"Spreading Joy" Clash Meets HONNE
“Musicians have a tendency to be as musical and technical as possible. Artists can be perfectionists working on something over and over, but sometimes you’re better off doing what you think is right and moving on,” English electronic pop HONNE tell Clash. We’re chatting on the phone, shortly after the release of their latest mixtape ‘No Song Without You’. Sonically, it’s a delight, finding the duo - consisting of James Hatcher (producer) and Andy Clutterbuck (singer, producer) – going back to basics within a soundscape that feels natural to them.
Elaborating on their sonic approach towards the project, HONNE comment: “It’s been two years since we released any new music and we’d been writing for those two years. But we scrapped all that and started from scratch. Once we wrote ‘No Song Without You’, we had our whole mixtape. We didn’t evolve, I’d say we devolved in the sense we made things simpler. This mixtape is understated, there’s no crazy production – our aim was to be simple yet have a message.”
“It’s about making enough changes to keep things fresh. We never want to keep putting the same music, we like our music to keep being different. One of our favourite bands is Radiohead and every time they’ve released an album they are like a reincarnation of who they were previously.”
- - -
- - -
“On this mixtape we focused on making everything sound real instead of programmed,” the duo insist. “There’s a tendency in pop to loop production and make it a ‘robot song’, but with the title track we played the song all the way through. There are no keyboard, drum or bass loops anywhere on the song. There are a few mistakes in it as well but it gives more character. We spent only one and a quarter day working on the song which is a record for us.”
Aside from Radiohead, the pair explain that they’ve always been drawn to older music such as the Beatles, where music relied less on technology and more simple passion. They say: “We’ve always been influenced by older music but we hadn’t gotten into the process of writing the chords and lyrics at the same time. ‘No Song Without You’ was like... we wrote the chords and within 45 minutes we had the lyrics as well. There were more songs like that on the mixtape. It was refreshing to do it this way and felt more natural for both it to be done at the same time.”
“Once we realised the way we wanted to go with it, we decided to play the simplest chords,” add the pair. “It makes it feel closer to innocence, friendships, and love. Since we released the song, people have been covering it. It’s the first song we’ve written that feels like a simple song that translates to people really well.”
The connection with people is particularly important on this mixtape, given that it was written by Andy with his wife in mind. He says: “I got married at the end of last year and the way we thought of this is as a mixtape you’d put together to give to your crush. Here, it’s me giving these songs to my wife. ‘No Song Without You’ encompasses how none of it would exist without her or our relationship.”
HONNE continue: “On the mixtape, we focused on song writing and the production went around the writing rather than trying to force lyrics out. This helps me enjoy the songs more as well, I feel more connected to it because it wasn’t a struggle. In fact all of our favourite and most popular songs have come very easily and naturally.”
With such personal connections to each track, picking a favourite is impossible. But the duo have clear answers anyway. Speaking of his favourite track, Andy says: “I feel quite strongly connected to a song called ‘Smile More’, the last song on the album. There’s no singing on it, it’s more monologue on top of an instrumental but it reminds people to keep positive and try to enhance your life in different ways. Hopefully it’s relevant now and in many years to come.”
- - -
- - -
James adds: “Mine is ‘By My Side’- the day we wrote was really fun, because the song came very quickly. It was one of the only times where I saw Andy have this visibly exciting ‘aha!’ moment. The lyrics go: ‘Where were you when needed you? You were by my side...’ The song leads people to believe to think it’ll be negative by asking where a person was during tough times, but it becomes a sweet moment.”
The duo appear to have this innate ability to create such sweet moments not only within their music, but beyond as well. This ability is best demonstrated when they speak of the message they’d love their listeners to take away from their music. “We want people to feel warmth, comfort and reassurance is our goal. If we can die having made lots of people feel better, happier with our songs then that’s good enough. I think we’ve found a way of doing that using Andy’s unique voice and lyrics, putting it to different soundscapes on each album. Particularly now is a good time to remind people to stay optimistic and support each other so I hope we’re able to do that.”
With some incredible highlights under their belt – including an intense two-year global tour, culminating in a sold out Brixton Academy show – the duo are now jokingly piecing together a bucket list of achievements, one that ranges from touring India and South America, to working alongside the likes of Clairo, beabadoobee, Phoebe Bridgers, and Paul McCartney. It’s remarkable to look back on HONNE 2014 formation, working from a flat in Bow, East London.
Currently, like much of the world, the duo don’t have any set plans for the future, but they content to take things as they come. Everything is uncertain, but there are two things they express with an inspiring certainty.
Finishing, HONNE tell Clash: “We don’t know where we’ll go next, but it’ll be different again that’s for sure. And regardless of the soundscape, our music will always be about keeping positive, and spreading joy.”
- - -
- - -
'No Song Without You' is out now.
Words: Malvika Padin
Join us on the ad-free creative social network Vero, as we get under the skin of global cultural happenings. Follow Clash Magazine as we skip merrily between clubs, concerts, interviews and photo shoots. Get backstage sneak peeks, exclusive content and access to Clash Live events and a true view into our world as the fun and games unfold.