Electronic duo HONNE are back with their forthcoming new album, LET’S JUST SAY THE WORLD ENDED A WEEK FROM NOW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
Comprised of Andy Clutterbuck (singer & producer) & James Hatcher (producer), HONNE first formed in 2014 after they became friends at university. Following on from their formation, over the next few years they released an array of EPs, two albums and a mixtape. Leading HONNE to build up a dedicated fanbase not only in the UK but around the world. It’s their unique blend of electronica, pop hooks and R&B vocals which have made them favourites in places like Asia and the US. Thanks to their success so far, the pair have previously collaborated with the likes of Izzy Bizu, Georgia, Tom Misch and many other acclaimed artists.
Now, HONNE are back with their most “accessible” album yet, LET’S JUST SAY THE WORLD ENDED A WEEK FROM NOW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO? is out October 22nd and if the first few singles are anything to go by, it’s shaping up to be their best record to date. To celebrate the album announcement, 1883 Magazine’s Cameron Poole caught up with Andy & James to discuss the new album, collaborations, sampling, and where the weirdest place they’ve heard their own music is when out and about.
Hey Andy and James, you’ve just announced your third studio album, LET’S JUST SAY THE WORLD ENDED A WEEK FROM NOW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?, which is releasing on October 22nd. Can you tell us a little bit about the making of this record? How did it compare to the last two studio records and your recent mixtape?
Andy: We’re sorry it’s such a long album title by the way haha! We’re going to have to get used to people saying the whole album name all the way through. It’s probably our most pop-y, accessible, album to date. The making of it is more of the same, me and James started it off in LA, the first song we had written was What Would You Do? And we wrote that track pre-pandemic, so I don’t know where the lyrics came from but they kind of just came out mid-air and that song has since become very relevant to a lot of people with everything going on right now.
Me and James just worked on the album like normal and put it together, with lockdown we were working apart a lot but that was nothing new for us as we’ve always worked separately but there was occasions were we would go into the studio together and do bits and bobs. But we just wanted to push some boundaries, do some things we’ve not done before and not really limit ourselves. I think in the past, we’ve been like ‘oh that’s a bit pop-y, we can’t do that’ but I think we let those thoughts go out the window and just do what we want to do, basically.
Alongside the announcement of the album, you’ve dropped two new singles from the LP, IDGAF About Pain and Now I’m Alone featuring Sofía Valdés. Why did you choose to put these two songs out next…
We always wanted to stagger the release of this album. We’re so proud of every song we’ve written for it, so we wanted to give each song its own little moment to shine. These new songs are just two that we felt complemented What Would You Do? perfectly, and kick the album off with a bright summery feel.
Let’s also talk about the initial lead single from the album, What Would You Do? Featuring Pink Sweats, how did you come to collaborate with him on the track?
James: We’ve been really big fans of Pink Sweats for ages, I’ve always thought he’s brilliant and I don’t really know how but we got his phone number and someone told him that we were going to call him haha. Then we had a FaceTime with him whilst he ate some spaghetti bolognese and he said that he had heard the track, loved it and was up for jumping on it. We had already written the verse that he was going to sing and we asked him to sing that but he was like “I don’t really sing what other people have written for me, I want to do my own thing”. We were like “that’s a bit scary but we’re up for it, let’s give it a go” and he came back and we were so happy he didn’t do what we had written as what he did took the song to a completely new trajectory and added a new element to the song. His voice sounds nuts as well.
That’s quite interesting, I know it can be a scary thing sometimes when artists collaborate with someone who isn’t in the band but it’s always worth going out your comfort zone, even if it means they write something for the track instead of the band. Out of curiosity, was it really different what you had written for his section in the song then?
Andy: Yeah, the part we had written… within music there is a thing about second verses, when you are writing songs it’s like ‘when we write the second verse, should it be the same as the first but just a bit shiter?’ Basically our second verse was a bit like the first verse but different lyrics. But you’re right, when you work with other people it’s always a bit scary and we’ve had some howlers in the past from other people sending us stuff and it’s just not been right. It’s always a bit awkward but when Pink Sweats sent his verse back it was just really great. He nailed the tone and although it didn’t follow any of the other previous melodies or anything like that, it didn’t matter because it was such a cool part.
It is a really great track and we won’t name the musicians you guys weren’t sure about!
James: Haha that’s for the best.
Andy: Anyone who’s worked with us will be like ‘hang on a second, are they talking about me? They didn’t use my verse.’
Following on from that, we love the What Would You Do? TikTok challenge! Have you seen any particular ones that have made you guys laugh? And do you mind explaining what the challenge is for people who might not know?
James: So basically the main lyric in the track before the beat kicks in is “Let’s just say the world ended a week from now, what would you do?” So we posed the question and we’ve been posting videos, Andy and I separately, of what we would do. Andy’s was eating Nutella out of the jar with a ladle and for both of us it was things like seeing our families, going on holiday, playing shows, all that kind of stuff. Other people have been doing their own and saying what they would do. And you then get all the spinoffs of what comes from that. We’ve had like a guy rap over the top and he’s dictating what Andy’s doing in the video which is really cool, that was one of my favourites.
Andy: There has been loads, one of the first videos was a guy in America, I presume it was America, but he works at a zoo and he has lions, tigers, giraffes and more in the video.
James: We also had one where someone did it from the perspective of a puma. So the puma was saying things like ‘I’d climb this tree’ haha.
Andy: This song has really tapped into the feline market haha.
Speaking about the mixtape, No Song Without You, it only released last year, so it still feels fresh for quite a lot of fans! What are the reasons for why those tracks didn’t make it onto album three?
Andy: We actually had What Would You Do? at the time, it was ready to go on the mixtape if we wanted it to, as well as a few other songs that are now on the album. But they just didn’t feel right for the mixtape and the mixtape was starting to become its own little thing and it sort of just reflected how we were feeling at the time. It was right in the middle of lockdown and everything felt quite…we weren’t chilled but I guess it sort of calmed us down a bit. You’re right, it’s kind of strange, it was only a year ago that we put the mixtape out and people are still talking about it and almost sharing it as if they’ve not yet heard that collection of songs yet.
James: Normally you release an album and it spreads and then you tour it and you keep finding new fans from it for a good few years but we haven’t had that gap, so people are still talking about it. I think a big part of it was, we did have What Would You Do? and some others but then we wrote the mixtape title track, No Song Without You, and for each album we always end up having a song that kind of defines the sound of the album. We wrote No Song Without You and were like ‘we want to do an album like this, we love this sound’, the more Beatles-y songwriting and chord progression, we wanted to go on this little tangent a bit and have some fun with that.
Doing a mixtape kind of liberated us for the first time to do more quirky intros and interludes and it was cool just getting to put it together.
There are some really cool collaborations on this new record. But who else would you guys love to work with? We also know that all the BTS fans want you to collaborate with BTS….
Andy: Some of the collaborations which are on this album surprised us as well…
James: Some of these collaborations have been on our bucket list, they’re all amazing.
Andy: Yeah, they are all amazing and these are some relationships we’ve been developing for a little while and finally it all happened.
James: But in terms of people we’d love to work with who we haven’t already… I think Chance The Rapper would be a good one. We both write music with positive and uplifting messages and I think we could work quite well together.
Andy: That’s true. I’m not too fussed as long as I really like their music and I think they have a good voice, then I’m totally cool. I think Holly Humberstone is absolutely fantastic, so that would be cool at some stage but she’s probably way bigger than us now so… see you later haha.
Your music has been really well received not only in the UK but around the world, especially in places like Asia and the US. Not bad for two guys from London! Do you both have any personal career highlights so far that really stand out?
Andy: Yeah, loads. I think because we live in London playing in the city is one of the most scary but rewarding experiences. Our last show we did in London was at Brixton Academy which was always a lifetime goal that we were trying to tick off, so that was great. Some of the shows we’ve done all over the world… in Asia, there are quite a few to sift through but there has been really great ones in Indonesia, the Philippines and South Korea, lots of different places. We headlined Seoul Jazz Festival in South Korea and we played to 20,000 to 25,000 people and it blew our minds. This was at a point in our careers where we didn’t even have a full setlist, I think our second album had only just come out and we were struggling to put together an hour and a half setlist.
James: We were playing one night at the festival already and then Jamiroquai had a back injury and so the festival asked us to play another night as well. So we ended up playing two really crazy slots at a massive festival, it was amazing. It was particularly right at the start of our careers, it was a real shock because we lived here and were touring around Europe and America in a beat up old van, doing the sort of bar tour and playing to a few hundred people a night.
We then went to Korea to play a few shows and they were like big venues which sold out every night and people were so excited. We were like ‘oh my god, what’s going on?!’ We did have some idea as we’d see on Instagram people writing in Korean and posting about our music but you don’t really feel it tangibly until you are there and see all the people in front of you. So that was really special.
Since you’re both producers, do you do a lot of sampling? If so, what’s your favourite thing to sample and use in your music? For example it sounds like you sampled the sound of night vision goggles in IDGAF About Pain.
Andy: We do tend to sample things but we try to limit things like that where we have to clear things or get permission. So we’ll find royalty free drumbeats and things like that, there is a lot of red tape you have to go through if you want to stuff like that and sometimes it can be a bit annoying and limiting.
James: haha it’s just not worth the hassle is it.
Andy: Especially when there is such a wealth of royalty free stuff out there now which I still don’t know how that’s legal in a way because if people are making all these free samples that people can use on hit records then the person who made the sample won’t get any benefit from it really.
James: It is really weird because on Splice some of the samples you can download are like could be the main part of a song, like four chord sequences or like a full riff, it could just be the main part. So it is weird, I genuinely do hear things on the radio or on new music Friday and I’m like ‘I’ve downloaded that on Splice’ it’s quite a weird world to live in. In most cases you wouldn’t have known that.
Andy: That’s why we have to be careful because any sample we do use, we end up messing around with it so it becomes unrecognisable. It’s not from a legal point of view but it’s because someone else probably has that sample and has put it in a track like the way it is. So we’re just trying to be different and not produce the same things that everyone else is doing.
James: We do a lot of, even when it’s something we’ve recorded, we will pitch it down, reverse it or chop it up. The track HEARTSONG on the album has an acoustic guitar which we knew what key we wanted it in, so we put a capo on the guitar and played five frets too high and then we recorded it and pitched it all back down five so it was where we wanted it to be. It’s got that degraded sound so you might think it could be a sample and we tried to do that a lot with different bits and bobs, even like keyboards and pianos.
The red tape must be hard when it comes to samples, if you want to use a sample from another artist, it must surely cost a lot of money.
Andy: It’s a weird one when you balance creativity with business, thinking like ‘oh god, is this actually going to be worth it in the end?’. But I think the more stuff we can do ourselves, the better and more authentic it is.
James: Hopefully other people will start sampling us one day because then we can be the people asking for money haha!
What unreleased tracks can you not wait for fans to hear from the new LP?
Andy: THREE STRIKES will be a really interesting one to see how that is received but yeah, that was a fun track to work on with Khalid. BACK ON TOP was a really interesting one to make as well, I know Griff features on the track but it goes even further into this world, when we wrote it.
James: We wrote BACK ON TOP with a guy called Reuben James who’s one of our mates and we work with him a lot. He’s done quite a few cuts across our second album and the mixtape. He’s an amazing jazz pianist and he plays for Sam Smith and they write together sometimes. We had a session with Reuben and Sam Smith and we started writing the track with them and then we took it away and finished it off and then they ended up getting the feature with Griff. Griff wrote her verse with them and we just love the track. It’s just a really great, feel-good, powerful, song.
Andy: In the past we’ve always done a little buildup into something and this track just goes straight in…
James: This song is just like ‘WAKE UP!’ haha.
I’m going to call myself out now, I used to work in a fashion retail store back in like 2014/2015. I first discovered HONNE when the deep cuts Coastal Love, 3AM and Gone Are The Days were all played over the store’s speakers. Where is the most random or unsuspecting place you’ve heard your music come on when out and about?
James: Gone Are The Days is our least favourite song haha.
Oh really?! Well it still slaps, don’t worry!
Andy: Thank you, that is good to know.
James: I heard our music the other day in a Homesense (a TK Max store), that was weird.
Andy: What song was it?
James: It was Someone That Loves You. They’re still pumping that one out.
Andy: I’ve heard our music in a McDonalds toilet before.
You know you’ve made it once you hear your own music in a McDonalds toilet!
James: My parents hear our music all the time, whenever they hear it, they will just go up to the cashier and be like ‘do you know this song? This is my son’s band’ haha.
Wholesome stuff haha.
Andy: They are so proud. I wouldn’t be surprised if my dad has printed off some business cards which say: ’HONNE’s dad’ or something haha.
James: It is a really weird feeling, genuinely, sometimes I feel a bit embarrassed and if you’re in a place where the music comes on quite loud, it’s a weird moment. You’re like ‘oh, we made this, how strange’ but I like it, it makes me feel like people are hearing our music. It’s a surreal thing.
As you’ve both been friends and in a band for a while now, what is one thing you admire about each other?
Andy: James will do anything for you, I really like that about James. Nothing is too much, so you’ve just got to ask and he’s there for you basically. He’s a very good friend.
James: My favourite thing about Andy is that he lets me do anything for him, he tells me exactly what to and I do it for him, it’s just a lovely dynamic haha. No, I love how calm Andy is. I think it’s often the case in music duos, we’re basically in a relationship aren’t we, we’re working together on stuff everyday for years on end, sometimes we’re in a bus together for six weeks. I’m quite… not hot headed… a little bit spicy at times.
Andy: Yeah, you can react quickly to things…
James: Haha yeah and Andy is a calm and peaceful presence which keeps me grounded. And maybe I’m the other way round for Andy, like ‘come on, let’s get riled up!’ haha. It’s good, we compliment each other.
Finally, what can we expect from HONNE in the future? Do you have any live plans in mind for next year?
Andy: We’re holding off touring this year but as soon as 2022 comes around, we’ll be going full steam ahead hopefully. So we’ve got UK, European, American and Asia tours in the works. And just more music, the next few years are going to be really exciting for many different reasons. There is a lot more in us and there are things going on which will bring a lot of inspiration into our lives. It’s going to be very exciting.
Interview by Cameron Poole
Photography by Dan Matthews