We caught up with the acclaimed English duo HONNE, who have been creating music together since 2014. Their most recent material is the first since their successful 2018 album Love Me / Love Me Not. We asked them all about their latest track “no song without you” and its heartwarming animated video.
They also discussed their decision to release a mixtape rather than a third album, how their music can be an escape for people from the worrying news we are bombarded with daily and why staying positive is key to their lifestyles as well as their music.
HONNE is Japanese for a person’s true feelings and desires. Do you think that titling your band after this word has encouraged you to create music that depicts your true feelings and motives? I would definitely say so. The name is a constant reminder of what is important to us, which is writing honest music that is a true reflection of us as people.
Whilst releasing two acclaimed synthpop albums, you worked with artists such as BTS, Georgia, Tom Misch, and SG Lewis. You’ve also recently been writing alongside Anderson .Paak collaborator Pomo. Who would you love to work with next? Oh, that’s a tricky one! There are so many great artists out there. We think Clairo is great. Khalid, Beabadoobee, Rex Orange County, Bruno Major.
At the start of the year, you went to Los Angeles and wrote the cinematic ballad “no song without you.” What inspired this loved-up track? Andy got married last summer to his girlfriend of 12 years, and the idea for the song all stemmed from his wedding speech, in which he told his wife how he would never have had the inspiration to write all these HONNE songs had it not been for her. In terms of the music, for a long time we’d wanted to explore this more acoustic guitar-based, Beatles influenced side of HONNE, with more traditional songwriter style chord progressions. It was a lot of fun making it.
The music video for “no song without you” is a heartwarming piece of animation. How did the idea for the video come about? As soon as the song was finished, we knew the video had to be animated. Every time we played it to a friend they’d say ‘the music video for this has to be an animation!’ A friend of ours suggested we get in touch with animator Holly Warburton. One of our main reference points was My Neighbor Totoro by Hayao Miyazaki. We loved the idea of the main character being some kind of monster, but actually being lovable, kind, and quite nervous at times. Our first idea was about a little kid and their imaginary friend. But Holly is an amazing storyteller, so she developed the idea into something that we feel is really unique. We absolutely love it.
You have been working on a mixtape rather than a third album. What made you decide to channel a classic songwriting approach throughout the fourteen mixtape tracks and work more collaboratively than ever before? To be honest, the classic songwriting approach is how we started out. We’re both guitarists, and throughout his teens, Andy was writing songs whilst strumming on acoustic guitars. So it all comes very naturally. On the last couple of albums, we’d gone heavily down the production route – writing and producing at the same time, or basing whole songs on a sound or part. So it felt very refreshing to sit down and write whole songs on acoustic guitar or piano and let the production follow afterward.
Your mixtape has a chilled, stripped back and uplifting vibe about it. “one way to tokyo” seems like an ode to your electronic roots, do you think your music style will constantly evolve or have you found a combination of sounds that you’d like to build around? We want to constantly evolve. It’s really important to us that we offer something new with every album or mixtape that we release. A band that we really look up to in that respect is Radiohead. The development and change they’ve gone through over the years is incredible to see.
“smile more smile more smile more” seems like a response to the community spirit that has happened as a result of the current global pandemic whereas “s o c i a l d i s t a n c i n g” is a very topical interlude. How important do you think it is for artists to have a voice about current affairs? We feel like there are two ways of looking at this question. Artists have a platform with a big reach. This means that well-informed artists can do a lot by using their voices to spread a message or help a movement, and I think that’s great. The flip side to this is that, unfortunately, some people don’t use their platforms for good, which is a shame.
The opposite side of this is that I think a lot of people listen to our music as a form of escapism or relaxation. Lots of people listen to it to help calm their anxieties before sleeping. So I also think there’s great value in providing that escape for people and transporting them away from all the worrying news that we’re bombarded with every day.
Live performances have been few and far between for all artists this year due to COVID-19. When you get to go back on the road what are you most looking forward to? Ohhh this is tough. We’re looking forward to so much. It’s between two things– hearing the crowd singing back these new songs to us. That’s what really brings the songs to life. But also just traveling in general. I miss the excitement of seeing the touring band and crew at the airport at the start of a tour and exploring all these amazing cities all over the world. It’s the best. Apart from the regular 4 am starts!
A track called “lines on our faces” features near the end of your mixtape, it has a positive mantra and message that things will always get better: “lines on our faces show us the map of the places we’ve been.” What influenced this uplifting song? I’m not sure where it came from, to be honest. We’ve always had a love for older faces that are full of character. And the song just talks about how the stresses and worries in life that might show on our faces as we grow older, are all character building. They’re all things that we’ve overcome and made us more rounded and accomplished people. Therefore– wrinkles should be celebrated!
You recently said that the more character that’s left in a song, the more the listening can dive in. Artists like Rex Orange County seem to do this a lot. What effect do you think this has on listeners? I think it just makes all the music a bit more charming and special (even if we do say so ourselves! Ha). But yeah Rex Orange County is a great example of that. I think it all goes back to everything being so digital and perfect now, that hearing something that sounds real, where you can hear the sound of the room and the occasional mistake, or how close and real the instruments sound – this has become kind of rare. And I think recordings like that are quite satisfying and create a sense of warmth. So hopefully that’s the effect on the listeners!
You are a group that uses their voices to encourage people to treasure their relationships, respect the environment, be creative, and think positively. How important is seizing the moment and being positive in your own lives? I’d honestly say that being positive people is one of the main reasons that we’ve been lucky enough to make music and do what we love as a career. It’s been so important, particularly over the last 4 months or so, to try and maintain that and make the most of the small joys in life. And we want to spread that positivity everywhere we go and everywhere our music travels. If we can make a load of people a little bit happier, or a little bit more positive, or a little less anxious over the course of our lives, then it will have all been worth it.