Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit
HONESTY CEASE photo credit Barney Maguire 2

On the Rise

25 April 2024, 09:00
Words by Kayleigh Watson
Original Photography by Barney Maguire

Partisan-signed, Leeds-based collective HONESTY are no strangers to leaving their egos at the door in their pursuit of imperfect electronica.

Analogue cameras, tangled cables, motherboards. Oil rigs, crashing waves, crystallisation; as their snapshot visuals allude, capturing the ephemeral in a digital age is something that fascinates HONESTY, and the music of the quartet exists suspended in time.

HONESTY’s origins are an exercise in patience and divine timing. Coming together as a therapeutic endeavour born from the ashes of various musical projects and a pandemic lockdown, Josh Lewis and fellow progenitor Matt Peel found themselves with a clean slate and a desire to enjoy creating in its simplest form, experimenting with synthesisers and traditional instruments to concoct an expansive electronic soundscape.

It wasn’t long before the pair realised they had happened upon something good, and set about enticing others into the fold. As a producer and owner of Leeds studio, The Nave, Peel had already worked with ethereal vocalist Imi Holmes before, as well as George Mitchell in the charged yet melodic post-punk of Eagulls, and approached them “purely on merit”.


“Towards the second half of 2020, when they let us out for a little bit, I would pick George up and we’d head over [to The Nave] twice a week or whatever. It was a pretty weird time for all of us,” says Lewis. “Coming into the studio and just working on music – not with any kind of [idea] to form a band at that stage, just writing on synthesisers and seeing what happens – it was pretty therapeutic, you know? A few months later we realised we had a bunch of tunes and that’s when it started to be like, oh, is this a thing now?”

What quickly became apparent was the shared urge to leave all propensity for creative ego at the door – inflexible personalities and frustrating loops of internal politics having marred each of their previous experiences in bands. “Bands are like that more often than not. [I’m] done with that, too old for that,” says Peel. “I just want everyone to chip in whatever is good.”

“We all will do what’s best for the track,” says Holmes. “There’s very little ego involved. It’s always just thinking, what does it need? I’m not going to be too precious if you don’t like the vocal line – what do we think is best?”

HONESTY press shot 2 April 2024

“I used to think we were really slow. We were developing the band for ages” adds Peel, conscious of the democratic nature of their songwriting process. “But then I look back on how many tunes and the minutes of music we’ve actually made, and we’ve done a lot. So, it’s not some weirdly bureaucratic process or anything, we actually do end up getting a lot of tunes finished.”

Signing to cult indie label Partisan Records, the first glimpse of HONESTY landed with last year’s EP, the urgent and dynamic WHERE R U. Flitting between coercive rhythms, skittish beats and murky production, the collection is a tantalising tease of what could be; slotting between club speakers and solitary pursuit, WHERE R U is equally the soundtrack of emotive contemplation as to that of vacant euphoria. It transpires their open-minded approach to electronica proved slippery.


“The label didn’t really fully know what to do with the project at the start,” recalls Peel. “That’s why the mixtape had come about really, because they wanted us to do something a bit more overtly electronic before the record. We started [and] we loved doing it; it was a good format for us because a lot of our ideas start out as little sound design experiments. It was the right move, really.”

The mixtape in question is BOX, released today via Partisan Records, home of IDLES, Blondshell andCigarettes After Sex. Unbound from time constraints and overarching album thematics, BOX sees HONESTY delve into their extensive archives to piece together a left-field tapestry with a patchwork mentality. An undulating blend that segues between dance, house and trip hop, BOX is a home for the wayward scraps. “It’s almost like the guidebook for the record,” says Peel.

As the first single from BOX, “CEASE” encapsulates the essence of the project as an instrumental exhumed from the hard drives. Even though melody was Holmes’ domain – via a unique vocalising exercise – its lyrics were an egalitarian exercise of writing by committee. A bittersweet lament, “CEASE” unravels feelings of abandonment through the lens of someone who has dedicated their life to another between synths and distressed guitars.

Mitchell compares both BOX and HONESTY to taking influence from the modern inclination to listen to a shuffling Spotify playlist as opposed to an album in its entirety, flipping between tracks and – like with most entertainment apps – succumbing to an algorithm. While he conveys a nostalgia for the tangible (a graphic designer, he is currently designing DVDs and acetates with a bootleg vibe as merchandise) it’s not something he’s wholly adverse to.

“We could have a hip hop tune next to a shoegaze tune and it can just jump around to different genres. It’s a good format to work in, in that sense,” says Mitchell. “In your average band you tend to get trapped in one person’s voice. That’s the nice thing about this project, that you get to [jump between] all these different worlds.”

“You’ve always talked about it like passing the aux cable,” adds Lewis. “And it’s the same thing for this record.”

HONESTY press shot 3 April 2024

At the centre of BOX sits “BREATHE”. Broad and atmospheric, the track grounds the mixtape with a palpable hope and yearning, a sentiment only compounded by the meditative guest vocal of Ryan Cooke. A friend who Lewis and Peel had worked with previously, Cooke’s brush with cancer spurred the two members to write together as he recovered from the illness. Lewis describes “BREATHE” as the “genesis piece of music” for HONESTY, with Mitchell defining it as the thing that convinced him to be a part of the band. That Cooke, in remission, now features on the track that brought them together, feels like a full-circle moment for the band. “That tune in particular is super emotional for me,” says Peel.

Similarly, while Holmes’ vocal is a cornerstone of HONESTY, on BOX she takes a step back for guest slots from a cast of collaborators, rappers and vocalists. Kosi Tides appears on the whirring static of “SOUTH”, Rarelyalways shines on understated album highlight, “RUDE BOY”, and Florence Shaw of Dry Cleaning muses on human nature in “GENTILLE”. With many years of experience as a producer behind him, Peel thinks that, when there are multiple vocalists, listeners go into collections with a slightly more open mind, yet it is HONESTY’s approach to trust their instincts.

“It’s just always been really playful, kinda like we’re kids in a toy shop, just messing around with anything,” says Mitchell, harking back to the childlike capability to get lost in one's imagination and create worlds for hours on end. “And then all of a sudden, something turns out good, I guess. Don’t want to blow my own trumpet, but pretty good.”

BOX is released today via Partisan Records

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