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Honne, The Sense of Shared Feelings, A Conversation with Andy & James

Honne, for the uninitiated, is a Japanese term which means “true feelings”. Honne is also a talented and successful electro-pop duo who’ve been making waves all over the world. True to their name, their albums are made up of songs that manage to hit all the right emotional notes while getting the dancefloor going.

Whilst Honne were in town for Neon Lights Festival, we got to sit down for a chat. Side by side, Andy and James speak with the relaxed ease of old friends, or siblings. In conversation, they seem to be able to read each other’s thoughts and add ideas upon ideas as a team. It was a fascinating opportunity to observe the chemistry and trust they’ve created in their friendship, which certainly contributes to the sense of shared feeling which is essential to their music’s appeal.

Read on below for the full interview with Honne, where we chat about music and gear that they love, and more.

Honne : The Sense of Shared Feelings

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Image credit: Charlie Cumming
The two of you make a great team, and you’re obviously good friends as well. What’s that like, in terms of your music-making process?

Andy: Quite often James will work on instrumentals and I will–in my own space–write the lyrics, melodies, things like that, and record them by myself. It’s only normally at the end of the process that we get together. Right now, because we’re working on the next album, we don’t see each other apart from on social occasions like when we hang out on the weekend. But we’re constantly talking on WhatsApp or the telephone.

James: We started off as friends. So we’ve got a really good understanding of what pushes each other’s buttons or what gets on each other’s nerves. That helped in a lot of respects. Now we know each other so well that we can try and butter each other up the right way.

Andy: To be honest, we learned that if we did spend all the time together, it probably wouldn’t work as well as it currently does. Obviously, when we’re on tour we spend all the time together. But we don’t share a bedroom. [Both laugh]

Talking about your music-making process, what sort of gear or software do you guys use, and is there any that you’re loving at the moment?

James: For the last album, we started using Ableton for all our recording. Before that we were using Logic. I haven’t used Ableton at all, though Andy was familiar with it because of our live sets. But after doing loads of sessions in L.A. where everyone was using Ableton, I was like, “I need to learn how to use this thing,” so I learnt how to use it on the plane back from America. It’s been amazing for helping us write in a different way.

In terms of instruments, it all started with a Dave Smith Prophet 08. That’s still one of our favourite synths. And the Nord Electro 5 HP, and lots of other bits and bobs. We’re using a Teenage Engineering OP-1 now, have you seen those? [gestures] They’re like this big and look like a toy.

Andy: It’s a beautiful thing. It’s great if you’re into synths. You can fiddle on it all day and keep coming up with new things, which is really fun. We use some plugins but we try where possible to use an instrument rather than a soft synth. Some people will say they can’t tell the difference, and we’re not being pretentious that we always need to use analog gear, but it does add some character to the sound. In terms of the music-making experience, buttons and knobs and having things hands-on is so much better.

What about analog versus digital when you’re listening to music? Your last album was released on LP–what does that mean to you?

Andy: Because we travel so much, we use Spotify to listen to music for most of the time. But I’ve got a vinyl player in my flat, and there is something great about getting back home and putting a vinyl record on, putting the needle on, and that crackle that you get.

James: It’s like a focal point for everyone as well, isn’t it? It makes you listen or enjoy or appreciate the music more when you have to physically do something. When I was younger we used to have discmans. I remember you’d go and spend too much money on a CD. It was around 15 pounds in England for one CD so it was all of your pocket money for a month. You’d be like, “Whatever I get, I need to make sure I’m happy with it.” And then you would take it home and sit on your bed with your legs crossed and headphones on, and listen to the whole album multiple times. And that was your entertainment. We’ve come from that kind of background I guess.

Andy: Yeah, we are album people. Even in this digital age where you can flip through songs, we still enjoy listening to an album in full. And therefore we want to carry on making albums, in full, not just one-off singles.

So what kind of music do you listen to, especially when you’re on the road?

Andy: Bon Iver is always a good one, just for the fact that his early albums were very peaceful and relaxing.

James: Great for flying. And [turning to Andy] you love Khruangbin too. That’s a great vinyl record to have in your house. It’s good music to put on and have a chat to with people. We used to do it in America on the tour bus. We’d get back in, get a drink or a cup of tea, and put Khruangbin on while sitting around and chatting until we go to bed.

Andy: Nice winding-down music.

James: And Frank Ocean is good flight music. To wake up to it is quite soothing. When you’re travelling a lot you need that kind of distraction and that calmness.

You’ve worked with a lot of different musicians, especially in your last album. Are there any dream collaborations that you’d like to do?

Andy: It’s too early to say what’s gonna happen on the next album but we’re constantly talking to loads of different artistes.

James: A dream collab would be… Chance the Rapper, obviously. And Frank Ocean. Other people that we’re speaking to, that we’d like to work with: LANY, Rich Brian, lots of people. Let’s wait and see!

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Image Credit: Neon Lights Festival

Visit Honne on their official website to find out more about their latest music and upcoming tour dates. Special thanks to our friends at Neon Lights Festival and Warner Music Singapore for arranging the interview.