The genre-defying duo joins to discuss their full length album, “Love Me / Love Me Not.” Knowing they had “more to offer” in the sophomore LP, HONNE set off on a journey full of experimentation, increased collaboration (including with “insanely talented jazz pianist” Reuben James and singer-songwriter Georgia Barnes), and embracing their two-sided band mantra. It’s all tracked here through intimate details on many of the songs, including which one started on a couch with Garageband.
Interviews: James Hatcher (HONNE), Andy Clutterbuck (HONNE), Jordan Whitmore (Atlantic Records), Georgia Barnes (Songwriter), Reuben James (Songwriter).
HONNE — “I Got You”
Jesse Cannon: Hi. My name is Jesse Cannon, and I’ve devoted my life to figuring out what goes into making great albums. I’ve produced over a thousand records, written two books, and recorded hundreds of podcasts pursuing the hidden secrets of how great music gets to the world’s ears. Now, I’m proud to present Inside the Album, where we get to go deeper on how your favorite artists have made the amazing albums in their catalog. We will hear first-hand from the musicians and the team behind them that helped craft these records, while getting to know the little secrets that go into making great music.
On this episode, we’re gonna go inside HONNE’s “Love Me/Love Me Not” LP.
HONNE — “Someone that Loves You”
HONNE is an electronic duo based out of TakiDaki Studios in the Bow part of East London. Starting off their career with three EPs that caught a lot of people’s ears, they soon put out their debut LP, “Warm on A Cold Night,” in the summer of 2016 through their own Tatemae Recordings. It featured songs that captured listeners in clubs across the world, like “Someone That Loves You,” and the album’s title track.
The group released their second album, “Love Me/Love Me Not,” through Atlantic, so they joined me in Atlantic Studios in New York City to discuss it. I’m gonna let them introduce themselves and catch us up on what they’ve been up to since their last album came out.
Andy Clutterbuck: We sound very similar, but I am Andy from HONNE.
James Hatcher: And I am James from HONNE.
Andy Clutterbuck: OK. Since our first debut album, “Warm on a Cold Night,” came out, we have been touring. We’ve spent a lot of time on the road, over in the U.S., Asia, U.K., and Europe. Got that all out of the way. And then, we kind of sat down and started writing for the next album. We didn’t take too much time off. Very proud of our first album, but we always knew we had more to offer.
We didn’t really have any sort of pressure. The first album went well, and we have sort of had a great time going around on tour and, obviously, have had a certain amount of success. It never blew up, so we never had the pressure of having to top that.
James Hatcher: Yeah, we never had a song that was suddenly picked up on radio all around the world or became a Top 10 in America, or anything like that. It’s always been a slow but steady grower kind of thing.
I think it’s a different kind of game you’re playing. We just wanna carry on writing as good as music as we can, and hope that people carry on enjoying it and following it.
Andy Clutterbuck: I think for the first album, we kind of sat down and we were like, “What can we do to make a cohesive album?” And we’d use loads of 808 drums, and the Prophet, and my vocal with a slap back delay on it, and that formed the basis of the first album. But with this one we’re like, “OK, that was all kind of one-dimensional, how can we now just be as varied as possible, but still have a cohesive album?” And we realized the voice [was] one of the things that was just going to tie it all together, so we could afford to experiment musically a bit more, which is what we did.
Jesse Cannon: Every album is always a reaction to the record before, but often times that reaction is to just keep finding who you are and do it better, and the guys are going to explain a little bit about how they did that with this record.
Andy Clutterbuck: So, our band name is a Japanese word which means “true feelings, true intentions.” It’s a huge part of the Japanese culture, and it’s things that you keep to yourself. So you’d only probably would share with a really close friend. And then there’s a flip side to that which is “tatemae,” which is the feelings that you display in public.
So, there’s always been like a two sides element, so HONNE is our name, tatemae is like our label that we’ve set up. So we’ve always had this two sides, and we wanted to go into that deeper, but we weren’t sure. We wrote one of the last songs that ended up on the album called “Forget Me Not” and there’s a lyric in there, a line that says, “She loves me, she loves me not. She loves me, she loves me not.” And we thought it perfectly summarized this two sides element. And then from that, that kind of formed the concept of the album and we picked the songs from there. A lot of the 30 songs that we’ve written we’re proud of and could have easily ended up on the album. They had to fit into this concept.
James Hatcher: Yeah, that’s still something that we wanted to go on the first album, and then we were like these are definitely going to go on the second album, and then we’re like maybe the third album. Maybe the fifth.
Jesse Cannon: You just heard them talk about their own label Tatemae, which Atlantic licenses each release through. I next turned to Jordan Whitmore, who handles A&R for the group to find out a little bit about how that relationship came to be.
Jordan Whitmore: So I heard them for the first time. I think I walked into my friend’s office and he was playing their music. Instantly it grabbed me. I was like holy shit, this is something for me or something that I’m going to be into. So I kind of chased him down to send it to me. There was nothing online at the time, and he did. Then the following day by coincidence Guillaume, who manages the band, hit me up and said “have you heard this band?” I said, “Actually, I have, I heard it yesterday.”
So from that point we kind of met up a few times and just talked about what the best thing for them to do is and built a relationship. It became apparent that we were all on the same page in terms of how they would launch. And we had quite a clear idea in terms of steps they should take, and the way they should approach the live shows, for example in underplaying and playing few shows and selling them out. They continued to do it that way which has been a really strong point for them.
We just needed to get to a point where they were putting stuff out into the world. And we were trying to figure out what the best way to launch was and for them, I think, they put a record out on a small label called Super, which I think contextualized them and really helped them to come from somewhere, coming on that label. That just went really, really well, and from that point, it went off and we signed them during that time period, really.
Jesse Cannon: And now Jordan is going to explain a little bit more about the two sides concept, but from a different angle.
Jordan Whitmore: Yeah, I think the thing that we’d noticed during the first record is that HONNE are a band of two sides, really. Their mantra for the first record was like a nighttime thing, and songs like “The Night” were really successful for them, obviously “Warm on a Cold Night” and those records. I think when it came to this it was like “OK, well maybe we can bring it a little bit…we can take it a little bit further in terms of into the daytime” in a way. And that’s kind of where two sides of this record, the “Love Me/Love Me Not” came from.
It was like “OK,” well it’s kind of this side and these songs seem to naturally fit, some of them, into the more daytime upbeat thing, and some of them are just naturally fitting into the nighttime. So I think for a while they were working on that and just songs would naturally fall into one or the other. I think it really worked for them.
And then I think at the very end of the process they wrote a song “Forget Me Not” which is where the “Love Me/Love Me Not” thing came from. So really I think it was like a “Let’s step it up” and play to their strengths. They’re really really good [on] one side and the other side. Instead of falling into the middle, let’s really understand what it is that people like about one thing and the other thing and really play to that.
I think one turning point in the making of this record, or the thing that gave the band and all of us confidence that they’re in the right path was that Supa Dups, the producer who produced a lot for Drake and Shakira, and he’s got a huge CV. [He] came and sat down and we played him a bunch of music, and at the time we were talking about maybe them working together, or them working with other people, and his response was, “You don’t need to work with anyone else. You’re doing something great here.”
We played him “Day 1” and he said, “people will love this record because it doesn’t sound like anything else. It’s got a unique sound.” And I think at that point, it allowed them to understand that, actually, they are doing something, they’re on the right track, that their records sound unique to them. And that’s what they need to be doing, is something that sounds fresh and unique and doesn’t sound like anyone else. So, I think that was definitely a turning point.
Jesse Cannon: What makes electronic music acts different from almost every other genre of music is most of them write on the road all the time since they just need a laptop. But that’s not the case with these guys.
Andy Clutterbuck: It’s kind of a separate thing, I would say. We have the hopeful thinking that yeah, we’re going to write a load on tour, because we’ll have a load of time on the tour bus while it’s traveling, but ultimately it never really happens.
James Hatcher: I think for us, when we get stuck into it, we’re quite…tell me if this sounds arrogant, but like prolific — in terms of our output is high. We really go in on it, and so I think we’re safe to not have to be one of those bands with a trailer attached to the back with all the recording studio stuff in it.
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah.
James Hatcher: If we toured super hard, then I guess that’s the point when you really, really have to do that. But at the moment, we’re able to come back and we enjoyed traveling and getting inspired when we’re away and seeing all these new places. And then getting home and having all these new inspirations to put into the music.
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah, I think if we wrote the album — our first album — then toured it and wrote the next one whilst we’re touring, there would be no inspiration. It would just be like loads of songs that didn’t really mean anything. So it’s nice to have a little break and as James said, just get inspired by things.
Andy Clutterbuck: For us we tend to have little ideas that are recorded “shitily”-
James Hatcher: You called it “shitily.”
Andy Clutterbuck: We tend to go into it from the word “go.” And not that we haven’t got imagination, but we always like to produce something as much as possible from the start.
James Hatcher: Yeah it’s often the production that inspires. It can just be four chords and a beat. We just want it to sound like people don’t really know how it was made. We like sounds like that. If it sounds unique and like us, then that’s enough to inspire a whole song almost, isn’t it? Rather than making loads of little bits on planes and in the back of tour buses feeling sick.
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah, or rather than sitting down with an acoustic guitar and trying to come up with the vocal line. We tend not to do that.
James Hatcher: No, when we’re working from our homes, it can be so fast. If you just come up with an idea that we both like, it can be even within a day or two days, the song is completely finished and almost ready to mix in a way.
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah.
HONNE — “Warm on a Cold Night”
Jesse Cannon: The most noticeable change on this record from the last one is all the great collaborations they have and hearing so many different voices throughout the record. So, I wanted to get a little insight on how that happened.
Andy Clutterbuck: Another different step we’ve taken from the first record is that we’ve worked with more people on this album. On the last album, I don’t even think from the 12 tracks that we put out, they’re all from us, weren’t they?
James Hatcher: Yeah, apart from the Izzy Bizu.
Andy Clutterbuck: Oh, yeah apart from her, yeah. “Someone That Loves You.” But with this album, we worked with, whether it’s a musician like a piano player, a guy called Reuben James, we wrote a few tracks with him. There’s a producer called Nana Rogues who we wrote a track with. And other artists, as well, like Georgia, Anna of the North.
James Hatcher: Tom Misch.
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah, Tom Misch. So that was different for us because suddenly having your own idea of what you are and going into a room with someone else and sharing that is difficult in a way, because you don’t want to be judged. You get comfortable writing in your own space and then having to open up can be a little bit uncomfortable, I’d say.
James Hatcher: Even if that’s like lyrical ideas or musical ideas. You have to be willing to suggest something and be shot down.
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah.
James Hatcher: It’s a real thing, isn’t it?
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah.
Jesse Cannon: I was then curious about how they got in touch with all these different collaborators since there’s such a vast range of them on this record.
Andy Clutterbuck: We released the first album and we toured loads and we met so many people by doing that and had been speaking for so long to people on Twitter and Instagram and stuff. One of our best experiences from the last album is “Someone That Loves You.” That was really funny and went really well, so we just thought we should be hooking up with these people and seeing what we can bring to each other’s music.
It felt like a natural thing to do. It wasn’t like, if we combine all our fans, we’re going to have a mega hit. Because a lot of the people on it they’re not people with enormous profiles or anything. We’re not just trying to get a big name on the record. It’s all people that was really respect on want to get their influence on a track.
James Hatcher: Yeah.
Andy Clutterbuck: And just bumping into them as festivals and playing on the same bill as people happens a lot.
Jesse Cannon: And this is Jordan Whitmore talking a little bit about how the label pushed the band to outdo the last record.
Jordan Whitmore: At the period that they had been writing where they’d been on the road, I think lyrically the songs were in a similar vein to the first record and just generally they were kind of a mid-tempo. A few of those, I don’t think any of those songs actually ended up being on the record that they had written that first time. So it kind of came from that point of challenging themselves and stepping their music up and really having a point of view with it.
The whole thing got re-thunk from there, the collaboration thing started and we introduced them to Georgia and Nana Rogues because we all love “Passionfruit” so much — the Drake song that he produced and wrote. They had met Tom Misch, Anna of the North, and BEKA, and a few people on the road that they ended up working with. So yeah, I think there was a challenge of getting them on board. Not getting them on board, but like, let’s get out of the comfort zone of you guys in a room and take it out and explore the world, really.
It kind of came in two phases. I think they’d been on tour, they toured a lot all over the world on the back of the first album and had been writing songs in the time that they were in the U.K. And after, it’d maybe been nine months since the first record came out. They came and sat down and played us a bunch of music and we listened and it was like, I think our words to them at the time were like: “this music’s great and the songwriting is always great, but it sounds a bit like you need to go away and challenge yourselves a little bit more.”
They were making music that was comfortable for them. I think because they’re so talented and they’re so able as producers and with each other they’re so comfortable, it was easy for them to exist in their own bubble in a way and make music with each other.
So our guidance really at that point was like “OK, go away, challenge us, challenge yourselves.” The first record they’d done on their own, and it has been the two of them in a room, so we wanted to make it a little more collaborative on the second record.
People they’d met on the road, people that we had. So Reuben James, I think they had met on a plane or he had hit them up somehow. They’d met and got on. He was Sam Smith’s keyboard player, so they started working with him. He brought in quite a lot of more jazzy elements to what they’re doing. He’s like a jazz player. Just some different chords and some ideas in there that then allowed them, I think inspired them to take it a little bit further into experimentation. And then when it came back around to writing the more simple songs, they had moved on and the level of everything really went up.
So for us, it was kind of a guidance in, “Challenge yourselves, challenge the world.” Because it’s hard these days and I think when you come back with your second album, it needs to take a big step up. And they really stepped up to that challenge, I think.
Jesse Cannon: You heard Jordan mention Reuben James here. He’s one of the main collaborators on this record so I wanted to hear a little bit more about him.
Andy Clutterbuck: So he’s this insanely talented jazz pianist.
James Hatcher: He’s a bit of a prodigy, isn’t he?
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah he is. I don’t know. Basically, he comes in and just goes crazy. We’ve got a piano downstairs in part of our studio. We’ve got a few keyboards upstairs and he was instantly going and running around being like, “I’m just going to play this now.” You kind of have to tie him down and be like, “OK hang on. Those last four chords, play them again.”
James Hatcher: Yeah.
Andy Clutterbuck: Stop playing something else.
James Hatcher: He’s like a wild animal.
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah.
James Hatcher: Just goes and does anything and you’re like that’s gold. Everything that he’s doing is gold and we’ve gonna find him and stop him before he forgets what he just did.
Andy Clutterbuck: It’s been great working with him. He pushes the boundaries for us a little bit.
James Hatcher: Yeah, particularly harmonically. His knowledge of chords is absolutely incredible. That’s been really, really good fun for us.
Andy Clutterbuck: It’s nice also to, to be able to direct someone.
James Hatcher: To product it more.
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah, exactly.
Jesse Cannon: And this is Reuben James talking about their collaboration together.
Reuben James: So, I got to know the HONNE guys through mutual friends that hooked us up because I fell in love with their song “Warm on a Cold Night.” And we were back and forth talking about working together. I actually met Andy in Tokyo randomly and we went out for hot toddies. I introduced him to hot toddy.
We just kept hanging out and I kept bumping into them around London and they were always kind of wearing polo necks and hanging out in cool coffee shops. But we never actually got to write anything together for at least a couple years. They told me they’re working on their new album and they were like, “Reuben, come to the studio.” So I went to Andy’s house and he’s got a wicked little set-up there. It’s such a great environment to write music.
We finally got to make some music and the very first song we wrote is “Day 1,” which has got a lot of hype right now, especially over in Asia. And the views have just got ridiculous, so that was the first thing we did together.
We kind of had 100% rate since then. We did another two sessions after that, and we wrote another two songs on the album together. “Forget Me Not” and “I Might.” Those are the three songs that I co-wrote on their record. My world where I come from, jazz, and obviously working and writing with Sam Smith, the pop side. They were kind of like, they wanted me to just come in and give them dope jazz chords so they could straddle the line between jazz and pop. And they do it perfectly, better than anyone else. That’s the trio. They brought me into their world and it works perfect. They keep me from going too jazz.
Jesse Cannon: So hearing a bit about their process, it sounds like it starts all over the place. So I wanted to get a little clarity on how a song actually comes to be.
Andy Clutterbuck: Drums. I mean, we always tend to just put a beat down whether it’s very basic but just to get a tempo-
James Hatcher: Yeah.
Andy Clutterbuck: And then start playing some chords.
James Hatcher: Although, sample, quite the samples as well, now. Like we used a site called Splice, have you heard of that? And just mess with samples. I want to say. Reverse them and pitch them up and down. Pitch them up and then bounce ’em and then pitch ’em back down and stretch it and just do anything you can to make it sound as abnormal as you can.
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah, then what we do, I know it’s terrible, but I’m sure so many people do it. Either put like a vinyl sample underneath, just like a field recording. So, the sound of a street, like ambiance, or in a forest.
James Hatcher: Crickets at night, yeah.
Andy Clutterbuck: Then you start imagining things and you can sort of picture yourself somewhere because I think then it’s easier to start thinking about the area.
James Hatcher: Yeah, it’s more like filming then I’m in a studio. You’re listening to it thinking nothing, I’m in a studio and I need to write songs, it’s like what’s going to sound nice over this?
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah.
James Hatcher: In this ambiance.
Andy Clutterbuck: Then we tend to-
James Hatcher: Just leave it there.
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah. Go to the pub. So I write the lyrics and melodies and things like that. I prefer doing that by myself when there’s a finished instrumental, but sometimes that’s not possible, like if you’re in a room with people it’s always good to just try and smash it out.
James Hatcher: Although often we do just, someone will come over, if it’s a musician or producer kind of type then we often will finish an instrumental before we start lyrics. I think it killed Reuben, didn’t it? He was like please, can we do some top line? Please? And it’s like “no!”
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah, allow me to try and finish this pedal because I just want to work on top line by myself. Yeah, it varies. It depends on the situation.
Jesse Cannon: A lot of what improves the quality of an album is having a large body of songs to choose from, especially with electronic music today. So I wanted to get some insight on the body of work they had to cut down.
James Hatcher: It’s more than, I would say, more than a lot of other people we know. We finish tracks fully to the point where we can show people them and they don’t sound like a demo anymore.
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah, we tend to finish the songs fully. A lot of artists will have like a piano and a vocal and that’s enough to get a grasp of whether it’s a good song or not, most of the time
Andy Clutterbuck: But we do the whole thing and we had about 30 songs to pick from. Yeah, I’m sure some of the ones that didn’t make it on the album will be heard because they’re all finished and ready to be mixed and they’re ready to go.
Jesse Cannon: While big changes from album to album are often conceptual and just the fact of growing as an artist, it could also be a huge difference to change the software you use when you make electronic music.
Andy Clutterbuck: So, one of the biggest changes is, it came about when we were in LA. We came over to meet some people and do some sessions and maybe a gig? We did a gig and then stayed there, didn’t we? Oh yeah, Coachella.
And everyone we had sessions with was using Ableton and we were still in Logic. And we were like what’s going on? Why is everyone…? And we were just watching their workflow, particularly this guy called Jonah Christian who co-produced one of the tracks with us called “Shrink.” It was just amazing how quickly he was doing everything and using drum racks and stuff like that. That has been a massive change for me, just making my own. I know you can do it in Logic, but it just doesn’t seem as logical. I don’t want to put a drum rack on a keyboard, like on a keyboard sampler and then play…I don’t know. It feels weird. It feels wrong.
I always thought it was more for a live kind of thing and coming up with ideas. But it’s exactly the same for recording. I find it easier than using Logic. I know it’s just the other way around. All the tracks are on the right instead of on the left, and that’s it.
Jesse Cannon: It’s often thought that so many of these electronic group’s records are just a DIY operation these days, but it turns out they turned to somebody else to handle the mixing duties.
Andy Clutterbuck: Guy called David Wrench who is, I mean, when I say he’s a wizard, I’m not even joking. He actually looks like a wizard.
James Hatcher: He is amazing.
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah, he’s incredible and he just makes it all sound so good, and we really wanted to use one person to, again, get a cohesive sounding album, which we’d not done on the first record, there was different mixes.
James Hatcher: I think we’re all quite surprised at how he can turn his hand to any type of song. It would always come back sounding exactly as we wanted it.
Andy Clutterbuck: He’s just done mixes for bands that we love very much, like The xx, a band called Jungle. Loads of people and it’s very cool bands and yeah, we thought OK.
James Hatcher: We knew he’d do a good job.
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah, exactly. But I thought we’ve not met him actually yet, so sort of nervous.
James Hatcher: We spoke on the phone.
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah, he’s very polite.
James Hatcher: He’s very chatty and very nice.
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah, he is, but we really just love to meet the people that are working on our stuff, purely because-
James Hatcher: They tell you all their secrets.
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah, we want to find out what he’s doing. Yeah, we’ll meet him at some point soon. Hopefully we’ll be able to tell you.
James Hatcher: Like on the last record, we used a mix engineer called Wes Clark. And he’s great and he’s so matter-of-fact, not into trying to make you think that there’s something mysterious behind what he’s doing. He just clearly knows how to use the stuff he’s using. We’ve been in debates with other mix engineers who worked on the album, and they’re like I don’t know how he’s getting his mixes as low as he is without them sounding overly compressed and stuff. And we’re like, he must have this big bit of hardware from old radio stations or something. And then we asked him like how’d you get it so loud? And he’s like it’s just a Fab Filter Pro-O just on the default setting with the volume up, plus three.
Andy Clutterbuck: And then you go into our Mastering Suite and they do all the EQ-ing and everything and all their multi band stuff or whatever, and then it’s on the computer. Fab Filter Pro-O, just cracked up a little bit.
HONNE — “Day 1”
Jesse Cannon: Next I wanted to have them start to give us some insight on how some of the songs on the record came to be. We’re going to start with the song “Day 1.”
James Hatcher: OK so “Day 1” was written with the gentleman who interrupted the interview, Reuben James, and that was the first thing we wrote with him, wasn’t it?
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah.
James Hatcher: It all started on the piano, I think, that one. We do this thing with Reuben where we spend a long time coming up with the first thing, until we go through loads of different things and we think we’re getting close to finding the thing that’s going to start the song. Chord sequence, keyboard sounds, that kind of stuff that can influence how the song’s going to end up kicking off.
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah, it’s kind of like you might be playing a chord sequence on the road and it’s like that’s good, but it’s not right. So, then he’ll play the same chords on another sound on the Prophet and then it’s like OK, that’s getting there but can you play the fourth chord first instead and then it’s a process like that.
James Hatcher: Yeah. We won’t just settle on something. Let’s see if we can make this work. We’ll keep coming up with things until we all feel that this could end up being something really special. Yeah, which is, I guess kind of unusual just to base that on a few chords at a time.
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah.
James Hatcher: This was on a piano to start with and we recorded him playing the piano parts. It’s all recorded on an iPhone, I was holding it near or resting it on the piano. Sat down by him with a click on upstairs.
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah.
James Hatcher: Coming out of the speakers.
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah, so if you soloed the piano track on the step, you’d hear a clap or like a snare sample.
James Hatcher: Keeping time.
Andy Clutterbuck: And James going, “Lovely!”
James Hatcher: Yeah, “Wonderful.”
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah, loads of stuff.
James Hatcher: And then we just looped it and let him…he sort of sits there and looks at you constantly because he doesn’t need to know where his hands are going because he’s just can feel it. Tries those different things and is like, “How’d you like that?” You know, just seeing and gauging your reaction.
Andy Clutterbuck: We just carried on working on the instrumental that day and I think I was thinking about lyrics and stuff. I think we had the chorus by the end of the day, and then a couple of days later I came up with the verses and mid-lay and recorded all that. Then we worked on it some more, and then we, on the first album we worked with a choir called The House Gospel Choir. We got them in again because they’re all amazing and pick it up super quick. So we got them on for the end of the song and in the choruses as well.
James Hatcher: Yeah.
Jesse Cannon: Hearing mention of a choir, I had to ask if this was also recorded in their home studio.
Andy Clutterbuck: Because we work from our studios that are just set up in our flats in London, so anything like a choir we have to go into an actual studio to record. So we went to Livingston Studios, it’s called, in London. We’ve done most of our bits that we need to there.
James Hatcher: Yeah, it’s really fun getting to go into the studio at some point to do something that feels legit, rather than recording at home. Also on the pad sounds on the chorus, I don’t think there’s even any Prophet in the choruses.
Andy Clutterbuck: No.
James Hatcher: Which is normally our go-to. Yeah just for clarification this is a Dave Smith Prophet 08, or Rev 2 or Mofair. It’s actually Reuben singing “ahs,” he layered up every note from all the chords, and we looped him and then he’d sing the next one and then the next one, next one, next one with a ton of Auto Tune on, too. It was just absolutely bang on. And then the choir kind of imitated that on the chorus, as well, because when you’re recording a choir, you have a few mics dotted around and then you have the stereo pairs of mics that are stereo and really wide. When you put that on the record, it just makes it really open up all around your ears and it feels like, yeah, it’s very nice, a nice thing.
Andy Clutterbuck: As a song, it was an easy one to get through. Some were a lot harder than “Day 1″ was. So it’s just purely a song about loyalty and being with someone for a long time, like I’ve been with my girlfriend for over 10 years now and we’ve been together since before we were in this band. So yeah, it’s about that, just being with someone from the start.
Jesse Cannon: And this is Reuben to talk a little bit about making the song.
Reuben James: “Day 1” came quite organically. Andy and James have the dope concept of someone being your day one, being there from the very start kind of thing. So, I immediately jumped on the piano, there’s a little piano downstairs, an old school piano. We would record it on the iPhone and that’s actually the same recording that we used on the track, just me messing around on the piano for “Day 1.” And they’d always put me on a load of different synth get me on the Dave Smith Prophet and I’d just go mental for like a couple of hours and then they’d choose all the best bits.
Usually the best songs come super fast and “Day 1,” yeah it came rapid.
HONNE — “Crying Over You”
Jesse Cannon: The next song we talked about it “Crying Over You,” which has one of my favorite working titles of all time.
Andy Clutterbuck: “Crying Over You” has been through it.
James Hatcher: It’s been a long time in the making. Four years, is it? No, can’t be four years. Three.
Andy Clutterbuck: I think about that.
James Hatcher: So we wrote this around the same time as we wrote a song called “No Place Like Home,” which came out as an EP in 2015, I think? Andy was in Japan, I’ve come up with this little weird sounding interlude thing.
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah, what was it called? CRL?
James Hatcher: CRL, yeah.
Andy Clutterbuck: Church Raving London, it stood for. Yeah.
James Hatcher: It sounds rave-y but it’s got gospel-y chords underneath. Yeah, I mean, it doesn’t sound anything like a church rave in London anymore.
Andy Clutterbuck: No, it doesn’t.
James Hatcher: Trust me. And it just had this one tiny but of melody in it. And it was me singing it like that but pitched up. That was my only input on the song, I think. It was enough to get the ball rolling.
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah, I just loved the instrumental he had written, but it was just a bit too weird. So I took it, I opened it in Logic, at the time is what we were using, and I think I maybe took that element as a melody and then re-harmonized it. And I was listening to Robert Glasper a lot at that time, and I think that’s where the harmonization, all the chords progression came from. And yeah, then wrote some lyrics for that. I had a first verse and the choruses, but never had a second verse because I think the intention was for it to be a song, like it was intended to be a collaboration where you’re talking about a breakup and you’ve got the guy’s perspective and we always wanted to get the girl’s perspective, and we just never, ever got around to it.
James Hatcher: It just sat there waiting for a collaboration.
Andy Clutterbuck: It’s hard to approach another artist just to say, we’ve got this idea, can you go along with everything that we’re trying to…to force it upon someone. So I don’t know. Some people are open to it, some people just want to write something with you from scratch.
James Hatcher: Yeah, so we worked more on the production. The other thing we felt was it was that the beat was good and everything, but it was a bit sort of middle of the road at the time. It was too chilled. It wasn’t really exciting us as much as we wanted it to be. We wanted it to sound more electronic. So we worked more on the production and it went through various different stages until we were like, actually this is sounding pretty good now. You wrote the second verse for it and it ended up being, the backing vocalist that we’re touring with now. She’s singing it. She’s called BEKA and her voice is absolutely incredible. It’s really elevated the track, and she sings the chorus with Andy, as well. Yeah, it’s just really stepped up a notch.
HONNE — “Sometimes”
Jesse Cannon: Next I had them talk about the making of the song “Sometimes.”
Andy Clutterbuck: Earlier James mentioned that we were in LA for a week doing sessions with other people between Coachella and there’s a day, I think it was the first day, all the sessions got canceled basically.
James Hatcher: Great start.
Andy Clutterbuck: Right well, “What do we do now?” And we were very badly prepared. We didn’t even have laptops. Did we not?
James Hatcher: No, I honestly just don’t know why we didn’t have laptops.
Andy Clutterbuck: I think it was actually after Coachella. The band and our TM and crew had gone back to London with all the gear and we just gave them the laptops.
James Hatcher: Which seems bizarre because we carry them with us constantly.
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah. Stupid. Anyway, so all we had was our phones and one….did we have the keyboard and Prophet?
James Hatcher: Yeah.
Andy Clutterbuck: But we couldn’t use it because we didn’t have an interface or anything or a laptop.
James Hatcher: Great.
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah, anyway. We had this day, all sessions got canceled. We thought, what are we going to do? Our manager texted us a link to an article about Steve Lacy who was writing or doing loads of different sessions and had written for lots of great people, and it was talking about how he just used his phone, like Garage Band and a guitar and making beats.
James Hatcher: Yeah, he’d just written a beat from one of Kendrick’s.
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah, I think so, yeah. Well if Steve Lacy can do it, I’m sure we can give it a good go. So we basically just downloaded GarageBand. We sat on a sofa, not too dissimilar to this, side by side, headphones on just working on different ideas and yeah, “Sometimes” came from that. It’s like a piano sample that I just put into the sampler plug in that they have and just rearranged it, chopped it up, and then put a beat underneath it. It was like OK, this is kind of a cool idea. At least we’ve done something. And then two months later, found it again when were back in London and worked on it some more.
James Hatcher: So, we always felt like we wanted it to be a bit of a journey, this song. It’s one that the start is one of the only songs where we’ve used Auto Tune, or the effect of Auto Tune to do something quite strange with your voice by making a vocoder-y kind of sound at the start. And it grows up into the verse and the choruses and then there’s a big outro that builds and builds and builds to the end.
In the chorus we wanted to put horns and woodwind, as well, so we went back to Livingston Studios for that. A guy called Mike Lesirge arranged the part. Is that his name? Yeah. Arranged the parts for us and did an amazing job. Between the two of them, he and his mate, they played trumpet, trombone, flugelhorn, flute, clarinet, sax.
Andy Clutterbuck: Yeah, they just played together two instruments and then go back, pick up another two and layer it up again.
James Hatcher: It’s never the same. Brass, I swear, is just the worst. Fake brass just couldn’t sound any worse.
Andy Clutterbuck: There might be some good solid parts. We really wanted it to be very breathy and-
James Hatcher: To be able to say, can you also do some noodling, you know, in the gaps and having them all panning around and yeah. You don’t get the flare that comes with someone who knows what sounds amazing on these kind of things.
HONNE — “Location Unknown”
Jesse Cannon: Next you’re going to hear some memories from the singer Georgia, who collaborated with them on the song “Location Unknown.”
Georgia Barnes: It came through my publisher at Domino, knew James and Andy’s publisher at Atlantic. And I immediately just said yes. I don’t really do much collaboration. I’m quite mysterious in that respect. It was my first collaboration just going there and pushing myself.
Even though it came through our publishers, it sort of felt like we had known each other for quite a long time, just without knowing each other. I think for me, that’s when you know that the music that’s going to come out of that is going to feel its most natural, like when you get on as people and it’s not something that’s been forced. It’s just like, we get on.
So, after the initial meetup, Andy and James had to come up with some sort of musical idea and they played it to me and we just developed that, really. We weren’t too much thinking about the story of the narrative of the song, we were just creating an interesting 8-bar loop where we could get a sense of the vocals or the melody.
That was in the first session. We all went away and we bounced what we had, which was like this 2-minute idea. All went away and we thought about it a bit more, got back together again for a second session, and in that time Andy and James had structured it in a way. And I laid down a vocal idea and a narrative kinda formed that was like two people speaking to one another. Like Andy singing and me singing and that formed this narrative of perhaps these are two people that are in a relationship, but far away.
Jesse Cannon: Now Reuben is going to tell us some memories of the record, including two other songs, “I Might” and “Forget Me Not.”
Reuben James: I’d actually been using this dope technique when I was waiting out in LA with my friend Nick Littlemore from Empire of the Sun and my friend Nate Fox and Donny Trumpet, as well. They do this thing where put the beat in half-time and then solo over it. We kind of have the sick beat that comes together. I was beatboxing on our mic and we had a cool chord sequence and a cool beat, but we’re struggling with the melody. So, I was like, put the whole thing in half-time and just try to sing in. Andy was like, you sure? Is this going to work? And I was like, “Bro, just loose inhibitions, just do it.”
He wasn’t really up for it at first, but then he did it. And then we sped the whole thing back up to real time and then that was the exact same melody that we ended up using on our mic. It was just his improvised melody he used on the half-time thing, and then we sped it up and it was perfect. Of course, they had me on all the synths and stuff. And it was weird because James it like a beast at guitar. He’s one of my favorite guitarists, but they actually let me play guitar on “I Might” and “Forget Me Not,” as well.
We actually pitched down the guitar to sound like a bass. So, I was actually playing bass, but I’m a guitarist for “I Might,” which was pretty cool. I think they left, one of the intros to the whole album on “I Might” is like a whole piano cadenza type thing that they’ve left on the record.
On “Forget Me Not” I’m actually rapping in an American-accent-type thing. I always assumed we were going to get some kind of dope rapper in, but everyone liked it, so they actually kept my voice on the track. And same with “Day 1” there’s some BVs in there or something.
HONNE — “Day 1”
Jesse Cannon: Lastly, I wanted to know what some of their collaborators thought made them unique. So here’s Jordan talking a little bit about that.
Jordan Whitmore: It’s kind of like an international sound in a way. I think that they’re music doesn’t really have any borders. I think it’s quite an inclusive thing without being middle of the road. I think that’s really where their strength lies. Along with having the records and the live thing for that band are two very different beasts. The live thing is like live drums, almost like gospel kind of thing, and the records have always been these more electronic things. So I think the play between those two has really brought audiences because when people hear the songs, they’re amazing songwriters and the records all sound amazing. And you come and see the live thing and it’s something completely different. I really think that that’s enabled them to tour all over the world and just build a real global audience, just through that really.
Jesse Cannon: And here’s Reuben talking a little bit about their sound and why it’s so appealing to him.
Reuben James: They tick all the boxes for me. Everything I love: soul, R&B, jazz. It’s a mountain part and they just absolutely smash it. It kind of reminds me of Tom Mesa. I did some work on his recent album, as well. They evoke that same kind of warm, soulful emotion in their music. The first time I heard “Warm on a Cold Night,” I was nearly in tears…like that song. I’ve always been a big fan and then to get to work with them is just a dream come true really. And now we’re all best mates. Yeah, it’s a lot of jokes. They’re super soulful guys.
Jesse Cannon: And lastly, here’s Georgia giving us a little bit of a glimpse of their personality behind the scenes.
Georgia Barnes: Yeah, I think they’re just like super knowledgeable about music. That’s why we really got on because you have to be a bit geeky about it. I’m quite geeky when it comes to music. I’m almost like an encyclopedia. I’ve just listened to music since the age of I can remember. When it comes to referencing what sound we want to do, I found it very similar in that way. You could just be like “oh yeah, boom, just like Stevie Wonder’s blah blah blah,” or like, “oh yeah, John Coltrane.” I think that’s why we really got on well.
James is quite cheeky while Andy is…they’re each taking turns in front of the computer and while one another is by the computer, the other one is slightly being cheeky behind their backs. It’s like a really interesting insight into a duo because there’s a lot of love there, and I think that’s why they are as successful as they are. I think there’s a lot of love. It was really nice to step into that for a bit and be part of that.
HONNE — “Warm on a Cold Night”
Jesse Cannon: Thank you for listening. You can find all the episodes of Inside the Album on your favorite podcast app.
HONNE’s LP, “Love Me/Love Me Not,” is out now.