Happyness Interview: “Easy Listening Sex Rock”

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happyness interview heaven

The Circle Line was unnecessarily busy for a pre-rush hour Wednesday afternoon and it was exacerbating my already-churning stomach. En route to interview south-London trio Happyness – spelt with a ‘Y’ “because of Happy Shopper”, according to guitarist and singer Jonny Allan – this was the first ever face-to-face interview I’d conducted, and I was a chain-smoking bag of nerves. If you were aboard this tube carriage last Wednesday, you may have seen a scruffy-looking brunette scribbling anxiously in a black leather notebook, and that would have been me. I probably glared at you with that look that all busy, self-involved Londoners give each other when someone dares meet their gaze. Sorry about that.

After arriving at Heaven, the venue for tonight’s gig and for the interview, and after being barked at ‘SORRY, WHO ARE YOU?’ by an angry-looking security man, I was finally granted entry and greeted by the three friendliest faces I’d seen that day. Our interview took place in a room adorned with magazine covers featuring celebrity scandals plastered across the front, one of which read ‘BILLIE PIPER’S NIP SLIP’ – quite the talking point. “We were talking about Jonny’s potential nip slips on stage later”, Benji Compston, guitarist and singer, tells me, gesturing to the wall. “Billie Piper had a nip slip in that room next door. You’ve been in the room where Billie Piper’s nipple was – for a tiny bit of time – in a different area in relation to her clothes. Think about that.” Jonny finishes, allowing any nerves I had to melt away gracefully. I could tell I was in for a treat.

Fast forward a few hours into the near future and the band are taking their places on the stage. Unlike the trio that preceded them (who can only be described as a worse version of The 1975), Happyness have an air of likable arrogance about them, almost like they don’t give a fuck – but minus the flippant, egotistical undertones that usually coincide with this. Instead, as they launch into sleepy, slow-burner ‘Jelly Boy (Jesus, Baby)’ and the crowd starts to sway appreciatively, it’s almost like they’re performing for a generous-sized group of friends, instead of an audience.

Dousing the audience’s ears with a variation of sonic delights from their 2014 self-produced debut Weird Little Birthday, the room becomes considerably cosier as their performance intensifies, with a sea of adoring faces looking on as far as the eye can see. Even though I’m sandwiched between two couples of underagers, who choose dreamy track ‘Leave The Party’ (“Can I just say, the original lyrics to that song didn’t actually talk about killing anyone at the party.” Jonny discloses) as an appropriate time to start getting freaky, it’s clear that no matter what age, everyone can enjoy a bit of ‘slacker’ rock.

Talking of which, Happyness’ unique concoction of lo-fi fuzz and breezy 90s-tinged college rock seems to get tarred with the ‘slacker rock’ brush repeatedly in most reviews online. This term seems relatively apt, and it had become a point of discussion earlier that day. “We’d never heard of ‘slacker rock’ before. We don’t even really know what it means.” Drummer Ash Cooper admits. “We try and avoid describing our music at all costs, but if anyone asks what genre of music we are, I kind of mumble all embarrassed for a bit, and then go ‘Oh I guess Alt-Rock’. I never go ‘we’re a SLACKER ROCK BAND’.” It’s then decided that Happyness want to coin a new term for their eclectic creations – Easy Listening Sex-Rock. We have a tag line, ladies and gentlemen.

As the band come to the end of their set later that evening, after many purposeful nip slips on Jonny’s behalf and frequent bouts of ‘bants’ with the audience, Happyness have clearly wasted no time deciding which song to close with. ‘Montreal Rock Band Somewhere’, the breathy, downbeat symphony which saw them win NME’s 2015 award for ‘Best Lyric’ recently with the line ‘I’m wearing Win Butler’s hair / There’s a scalpless singer in a Montreal rock band somewhere’, plays the band out, and it gathers excited cheers and head-bobs all around. The boys are clearly pleased with this recent achievement (Jonny’s initial reaction to the topic being “Motherfucker, straight up! FO’ REAL.”), but incidentally it turns out NME misprinted the lyrics: “It’s actually ‘of’ a Montreal rock band…” Benji admitted sheepishly earlier, concluding with “but Win Butler’s hair really won that award”. Nonetheless, the band speak fondly of the fans that voted for them, but admit to feeling slightly saddened at “not getting a finger” (they’re talking about the NME trophy guys, calm down…).

With their finger-less award tucked snugly under their belts already after only being an ‘official band with a name’ for just over a year, and a schedule for 2015 overflowing with American and European tour dates, it’s clear that these three London boys have got a happy-ness ever after coming their way (har har). If only Jonny could keep his nipples under wraps…

SET LIST:
Jelly Boy (Jesus, Baby)
You Come To Kill Me?!
Leave The Party
It’s On You
Pumpkin Noir
Great Minds
A Whole New Shape
Montreal Rock Band Somewhere

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