What is Happyness?

For some, it’s a lo-fi, slacker rock band. For others, it’s quirky lyrics about scalping Arcade Fire’s lead singer, or a belly full of minnows. Regardless, the South London trio have won over a lot of hearts, from NPR’s Bob Boilen while at SXSW, to being named a “Band to Watch” by Stereogum.

We talked with drummer Ash Cooper about a bathroom encounter with Florence (of Florence and the Machine), a stripped-down Sofar set, and the Internet’s curious interpretation of their lyrics. Though their first time in Boston, the trio briefly toured with locals Speedy Ortiz:

Ash: Yeah that was last year, Sadie helped us out quite a bit– we’ve got a lot to thank her for. We emailed her our music to see if we could be their support band. We did Edinburgh, Newcastle, and Brighton.

In Edinburgh there’s a bizarre drama festival that happens during that week, and all the venues are used for performance theatre. We turned up at like, four, and there was a bunch of zombies just wandering about. It was weird, the first time we met Speedy Ortiz we were surrounded by zombies and karaoke machines. The venue was a karaoke bar so they take you into a room and there’s a camera and two microphones. We did some karaoke, that was fun.

 

When I asked them to describe their music without using genre names, Ash came up with:

It’s like the sensation of getting into one of those tiny paddling pools on a really hot day. There’s leaves on top, and you kind of feel a bit grimy getting in, and it’s kind of a weird temperature because it’s been sitting in the hot sun. You splash around for a bit, and you feel great because you’re in a paddling pool and it was an attempt to cool off, but the temperature’s not quite right. So it’s a great sensation, with a weird sensation afterwards.

Happyness seems to have a knack for picking out weird little details from everyday life, like those leaves on top of the paddling pool. Their lyrics are riddled with strange monotonies like “I spread butter with a fish knife,” and “My TV dinner is almost done/going to a club in an unfriendly part of town/I’ve got an orange tongue from my orange bubble gum.” Naturally, I wanted to know how they came up with them:

I guess we spend a lot of time talking to each other and pointing out unnecessarily mundane things. And that becomes a thing… We don’t necessarily think about them really hard. It’s just things we see and we write them down rather than a long, thought-out process.

Rather than trying to craft something it’s being able to throw things together, and then taking the time to understand how it comes together or what it expresses. There’s more journey and searching there than crafting songs piece by piece.

Perhaps the quirkiness of their lyrics is what prompts some to wrongly hear the lyrics by Happyness, like one Internet-goer did for their track, Pumpkin Noir:

There’s a verse about his car, then the second lyric: what we wrote is “he’s in real need of an animal.” And someone else on the Internet wrote “he’s in real need of an enema.” We really liked that, we should change it.

The mention of an enema was an unexpected reminder of that time they piled up into the bathroom with Florence Welch, of Florence and the Machine. Fortunately, there was no need for an enema at that time:

Yeah that was a bizarre experience. We were 16 and we were playing a festival that she was headlining. This was many years ago, when we weren’t the band we are now. Basically, we ended up in the toilet together because she took a liking to me, because she always wanted to marry a nice Jewish boy. So that became a thing. And then she declared we were married, and then we were divorced.

So for one night I was married to Florence and the Machine.

Finally, since I was still thinking about our recent Sofar collaboration, I had to ask about their Sofar London experience:

Yeah that was way back, they sent us an email– I think it was March of last year, or maybe earlier than that. It was fun to play in a different environment. We liked being able to do a stripped-back version, and people listened which was cool. It was quite nerve wracking though, people were really close.

Happyness will finally be coming to Boston this week. Catch them live at Great Scott on Sunday, July 12th– grab your tickets here.

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