Honne: Breaking borders through globe-trotting music | Inquirer Entertainment

Honne: Breaking borders through globe-trotting music

By: - Entertainment Editor
/ 12:25 AM July 26, 2023

Honne makes a stop at Red House in Joo Chiat.

Honne makes a stop at Red House in Joo Chiat.

Music has long proven its innate ability to cross borders and break boundaries. This aphorism couldn’t be truer for singer-producer Andy Clutterbuck and producer James Hatcher, who collectively make up the electronic music duo known as Honne.

For those who have yet to discover the music-making British tandem, it’s the group behind such delectable chart-topping tunes as “Location Unknown,” “Crying Over You,” “No Song Without You,” “Me & You,” “Free Love,” among many others.


Known for its soulful and dreamy soundscapes, Honne has amassed an online following of over 1 million YouTube subscribers, 1.5 million Spotify followers, and over 4 million online streams per week. Proof of its massive following in Southeast Asia is how its music has transcended language and geographical boundaries in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.


Moreover, during its 2023 Asia tour, the band sold over 50,000 tickets for its shows across the region, among them their standing room only performances in Manila, Cebu and Davao last March.

In 2021, Andy and James came up with the unique idea for their popular video collection “Inside-out,” particularly out of the need not just to connect with their fans during the stultifying COVID-19 lockdowns, but also as a platform for artistic expression. It shows the duo performing acoustic renditions of their hit songs, captured by a camera placed inside a guitar.

While the video collection’s first installments only featured Andy and James going about their daily lives, their new partnership with Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and Warner Music Singapore has allowed the series to leave the four corners of their respective homes and start going overseas.

And what better way to start the ball rolling than by embarking on “Inside-out in Singapore,” the band’s “first-ever collaboration with a destination”—which was officially launched last week (July 18) and released on Honne’s Instagram and TikTok pages. So, keep an eye out on the second and third installments of the series that will also be uploaded within this month.

For their trip to the affluent city state, Andy and James delivered exclusive acoustic performances of their hit songs, “Location Unknown,” “Day 1” and “No Song Without You,” shot in three different neighborhoods in Singapore: At Joo Chiat, Keong Saik Road and the postcard-pretty Marina Bay.

“The idea for ‘Inside-out’ began when we wanted to carry on making music [during the pandemic]… although I don’t really know what made us put an iPhone inside a guitar (laughs),” Andy told Inquirer Entertainment during a roundtable interview. “We just thought it might be cool to get a different angle on things.”


A big step

James explained further, “With social media, we’re always looking for ways for people to experience our songs in a different light… like stripping them back and just playing acoustically. But we wanted to match that with interesting visuals and aesthetics.

“Since we really enjoyed making them, we thought of bringing [this idea] to Singapore and making the videos look better than just filming them in our garden (laughs). It’s a big step-up for us.”

Asked to discuss their end of the “partnership,” STB executive director Terrence Voon said that the tourism board wanted to tap into the popularity of Honne in the Southeast Asian region.

“It’s been about a year and a half since Singapore reopened its doors to all travelers,” he stated. “We wanted visitors to see the country in a brand-new light and reimagine what it’s about.

“We wanted them to have a fresh take on experiences people thought they may be familiar with, [as well as] some of the neighborhoods they may not know existed or experiences that are undiscovered or could be rediscovered. We hope Honne’s new take on their most-streamed hits will inspire their fans to uncover fresh perspectives on our city.”

Since Honne gets to travel a lot because of its music, we asked James and Andy about the satisfaction they get from making music compared to traveling. Do these trips inform their worldview and perspective on the different issues and themes their songs tackle?

“From a lyrical point of view, traveling definitely informs our songwriting,” Andy admitted. “Take ‘Location Unknown,’ for example—it’s about being away and then getting home to see your loved ones.

Honne’s Andy Clutterbuck (left) and James Hatcher performing by the Here is SG sculpture in Marina Bay.

Honne’s Andy Clutterbuck (left) and James Hatcher performing by the Here is SG sculpture in Marina Bay.

“In terms of what we get out of making music, it’s very satisfying. Like, when you’re in the studio playing around with music, and then something just clicks… You get really excited about the piece of music that you’re making or the words you’ve just written. That’s the most exciting thing for us.

“But traveling to different parts of the world brings us the same kind of satisfaction. Although we have to say that we particularly enjoy Southeast Asia because the experience is a lot of fun and is always different for us because everyone’s very excited when we arrive there…which is really nice.

“And when we play our music and hear people sing it back to us… it’s one of the best feelings in the world! Something like that never grows old. So yeah, we’ll keep doing it as long as we can.”

Keeping the music fresh

Well, Honne has certainly been “doing it” for nine years now. As the group gears up for its 10th year—a milestone for a band by any standard—have James and Andy thought about how their music has evolved from their 2016 debut album “Warm on a Cold Night” to their third studio album, 2021’s “Let’s Just Say the World Ended a Week from Now, What Would You Do”?

“It has changed quite a lot,” James answered. “We try to develop, move forward or switch directions with each album to keep our music fresh…for our sake and our listeners’. We want to stay excited about making music.

“We don’t want to keep repeating the same kind of stuff—which is why every album is bit different from each other. The first one (‘Warm on a Cold Night’) had quite an electronic sound and was very soul-based. And when we look back at it now, it was quite ‘minimalistic’ in a way.

“Then, we went more hip-hop-based, and with bigger beats, for the second album, ‘Love Me/Love Me Not’ (2018). And thereafter, we stripped it right back. But it’s really a conscious decision for us to succumb to this kind of yoyo effect, where we go, ‘OK, let’s do loads of stuff on this one.’

“Then, after getting that out of our system, we’re like, ‘Let’s just have acoustic guitars and a simple instrumentation on this next one.’ I think ‘Let’s Just Say the World Ended a Week from Now, What Would You Do?’ is probably our ‘poppiest’ yet.

“We’re currently working on our next album, and the first song will again be taking the opposite direction. That’s why we’re very excited for you to listen to our new stuff, because we’re having a lot of fun working on it.”

Since Honne is marking its 10th anniversary next year, we asked Andy and James to revisit a 2014 review from The Telegraph about their sound. It described their music as “futuristic soul destined to reinvent baby-making music.” Did they think that description was spot-on?

“Yeah, that was accurate,” James quipped, laughing. “It’s what you’d call sultry!”

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Andy agreed, “Yes, it was! Our music back then was particularly smooth and sexy—a fine description that kind of matched what we were making. It’s always funny when people come up with these things and you hear it. But, yes, we quite liked that (laughs)!” INQ

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