Last November, Oakland, California’s Happy Diving released their lo-fi, fuzzed up Dinosaur Jr. indebted debut album Big World to the music listening public. The record struck a similar vein as Amherst, Massachusetts quartet California X in that it combined walloping stoner-esque riffs with a lo-fi attitude and so much melody that one could argue that ‘sugar-coated’ would be an apt description.
One gauge of how awesome Happy Diving is, is that their debut record was released via Father/Daughter Records (Diet Cig, Never Young), and their latest standalone single ‘So Bunted’ was being unleashed via taste-maker label Topshelf Records. Which we think is pretty cool. And we’d know. Cos we’re cool. Kind of. Not really.
Anyway, we had a good ol’ chin wag with band leader Matt Berry about a whole plethora of things, including recording with Jack Shirley (Deafheaven, Whirr), his love of Irish chanteuse Enya, and how he didn’t start listening to rock music until three years ago!
Overblown: Hey! Thanks for taking the time to speak to Overblown. It’s only a short time since the release of your debut album, Big World. Why chose to release new music so soon?
Happy Diving: Anytime! Well, it wasn’t exactly a decision we made. I think its mostly that I just really love writing music, especially for Happy Diving. I think the joy I get out of writing results in a lot of material, material that I want to get out there as quickly as possible. I never have seen a need in waiting. If we have the music, why not just record it and get it out?
O: Do the two songs on the So Bunted 7’’ mark a change from your previous material, or are they an extension of your established aesthetic?
HD: I think both actually. My music interests are always evolving. I didn’t even really listen to rock or guitar music until like.. 3 years ago? It’s all new to me and I’m always finding new things that I like and don’t like. Even my taste in music now is much different than it was when I was writing Big World and that was only a year and a half ago. With that being said, I think the new stuff has to be, at least, a little bit different than Big World or the EP, but all in the same vein. Just, you know, evolving.
O: This is your first release via Topshelf Records. How did you get in touch with them, and why did you decide to release this 7’’ with them?
HD: Well we were always aware that Seth and Kevin were fans of Happy Diving and we kind of thought, like, wow, that would be cool if we got on Topshelf… then one day we got an email from them expressing interest and the rest is history. They are really great people.
O: The artwork for the 7’’ has a dystopian, 1984 vibe to it. Who designed it?
HD: Oh cool, yeah, I designed it. It was a weird concept but it mostly just goes in line with the lyrical content which (although some people like to think is about being sad or something) is mostly about empowerment and feeling happy in your life, or your space, whatever it may be. Being at peace in your zone.
O: The 7’’ was recorded at The Atomic Garden in East Palo Alto, California. Did this environment affect the end product? If so, how?
HD: Recording with Jack Shirley is always a blessing. Jack understands my vision and what we all want out of the recordings. He is also totally into getting weird and trying new things which helps in making our record sound exactly as it should.
O: Over the last few years there seems to have been a return to the lo-fi, alternative rock vibe of the 80s/90s in the modern underground rock scene. What do you make of this? Do you see yourselves as part of this revivalism?
HD: You know, I do like a lot of 90’s alternative rock and stuff, but I’ve never felt we really fell in line with that stuff. I was never a huge fan of Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Weezer, etc etc. Not to say that those bands are bad, because they aren’t, they totally rock, its just never totally struck a chord with me, so I think it’s funny how we get compared to these bands that I barely even listen to. I guess I’m fine with people calling us 90’s revivalism, you can call us whatever you want, I just think my take on our music is something a little different.
O: Last year, you guys played SXSW. How was that experience? Is SXSW different from other festivals?
HD: That was my first real tour that I had ever done, so for me it was kind of just a big vacation, We didn’t really think about money at all, we knew we weren’t getting paid anywhere we played, we just wanted to play with our favorite bands in this cool festival. Now, I think we might be a bit more jaded about playing SXSW. I don’t know if i enjoy playing at noon to three people as much as i did then, haha.
O: What’s in store for Happy Diving for the rest of 2015?
HD: Well the 7″ comes out and we have a west coast tour in July, I have a new record all written and done that we’ll be recording in December with Jack, of course. Other then that, we’ll play the occasional show, who knows, maybe something cool, I’ll keep you updated.
O: What are your three favourite bands of this second?
HD: Wow, right now? sheesh.. okay, Enya for sure.. also, Big Star and Neil Young. Big Star and Neil have been big obsessions of mine for a while, but Enya has just entered my life at a crucial moment and I don’t think she is going anywhere. Enya is incredible, I think everyone reading this should go listen to Shepherd Moons.. it’s an album of just, track after track. I’ve actually been listening to it during this entire interview haha.
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