Many Canadians can easily remember Down With Webster songs playing on their car radios, but it might have been a while since you last heard anything by the band from The Beaches neighbourhood. On June 2, 2017, having gone a few years without releasing new music, the band announced they were taking a break. But former Webster members Cameron Hunter, Patrick Gillett, Tyler Armes, and Andrew Martino recently announced the start of a new project: Honors. Hunter, one of the band’s vocalists, spoke with The Varsity about transitioning from Down With Webster to Honors, what’s next for the band, and what to expect at their Toronto show on December 21.
The Varsity: What is Honors to you? Is it a sequel to Down with Webster, a continuation, or a complete reset?
Cameron Hunter: For me, it feels more like a reset. We’ve always been a group of people who write and make a ton of music, ever since we were 14 years old doing this. When we got into the studio and made a bunch of records that didn’t sound like Down With Webster, it was sort of what we were naturally gravitating towards. We thought it didn’t really sound like the old project, and it didn’t make sense with the old project. We’d rather put it out as something different. A couple of us had dabbled in doing some side projects; I did my own solo rap thing; our guy Tyler had done a songwriting collective, more of an EDM thing. Those projects sounded different, so we branded them differently. This time, we all came back together and wrote this body of music that sounds like something else.
TV: Down With Webster was formed back in middle school. Now that it’s just you, Gillett, Armes, and Martino, how is it different that you don’t have Martin Seja or Dave Ferris next to you?
CH: I mean, I think it would be a lot weirder if the only thing we’d ever done had been Down with Webster, and we were coming off of that. For me, it was so weird when I did stuff on my own. Like, ‘Wow I’m the only one up here.’ I think after that, everything felt more normal. So it’s not ‘crazy crazy,’ but it definitely is a different thing. Even with the music, it’s more of a chill thing, it relies more on the sonics of it. Down with Webster was this insane ball of energy. When we did live shows, I remember jumping until I thought I was going to die. This is a little bit different than that, where it’s a little bit moodier, a little more chill. It is a different energy, and with that different energy, the makeup matches that.
TV: Honors has a new energy. You can call yourself electronic pop, but you also have Pat’s rock guitar riffs and your experiences in rap. You also teased a couple videos where you’re recording in a church or with a choir. How do these acoustic vocals come into this mesh of genres?
CH: We’ve always been people who don’t think about the genre necessarily when we’re making the music. We tend to make whatever we think sounds good at the time, [and] afterwards we have a difficult time putting a label on it. Because we aren’t a rap group, we aren’t an EDM group, we aren’t a rock band, it’s always tough. With this stuff, we got in on a couple songs and were like, ‘Hey, a choir would sound really cool on this.’ For no deeper reason other than we thought it would sound great. Everything fell into place organically, I guess. It always starts from the music for us, and that informs everything else.
TV: Because you are so immersed into many different kinds of genres, what is the writing process like?
CH: All of us write music independently. We all write songs, and we send them around to each other. We always share what we’re working on. If something jumps out, a couple of us will be like, ‘Yeah, let’s work on that one.’ You can get into a room with everyone and start to write from scratch, but I think the best ideas usually come out from one person. It might be an instrumental, might be a lyric, an idea, or a chorus, sometimes it’s a full song. That’s how it usually starts. We’re very lucky to be a band where everyone writes and everyone has the capability to pitch those ideas. There are a lot of groups out there where it’s one dude who does it, [and] everyone else is just there to play their part. For us, it’s always been that every single person is that guy. There are a lot of ideas to sift through, which is nice. I definitely have moments where I write a bunch of stuff, but I’ll also go through periods where I don’t have any ideas. There is always someone there with ideas, who can help spark it in you.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. For more of this interview, visit var.st/honors.
TV: Honors has more of a mature sound than Down with Webster. Do you think your experiences have taught you something, or was it the reset that helped bring this change?
CH: The reset only came because we wrote these songs, and we were feeling a certain way. Whether you’re making music or not, that happens with most people. No one will always stay the same, no one will feel the same year to year. For us, it was a different way of exploring some different things we were thinking, feeling and expressing. It’s tough, when you have a project that does really well, oftentimes people will start to expect a certain thing out of you. They love a certain body of music, and they want you to make that music again. There’s a pressure to do one thing. We didn’t want the pressure to feel that this has some preconceived ideas of what it’s supposed to be. This is different and we want to make it different. This is the way we’re feeling right now, and it doesn’t match up to how we were feeling five years ago, but this is normal.
TV: Your song “Over” just exploded onto the scene with over 11 million plays on Spotify and counting. What does that mean to you, to have a project that you’ve worked on for years, and when you decide to start something new, you release that first song, and it goes viral?
CH: It’s a crazy feeling. It really helps with [our] confidence as songwriters, knowing that this didn’t happen to us as a sheer mistake. We’re capable of writing songs that people love, it doesn’t really matter what the incarnation is. For whatever reason, when this core group of people gets together and writes songs, special things happen. If anything, it fast-tracked things. It’s a good boost, right off the bat. All of us have done this in the past, we’re not under any illusion how long it can take before you get any real traction. With Honors, we didn’t want to come out immediately and try to switch over our fan base. Just because they like Down with Webster doesn’t mean they’re going to like this. We didn’t want to tell anyone, we put this out into the void, we didn’t want to put our faces on it. We wanted to see how the music does on the strength of the music. For it to go that well, without any of those other things, it was a big thing for us.
TV: December 21 at the Velvet Underground, you’re playing your first hometown show since Honors first formed. What does it mean to go back to where it all started and rock the stage?
CH: I love it. This is where I’ve grown up, I’ve lived basically there [in Toronto] my whole life. That’s where all my friends are, that’s where my family is. It’s a very cool thing to get to do that for all the people that have supported you and have been with you this whole time. Definitely a really cool feeling.
TV: So far you’ve released three songs, with a few on the way. What can people expect to see when they do come to an Honors show?
CH: We’ve only done six or seven shows, so I’m kind of learning myself what to expect at an Honors show. What we hope is that it’s the records that people have heard and really liked, just represented in a much bigger way. It brings a different dimension to the actual records themselves, because when you start putting live drums and live instrumentation over those tracks, it really brings it to a different place.
TV: What can fans expect from you in the future? Are you working on an upcoming album, or will it be a one-step-at-a-time process, releasing singles?
CH: That’s a good question. For us, I don’t know if the album thing really makes sense these days, especially with how music is being consumed. Oftentimes, the albums can get lost in the shuffle. It doesn’t end up getting the right exposure for enough people to hear all the songs. For this upcoming show, we’re playing 10 songs. It definitely feels like this is working, where we’re dropping them slowly, but our plan is to keep making music that we love and keep putting it out. I think it’s as simple as that, and along the way, doing videos for it and doing art work for it. Playing as many shows as we can, keep it moving. That’s really what the model is.
Honors will be performing at Velvet Underground on December 21.