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


Liverpool Sound City – Raleigh Ritchie

I continue to write up my review of Liverpool Sound City for eFestivals. I’ve made a great dent into the review this evening whilst watching the first semi final of the Eurovision. I am gutted that the Latvian entry about baking cakes didn’t proceed. 

There were 26 venues at Sound City and I tried to get to most of them over the few days of the festival.. I’m trying hard for my review not to simply be a long and drawn out list of the things I did…

And then I went here…

And then I went here….


I interviewed Raleigh Ritchie this weekend and a full transcript of that will appear in good time on eFestivals. But, I’m happy to say that he was a charming man. He openly admits that he’s something of a contradiction; that his album might well be difficult to pin down because it will cross styles. He’s a perfectionist spending hours getting a bass to sound exactly as he wants. I’m left wondering if his album will ever come out. 

We talked about Wireless as he’s been announced to perform alongside Kanye and the like – but he also said that there’s more festivals coming that he can’t announce as yet. My money’s on Glastonbury as one of them. Surprisingly, Raleigh/Jacob also revealed that his first ever mosh pit experience was at a Kasabian gig. 

He thinks – and I’m inclined to agree – that he’s only compared to the Trip Hop sound of Massive Attack, Tricky and all because of his Bristolian roots.

We touched on the distinction between acting and music. Raleigh’s focus for the foreseeable is on music though he wouldn’t be averse to another Game Of Thrones series if offered. I deduce from that that he doesn’t lose his head in series 3. I steered away from questions about genitals and lack of them (in Game of Thrones)… 

I wanted to post the tune ‘Bloodsport’ in full from Soundcloud but it’s been removed and replaced with a clip. Oh well, never mind – here’s clips from all of the tracks on Raleigh’s Black and Blue EP.


Recycle Culture – Vacation Forever


I have returned from Liverpool. It’s been a frenzy of a few days and when my head is less fried I’ll write all about it for eFestivals. 


There were definite highlights. Jungle’s performance in the pop-up venue, The Factory, will probably be talked about for years; having a chat with Raleigh Ritchie and getting some inside ‘gossip’ on Game Of Thrones, a programme I’ve never seen, left me excited for his future in music; and seeing the ball of energy that was Lizzo, jump onto the downstairs stage at the Shipping Forecast and enthrall all with her energetic, crazed rap wordplay will dazzle for days. 

But today, Sonic Breakfast isn’t featuring something that played a part in this weekend – or if they did, it was hidden away. 

Recycle Culture has been a prolific producer over the past year and a half. A quick scan of his/her Bandcamp page shows that there’s a dozen EP’s and albums added in eighteen months. Bloggers have featured tracks but still there’s a mystery about who is doing the producing. 


“Collector, collapser, composter, connector & constructor of complexed cultural components; classic, contemporary & contingent”, says the Bandcamp page and with that alliteration of ‘C’s’, we can’t help but wonder if his name is Colin.

 The four track EP, Vacation Forever, is perfect Bank Holiday Monday music. The sun is out, the summer’s going to last until September and we want to sit back in our deck chairs with a glass of red, trying hard to forget that for many of us it’s back to work tomorrow. Allow this track to work its blissed out beauty in your head and the temporary illusion of a permanent holiday might just kick in……


Liverpool Sound City – Breakfast Monkey

So, I’ve arrived in Liverpool. It’s much how I remember it.

Yesterday was a fine day. I had free beer and free Falafel. I wandered into venues I’d not been into last year. There is still much to see.

Whilst having a free beer (paid for with a piece of jigsaw) I got talking to the most wide-eyed and charming band ever. Breakfast Monkey brought seven promotional CD’s to a networking event. Here’s a band with no press pack and no staged pics. Breakfast Monkey were asked to pitch their band in  30 seconds by senior promoters and festival organisers – and beautifully, they struggled to do so.

Instead, they waffled. And they enthused. They didn’t have a clue about the ‘people’ they might meet at Liverpool Sound City. That’s not to say they didn’t care. They were attentively taking on board advice from everybody who cared to offer it. They are all based in Liverpool at University.

Breakfast Monkey are playing Sound City at half past nine on Saturday in Sound Food and Drink. Clubs from Leicester play the same venue earlier in the day. The story they tell about how they were chosen to play is as charming as the band. They played a gig at which somebody from Sound City was present. That person came up to them at the end of the gig and said they wanted them to play the festival. Breakfast Monkey heard nothing for months until an E-Mail arrived in their inbox confirming the Sound Food And Drink gig. Simples..

Those people from Sound City are no fools. They know a good live act when they see one so I’d suggest that Breakfast Monkey’s understated confidence is misplaced.

Amongst acts who are desperately attempting to get profile through elaborate social media stunts, this morning I give you the simple, uncomplicated approach. This is rock rap. This is a Breakfast Monkey. 




Liverpool Sound City – Clubs

I’m running out of days to preview the great acts that are going to be playing Liverpool Sound City this year (the brilliant Kagoule are getting Radio One airplay this week so their stock is rising) – but it’d be wrong to get on my train tomorrow from Leicester having not mentioned THE Leicester based band that are on the bill.

I have to make a terrible confession. Although Clubs have been making considerable noise around these parts, I’ve yet to catch one of their live shows. Friends who have touched upon their considerable power tell me that I’m a fool for doing so.

Subscribing to the google game of awkward searches discussed when I profiled Movie, I’m aware of previous incarnations of Clubs. I understand the sound is different now with an increased pop sensibility replacing the more angular guitars of Panda Youth but even a casual gig goer could have seen that in lead singer, CJ Pandit, here’s a band that would turn heads.

They seem to delight in projecting a mysterious presence. Other acts listed to play this weekend provide complicated press releases detailing what their Grandparents like for breakfast (mostly porridge) whereas Clubs simply say ‘Progressive: Patience Is A Virtue.’ And their Soundcloud account isn’t cluttered with remixes or tracks released 5 years ago that give no indication of what we’re about to see. Instead, we just get this one track, Bleed. ‘Heavy pop’, they describe it as and they’re not wrong. It’s a fine tune with which to beckon in these longer daylight hours. It pop peppered with pollen. Full of muggy, fuzzy warmth, it could provide us with this Summer’s soundtrack… And there’s more to come.



Clubs play ‘Sound Food And Drink’ at half past 6 on Saturday evening. If this is your first opportunity to see them, take it. 

Liverpool Sound City – The May Birds

This year has flown. It doesn’t feel like it’s been twelve months since I was last in Liverpool praising the vibrancy and charm of the people and the place. I threatened to move there then though I did have a lot to drink. 

Thursday is the 1st of May. Increasingly, spring will give way to summer and we’ll immerse ourselves fully into festival season. How appropriate that on the first day of the month, in the city of the Liver Bird, we’ll be able to watch The May Birds.

An all girl quartet specialising in lush, tender and beautiful folk, it might be hard for some to get beyond the fact that these are probably posh birds of privilege. I don’t know this for a fact but I’d be most surprised if Alice, Eleanore, Camilla and Charlotte struggled to afford their music lessons when they went to school. 

I’d best stop such generalisations though before I make them angry (birds). And actually, I’d rather take the classy sway of The May Birds over the calculated ‘working class’ swagger of the likes of Jake Bugg. 

It’s hard not to smile at the twee friendship that’s on offer during ‘Leah’s Song’. This is a long distance love song, a tune about getting older and wiser. There’s a calm confidence about the way it builds. Beautiful harmonies sing out over acoustic strums before the sound is layered with antique keys, marching drums, burgeoning banjo and commanding cello. It’s a song that makes you want to hug a passer by or to cuddle your enemies. 

It’s feelgood music and just what your Doctor ordered to transition towards warmer, longer days.


 The May Birds are playing at the Moon Museum on Thursday night at 20.15. The Moon Museum is a new Sound City venue but it’s apparently sponsored by Wychwood breweries and doing a fine range of Real Ales. What’s not to like about that? 

Liverpool Sound City – Rah Rah

My review from last nights Micah P. Hinson gig for eGigs is half-complete. It was an odd, shambolic, strangely compelling show and I’ve been agonising over content. Sonic Breakfast gives me a temporary reprieve from that.

Another Liverpool Sound City preview today as it draws ever closer. Indeed, in a weeks time, delegates will no doubt be heading to breakfast, nursing their hangovers, convinced that they’ve just seen the next big thing. 

Saskatchewan’s best, Rah Rah are already quite a big thing in their native Canada. Back in 2009, they were awarded ‘Best Alternative New Artist’ and ‘Best New Canadiana Artist’ by I-tunes there. I’ll be completely honest that this genre, ‘Canadiana’, is a new one on me but I guess it’s one we can file Neil Young under. Since 2009, Rah Rah have simply developed this initial promise. Last year’s album, ‘The Poet’s Dead’, confidently strides across a variety of styles whilst never straying far from tuneful, lyrical, country pop ensemble. It’s like a more accessible, less awkward Broken Social Scene. I’ll probably be hated by many for saying that this is no bad thing. 

I understand that Rah Rah’s live show is something else. The six members of the band show off their talents by swapping instruments mid song. They take turns with percussive instruments, climb on their amp stacks and bounce from whatever fixture and fitting will take them. They’ve been known to sprinkle audience members with confetti. It all sounds like an interactive, immersive experience – the sort of show that Arcade Fire will be trying to pull from their bag in a couple of months from a Somerset field. 

 You get two chances to catch Rah Rah over the Sound City weekend. They’re playing Korova on the Friday night (which apparently isn’t the iconic venue from yesteryear but a place that has simply adopted the name) and groundbreaking, no alcohol bar, The Brink on Saturday at midnight. Which one of those two do you think I’m more likely to be at? 


Liverpool Sound City – Erotic Market

A week today, I’ll be heading to Liverpool for Sound City. I went last year and had an absolute ball. It was my first festival of an epic summer in which I reviewed eighteen for eFestivals. This summer won’t be quite as crazy but it’s still going to be busy.

 There are hundreds of bands that play over the Sound City weekend (Thursday to Saturday). It’s pure bliss for a new music fanatic to have such quantity and quality across 25 venues in one city – though agonising to deal with the clashes. Many of these acts harbour ambitions to be the next big thing – and some will actually break through. Picking which ones is a task that I’m not going to indulge in – my ears aren’t tuned that way – but you could stick a pin in the donkey’s arse (or a map of Liverpool) and quality would bounce back at you from whatever of the city venues you found yourself in.

In the build up to next Thursday, I plan to write about a few of the acts who have caught my eye – this won’t be your Kodaline, Clean Bandit, Hold Steady or Jagwar Ma’s who, whilst exciting live, are more known than most. This’ll be the acts that really might have otherwise passed you by. It won’t be a daily feature – for I’ve also got a Micah P Hinson gig to preview and another Leicester showcase to feature – it’s more of a finger into the bag of sherbet.

Erotic Market are the first act to be playing at Nation on Thursday evening. They take to the stage at 8PM. I’m not a Liverpool local but I understand that Nation is a club, a big warehouse like shed that’s home to the ‘Cream’ nightclubbing brand. It’s a new venue for Liverpool Sound City.

Erotic Market are a French duo formed in May 2012 by Marine Pellegrini and Lucas Garnier. Both musicians for more than 10 years, they perfected their skills in contemporary jazz bands and a first joint venture, N’Relax.

A few weeks ago, I was sent a preview of their forthcoming album, ‘Blahblahrians’.  It’s a chewy meat of a record. You’ve got to masticate away at the gristle to get to the tenderness. I’m not entirely sure that I’m there yet. The obvious comparison to draw is to M.I.A. but to do so potentially limits the scope of this record. On first listen, one song merges into another with little respite – but, on further investigation, the subtleties, intelligence and humour start to come to the fore. With titles like ‘retro retardo’, ‘I want to be some booty’, ‘Clitacasm’ and ‘Weird arabic stuff’, it’s worth perservering with. I’ve got no doubt that these are tunes that take on a whole new angle when played live – which is why Erotic Market are high on my schedule.

 Still need convincing?  I’ll end with a couple of extracts from their press release. Surely something is lost in translation here? Or perhaps it’s not? 

Grasping Erotic Market music is like that strange, penetrating dream of unknown music which is, each time, neither quite the same one nor a different one. It’s like saying again that beauty is always strange and is the magnificent essence of genuineness. It’s the odd, elusive feeling of remembering those tunes without knowing them at all, recognizing the vigorous rock garage music, the bright triturations of electro, the groove of hiphop…’

‘Erotic Market is a go fast. A racing car that designs its own routes, spinning past illogical scenery, between sensual, suggestive eroticism and a clearcut, flashy market. A space where we can feel in turn fully within and without this world. An allegory of contemporary life that often tosses us from the one to the other end.’ 

 I prefer to call it a chewy meat.