HONNE are a self-defined electronic soul duo from East London. Their music is mellow, ambient, and soulful. They recently released their first full-length album titled, ‘Warm on a Cold Night,’ and ahead of their gig at Rescue Rooms I got the chance to catch up with them.
Guys, how are you feeling?
James & Andy: Good, really good. Excited.
How far have you travelled to come to Notts?
James: We played in Brighton last night, so we drove up half way to a nowhere place. So yeah, just came up today.
Andy: So only about an hour and a bit this morning.
That’s not too bad. How’s the tour been so far?
Andy: Really great. Loved it. This is the penultimate gig as we finish tomorrow at Birmingham.
How’d you feel about that?
Andy: Yeah, sad. It’s always sad. But then we’re continuing doing more tours. So we go off to Europe after a couple days’ rest.
James: Then Asia as well, and then back to Europe.
Asia! Where are you going in Asia?
James: We have two gigs in Tokyo, two in Osaka, and then three in South Korea.
Your music will be perfect for that vibe.
James: Strangely, South Korea is our biggest market. So we’re putting on three shows and they’re all 1600 cap, and they sold out in like 10 minutes.
Woah, 10 minutes?
James: Haha, yes! Everywhere else is like a long slog, like, ‘Oh we can get people to these gigs!’ and then South Korea is like, ‘Oh we’re playing here: GONE!’
Andy: Really exciting.
Why do you think South Korea likes your music more than others?
Andy: So the name is a Japanese word, but it also means the same in Korean. I mean that probably helps. And then yeah, a few key tastemakers have picked it up.
James: Yeah, like an actor, and a few big bands out there, a couple of K-Pop bands as well.
Andy: People keep messaging us saying, ‘I walk down the street and you’re on in every coffee shop pretty much.’
James: I don’t understand, but it’ll be great. I’ve always wanted to go to Seoul as well.
Asia is the dream.
So you guys started off at university, didn’t you? How did that form?
Andy: This is quite a few years ago, but on the first day we were both the first people either of us met. It was a music university, but it was really quick in that within a couple days we had already started writing music together. I think both of our intentions were to go to a music place, but meet people who were interested in starting a band or whatever; luckily we did that instantly. And then over the years we’ve worked on various bits and bobs.
James: It took a while, we were young and just learning how to make electronic music particularly, so, yeah, we were still learning all that kind of stuff.
That’s fascinating. So did you set out with a particular sound in mind when you first started at music school? Or has your sound evolved and changed?
James: It’s all evolved, really.
Andy: I’d say it was more electronic when we first started off.
James: Haha, yeah!
Andy: And then gradually, I don’t know. It’s just took us awhile. All these years have been a learning curve. And you know, more of just trying to write decent songs that people can relate to and not writing lyrics that don’t mean anything.
James: Yeah, because we started off with a love of Radiohead which was the more unusual side of the electronic music, but we’ve found our own niche in the electronic scene.
How would you define the genre you’re in, because it’s quite a unique sound?
Andy: Nah, I don’t think its… we always used to describe it as electronic soul but you know, it’s quite accessible so people put it in the pop category as well in places. So I don’t know. I hate describing genres, because I can’t do it! We always used to say that its good music for listening to at night, even more so when you’re driving, with the windows down, a warm summers evening through a city. Sorted. Maybe with like, your partner or someone you might be in a romantic relationship with.
James: *In a romantic tone* “Oh Andy!”
It’s quite a unique sound. You mentioned Radiohead and people like that, are there any influences who helped create your sound?
James: Well, I grew up listening to a lot of Michael Jackson, so there’s a lot of that and Quincy Jones production that I think has inspired me. And when we first started we were listening to a couple of bands, one’s called Rye, really really nice stuff. And another band called ink, who I think are really quite unknown still, but they’re brothers from LA. So they make that kind of late night RNB sort of music
Andy: And people like James Blake and Frank Ocean.
James: Yeah, I guess we’ve taken his [James Blake’s] main instrument, prophet the keyboard, and that sort of grindy, organy kind of stuff. And I guess we sort of borrowed that and have taken it into a more soul, not more soulful in terms of his soul-
Andy: It’s a bit more souful and I would say upbeat, but on record our songs might not necessarily be upbeat, but when we play it live it comes to life a bit more. It’s all electronic on record, but we have a live drummer and a bassist and a backing vocalist who play with us. So it does come to life and a lot more, I don’t know, dance, not dancey, but more energetic.
I can tell with some of the tracks on the new album like coastal love has a kind of upbeat drum and guitar. Can definitely see dance influences on that. I can imagine live it will come to life more.
What’s your favourite part, performing live or the production?
Andy: I don’t know, it does vary. Live is great because, you know, you’ve done the hard work, kind of, although playing live is sometimes hard work. But it’s nice, you get like people singing your songs back to you and clearly enjoying themselves. Instant recognition, which is great.
James: It’s like completing a task. I think one of the frustrating things about song writing is that when you never know when its finished, and when its finished, you never know whether anyone is going to like it until you put it out. And then how do you even gauge that after that point?
And then South Korea just…
James: Haha yeah! Whereas when you play live, you’ve got a job to do and you do it and if it goes really well it feels really good. It’s like that instant gratification. But there’s also not much of a better feeling than writing a song you’re really proud of and you listen to it and you’re like, ‘Argh, yeah, I’m really, really happy with that.’
What’s your creative process in writing your lyrics and melodies?
Andy: I don’t know, it’s weird. Quite often James will just send over an instrumental, but I’m not really the type of person to write down stuff. It’s like all bubbling away, I don’t really express myself, in that I don’t really have arguments with people, so I think what I’m doing is just saving it all the time to use for lyrics, it’s weird. But I will sit down and listen to an instrumental and just start singing stuff.
James: Our next album is going to be called, ‘F**k you James.’
‘I hate touring with you, James.’
Just saved it all up.
Andy: Yeah, it’s weird. I don’t know, it just comes out.
James: It can be like, really fast, like at times we’ve started an instrumental together, I went home and fiddled around with it, sent it back, and then, either the same day or next day, it was like: done. You can write quickly if you’re in the right zone. In like a day you’ve written and recorded the whole vocals track, which I think is quite unusual.
Andy: I don’t know, yeah, maybe. I don’t know how other people do it. Its weird that we are separate though. We’re not in the room together. We only really come together at the end of the process when it comes to like doing a bit of additional production or getting it to a point where we think it’s ready to send to someone else .
Boys, thank you so much for hanging out and spending time with us. I’m really looking forward to the gig. Wish you all the best!
HONNE were a joy to talk to, and they went onto play to a captivated audience and absolutely kill the show. Their ambient synths and mellow vocals set the tone for an uplifting experience. Check out their latest album, ‘Warm on a Cold Night’ and feel the vibe yourself. It’s good music. Really good music.