HONNE on the Dualities of Limitation and Strength
The British duo speaks on the importance of finding your sound palette.
For British band HONNE, everything lies in the music. Whether they are back home in England or traveling the world playing a different city every night, the duo believes in one thing: staying true to your sound. Currently on the Asia leg of their tour, members James and Andy recently sat down with Hypebeast to talk about everything from their songwriting process to making it as an artist.
With the stress of being on tour and dealing with the changing time zones, do you have any routines or habits that help you keep a good mindset?
James: We did with our last few tours. In our home life, we’re quite into exercise, going to the gym as many times a week as we can. We’ve got a WhatsApp group with the people in our touring party who also like doing that.
Andy: I think for the most part, it’s gonna sound really boring, but prioritizing sleep, having a good breakfast.
James: Not eating junk all the time. When you’re flying a lot and not sleeping enough, you have to be careful not to overdo it.
What lesson have you learned in your career that you take with you?
J: I think people can get bogged down in trying to make their social media really good or designing merch before they’ve even got a fan base. HONNE has taught me that music is the most important thing. That’s what makes or breaks it. You don’t have to be the best in anything you’re doing but if you’re doing it slightly differently, or you have a unique twist on something, then that can be enough to forge your own path. There’s always going to be a better songwriter, keyboard player, drummer, singer, or whatever. But sometimes your limitations are actually strengths. For us, the fact that Andy can’t sing like Mariah Carey for example, it’s a strength because it means that everything he’s written has to be intentional.
Can you walk us through your songwriting process?
A: I don’t know if there’s a specific process that we do every time. Traditionally, we both work on music, whether that’s together or separately. That’s how we worked in the past, we had a studio during COVID but it was short-lived. Now, we’ve just moved into a new space and we’re writing more together which is really fun. We like to try things even if that means listening to the same section of music for half an hour or until you find something that is unique or different. It’s the same for writing — I don’t like rushing things. I want to work on it until it feels right. But for me, when I do it, there has to be a story. One that is cohesive and makes sense. Which is why a little bit of thought goes into it. And therefore takes a bit more time.
J: It’s good to have a topic when you come into the studio, then the whole song kind of flows quite easily from there, because you’ve got this idea.
“You don’t have to be the best in anything you’re doing but if you’re doing it slightly differently, or you have a unique twist on something, then that can be enough to forge your own path.”
Are there any factors that you have to consider when creating a setlist when you’re going on tour?
A: Yeah, it’s difficult. Obviously, since the last time that we played or did an Asia tour, we had two less albums. So now we’ve got way more to try and squeeze into a 90-minute set. It’s hard because in some ways you want to please everyone and play the greatest hits, but then at the same time, you kind of want to be a bit selfish and play the songs that you want to hear, the ones you personally really love.
If you could give a piece of advice to artists just starting out, what would it be?
A: Take your time. Don’t just write one song and then put it out. When we started, we wrote a lot of songs before we released anything. We sent a lot of them out to our close friends and just said, “Can you rate them from your favorite song to your least?” Just so we could get a grasp of what was good. When you’re working on something, and you’re so close to it, you can lose track of what’s good and what’s not.
J: For us, we decided on a sound palette. I’d really recommend that. Doing that across all your songs is the highway to just sounding like only you and nobody else.
A: I think especially for your first album, while you’re trying to put a stamp on who you are.
Are there any exciting projects you can tell us about?
A: We’re in the studio and we are working on our next album. We’re about halfway through and I think we’re probably going to start releasing some music fairly soon. The album won’t be until 2024, but it’s shaping up very nicely. It’s a bit more alive feeling, there’s the use of real instruments.