HONNE at Lolla 2019
Photo: Daniel Mendoza/Recording Academy
HONNE On 'Love Me / Love Me Not,' Lollapalooza Return, Drinking Tea On Tour & New Music
British electro-soul duo HONNE, consisting of James Hatcher and Andy Clutterbuck, put their musical vibes front and center in 2014, making waves with their debut single, "Warm on a Cold Night." The smooth, longing-for-love song would serve as the title track of their debut album, released the following year.
In August 2018, they followed up with their sophomore album, Love Me / Love Me Not, on which, as the name hints, the first songs are themed around falling in love and second half highlight romantic challenges (alternate half-moon symbols next to the tracks names denote this, too). Even with the duality, the album is a rather sunny, upbeat sounding one. As Hatcher describes it, "in terms of production, we wanted it to be a bit more open, daytime and upbeat, whereas the first album was very nocturnal and chilled out."
We sat down with the pair shortly before they returned to the Lollapalooza stage—they also performed in 2017—to chat about the album, new music on the way, how they stay at home on the road—English breakfast tea is must—and more.
So, you guys are going to take the stage here at Lolla later today. How are you feeling about it?
James Clutterbuck: Feeling very great about it. It's been two years since we've played, so we're back fairly soon I would say. And yeah, can't wait. The crowd last time were brill, and I'm sure they'll be brilliant once again.
Do you have any pre-stage rituals before a show, or do you just kind of go up there?
Andrew Hatcher: I think at a festival, it's so tight, the turnaround, there's not much time for any rituals really.
Clutterbuck: No, not really.
Hatcher: Just checking we can hear ourselves and getting ready. Pacing around a bit. Maybe have a gin and tonic. And feel a little bit panicked. [laughs]
Clutterbuck: We've started doing press-ups, so maybe we'll include that in our ritual. Trying to get biceps [both laugh] for the first time ever.
Hatcher: Which apparently doesn't do much for his press-ups, but yeah.
You put out a new album, Love Me / Love Me Not, late last year, right?
Clutterbuck: Yeah, yeah.
Do you want to talk a little bit about the style and sounds on it?
Hatcher: In terms of production, we wanted it to be a bit more open, daytime, and upbeat, whereas the first album was very nocturnal and chilled out, so, that's kind of the difference between the two sound-wise as well.
And so, obviously, this Lolla performance versus two years ago, you have new music to play, and you've been touring lately. What's been your favorite new song to play this go around?
Hatcher: I think, maybe, "Day 1." I just like any song where loads of people sing along, basically. It's one of the best feelings in the world for us. "Location Unknown" as well, that's pretty great.
Clutterbuck: Yeah, and "Me & You."
Hatcher: "Me & You."
Clutterbuck: Yeah, it's nice to play the new ones.
Hatcher: We're playing all of them.
As you mentioned, you're touring a lot and one of you is getting married later this year. Is there anything you do while on tour to stay grounded when you're away from home and flying all over?
Clutterbuck: Well, constantly talking to people back home. So yeah, just kind of trying to, where we can, experience home life wherever possible. But what else?
Hatcher: I think we've been really careful with who we tour with in terms of our team, so it kind of feels like we've got our own little family everywhere we go. And we wake up, and go and get breakfast together, and hang out all the time basically. And it's nice to keep that, have companionship, rather than just having colleagues, if you know what I mean, have actual friends with us.
Clutterbuck: And lots of tea. Yeah, English breakfast tea.
Hatcher: Yeah. It's ridiculous. Just scrambling around, looking for teabags everywhere we go.
Do you feel like there is, on this album, or maybe in your music in general, part of it that brings you back home? And what influence from England do you feel like is most apparent in your music?
Clutterbuck: Well, "Location Unknown" is basically about being away on tour, and dealing with missing someone back at home. So every time we play that, I kind of...
Hatcher: Think about home?
Clutterbuck: Yeah, think about home. But in terms of just English traits, the whole music has got this kind of quirky feel to it, which maybe reflects a bit on our sort of stupid personalities.
Hatcher: Yeah. Cheeky little English boys.
What kind of music did you guys grow up listening to? What's at the base of your musical influences?
Hatcher: Loads of '90s stuff. Yes. I mean, just everything. Like Destiny's Child. All that kind of stuff just seeps into you during that age. But for me, Michael Jackson was a massive influence. First gig ever went to, think I was like 10, saw him at Wembley Stadium, which is a big... I don't know if... Do you guys know that place?
Hatcher: It's that that famous?
Hatcher: Oh, great! Yeah, so that was nuts. And Quincy Jones' production on all that stuff is amazing. It's kind of similar for you on that-
Clutterbuck: Yeah, similar for me. My sister used to work in a record shop, so I would go in there, and she would blast out hip hop when I was a young teenager. So, she'd be listening to J Dilla and the Beastie Boys, and all sorts of different types of people. I'd just basically listen to whatever she would listen at the time.
Hatcher: And your dad's a rocker, isn't he?
Clutterbuck: My dad's a bit of a rocker.
Hatcher: Yeah, I can remember him upstairs with... Well, his dad has like guitar amps and guitars, and he used to just go up and sing and play guitar, didn't he?
Clutterbuck: Yeah, he did. He still does. Bless him!
And then, what was the starting point for each of you thinking about making music professionally and seeing it in that lens?
Hatcher: We both set out with the intention of doing that. I mean, even from... This sounds ridiculous, but when I was 12, within a week of starting to learn guitar, I was like, "This is it. This is what I want to do now." And I carried on trying hard at school still, but I'd go home every day and play guitar, and, on weekends sometimes, I'd play guitar for like six hours or something. It was a bit of a joke.
Clutterbuck: How are your friends from your childhood?
Hatcher: I didn't have any. E, A, D, G, B, and E. That's a really sh*t guitar joke. I think even at that point, I wanted to do it. And then I met Andy when we studied music at university. We just had to slog on for a few more years and hone our craft a bit.
Clutterbuck: I think we first realized, when we first started HONNE, and we'd written "Warm on a Cold Night" and a couple of other tunes, we were like, "Okay."
Hatcher: We were on to something.
Clutterbuck: Like, "I feel like this could be something that people like and grab on to." And we've got lucky, I guess.
You mentioned the first album, it's more of that darker, nighttime feel and this one was more daytime, a little sunnier. What about the next project? Do you already have a vision or plan to go to the studio after touring?
Clutterbuck: Yeah, we're kind of working on it as we go. Every gap between gigs and touring, we're back in the studio. And we're hashing it out as we go along. And, at the moment, it's a bit of a mixture between the second album and the first album. So, it's kind of these two different types of vibes.
Hatcher: We'll see.
Clutterbuck: We will see. We just need to figure it out for ourselves, but we're getting there. And it feels like it's coming along nicely.