Bands can be difficult beasts: sometimes, the fewer people involved the stronger the foundation on which the whole process is built. For London soul pop duo Honne, this is true. Theirs is a relationship based on a close partnership that’s made them one of UK pop’s most exciting, fresh talents.
Perhaps the secret to producer James Hatcher and producer/singer Andy Clutterbuck’s burgeoning success has been the strength of their personal and musical bond: one that was formed long before Honne started making waves with their intimate soul pop charms.
“We met seven years ago so it’s quite a while,” begins Andy. “We were at uni and James was the first person I met and vice-versa. We started writing songs pretty quickly after that. Obviously, it was just a bit of fun and nothing really serious.
“As time went on, we spent the years just learning how to do things, like production and getting better at songwriting. I think there became a point in time where we thought we wanted to do music, why don’t we actually try it and take it a bit more seriously and see if we can make something of it?”
In terms of their early desire to simply write music and make it into some sort of career, the duo have wildly exceeded their expectations. There is a tantalising buzz around Honne that has been present since their first EP releases in 2014, ahead of debut album ‘Warm On A Cold Night’.
“The idea was always to let it grow organically, slowly and steadily,” says Andy. “Before we put out our first songs, we already had about 15 of them. So I guess that took off a lot of the pressure. We had a lot of songs ready for the first couple of EPs. That gave us time in between when we were releasing and gigging so we were just writing all the time. The album was not a rushed process.”
Like any successful duo, Honne are built around two distinct, yet similar characters. Both musicians work in the same fashion. “We both have a set up in our own houses,” explains Andy. “We live very close to each other and we’ve got identical studio set ups. It’s modest but it does the trick. That allows us to each be working on something.”
With both members so close, it allows Honne to experiment in ways that perhaps other bands may find more difficult. “Being in a band is a lot of fun and there’s more people to bounce off, but I think it can be quite a big hindrance,” says James. “Obviously there are a lot of successful bands out there, but in our experience trying to get ideas past four people rather than one other person is difficult and it wears you down.”
“When Andy and I are really on the same page with things we like, in terms of music, visually and artistically it’s just so much easier,” adds James. “If we disagree we know each other well enough to talk it through and not want to kill each other.”
Fortunately that level headedness has not only resulted in no fatalities, it’s also allowed them to resolutely focus on developing their sound as Honne and honing it to find tuned perfection on their debut album. Perhaps their background as teachers, James as a guitar teacher and Andy as a music technician, helped to instil that working discipline within them.
“It does give you patience,” says Andy. “It gave us time to write music without having to worry about money all the time. It does help in being organised. It makes you not lazy and not be the person who gets up at 11 in the morning. That gives you more time to write music and get on with stuff.”
The downtime involved in their favourable working hours also allowed Honne to develop - and the unreliability of those pesky kids helped as well. “Some of our tracks were written at school when kids didn’t turn up,” laughs James. “I wrote the chords and rhythm to ‘All In The Value’ on guitar when a kid in Peckham didn’t turn up. We’re gonna give that kid a writing royalty!”
The after school working pattern also established the album’s main theme and sound: the beauty and stillness of the night. “We wanted it to be nocturnal. The two main themes are built around the night-time and romance,” says Andy.
You can hear that dark, evocative city vibe in the album’s deep soul songs and warm atmospherics. It’s a wonderfully lucid collection of songs that sees the duo forgo production tricks and gimmicks. “Like all the soul music that we love,” begins James. “Our goal with Honne was to always be able to strip everything back to basics, just piano and voice and for it still to be a great song. Hopefully we have achieved that.”
Throughout Honne’s work and on their debut album there’s a wide eyed charm and naivety to them that makes them instantly relatable. As Andy explains, Honne are two guys that have came from a normal background and are now striving to achieve something extraordinary: “There’s a song on the album called ‘One at a time please’. James and I both grew up in the countryside and we’re both from the south west of England. That song is about us, these two guys from a small town, trying not to be affected by what can happen to you when you become successful in the city.”
“I think we’re really proud of that collection of songs and how they work together,” concludes James. “They all sound like Honne. The album means a lot to us.”
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