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LIVE: Happyness - The Parish, Huddersfield

Since first surfacing with a handful of recordings in 2013, London trio Happyness have treated us to one of the most encapsulating LPs of the year in the shape of their debut Weird Little Birthday.

Those in the know twigged pretty quickly and soon the band were seen bringing their music to a wider audience thanks to support sets with Ezra Furman and Speedy Ortiz, as well as a host of festival performances at the likes of Bestival and Reading & Leeds.

After catching wind of it relatively late on, we headed to the unlikely location of Huddersfield at the weekend to see them perform a rescheduled gig at The Parish.

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

The headline show was sandwiched in between a handful of dates with Avi Buffalo and came just two nights after they had rocked the Deaf Institute in Manchester.

However, the audience that greets them in the West Yorkshire town is far more modest – in fact we may as well come clean and tell you that it was single figures.

But undeterred by the lack of numbers, Happyness do everything in their power to ensure it is money well spent for those who have made the effort.

Their output is a melancholic combination of downtempo pop – sprinkled with lyrics that are thought-provoking and peculiar in equal measure – and driving guitar, where toe-tapping riffs and catchy choruses conjure up images of US alt-rock legends like Pavement, Yo La Tengo and Grandaddy.

In fact, if Stephen Malkmus had brought out Weird Little Birthday, there would no doubt have been hysteria from either side of the Atlantic.

It is the softer guise that kicks the set off with ‘Weird Little Birthday Girl’ providing the kind of lo-fi soundtrack perfect to bring the weekend to an end. Their versatility comes straight to fruition too with the infectious rock ‘n’ roll of ‘You Come To Kill Me?!’ – a song that was chosen as Far Out’s Track of the Day back in August.

Single ‘Great Minds Think Alike, All Brains Taste the Same’ doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but its sound is much more compact – a piece of expertly crafted pop that comes in at less than two minutes.

The track is unfortunately followed by the arrival of one particularly anebriated audience member better used to the more metal-oriented lineups hosted at The Parish. Armed with a four-pint pitcher of woo woo (no sharing involved), she does her best to heckle the gig into a perpetual state of awkwardness, much to the annoyance of others in the room.

She didn’t have a clue who she was watching at the time, no idea in the immediate aftermath, and probably wondered what planet she was from the next morning. Quite something for a Sunday.

Despite the tribulations though, Happyness keep their cool throughout and the sparse audience can be seen head-nodding with the broadest of smiles. It’s fair to say this one won’t go down as a career highlight, but the soundtrack has been sublime.

As well as catching one of the more surreal live sets we’ve seen recently, we sat down with Happyness to discuss genre-hopping, their detachment from the London indie scene, and the fickleness of mainstream promoters. Keep your eyes peeled for the full interview later this week…

Patrick Davies