New album, London gentrification and life on tour: In conversation with Happyness
With the release of their sophomore album Write In this month and their biggest headline tour to date, Far Out Magazine caught up with the South Londoner’s Happyness to discuss the new record, life on the road and holiday snaps.
Write in seems to have a great feel of Americana, was this taken from your time in the States or do you think this is something that derives more from an inspirational level?
I don’t think it has too much to do with our time in America – even before we’d ever toured the US a lot of our biggest heroes were American bands. I think that sound is kind of a natural starting point for us. A lot of the people we’d consider big influences on this new record are American, but there are lots that aren’t too – like Roxy Music or David Kilgour or XTC. Or Jonathan Pryce.
There’s a lot of thought in the arrangement and textures on the new album, choices of instruments and harmonies which can be heard on tracks such as your new single ‘Through Windows’ clearly had a lot of time and effort spent in the writing stage. Was this a conscious effort to push yourselves or more of a natural progression?
We definitely went into this one wanting to develop every idea into it’s own thing. At one point I remember saying to each other that it would be nice to have a few songs you could just play to yourself at a piano or with a guitar. I don’t know if we quite ended up doing that, but at some point there was the intent to.
As was the case with your previous outputs you self recorded and produced Write In at your own Jelly Boy Studio, how do you think this affects your writing process?
Well, for a start, we couldn’t record too loud too late – because we had neighbours. So any live tracking had to be done in a very small window. Also we tend to work best in the evenings – so there’s a lot of layering on this record. I guess because of that restriction the writing process for this record was pretty strung out. The building’s been sold now to turn into flats, so we no longer have it, which is pretty sad, but it’s probably time for us to move on. We like to write as we record, and it gets pretty frustrating not being able to get something down right when you think of it.
Do you have assigned roles in this process, such as writing the lyrics, writing the music, manning the desk and cracking the whip? Or is it more of a free-for-all organic process?
Definitely the second one. Although Jon-EE and Benji write all the words and tend to bring the initial ideas for the songs, and Ash plays 99% of the drums. We like to arrange everything around us so all the instruments are accessible, and anyone can pick up whatever they need to work out their feelings.
You recently worked with Felix White on his YALA! Project, how did this come about, and do you think there will be any future collaboration?
He asked us to come in for a session, and we needed someone to play bass on ‘Tunnel Vision…’ so we asked him. He’s DJing the after party for our show at the Dome on April 28th, maybe we can persuade him to play bass again, we’ll see. He’s left handed and had to play the whole thing upside down on a right-handed bass. Luckily it’s not exactly a Muse track.
You’ve got a pretty hectic schedule for the rest of the year, how do you find life on tour?
We love it for the most part and we get to see a stupid amount of places we’d never get to see otherwise. Obviously it gets pretty weird hanging out with the same 3 guys in a van for that long, but what can you do… We try to stop off as much as possible and see stuff – we stopped on a mountain road above El Paso a couple of weeks ago at sunset and stared out into Mexico, that was nice.
There’s a picture of us there, looking very serious – and a couple in the background enjoying the view.