Fate, Romance, & Japan: An Interview With Electronic Soul Duo HONNE

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If you've ever perused Ones To Watch, you've likely noticed our frequent admiration for British electronic soul/R&B duo HONNE. From the moment they released their first single "Warm On A Cold Night" in 2014, to the culmination of twelve beautifully-crafted tracks on their debut album, HONNE has consistently delivered ten out of ten in the categories of production skill, vocal competence, and lyrical romance. 

Just days after James (producer) and Andy (singer/producer) of HONNE unveiled the Warm On A Cold Night record, we sat with them to discuss album feedback, their extensive upcoming tour, the importance of being romantic, artists on their Ones To Watch list, and so much more. 

Stream the album as you read below, and check if HONNE is stopping by your town on their current tour here

OTW: Welcome back to Los Angeles! From The Troubadour in March, to the El Rey tonight, to a Fonda date in October, what have been your best experiences in the city?

A: Well, we've just dipped in and out so we've hardly had any time in L.A., but it's been amazing every time that we've come here. The last gig at The Troubadour was amazing. This venue is amazing as well.

J: This [El Rey] is one of the most beautiful venues we've played as well. It's pretty striking. Very classic.

OTW: So has it been a whirlwind since you guys released the Warm On A Cold Night album?

A: Yeah the first day was crazy, wasn't it?

J: Yeah, so much love for it.

OTW: Walk us through day one.

J: Well pretty much, we were on our phones all day refreshing Twitter! It's like, you refresh it, and there's five new people saying something, and you refresh it again, and it's just like, all over again. We tried to reply to everyone. It's a full time job. [chuckles]  

OTW: How’d you guys meet? As you developed your sound, do you remember the moment when it clicked?

A: So I met James on the first day of uni seven years ago. We go quite far back. We were the first people to meet each other on that first day.

OTW: Fate?

A: Yeah, I guess it is, if you believe in that stuff…which I think I do…

J: This is a whole new topic. [laughing]

A: But yeah, so within a couple days we were writing music together, so it was really really quick. We spent those years working on songwriting and production, then two years ago, HONNE started. I think the breakthrough moment was "Warm On A Cold Night," which is one of the first tracks we wrote. We thought, right, we think we've got something unique and special.

J: And that's why we wanted that song to be on the album, as well as the title of the album. Because it meant something to us, and it's kind of where it all started.

OTW: We read that the name Honne was chosen because it means “true feelings and desires” in Japanese? Why were you drawn to that?

A: In terms of the whole Japanese theme, I love it because I lived there for a couple months a couple years ago, and it's a great place. Really inspirational. I think a couple of my friends went and said how great it is, and I thought, "Oh I need to go; I need to find out more about it."

And then James came across the word, "honne," and we thought, well that's perfect. That word just summarizes exactly the songs that we're writing. It's all very personal, and it just fell into place.

Take us through the stages of creation, from laying down the concept of “Warm On a Cold Night” to finally releasing the album.

J: It was hard because we had about 30 songs, and they were all competing to be on the album. It was so hard to whittle it down to just twelve songs. The album, for us, was about trying to make it flow, have peaks and troughs, uptempo, downtempo - and not sound like one continuous song where people just switch off. Needed some shock moments.

Would you say there's one particular theme to the whole album?

A: Yeah, I think the theme is romance and night time…romance at night time, however you want to look at it. James and I are in long-term relationships, so it's about that and the positive aspects of it.

Speaking of "romance at night time," how does it make you feel that couples listen to your music in their most intimate moments?

J: [laughing] So you're basically asking, how do we feel that you listen to our album in those moments?

OTW: [laughing] Not just me - everyone!

A: Right, right [chuckles]. Yeah, I mean, I love it.

OTW: Do you guys listen to it with your significant others as well, or is that weird?

A: It would be weird for me but it would be even weirder for James to have me whispering in his ear…sexy words…[laughing]. But there is somebody on this stage who has, and he hits things on stage.

OTW: Ohh I see what you're getting at; we can leave it at that. What’s your favorite lyric from the album?

A: I like some of the stuff in "3 am" - that's on the deluxe.

J:  Yeah, I really like the line, "Your eyes are like an ocean; I can dive straight into that…Your freckles paint a constellation."

A: There's a lot of imagery in that song.

Do you consider yourself romantics?

A: We don't brag about it, but I think we do nice gestures…that reminds me, I need to order flowers.

But yeah, it's important to be romantic and put in effort, whether it's for your partner or for your friends, or whoever it is. You should try and do nice things for other people.

Can we expect more female collaborations in the future, like the one with Izzy Bizzu?

J: Yeah, we're always talking to people, normally on Twitter–rappers, singers, producers who can do remixes. We're always exploring that and it's something we really want to do more of in the future. We really enjoyed it with Jones and with Izzy.

A: We've co-written and produced some songs with Jones on her album as well.

OTW: Do you guys pick out your remixers yourselves?

A: Sometime they'll be people who come to us and say they want to do it. A lot of the time, we try to pick out people we really like and get in touch with them ourselves. We're quite involved with all that stuff.

OTW: Who are a few artists on your Ones To Watch list?

J: Phony Ppl - have you heard of them?

A: They're already established, but we only found out about them recently. They're really really good.

Also, Brasstracks. Both of those bands are from Brooklyn.

A: band called Liss.

J: They're amazing live. Really young as well - like 18 or 19.

OTW: What’s next after the tour?

A: We go back to the UK, then we go straight to Germany and Austria. Basically loads of festivals around Europe and in the UK. Then we're doing more touring. I think we're going to be touring for next eight months to a year. It's about to be our first bus tour - we've done a big van, but we've never slept on the tour bus.

OTW: If it was your last day on earth, what would you do?

J: I'd gather up all my family and friends, and we'd eat a load of Asian food - Japanese food, Vietnamese, Thai, some sushi. Those are our favorites. Then we'd put Michael Jackson's entire life of music on Spotify and have a great time. Maybe go bowling. A bit of tennis. Some gin and tonic. That's it.

A: Why, what was going to happen to the world? I'd be building a bunker to find a way out of dying…

J: Well, maybe, if everyone knew we were going to die, we'd get enough publicity to do an arena gig. Then if we were going to die at midnight, we'd spend the whole day with family, do the gig…

A: Then do a countdown…10…9…8…[laughing]

OTW: Amazing answer. I think we'll end it at that!

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