Electronic music, fun beats, soulful vocals, and relatable lyrics are four elements that the British duo HONNE possesses. HONNE, the Japanese word for “true feelings,” have recently gained more popularity. They have travelled across Europe, to Asian countries like China, Indonesia, Japan, and Korea, and performed across America, including at Coachella.. Their latest album, Warm on a Cold Night, released in 2016, contains 14 tracks with beats that anyone could groove to and lyrics that anyone could relate to.
Pulse Spikes had the honor of speaking to Andy Clutterbuck, singer, songwriter, and producer as well as the other half of the duo, James Hatcher, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer. Catch HONNE performing at Panorama Festival in New York City on July 28-30 & read about them in our summer issue!
Sometimes, I think I’ll never be able to write a book, or make an app or whatever, but then, you think all these other people would have probably thought that themselves before, but they’ve just gone out and done it. Just go out and do it.
– Andy Clutterbuck, HONNE
Even if you guys were unable to receive the adoration, attention, and popularity that you do now, can you see yourselves pursuing a musical career nonetheless?
Clutterbuck: I think so, yeah. Ever since me and James were really young (though we only met at university), both of us, before that were really, really in love with music and playing guitar, or piano, or whatever. It’s kind of engraved into us and I don’t see us doing anything different, but I guess it’s a bit of a long slog sometimes. Especially when we were younger, we thought were going to be in bands or whatever and “this is going to be the one, oh my God, I can picture us going big time” or whatever, and nothing just happened. So, you’ve got to be persistent and you’ve got to keep trekking on, and eventually something will happen. I don’t know though, if I wasn’t doing music, I’d love to be a carpenter. I’ve made a few lamps in the past and stuff like that. If I didn’t do music, that would definitely be a cool thing.
What music do you currently listen to? How would you say this affects your own music career?
Clutterbuck: I listen to all sorts. Mainly, especially recently, a lot of rap music. Growing up, I listened to a lot of hip hop because my sisters were both into hip hop. I listen to people like Chance the Rapper. I think I love the way with rap music, and rapping, has free range expression, they express exactly how they’re feeling. There’s no restrictions to how many words you can fit or whatever, which is sometimes a bit frustrating when I’m writing a song. It’s also that the production is really really good. I think how it affects our music right now… Well, we’re writing our second album, and there’s definitely a few more hip-hop kind of inspired tracks on this one. Whatever you’re listening to seeps in somehow somewhere.
How do you deal with criticism of your music?
Clutterbuck: Not very well (laughs). No, it’s fine. We tend to not really listen to it or, I don’t know, it’s a tricky one because it’s a fine balance. Because sometimes, criticism can be good, and it’s good to pay attention to and take it on board, but other times, it can just get you down, I guess. We’re not looking into it too much; we kind of just keep our heads down and crack on. We move onto the next thing. We stay out of it.
Hatcher: Yeah, that’s it really. Well, some criticism is good, so it’s good to hear what other people think, because you can be in your own bubble, but also, focus on the good stuff because the thing is, you can have like a thousand comments on something and one person goes “this is shit,” and you’re like, “but why?” It’s like, you’re always going to deal with that, everybody has to deal with that, and get on with it, I guess.
Clutterbuck: True that.
What is the process of songwriting for you guys?
Hatcher: It often starts with the music for us, rather than the lyrics. And that can come from either end, and we write separately. We like to start the music separately and then we’ll decide what we Andy feels that he can write a couple lines to. And then once he’s done that, we get together afterwards and we work on the track as a whole and make loads of production changes and all that kinds of stuff. So it’s quite a different process up until the point of the track nearly being finished kind of. It just varies. Sometimes, we do start a track together and other times we write that all together in a room. So, it varies.
How has your music evolved since your debut? How do you think it will continue to evolve?
Hatcher: I think that the next album will be a lot more diverse. At the moment, it will definitely be that every song is going to be a lot different from the last. And I feel like that that’s always going to happen because we’ve evolved. When we wrote our first album, we’ve written so many that we were trying to keep this sound that made up us. But now we realized that one of the main things that keeps an album together is the vocals, and the vocal style and that’s not going to change. I’m not going to stop singing. So you’re safe there (laughs). There’s some really upbeat tracks. The track that we’re releasing in a few weeks time is definitely our most bouncy track to date.
Clutterbuck: Every time I listen to this new song, I think, “Wow this is too fast. I think it needs to be slowed down.” (laughs) That’s how fast it is, so it’s kind of good.
Chasing a career in music can be very daunting for numerous reasons. How did you overcome this pressure to conform?
Clutterbuck: We were very fortunate in that our parents were hugely supportive. I think my dad–he was like, a wannabe rocker, so with me, when I was younger, he’d go to this room that we had and just play the guitar super super loud and sing at the top of his voice. So I think that maybe that’s where I got it from, and he was like, “If I can’t do it, I’m going to help you out, so you can do it.”
Hatcher: My dad has had a proper jobs all his life, and he’s always says that he would never have dreamt of being self-employed and told me to just go for it because he regrets not trying to find something that he really loves and making a living out of it. He’s the happiest. I’m happy doing something that interests me and that I’m passionate about.
I’m happy doing something that interests me and that I’m passionate about.
– James Hatcher, HONNE
Did both of you guys have a similar vision for your partnership as artists originally?
Clutterbuck: When we first started HONNE, we took a few months of writing to get into a point where we were in this same kind of lane. Initially, it was kind of off, but we got there.
Hatcher: I also think that this has to happen for every album. We’ve had to do that all over again for this next record because you know, you’re both listening to stuff and getting excited about are we gonna start the music this way or have songs like that, all that kind of thing. It can put you on a different wavelength again, having that outness for a year of just touring the same album, but you’re getting ready to write the next one.
What advice do you have to people too scared to pursue their passions because they’re scared of failure?
Clutterbuck: It is scary because you never know what’s going to happen and there’s so much pressure, especially now. We live in London and it’s so expensive to live there. We’ve got to pay the bills and yeah, it’s difficult. But, like James said earlier, you’ve just got to do something with your life that you love doing and if you work hard at it, eventually something will start to happen. It may start slowly, but it will just continue to build, and it’ll hopefully be something you can survive from and give you presents for years to come.
Hatcher: In the meantime, try to find something you like. Find a way to maximize your time and your income, so you can get as much money as you can but give as much time as you can to what you really want to be doing. When we were first starting, I was a guitar teacher and a music technician at a school, which pays quite well. I was working three or four days a week and getting back at 3 o’clock everyday and I’d have the whole afternoon and evening to write music and do what I really cared about. You can find ways to not have to be unbelievably struggling whilst still trying to do this.
Clutterbuck: Sometimes, I think I’ll never be able to write a book, or make an app or whatever, but then, you think all these other people would have probably thought that themselves before, but they’ve just gone out and done it. Just go out and do it; that’s the main piece of advice, said it right there, you heard it (laughs).
Story by Haeri Kim
Originally published in Volume II, Issue No. 003 – Summer 2017.