Whoever scheduled the performances in the O2 Institute for the week of 31 October is evidently on a Japanese kick (or it’s just one of those otherworldly coincidences). The Japanese House shared her layered synth melodies on a Monday night while Tuesday was reserved for HONNE, the duo’s name originating from the Japanese word ‘本音’ meaning ‘true feelings.’ Not to say the nights only shared a semantic connection; overlooking the ground floor venue, familiar faces can be seen making it safe to assume there is an overlap in the fan base. The atmosphere is, however, palpably different. HONNE are set to close their UK tour, Birmingham being their last stop before crossing the channel. Therefore, it is only fair to say goodbye to the home audience in an adequate way by giving them a show to remember, and so they did.
“It’s just nice to know people are there to have fun to your music and sing along to the songs”
Andy Clutterbuck and James Hatcher, the duo behind HONNE, are doing a great job making their summer debut album ‘Warm On A Cold Night’ transcend seasons to worldwide recognition. When asked how the was tour going so far, with the dates in North America and the UK behind them, they reply in unison “it’s been great, it’s been amazing!”. The answer is undoubtedly genuine, however there is an underlying reason for such an animated response – they just love tour buses. “We don’t get to go on one in the UK” Andy explains, “so you do the gig and then you go out for some drinks and do your thing and then you get on the bus and go to the next place.” Considering the prospect of tour buses still gets both truly enthusiastic, one might say not a lot has changed since the pair met at university and started working on music together.
Fun is still as important to them as it was in those days and their relationship reveals to be crucial in displaying that enjoyment both in songs and performance. “It’s just nice to know people are there to have fun to your music and sing along to the songs,” James says, as it is the simplest thing to achieve, and for HONNE it does seem enviably carefree. The electronic neo-soul made up of layered synth melodies and a vocally, jazz like delivery, creates an intimate atmosphere. With romance being an overarching theme in their work, the sensual quality of the show cannot be undermined – the swaying couples in the audience can attest to that.
“We’re really excited about it and kind of relieved to be able to just write music for this next album”
When it comes to producing songs and releasing material, the duo agrees the process is not so straightforward. Andy reflects on their choice to release an album after the EPs: “You can put an album out straight away but then you’ve got to do a lot of the groundwork afterwards”, nodding, James continues his thought “build up a bit more hype”. Their debut ‘Warm On A Cold Night’ is a nod to previous efforts, their first EP from 2014 having the same name, consequently showing the “same trajectory.” The groundwork has visibly been set well; the audience especially welcomed the older songs ‘Top To Toe’, ‘Loves The Jobs You Hate’ and ‘No Place like Home’, some for the comforting familiarity of the past and others for the excitement of unheard material.
The ‘difficult sophmore album’ doesn’t unnerve them in the least: “we’re really excited about it and kind-of relieved to be able to just write music for this next album.” The relief mentioned stems from the fact they do not need to pick and choose songs done over the years but are able to focus on one concept which would result in being “hopefully, a body of work”. Andy and James mention Radiohead as being “very innovative throughout the years and are still going to this very day.” When asked if that’s what they aspire to they reconsider for a bit, possibly not wanting to carry such a weight of comparison: “not drastically, but yeah their sound and stuff across albums is something that we kind of think about doing in the future”. Caught in a moment of career reflection, James quickly shifted the tone back to a lighthearted one with a joke: “rather than being a one hit wonder!”.
“We just try do it in a few different ways, you’ve got to keep it fresh”
Working with a range of artists it is hard to envision HONNE falling between the cracks into obscurity. They pick exciting new talents to support them: Ravyn Lenae and JONES joined the US tour, Liv Dawson warmed up the crowd for their UK dates, and James Hersey and RIVRS will be joining them for some of the European concerts. “We always try to connect with people” Andy describes. The duo transfers their nonchalant attitude by easily collaborating with new people, a skill they seem to be unaware of – for example the hit ‘Someone That Loves You’ with Izzy Bizu happened by chance, through Twitter. Apart from featuring and inviting artists to tour with them, HONNE are making a name for themselves by remixing which allows them to reach more people but also experiment with music: “we just try do it in a few different ways, you’ve got to keep it fresh”, and it seems to be working so far.
A band supported the duo, not to mention the backing vocalist Naomi Scarlett who masterfully took over the featured tracks. The recognisable font spelling out HONNE was lighting up in different colours, shining on the band performing in front of it and accordingly demanding full attention. Delivering their set to a receptive but not so responsive audience, HONNE took blood, sweat (and tears) at face value. At one point Andy injured his finger, bleeding all over his guitar. Luckily, a member of the audience came to rescue and gave him plaster – all was good and the show continued. The highlight of the night was the track released on International Women’s Day, ‘Woman’, the audience was encouraged to put their arms around each other as Andy softly sang an ode to women everywhere. With their European tour starting and dates in Asia quickly approaching, it is undeniable the duo is experiencing an upward spiral with their recent work. The repeated lyrics at the end of the song, ‘and if we are together, we’re going far’, can almost be seen as foreshadowing and as the song draws to a close, we’re excited to see where exactly is HONNE going next.