Can you remember the time you fell in love with a particular band? For this writer, it was when the chorus to “Warm On A Cold Night” embedded itself on his consciousness. Its maker, HONNE, didn’t have to reinvent the wheel – it was really good at driving forward on it. The duo of James Hatcher and Andy Clutterbuck offers an alluring proposition: In its hands, the mythical romance narrative intrinsic to R&B and soul are redirected into a modern channel, one propelled by electronica’s two most effective envoys, beats and bass, is doused with a particularly late-night sensibility and made to gush anew as its own fount. The two sold-out dates the band commanded here in September last year via Moonbeats Asia affirmed how beloved its charms are. Today, with two new singles “Day 1” and “Sometimes”, out in the ether, we share with you a recent chat we had with the self-proclaimed romantics with a cheeky side.
How’ve you been keeping since your show here?
Andy: We’ve been good. Since the show, we’ve been finishing up the album. It’s a chance for us to kind of reset and change a few things.
James: And come up with a whole new body of work.
A: So, it’s really refreshing.
“Wherever we go, it’s exciting for them because it’s slightly different from what they normally get. I think we’re a couple of cheeky English boys, to a certain extent.”
The show is monumental partly because it sparked the trend of indie bands doing multiple dates here.
A: That’s crazy!
A: We’ll come back and do three next time. And then, in ten years, we’ll do 40 of them. (Laughs)
You ended the set with “Warm On A Cold Night” and we remember the moment being so surreal and beautiful.
J: It’s always a nice surprise for us to play abroad and have people singing back and kind of going crazy. It’s weird, too, because you just never know what to expect but I can’t wait to come back to Singapore. It was really fun.
The version with Amine is utterly beautiful, too.
A: Thank you! He got in touch with us on Twitter. We started talking there and one thing led to another.
J: This was long before “Caroline” had gone monumentally huge.
A: Obviously, we were already big fans of his music. When he later came to one of our shows in New York, we unfortunately didn’t get to meet him there. Eventually, he came over to London and we got in the studio and sort of did our thing. He’s a great guy and we’re big fans of his music.
And what can you tell the fans about the new record?
J: The new record still has an overriding feel of warmth but it’s less chilled out.
A: There’s still romance lingering in the air.
J: The first album had a very nighttime kind of feel but this new album is more beat-oriented.
A: In a way, it’s like how we played our old stuff live. We have that kind of vibe but it’s definitely more upbeat where you’d walk around town with it in your headphones; you can also put it on at a party.
When you were crafting the beats, what were your references?
A: It’s tricky. The new album has influences from West Coast hip-hop. I’m quite pleased that I found this question hard because it tells that we sort of have our own sound instead of imitating people.
Would you say that HONNE is an R&B band?
A: I don’t know. I guess we were when we started but not sure if we are still anymore.
J: We just have to keep them guessing. Keep the thread going.
A: It’s really hard. In the US, you’ve got The Weeknd and Daniel Caesar and so on. I’m not so sure if we belong in the same category. So, I don’t know.
J: I guess it depends on what country you’re listening to us, then.
Over the last couple of years, a slew of R&B-inspired acts from the UK, such as James Blake, Lianne La Havas, Jorja Smith and yourselves have crossed over in the United States in a massive way. Why do you think that is?
A: That’s a good question. I find it strange that we’ve gone to the US and had relative success there and then, there are huge bands in the UK who have not been to the US. I don’t know why that is.
J: I think it’s the kind of music that is spread primarily through online platforms as opposed to on traditional radio. So, it’s not dependent on, like, how to crack the US. The traditional radio there isn’t as centralised as in the UK, where we have BBC Radio 1. Indie bands try to get onto Radio 1 and with the support, they progress forward. Same like in Australia, where there is Triple J.
For me, there is a bit of excitement to experience something outside from your country. Same for the UK, where we look to bands from America and all over the world because it’s exotic to us. So, I reckon it’s the same for the US. Whenever we go, it’s exciting for them because it’s slightly different from what they normally get. I think we’re a couple of cheeky English boys, to a certain extent.
Having toured extensively, what still gets you excited about getting out there?
J: It’s the minute we step off the plane. I know we’re fortunate to have gone to all these different places but there are still countries we have not been to. Like when we were in Hong Kong, where we hadn’t been previously. It’s just so nice to explore the place and meet local people and visit local spots. People would say it’s hard to keep traveling but it’s always worth it when you get there. When you’ve been on the plane for six hours but it feels like 100 hours, you still go through it. Ultimately, going to these places is our favourite part of doing music.
A: Yes, I think we’re very lucky. I cannot overstate that.
Well, we can’t wait to have you guys in Singapore soon.
J: I think we’re planning an Asia tour some time early next year. So, we’ll be back.
A: And we’ll do a round three of the interview then.