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HONNE-coming: Bow duo perform at All Points East

Bow band Honne, whose first gig was at our very own Muxima on Roman Road, returned from a world tour to play to packed crowds at this year’s All Points East festival in Victoria Park.

We caught up with James Hatcher and Andy Clutterbuck, the charming duo behind the electro-soul band, backstage at All Points East just before they were about to play.

‘It’s hard to believe how far we’ve come,’ says the Geminian Hatcher with quick words, a quicker smile, and childlike wonder. ‘It seems to have grown slowly when you’re in it, just a few more people at every gig, but now suddenly we’re a lot bigger.’

The band now has half a million subscribers on YouTube. Their single “Warm on a Cold Night” back in 2016 was the hit that brought them fame, and they seem to have been on a non-stop tour around the world including Mexico, Australia, and Portugal.

Apparently they are very popular in Asia, something that was clearly evidenced in the crowds with a strong contingency of loved-up fans from Japan settling down for the set in Victoria Park.

Clutterbuck and Hatcher describe their music as romantic (the kind of music to which babies are conceived). Honne (rhymes with ‘con’) is a Japanese word that means ‘to keep to yourself or to share with close companions’ and it reflects the intimacy of their lyrics.

It’s not the first time the pair have played in Victoria Park. ‘We played at Victoria Park once before, four years ago at Field Day, when we were much smaller’ says Clutterbuck. ‘We were on the worst stage that didn’t have easy access, and we didn’t have any crew, so we had to get a golf buggy to get all our equipment to stage. Today is a nice reminder of how far we’ve got.’

Clutterbuck (originally from Dorset) and Hatcher (originally from Wiltshire ‘near Stonehenge!’), met at Guilford ACM where they were both studying music and bonded immediately. When college finished they made their way to Bow on the recommendation of a friend who lived on Old Ford and said Bow was ‘where everything happened’.  

They lived in a house just off Fairfield Road and first met Isaac from Muxima when his arts cafe was in a small venue just opposite Bow Quarter. ‘We hit it off immediately and when Isaac moved to Roman Road in 2014, we were the first band to play at Muxima.’

Clutterbuck still lives in Bow Quarter and has built a recording studio in his apartment. ‘I saw your feature on Indigo Face and thought, no, there’s another band at Bow Quarter!’ jokes Clutterbuck. ‘Seriously, it’s a lovely creative community round here. We are on the edge of Hackney Wick, where there is a big community of musicians.’

‘There is a real vibe in Hackney Wick, a bit like Williamsburg in New York’ agrees Hatcher. ‘But things are changing though’, says Hatcher. ‘The redevelopment of Hackney Wick means that artists are moving out to cheaper areas such as Leyton’.

Despite their demanding touring schedule, the pair are still very embedded in the East End. Clutterbuck still lives at Bow Quarter, Hatcher in a flat in Canary Wharf overlooking the Thames. They use a studio at Netil House in London Fields, and like to check out gigs at The Oval and The Laundry.

‘The Seabright Arms on Hackney Road is still one of the best music venues to find new rising talent’ says Clutterbuck. ‘Its small, packed, hot and sweaty. One of our first gigs was there.’

Closer to home they like to hang out at Muxima and drink a beer at Crate Brewery. ‘Toksonku in Homerton is a favourite of our too’ says Hatcher, and when parents are visiting they take them round Victoria Park and maybe for a meal at the Empress.

Now that Honne are well established and on the edge of getting seriously big (we highly recommend you listen to their last album Love Me / Love Me Not) , who do they see as the new rising stars in the local music scene?

‘Our backing vocalist Becka is coming out with some big tunes, she’s got a great voice,’ says Clutterbuck. ‘Also Ruben James. We worked on a few tracks with him on the last album, and he is putting out some new tunes, piano jazz. He played with Sam Smith for years and years.’

Modest to the end, the pair regularly go to see artists from different genres to get inspiration about how other people put together shows. ‘We’re going to see someone called Louth from the US, and also RM of BTS, a K-pop phenomenon’. says Hatcher, ‘And when we go on holiday we will always track down a jazz bar.’

Will they know lots of people in the crowd? ‘We’ll probably see a few familiar faces’ says Clutterbuck. ‘I will try not to catch my girlfriend’s eyes in the crowd’ laughs Hatcher.

Today the duo can still enjoy the park in relative anonymity, but at the rate Honne is growing it’s easy to imagine that soon will change. Here’s to the next homecoming.

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Tabitha Stapely

Tabitha Stapely is the founder of Social Streets C.I.C, a not-for-profit media company using journalism to strengthen communities, particularly those in disadvantaged or neglected areas. Prior, Stapely was a writer and editor for national titles including The Telegraph Saturday Magazine, Elle and Red magazines.

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