It’s always interesting meeting the artists behind the album you’ve been streaming non-stop, so we eagerly went along to the legendary 100 Club to interview Benji (vocals/guitar), Jonny (bassist) and Ash (drums), who form South London’s Happyness. Interesting proved to be a definite understatement.
Settling down in their dressing room, we grabbed a beer and quickly dove into discussing the important issues: convent schools and Jesus. If you’re under the impression that Happyness are jealous of the prophet ('I'm the motherfucking birthday boy / don't steal my thunder baby Jesus''), you’ve got them completely wrong. Referring to 'Leave The Party' off recently released debut album Weird Little Birthday, they're quick to tell me: “We don’t talk about Jesus alongside the things we’ve spoke about already.” ...like killing people at parties. I had to ask them, if they saw me at a party, would they kill me? I was incredibly flattered to be told no. “It’s not necessarily about killing people, it’s more about making peace. But there’s always this demographic of all these people at a party who you just want to fucking kill”. Admittedly, this is completely understandable – there’s been plenty of occasions where I’ve made an appearance at parties for the sake of one friend, when in reality there’s the prom scene from Carrie repeating on loop in my mind thanks to the crippling judgement you've suddenly become subject to and dickhead behavior that emerges when someone wearing a snapback has a few pints.
“Say you’re on the phone to someone and they’re like, ‘what have you been up to?’ and you’re like ‘oh yeah I just went to a party’. Then the next day they pick up the paper and find out that you killed everyone there. Collectively, us three have been to enough parties where we’ve just thought fucking hell, let’s just kill everyone.” From discussing party massacres we jump between conversations about Breaking Bad merchandise, (“the bath salts were really salty, so I spat them out”), Miami hobo-zombie attacks, horror films and visiting Venice. “Do you know what would make this a good interview? If we all fucked off to Venice in Italy right now. Let’s do it, who has their passports?”
About 15 minutes in we realize our interview recording is up against Ezra Furman’s encore next door. “Let’s all just get in the toilet?” says bassist Jonny. We contemplate this. “We all got taken to a toilet by Florence & The Machine once. There was seven of us piled in there. That was a very interesting day.” We decide to call a cigarette break and gather outside the venue instead, because it was obvious none of us really gave a shit about the interview anymore. “Headline this article: Happyness outside Footlocker on Oxford Street”.
They ask us if we have a "fetish for weird shit" (we don't) that led to asking them about why they wrote a song about putting people in domestic appliances. Jonny enlightens us on the concept of 'Refrigerate Her' – “One night I just kind of wrote it because I saw my fridge, and I was thinking about stuff… I don’t like to go far into it, y’know.” Surely it can’t be so bad that you can’t go too far into it, right? “It’s just about keeping people in fridges, okay? It’s not about much else. Have you heard of 'Where The Wild Roses Go'? It’s a very domestic 'Where The Wild Roses Go'”.
Happyness aren’t just ‘another indie band’. They've been categorized on numerous occasions as ‘American college rock/surf-rock”. And yeah, there’s been a load of bands labelled with this ‘slacker surf-rock’ label, but we’ve got higher praises for them. Weird Little Birthday is lo-fi with a charming essence, but it's hard to pigeon-hole them into a genre that isn't just weirdly satisfying. We want to know what they think about this. “We’re not surf-rock… where did this come from? What the fuck is it?” Thankfully, we've already come up with a genre of our own: “You guys are moody. You’re like my cat, he’s a little bitch – but in a good way” to which Jonny responds with “that’s why we called it Happyness.” Scrapping the ‘moody little bitch’ and ‘surf-rock’ genre, we talk more about the band's inspirations. “Musically, Sparklehorse had a huge influence on us, along with Dionne Warwick and Dusty Springfield – but mainly it’s things we’ve personally experienced.” I immediately start to picture them all climbing into dishwashers and refrigerators. “Look at metal music, it’s expressing a part of yourself that is naturally quite violent and aggressive – we’re not violent. 'Leave The Party' was about dissociation, making peace.”
We begin to talk about what it’s like to be the journalists in this interview, meeting bands for the first time, which progresses onto other music industry job roles. What about the people with the commercial power? “Our manager is an ex-A&R and he's brilliant, he’s got fucking insight on the whole thing and he’s so right about it”. To all A&R’s out there, our hearts go out to you. “Maybe our role in life is to set up a peoples care home for ex A&R’s to listen to Ray Charles, calm down, and get their shit together.” Sounds good to us, Happyness.
Words by Courtney Axford