It’s been a bit of a whirlwind for London trio HAPPYNESS. The band are finally back with new album Write In after teasing us for an age with a slow drip of tracks including ‘Through Windows’, ‘Bigger Glass Less Full’ and ‘Anna, Lisa Calls’. It’s safe to say that they have upped their game from 2015’s Weird Little Birthday, opting to rein in their bolshier moments for a more understated atmosphere and even incorporating backing vocals.
The band have always worn their musical influences on their sleeves so it made sense to dig a little deeper. Below they discuss who and what helped to inspire the new album, the recording process and collaborating with David Lynch (yes, that David Lynch)…
You’ve recently revealed your new album as Write In; what inspired the title?
It’s a lyric from the chorus of ‘Through Windows’, which is not only the first song we wrote for the record, but also kind of integral to the sentiment of the album. We knew we wanted to call the record ‘Write In’ before we had almost all of the tracks written or recorded.
Latest single ‘Bigger Glass Less Full’ was debuted a few weeks ago by DIY and is reminiscent of 90s with its distorted guitars, whilst ‘Falling Down’ has laidback Pavement vibes. What makes you so fond of the era?
It’s just what was big when we were in college.
Write In was recorded in your own studios. How important was it for you to maintain control and keep the project as close to home as possible?
It’s been so important for us to have our own space to record. We’ve self produced everything we’ve made and without having our own studio with no time constraints or distractions (apart from two cats and a ton of second hand books), we would never have been able to make our records the way we wanted to. I think it also made us more confident and active about finding interesting pieces of gear to work with, because we were comfortable that we had a space to keep them. For example, we picked up an old harmonium a few years ago under and, although it’s only been used on one track I can think of, it’s become a bit of a centre piece in the studio.
‘Anna, Lisa Calls’ evokes the upbeat nuances of The Beach Boys (including backing vocals!) What makes them an influential band to you?
For me, they were the first band I can think of that I fell totally in love with. My mum gave me a CD of their greatest hits and that was that. I cannot think of another band who touches the same sentiment and warms you in the same way – it’s a kind of longing, they sound almost like a woodwind instrument to me, like every song is squeezed out through a reed.
Write In has an understated maturity that builds upon your previous album Weird Little Birthday. Was it a conscious effort to rein in some of your more rugged tones?
We definitely wanted to make a slightly more refined record. But if by rugged you mean the whole distorted thing, I don’t think this new record necessarily has less of that than the first one. Maybe it’s just disguised a little more between some more piano-led songs. My 3 year old niece also told me that she wanted our next record to have no swearing in it, so we did exactly that.
What is it about the lo-fi sound that makes you want to explore it?
It’s not a conscious thing to make ‘lo-fi’ music as such. Perhaps that was the case for some of the artists who have become real influences on us, and then we’ve gone and aligned ourselves with them, but I don’t think we really consider ourselves a ‘lo-fi’ band – we’re just limited by the gear that we have and want to make everything on our own terms. This album cost about £500 to make – and most of that was spent on a de-humidifier that was almost entirely redundant – so it’s probably inevitable that it’s not going to sound like Siamese Dream.
Renowned filmmaker David Lynch contributed to your tribute to Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse at London’s Union Chapel. How did that collaboration come about and how did his contribution add to your performance?
I’m still completely amazed about that. We emailed his producer, who is a friend of a friend, and she said she would speak to David (they were together working on the set of the new Twin Peaks series). A few hours later, we got a reply saying that David wanted to contribute to the performance and was having a think about the best way to do it. The next day, they got in touch saying that he was sending us a track that Mark Linkous had made a month or so before he died, one of the last things he ever recorded, that David Lynch had commissioned for a documentary on Transcendental Meditation. It had only been heard by David Lynch and Mark Linkous, and he asked us specifically not to send it to anyone else. The night he sent it over, we all got together in the studio, sat down and played the track. It was incredibly moving and left us all speechless. It’s a real credit to David Lynch that he was moved to do that – what a man.
You are known as being fans of Sparklehorse, Big Star, Wilco, Yo La Tengo and Velvet Underground, citing them as influences on your previous album. What music or influences helped to shape Write In and how?
All those people you mention are still people we adore – but what was exciting about making this record is that we fell in love with a bunch of artists who seemed to inhabit a very different musical space than the above. Harry Nilsson, Roxy Music, Randy Newman, Brian Eno’s ‘Here Come The Warm Jets’ & a whole load of sexy European movie soundtrack composers like Piero Umiliani, Michel Lorin & Ennio Morricone. And Pierre Cavalli, but he’s a little different.
The artwork for Write In is intriguing to look at! Who created it and did you have influence in the creative process?
Our very own Jon-EE Allan created it. I love it – it’s genuinely one of my favourite things about the album. Weirdly, we were in Forth Worth, Texas a few weeks back and came across this artist who was selling a bunch of pictures at a festival we were playing, and his work reminded me so much of the album cover, or at least of Jon-EE’s way of doing things.
You are about to set off on tour in support of the new album. Are you excited to be back on the road?
I just got back from L.A. this morning, so I have no idea what day or time it is. But yes – once that has settled, I intend to be very excited.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
We’re giving away a not-quite-broken copy of a strat electric guitar to ticket holders for our UK tour in April – so if you’re coming, email us your ticket receipt and we’ll put your name in the hat. We’ve got Bridget Bardot 99% confirmed to pick the names, so we want a good spread for her.
Happyness’ new album Write In is out now. Their UK tour dates can be found below:
Tuesday 11th April – Fulford Arms, York, UK
Wednesday 12th April – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, UK
Thursday 13th April – Picture House Social Club, Sheffield, UK Friday 14th April – The Cellar, Oxford, UK
Tuesday 18th April – The Hope & Ruin, Brighton, UK
Wednesday 19th April – The Louisiana, Bristol, UK
Thursday 20th April – Buyer’s Club, Liverpool, UK
Friday 21st April – Whelan’s, Dublin, Ireland
Saturday 22nd April – The Hug & Pint, Glasgow, UK
Monday 24th April – Think Tank, Newcastle, UK
Tuesday 25th April – Gulliver’s, Manchester, UK
Wednesday 26th April – Hare & Hounds, Birmingham, UK
Friday 28th April – The Dome, Tufnell Park, London, UK
Sunday 30th April – Handmade Festival, Leicester, UK