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Interview: Happyness

Last weekend, Far Out headed to Huddersfield to sit down and have a pint with one of out favourite new bands Happyness. We spoke to frontman Jonny Allan and drummer Ash Cooper about their detachment from London, the gratification of playing in Hull and unicorns at festivals…

You came back with a new EP quite quickly after the album was released, what was the thinking there?

Jonny: We recorded our album very early on, which created a kind of delay until it came out. That meant that quite soon afterwards we had some new stuff that felt more recent to us. We brought out the EP [Anything I Do is Alright] probably a week after we recorded it.

It makes it a bit more exciting, the stuff on the EP is slightly less mellow. It gives us opportunity to shake things up a bit. We’d been playing the songs off the album for about a year or something.

You’re all songwriters and have performed in a wide range of different bands in the past, does this bring an extra vibrancy to Happyness?

Ash: When we made the first record, it was kind of just us in the studio doing our own thing, it feels very different writing a record now. We’re writing while on tour now which is a completely different vibe.

Jonny: There’s probably a bit more urgency because the first record gives you something to build upon.

You produced the album yourselves, do you plan on taking the same approach second time around?

Jonny: We’ve thought about it, but we’re not completely sure yet. It was fun to do it ourselves. Sometimes you can just lay down a guitar line, listen to it back and that will end up being the final version on the record.

But at the same time, there are songs that had demos and a load of different versions that came before. That’s one of the best things about doing it yourself.

Ash: There are times when you kind of need another opinion, it brings an extra objectivity. That’s when we got in touch with Adam Lasus [producer who has worked with Yo La Tengo and Daniel Johnston].

Jonny: He has been one of the biggest influences on our career so far. We literally just got in touch with him via email and he got back and said he wanted to do it. Our EP was mixed by Ed Harcourt too. He’s a producer in his own right I guess, as well as many other things! He’s a man of many talents.

Was there any kind of schema of what you wanted the album to sound like when you went into the studio?

Ash: I think we got to a point where we were getting into a lot of music that we hadn’t necessarily been exposed to before. A lot of them were a hell of a lot more hardcore than what we ended up coming out with. A lot of them were self-produced albums too.

Jonny: Wilco were one band that we had in mind a lot of the time. We used to watch that documentary [I Am Trying to Break Your Heart]. If anything, it kind of gave us a crisis of confidence using that as a reference point. That’s probably one of the most perfect albums ever made.

We didn’t really have a concrete idea though. We’d just put something in front of a mic and hope that it stuck.

There’s quite a transatlantic feel to your music, where does that come from?

Ash: All of us listen to a lot of bands from America, so I guess there is an influence there. We also felt, not disillusioned, but kind of removed from London. Even though we wrote the album in London and recorded it our studio in Bermondsey.

Jonny: We were all in kind of crappy teen bands before this, but we were really enthralled back then with the whole London, mid-00s indie thing. That was something we hadn’t really thought about until recently. It probably had some kind of influence, but now it feels pretty of its time. Looking back on it, none of us take influence from that anymore.

London doesn’t have many bands that we relate to. That’s not to say that they’re not talented. There’s a sense of nostalgia, but it’s not something that we want to carry on with.

The EPs just been released in the states, how has it gone down?

Jonny: I guess we’ll find out when we get there, we’re going there for the first time in two and a half weeks. We’re playing about nine shows in five days so not much time for sightseeing! I guess so far it’s been quite similar to how it was in the UK.

Are you comfortable playing to brand new audiences, this summer must have been your first proper run of festivals?

Jonny: Not naming any names, but the smaller festivals tend to have a bit more of a draw to them. There are a lot of different people there for a lot of different kinds of bands at big festivals, which means you can end up with a less concentrated crowd.

We say small, it’s not really small, but Green Man was one of the only ones where we got to hang out the whole weekend. We saw The War On Drugs, Mercury Rev and Mac Demarco, it was really cool.

There are other festivals that put a lot less emphasis on the music and more on taking drugs, jumping in the lake and making out with the person who you wouldn’t when you are at home.

It’s hard to know what to expect. There’s been a couple of times where we’ve been on stage and thought ‘these people are all dressed as unicorns, I don’t think they’re that interested in us!’

You’ve toured with the likes of Ezra Furman and Speedy Ortiz, what have they taught you?

Ash: It was the first time we’d toured with anyone of that kind of level. It can be tricky to win audiences over. When we started to tour with people that were a bit bigger and we are fans of, we kind of started with this ‘support band mentality’.

Jonny: You’re a bit scared to break out. We’re over it now, but those first couple of tours there was a feeling that everyone’s there to see the other band, so you just stand there and be polite.

We’ve done one show with Avi Buffalo so far, they’re really cool guys. We’re kind of doing their tour and our own headline tour at the same time. It’s us tonight, then Avi tomorrow, then us the day after. It’s weird!

You’re playing in Huddersfield tonight – a town quite a lot of bands might not bother with when putting tours together – is that something that’s important to you?

Ash: I remember one of the earliest shows we did, think it was at the Welly Club in Hull and people were like ‘bands never come here’.

Jonny: Do band’s not come to Hull?

Ash: Not Hull specifically! But there is a an appreciation that is really nice that you perhaps don’t get in other places.

Jonny: We don’t really have a hugely in-depth knowledge of where we are going to be playing at the moment. We don’t discriminate. We’re just happy to be out and playing.

Next time we’re only going to play in Las Vegas. That’s it, we’ve peaked, it’s going to be all white suits and a big, long residency. In fact our next gig in London, we’ll just come on stage, set fire to some straw people and see what the fuck happens!

Happyness’s debut album Weird Little Birthday and their latest EP Anything I Do is Alright are both available to buy now. Check out our review of the Huddersfield gig here. You can also catch them on tour at any of the following gigs.

October 10th – Islington Assembly Hall, London (w/ Avi Buffalo)
October 11th – Twisterella Festival, Middlesbrough
October 12th – Fulford Arms, York
October 14th – Rocking Chair, Sheffield
October 15th – Hare & Hounds, Birmingham
October 17th – The Cookie, Leicester
October 18th – Dimswn Festival, Cardiff
November 4th – Electrowerkz, London

Patrick Davies