How HONNE’s No Song Without You Became the Accidental Quarantine Mixtape
The electronic-soul duo bare themselves in an exclusive interview—via Zoom, of course
The landscape of music has completely changed—dare I say evolved—with live streams as the pervasive norm replacing the thrilling yet intimate experience of a crowded concert. We have never been more isolated yet connected at the same time.
The inseparable British electronic-soul duo HONNE has adapted well to the global pandemic considering such grim circumstances. This July, they released a 14-track mixtape entitled no song without you in hopes of spreading undeterred positivity. In an exclusive press interview, we talked to James Hatcher and Andy Clutterbuck who are no strangers to Wonder, having fronted our December 2019 cover story when they visited the country for a seven-day show mall tour.
James recounts, “[Filipinos are] the loudest singing group I’ve ever come across in my life. It was absolutely insane. It’s crazy for us to be able to come all the way to the Philippines and have thousands of people sing back our lyrics to us. It’s really, really special. You remember moments like that forever, I think.”
The Accidental Quarantine Mixtape
The pair created two-thirds of the mixtape together before UK was placed under lockdown; they eventually had to finish off the record separately. The duo even had their respective partners sing background vocals (with the expert help of auto-tune, of course). With songs like s o c i a l d i s ta n c i n g and humorous lyrics like “stay the hell away from me,” this record is evidently inspired by current events.
Andy shares, “Our music is always a product of our environment and everything that’s going on around us. You know, whether it’s a global pandemic or the weather, we’re always influenced by that kind of stuff. It’s hard not to be, really, just because it affects us and so many people around the world.” On their shared love for the record, he declares, “I think it’s partly some of our favorite music we’ve ever written. The process that we took to get to the endpoint was a lot different for us. [James and I] were working a lot more collaboratively together.”
On the role of music amid such unprecedented times, James states, “We really wanted [our music] to play a role [in] comforting people. I think everyone is having various degrees of an awful time. And people could do with music that has a positive message—that things are going to move forward—and encouraging people to stick with each other and help each other through a difficult time in their lives.”
Still, Andy laments the lost opportunity to perform for their fans. He explains, “It’s strange because the best part in many ways of releasing music is going out and playing it to people and, you know, connecting with our fans in person. It’s a bit of a shame that we can’t do that, but we are connecting with people, maybe more than we’ve done before online so that’s also a positive, I would say.”
One of their standout singles from the mixtape is the wonderfully pragmatic smile more smile more smile more. With reassuring lyrics like, “Why worry about something now/ That you won’t worry about a year from now/ Remember, no matter how difficult things get/ The sun will always rise again tomorrow,” it could easily be our anthem for quarantine. As we continue to hope for better days ahead, we’re reminded of the simple joys of being present in the moment and connecting with others—with, of course, the help of lessening our screen media exposure.
Andy explains, “We’ve had these lyrics for a long time but it kinda just sat there, and we thought they were really special. They were really just to remind [James and I] how to be better and happier than kind of preaching to people that ‘This is what you should do.’”
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To be young and full of fervor in a pandemic is, undoubtedly, a very isolating experience. To help us move forward, James has these uplifting words: “You need to remember that everything that is worth working for takes probably 10 times the amount of effort than you think it will. Don’t expect for it to come quickly. Andy and I had to work for a very long time as very poor musicians before we managed to get HONNE off the ground. We were working in schools, [taking in] part-time jobs…just so we can carry on writing music and trying to make something happen. It was soul-destroying at times but you’ve got to keep picking yourself back up and fighting to achieve your dreams.”
Fortunately, we have good music and wise words from the most well-mannered British men I know to make us feel less alone.
Photos c/o Warner Music Philippines
Art Alexandra Lara