“True Feelings” is how HONNE is translated from Japanese into English. At a recent gig at New York’s legendary Webster Hall in August, British duo, HONNE, proved to a packed crowd how exactly its soulful, but electro-pop vibes reflect the band’s name.
Take for example HONNE’s haunting single, “Someone That Loves You,” with lyrics by Izzy Bizu, or, the equally emotive and lingering tracks “Gone Are The Days” and “3am.” The subsequent sound is both fresh and alluring.
Established in 2014 in Bow, London, by James (producer) and Andy (singer/producer), HONNE’s last U.S. tour was met with incredible demand and saw nearly each gig sell-out. Fresh off a North American leg of their current tour, The Knockturnal spoke with the front men about their rise to success Stateside and how Japanese culture and symbolism figures into their music making process.
You’ve just kicked-off your tour. Congrats! What do you most anticipate with this forthcoming tour and new material?
James: Our most anticipated thing of this tour is the fact that we are having our first tour bus experience! Really looking forward to driving across America and Canada and seeing some places that we’ve never visited before. Travelling is something we love, so it’s great to be doing it through music. Also, with the album out, it’s feels good to be playing some new songs in the set and seeing the crowd’s reaction.
You have many fans worldwide, but are still being introduced to many in the States. Why do you think your music will resonate so well here?
Andy: Our focus has always been on writing music that has a proper song at the heart of it. A song that can be played on just a piano with vocals and still he great. We’ve taken that and put our own, modern, production stamp on it, and we’re hoping that people will like that combination!
“One’s true feelings and desires” is how the group name is translated from Japanese. How does this guide your musicianship and creativity if at all?
Andy: All our lyrics are very personal to us. They’re all about things that have happened to me or James, or our close friends. We actually started writing the music first. We had a few tracks, found the name and felt that it was the perfect fit for what we were writing about.
How did your upbringings influence your work as artists? When and how did you discover a fascination with Japan?
James: Andy and I both grew up in the South West of England (we didn’t know each other at this point though, sadly!). The best thing about that is being able to make noise and nobody stopping you. We were able to play guitars, drums, bass, and sing as much as we wanted. Mates would come round and we’d play with a full setup in my lounge. You do it just for fun at that point, but fast forward 5-10 years and messing around for hours on all those instruments has influenced our songwriting and production now.
The fascination with Japan started when Andy lived out there for a couple of months. We wrote some music whilst he was there and I was in London actually. He finds Japan really inspiring, the people, the culture, the landscape. We’re playing some shows out there in November, so I’m incredibly excited to see it for myself too.
How has your sound evolved since you first began?
Andy: The biggest change is our production. We’ve learnt so much over the last couple of years. I’m sure we’ll never stop learning. We’ve only released one album, so there’s a lot of exploring and experimenting to be done going forward and we really look forward to that.
Tell us about the making of your new video for ‘Someone That Loves You’ (w/ Izzy Bizu). Conceptually and literally?
James: The concept actually came from Malia James and we fell in love with it straight away. The song itself is about someone wanting someone they can’t have, because that person is already in a relationship. But this concept was a spin on that, with the third wheel in this scenario being the girl’s movement into life as a Geisha. We love the shots in Tokyo. Aesthetically, it’s a very unique place. And filming the other parts with Izzy were really good fun. She’s cool and great to work with.
As you tour across the country, what has surprised you most about your fans and America in general? What do you anticipate most during this leg of the tour?
Andy: I think after our last visit, after playing shows and meeting fans, we knew what to expect. Everyone is so friendly, crowds go nuts and really get into it. That’s exactly how we like it and why we hope we can keep on coming back!
Photo Credit: Claire Rothstein