all the lyrics are about stuff that that happened to andy or I or our friends or family or whoever. But that just show us –

Andy: Yeah, I don’t know, sometimes we don’t really think about – like no way inspiration comes from wherever. And sometimes Jjames shows me an instrumental and it will just spark a little idea for lyrics.

April: So you’re (James) writing the music and you’re (Andy) writing the lyrics?

Both: No no.

James: We kind of both do it.

April: What is sort of like the creative process for you guys?

Andy: So we kind of start with… let’s just say, usually, James comes up with an instrumental and he’ll send it to me and I’ll write the melody and the lyrics. So it’s all separate. So we’re not always in the same room when that’s happening. Then we’ll come together in the end and figure out the additional instruments and finish the song.

April: I guess that’s worked out pretty well so far.

James: Sometimes I’ll just do the instrumentals and I’ll come around and we’ll do like a day on a song.

April: So it’s a good dynamic for you guys?

James: Yeah, I think the reason that i like working separately at the beginning stages is so like you can allow each other to do whatever and sometimes it’s nice to come be in a room and – not that James judges or I judge – experiment and do whatever you want.

April: that’s awesome. so i know you guys have covered this a thousand times so we’ll make it a thousand and one times for the confront readers. Talk to us about how you guys came together to create Honne. I read that you guys met in University, right?

James: [laughs] Yeah, so andy was the first person I met on the first day [of university]. We were cueing up to get a bit of dinner in the building we were staying in and i was the first person he met. We just bonded over the fact that we both didn’t know each other before but we both grew up in thesouthwestt of England in the middle of nowhere and a mutual love of Radiohead at the time. The electro side of it. Within a few days we were writing music together. And well basically haven’t really worked apart. Even though we never work together, we’ve never worked with anyone else, without doing it as a collaborative project together.

Andy: I think that part of the reason we’re basically the same person now.

James: So true

Andy: We finish each other’s sentences

[all laughs]

April: That’s so cheesy and romantic.

Andy: It’s really bad

*Andy’s alarm goes*

James: What’s that for?

Andy: It’s my girlfriend’s birthday.

[laughs]

James: Today?

Andy: Yeah, in the UK it’s today. What were we saying?

April: You guys are playing back to Europe soon to play a bunch of festival and you guys have been on tour now for a while. How do you find festivals vs. venue shows?

James: It’s really hard. I really like dipping in and out of festivals. Like going to festivals and camping. I liked that when I was younger. It was great. But now it’s just like… I can’t think of anything worse.

Andy: When you do it, you just love it but it’s different as an artist.

April: Yeah, fair enough. So, the album cover, your name and then the videos… a lot of it ties back to Japanese culture and japan. What is the meaning behind that?

Andy: It kind of stemmed from me really. I lived there for a couple of months, a couple of years ago because my girlfriend had moved out for work. So I was like “yes, I’m gonna go.” We were doing Honne at the time, so we’d written a couple of songs. The name James came across it and found out it’s part in Japanese culture. We were just like “yes” because it made sense. It means true feelings. It kind of all just fell into place.

April: and do you guys have a strong tie now to Japan? Are you doing shows there?

James: Yeah, we’ve got some shows lined up in November. Two in Tokyo and two in Osaka.

Andy: Honne also means the same in Korean. And South Korea has really blown up for us. So we’re doing a couple of shows in the capital, Seoul. There were people who planned a trip from there to Canada for our show last night in Toronto.

April: Wow, that’s crazy. So, you guys sort of blew up after this album. How do you guys feel you’ve changed with the success, touring and general lifestyle?

James: I don’t really feel like we’ve blown up. I don’t think we’ll ever feel like is has.

April: Well, you guys have millions of plays on Spotify. The success of that has got to be affecting you in some way?

Andy: It is really nice, but because we are in it, I guess for us it’s such a gradual thing. We’re on Spotify everyday checking how many plays we have. We’re like “Oh 9 million plays, I want 9 millions plays in a day.” Your expectations shift. Before Honne, we would have been really happy with a 1000 plays across everything on Soundcloud. Now, we’re getting 30 thousand plays a day on Soundcloud and then I don’t even know about Spotify but it’s something crazy.

April: I was reading that there’s some funny stories behind some of the tracks for your fans. Any crazy ones so far?

James: The one that’s probably my favorite was in Germany near the beginning. It was our first gig in Berlin. This guy said that he used to play our song called “The Night” up to his pregnant girlfriend’s belly. When the baby was born, when she would cry, he would put “the Night” on and she would stop crying.

April: That’s got to be rewarding. Little warm fuzzies and what not. [all laughs]

Andy: Yeah, it’s really sweet. Loads of couples come up to us and say “Oh we’re driving to each other or with each other and we’re in a long distance relationship and this is our song” and what not.

James: At gigs, there are some people who are very – sensual, let’s just say. It’s kind of off-putting. We were in Kansas city the other day and this couple right in front of Andy was just going at it, tongues and all. They were right in front of him. I was laughing, I sort of turned sideways. I could tell Andy was trying not to laugh.

April: Yeah, that’s definitely awkward. When you’re not on tour or recording music, what are you guys doing?

Andy: We don’t have lives. I’m just kidding, we love to play tennis back in the UK. We also really like food. We ‘ve been making lists of different restaurants we want to visit all over the world. When we get to a city and we’re like “what should we get for dinner tonight?” there’s tons and tons of places. So the list is great. I just wish we had more time in each city to see and eat more.

James: This is our first time in a tour bus, so the best thing about that is we finish and every night we have a couple of hours to see the city. We get on the bus at two and go to sleep. We drive to the next place and when we wake up, we’re in another city. We get to wander around, think about where we’ll go for lunch and see a bit of the city.

April: So, I always ask this one: If you could perform on stage with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?

Andy: Michael Jackson. I don’t know if I’d crack up or like fry. I loved him growing up, he was the first gig I ever went to. Just imagine him moonwalking in front of us (imitates Michael Jackson’s voice).

James: Um, I’ll go with someone alive. I’d say this guy Kendrick Lamar. We’ve alway wanted to get a rapper on one of our tracks.

April: This guy Kendrick, eh? That would be a cool collaboration. So, last question: What can we expect next from you guys?

Andy: I’ll call it a day after this.

April: Right, just done.

Andy: We’ve peaked.

[all laughs]

James: Um I think we’ll obviously to do more touring in the US and Canada in October. We aren’t coming to Montreal but we are going to Vancouver. We’ve also got loads of shows in Asia, Europe and England. Then I guess we’ll keep writing music all the time and hopefully growing. Maybe some remixes.

Andy: We’re gonna try to do some more collaborations as well.

James: Those are all really our objectives for the next while. Going forward we want to get more into that side of things.

April: Awesome, well we wish you guys the best of luck with that. We’re looking forward to the show tonight! Thank you very much.

This interview was originally conducted for and published on Confront Magazine, which closed it’s digital doors on January 1st 2017.

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