Honesty: “I was just like, ‘fuck music’. I was done with it”

The Leeds collective born out of a boredom of bands

“I was just like, ‘fuck music,’” says George Mitchell. “I was done with it.”

Mitchell is describing a state of deep musical ennui he was in a few years ago. Having left his previous outfit, the noisy yet melodic Eagulls, he felt that he had left his years of being in a band behind. “I had just been painting and then Peel and these lot got in touch and were like, ‘just come to the studio’. I’m glad I did.”

What materialised was a new way of working for Mitchell, Matt Peel, Josh Lewis and Imi Holmes. One stripped of typical band convention and untethered from past experiences. “We all came from a position of being jaded about previous band experiences,” says Lewis, “so it was nice to go into this and dispense with a lot of that stuff and those feelings, and it be more positive and collaborative.”

Honesty describe themselves as more of a collective. There are no set rules or roles, and they are fluid with instruments and songwriting. “We wanted to create an ego-less situation to build music in,” says Mitchell.

While all of the members have been in previous Leeds bands, with Peel also a celebrated producer at Honesty’s studio, the Nave, it’s especially important for them to point out that this is not a continuation of previous music. “We didn’t want this to come across as like, ‘oh, this is Eagulls new project because it’s just not,” says Mitchell. “There’s no comparison to anything that we’ve done before.”

The results so far can be heard on the WHERE R U EP, with an album wrapped up and due for release later in 2024. The music sits in a space between the club and solitary headphone listening; a place where dreamy soundscapes wrap themselves around beats as subtle melodies unfold. “We tend to always end up with a song but we always start from a really clubby place,” says Peel. Mitchell explains further: “Instead of it just being like linear dance music, it’s about putting more song craftsmanship into it.” Lewis then jokes it’s “halfway between the Brude and the club,” referring to Leeds’ indie gig venue the Brudenell Social Club. “But that’s the sort of music that I am really drawn to,” say Mitchell. “Something that is about sticking your headphones on, swirling around, or being out and getting pummelled loud.”

The group refer to their music as “genre-less” but within this you’ll find touches of experimental pop, R&B, shoegaze, trip-hop and minimal electronic. One thing it’s definitely not is guitar music. “I’m bored of seeing the same five lads on stage with fucking guitars and leather jackets,” says Mitchell. “I’m done with that shit. It’s dead. It’s stale. I don’t really like going to live gigs because I just don’t have the brain ability for it, one minute in and I’m outside having a fag. The best shows that I have been to are more like clubby bass things or things that are just gonna smack your fucking chakras.”

The rapper Rarelyalways features on the EP, and the band has commissioned a remix by electronic artist Hagop Tchaparian; they like the idea of expanding deeper into collaboration outside of their core unit. “We do whatever we want, and bring in whoever we want from all different backgrounds,” says Mitchell. “The idea of it being so that we can spread out. Maybe artists can come to us and say, ‘I want an Honesty production’ and we could write and make things for other people.” Peel echoes that the plan is to not fall into familiar traps. “We just don’t want to feel like we’re this one band who do shows and release records,” he says. “We could do anything.”

The collective also have a pristinely planned visual campaign that is made with Brockhampton collaborators Uncanny, and they intend to lean into this with full force. “This is something that we talked about from the start, to make in tandem with the music,” says Lewis, with Mitchell adding: “Imagery is just as important as the music. We’re not ‘look at me people’. It’s more like, ‘look at what it is.’” Peel adds: “It’s that thing of not wanting to go to watch people but to go watch an art piece with music in it.”

There’re clearly bold plans and grand ambitions for the group, who are already signed to Partisan. “I mean, it’s early days but we’ll see,” says Mitchell. “It’d be fucking sick if we could do some of the stuff that I’ve got in my head.”

Photography by Barney Maguire