Bonding over a mutual love of Japan and an equal distaste for the modern dating scene, East London electronic-soul duo Andy Clutterbuck (production and vocals) and James Hatcher (production) met at university. Jamming together they soon created the sound that can only be recognised as HONNE: electronic-pop saturated with lusty, swoon-worthy soul, their song-writing prowess aptly describing the gruelling phenomenon of making meaningful connections in the digital age. Now with an album under their belts and worldwide touring success, HONNE are beginning to truly hit the big time.
Music Editor Alice Mortimer spoke to one half of the duo, James Hatcher, to get to know the latest hype in electronic music.
Hi James! ‘Honne’ is a Japanese word meaning ‘true feelings’. You often speak about your mutual fascination with Japan and its influence on your music. What is about Japan and/or its culture which inspired the sound of HONNE?
“Andy had the opportunity to stay out there for a couple of months. I was in London and he was in Tokyo and we were writing between. One of our tracks ‘No Place Like Home’ was written whilst he was in Tokyo. I don’t know what it is, I think the culture is just really interesting, and how it’s so busy. I guess kind of like how London is – there’s so many people, yet it can be quite a lonely place if you’re not surrounded by loved ones.”
There’s a wealth of different genres you can pick out in your music, from early 80s soul and funk to US hip-hop and contemporary electronic-R&B. Who have been your key influencers artist-wise?
“For me, I grew up listening to Michael Jackson. He was the first gig I ever went to, when I must have been around eight or nine. But it was that James Blake keyboard sound that we sort of borrowed, mixing it with all these other influences – along with a bit of Michael Jackson, Frank Ocean, all that kind of stuff. Lots of electronic stuff and then there’s all the old soul that we both grew up with. You just sort of soak it in, I don’t think you even realise how much you do”
Did you ever think a university dorm room start-up would turn into over 20 million Spotify streams and a mass of sell-out shows worldwide? To what do you attribute HONNE’s success?
“It is pretty crazy! I think what we’ve got lucky in is that we spent a long time writing music and doing various bits of projects with all sorts of different people, and it was patience that really helped us. We just sort of sat down one day and were like: we need someone to hear our music and go ‘that’s a HONNE song’, or even if someone else recorded it, they could be thinking: ‘that’s a HONNE song’.”
“We spent like a year experimenting with loads of different stuff, and then it was when we wrote ‘Warm On A Cold Night’ (the single), when we really thought “that’s it, that is our blue print”. When we first put that out we had loads of songs ready to go. We had probably fifteen songs before we put that one out, and I think that’s where a lot of bands struggle – they write one or two amazing songs and then they put them out in a rush because they’re so excited, and then you’ve got three months to maybe get your next song out and keep your momentum going, and if you don’t have that then you get forgotten quite quickly I think.”
Your summer sunshine tune ‘Someone Who Loves You’ in collaboration with Izzy Bizu was a roaring success in bringing HONNE to radio audiences. How did you find collaborating with Izzy, and is there any one you would hope to collaborate with in the future?
“Collaborating with Izzy was amazing and the easiest thing in the world. She’s the nicest person in the world, no ego, she’s just so lovely!”
“We’re talking to rappers at the moment, we’d love to collaborate with someone like GoldLink, but the ultimate would be Chance the Rapper or Kendrick Lamar, that would be insane, but I think we’d be punching above our weight with that one! But you never know who’s going to come up over the next year whilst we’re writing, so hopefully we’ll find some amazing people to collaborate with in the meantime.”
You played quite a few festivals in the summer, including everyone’s big one – Glastonbury. Which was your favourite festival show you played, and how do you find these in comparison to smaller headline gigs?
“I think Glastonbury is a bucket list type thing for any musician! The best thing about festivals is that hopefully those people that know you are going to come down to your set, but also it’s a great way of getting new people to hear your music, the people wandering past who may stop for a listen and then go away and check you out. That’s a great way of building up fans to come along to your regional headline shows I guess!”
After a string of EPs, your debut album Warm On A Cold Night dropped late July. How have you found the reaction to the record?
“Amazing. On the day it came out at midnight here, but before that it was out in Japan and South-East Asia areas, so people even before that were starting to say ‘oh my god I’m listening to the album’. I went to bed that night thinking that it’s so weird that there was people from America, to Asia, to Australia and Europe who were all listening to music we’d made in our houses on our headphones and actually really enjoying it.”
You’re finishing the rest of the year with more shows across Europe and the US, with a UK tour set for the end of October. What’s next after the tours?!
“More touring and gigging and working on the next album. Getting in touch with people, collaborating, and seeing where it takes us!”