An interview with Happyness

I first saw Happyness down in the basement of The Shipping Forecast as part of Liverpool Sound City. I referred to their set in my review of the festival saying that, “Happyness are harnessing a growing reputation for their pavement like stoner fuzz punk. And in this basement tonight they show they’ve got the tunes to back up the talk.”

They’re a band that I’ve followed with interest since. It’s somewhat strange that I’ve yet to feature them on Sonic Breakfast.

A couple of weeks ago now, I popped along to Leicester’s Cookie to see them support Slow Club. Their growing confidence in performing live; an increased swagger that never once erupted into arrogance was more than evident. In a packed room, they indulged in a brotherly hug and then launched into their bass thumping buzz of an opening tune. A year earlier, the Pavement comparisons were hard to avoid but now they appear to be drawing on a wider set of influences. Wilco come to mind.

“This mic smells really strongly of rosemary and thyme“, they say. I find myself wondering who might have used it before. “Anybody know Slow Club? Because they’re playing after us”, they comment. The audience cheer. They play ‘Montreal Rock Band Somewhere’ making no reference to the fact that part of the lyric is NME award winning. They crumble into a sweat-laden bundle on stage; solos are played from the crouched backs of other band members. It’s all laid-back, laconic slack from a band on the up.

 

 

Before the gig, I’d sent Happyness some questions. Here are Jonny and Ashley’s answers. With references to bearded ladies and tanning pills within (do follow my link to check out who Jane Barnell is), you suspect that Happyness are no ordinary band. You’d be right – there’s something extra-ordinary here.

 

2014 was the year that many people became aware of Happyness. Was there a point in the year that you thought, ‘Shit, this stone is really beginning to roll’?
It was nice releasing our music into the world after spending a while recording ourselves and not showing anyone. We’re still surprised when people say they have our album. There wasn’t a point as such, although since our label deals maybe some people think of us as validated. But from our viewpoint not too much has changed.

For those readers of Sonic Breakfast who might be still to experience the delights of Happyness, what would be your elevator pitch?
Don’t try and be brave just press the alarm button and wait for emergency services.

You’ve been touring with Slow Club. How’s that going? What’s been the highlights and lowlights? What’s your favourite Slow Club song?
It was kind of Slow Club to have us follow them round. I think the highlight and lowlight had to be explaining to a Slow Club fan that there was a support band, which would mean he would not be home for Question Time (because Slow Club would be on later). He spent our whole set asking for a refund.

Who are the bands that you simply must tour with in the future? And conversely, which one (or perhaps two) bands would you refuse to tour with?
The Glands, but I don’t think they tour as such. They play shows around the place.
And there’s not a single band on the planet we wouldn’t tour with for the right fee or personal favours.

You get to curate your own festival. Who would be your headliners (alive or dead)?
Pere Ubu, Randy Newman and Mariachi El Lemar

Which joke brings you most happiness?
There are two whales and one whale says to the other whale “[whale noise]”.

Who would play you in the film biopic of your career?
Jane Barnell

As you’re a trio, let’s play one of the best ‘threesome’ games that there is.. Shag, marry or kill.. (Snog, marry, avoid for adults).. Your choice is between…
(a) Madonna (b) Lana Del Ray (c) Lady GaGa…
Obviously Lana Del Rey and Madonna would never have sex outside of wedlock so this whole question is impossible to answer. And avoiding Lady Gaga is not difficult.

What are you most looking forward to in 2015? What will a successful year look like for Happyness?
Canthaxanthin on tap


 

Slow Club – Leicester Cookie – February 24th 2015

(Support for tonight’s show came from London based three piece, Happyness. Seeing as it was them that secured me my guest-list ticket and also because they’re bloody good in their own right, I’ll be reviewing and featuring them shortly on Sonic Breakfast. This article is all about Slow Club.)

There’s a message that’s painted into an overhanging part of the ceiling down here in the excellent music venue and basement of Leicester’s Cookie. ‘Respect the artist respect the art’, it says. There’s no danger tonight that this packed-in crowd won’t obey such a command for Sheffield’s Slow Club are in town and there’s a lot of love on show.

Charles and Rebecca, the duo that are the bones behind Slow Club, appear confused by their popularity. “There’s so many people here. Who knew? Slow Club are huge in Leicester“, they say before Rebecca attempts to explain it by letting all know that her brother came to University here. Later in the set, Charles asks if anybody remembers when they played De Montfort Hall as part of the now, very much missed, Summer Sundae festival. He urges all to start a campaign to get them to play there again, so impressed was he with the building (Simon Says anybody?). Loose family ties and previous City shows might go a little way to explaining their popularity tonight but the truth is, I suspect, that most people are here because they know just how exciting a live proposition Slow Club are.

That reputation can only have been further secured after the release last year of their latest album, “Complete Surrender”. The set list tonight is mostly drawn from this album. From the Motown crispness of set opener, ‘Tears Of joy’ through to the nostalgic, shimmering Stax-like soul of ‘Suffering You, Suffering Me’ and the electro-pop of the albums title track, this is a band not afraid to mix up styles and stage dynamics to keep us enthralled. They swap instruments between songs. Charles apologises when he sits at the keyboard that nobody beyond the front row will see him for three minutes or so. Rebecca moves between guitar and drums with ease.

Some of my favourite tunes on the album are the ones where Rebecca, dressed tonight in a T-shirt that says ‘I defy your labels’, lays bare her grief about a relationship breakdown. It’s simply stunning songwriting and tonight the power of these songs are at the core of my enjoyment. Early in the set, a stripped back version of ‘Not mine to love’ brings the grief of that affair to the forefront. When Rebecca sings, you feel that she’s re-living every word and every memory from this period of her life. We wait until the encore for ‘Dependable people and things that I’m sure of’. Dramatically conveyed and full of tender bitterness, the audience are reaching for a collective tissue by the end.

I’d hate to give the impression though that this is an emotional wringer of a gig. It has those moments but they’re more than offset by the ramshackle, humble humour and laidback charm on display. Effortlessly, Slow Club connect with their crowd. It’s freezing cold outside but, down here in this basement, it’s almost unbearably sweaty and hot. The band make light of the facade behind encores by refusing to milk the audiences cheers for too long. “It’s too cold to wait outside in the alley“, they say. The Leicester punters are told by Rebecca that this has been her favourite show of the tour. “It’s much better than Stoke”, adds Charles. For their second encore, the band raise the roof by strolling into the crowd and playing an acoustic version of ‘The pieces’ in the round. Fans get out their phones to film a moment.

Tonight, we have respected a band who are at the top of their craft.