In The Middle with Honne

Honne are an electronic-soul duo from London with an incredibly promising future.  The two members, Andy and James, met at university and have been making music together ever since, but this project only surfaced 18 months ago. “We spent a lot of time writing songs” says James, “we had 10 songs and we felt, maybe we’ve stumbled across something quite unique”. The combination of Andy’s relaxed vocals and warm, synth-heavy electronic instrumentals produces sultry, late-night pop. All of their releases so far have been sophisticated and refreshing. The band may be new, but there is no sense of them finding their feet; “we left enough time to refine our sound” says James.

‘Honne’ means true feelings in Japanese, and James and Andy came across this word and “felt it fit with what we were singing about”. The opposite of honne is tatamae, which means that which is projected to the outside word, and thus James and Andy’s label is called Tatemae Recordings.

The band put out their first track in November 2014 and their seductive soul music instantly garnered a lot of attention. They been number one on the Hype Machine chart, and the likes of Annie Mac and Zane Lowe have been their champions (the most recent single ‘Love the Jobs You Hate was Annie Macs hottest record in the world), and they were picked for the iTunes New Artist Spotlight. Across the summer the band played many festivals, and for James, Field Day was a highlight, and not just because it’s near his house. “It was one of our first festivals and when you’re at a festival like that, it’s hard to gauge if anyone’s going to come to your gig, there’s so many bigger bands playing around you at the same time. Just before we were about to play, loads of people rocked up. During our set, people were actually running! There was maybe a thousand people there and it felt like a special moment.”

Their latest EP, Loves the Jobs You Hate, contains four diverse new songs. For the (extremely catchy) second track, ‘No Place Like Home’, James “wrote the music [in London] and sent it to [Andy] and he wrote the lyrics in Japan, in a hotel like in the song”. Andy has spent some time in Tokyo this year, and this explains the bands Japanese theme. ‘No Place Like Home’ is Honne’s first collaboration, as it features new artist Jones. “We heard her song ‘Indulge’”, says James, “and had always loved it, then this song came up and Andy had envisaged it with a girl singing the second verse. A bit of a duet. We thought she’d fit perfectly so we got in touch.” Her smooth, airy vocals perfectly complement Andy’s huskier voice.

Honne’s music videos are brilliant. ‘All in the Value’ and ‘Warm on a Cold Night’ are two tracks from the band’s first EP, and both of the accompanying videos bring the lyrics to life through amazing choreography. ‘Warm on a Cold Night’ features two girls dancing in a car park, and the intimacy created through their movement is beautiful. James says “the concept of the video, and the girls dancing, fits the mood of the song” and he is definitely right. The duo recently went to Malaga to film the video for their latest single, ‘Loves the Jobs You Hate’, the title of which is a Mr Muscle slogan. According to James the video will be “quite a surprise”. Perhaps it features cleaning products.

Honne are about to embark upon their first ever UK tour, and on their second night they will be playing the Wardrobe in Leeds. James is “very excited” about touring. Honne’s music is electronic based, but on the tour their sound will be transformed with a full band. The live shows are “a bit more upbeat than our recordings”, says James, “there’s going to be five of us and we’ve spent a long time finding amazing players. They bring a lot to it.”  There will also be some new material being showcased; “we’ll be a playing mixture of most of the songs we’ve released, and a few new ones.”

As well as the tour, the duo have been working on their debut album. James says it is “pretty much finished, we’ve got all the tracks we want for it. Trying to decide which tracks not to put on it is painful, but you can’t have a 20 track album.” With their album out in summer 2016, it’s easy to predict it will be an exciting year for the band.


Fionnuala Deasy

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