Happyness are a happy group of lads. That’s one thing we concluded following our chat with the London-based trio ahead of their set at London Calling Festival in Amsterdam. The group, who released their debut album Weird Little Birthday this year, have been making waves across both sides of the pond thanks to their catchy indie rock, courtesy of co-frontmen Benji Compston and Jonny Allan, as well as drummer Ash Cooper.
As we take a seat round the back of Amsterdam’s legendary Paradiso venue, Jonny tells us the interesting story of how Happyness came to be. “Benji sent me a quite braggy email that said, ‘Ash is probably the best drummer I know, and Johnny, a completely different Johnny, is the best guitarist I know, so we should probably start a band together’”. This spurred them on to form a band, before Compston claimed that the three became friends because he was the “best cellist in the South London area.” Within one question it’s already clear that Happyness like to joke around, something which becomes even more prevalent over the course of our seven-minute long chat. On the subject of what influenced their debut album, this year’s Weird Little Birthday, Compston starts off by denying that “the whole Jesus’ birthday thing” was a big influence, even if “it does crop up throughout the record.” Allan continues, claiming that “we had to tell our press team something, so we told them a story about babies and Jesus, and it kinda worked.” This whole baby Jesus idea in turn ended up influencing the first song on the album, Baby, Jesus (Jelly Boy). “I think we made the record, and afterwards started realizing that a lot of different themes were popping up” starts Compston, before adding, “it’s like when three people go to a wedding and each bring a starter, main course and dessert. When they get there, they realize that it’s all seafood, even the dessert.” This interesting analogy of Weird Little Birthday demonstrates the kind of humour the band possesses both on and offstage.
By this point, a few party boats pass us on the river behind the Paradiso, EDM-music blaring out as glasses are raised in the air by celebratory passengers. The music blaring out of the boats, though, is very different from that which Happyness associates themselves with. Two songs of note are breakthrough song Montreal Rock Band Somewhere, which references Arcade Fire’s Win Butler, and the upbeat A Whole New Shape. The latter, according to Allan, is “not about haircuts,” before adding that it’s a story about “a man who gets up in the morning and has a bath.” He further adds that the man in the story doesn’t have a towel, and that A Whole New Shape is basically about “what that must do to a man.” Montreal Rock Band Somewhere, on the other hand, is simply about having “incrementally less friends than we had when we were sixteen”, as Compston nonchalantly states. Tonight, though, the band made one new friend in the form of a teenage boy who very excitedly shouted at them during soundcheck before rushing down to the stage post-show for high fives whilst battling to get through a dense crowd slowly evaporating. London Calling is filled with exciting, up-and-coming artists, some of which Happyness have listened to a lot of lately. According to Lawson, the band is currently touring with Drenge, who are headlining the second day of London Calling. The band also briefly mention a handful of newer artists they’ve been touring with, such as Mush (who they played with in Manchester) and In Vibes (who they shared the stage with at SXSW in Austin, Texas) from Sunderland. A special mention also goes out to California’s Son of Stan, who describe themselves as ‘80s mall pop’. An overall summary of Son of Stan comes from Lawson, who simply calls it “shopping music”. Our final question concerns the show that Happyness see as the best one of their career so far, with Compston immediately picking their first time at the Paradiso. Allan agrees, adding that “it was the first people took our shit onstage for us”. “We’re very easy to please” says Compston, sparking laughter from the whole band as they proceed to tell a funny story about their gig at Baby’s All Right in New York. According to Allan, a man dressed as a taco (who was promoting Baby’s All Right) got hit by a car, which caused people to start making “a ridiculous amount of really good jokes”. “I heard one of the bar staff say that it will be great for promotion” says Compston, before adding that it might go viral if it ends up in the Williamsburg times. A barrage of jokes proceeded to end our chat, with the band heading back to their van to unload gear and prepare for their show a few hours later.