Today, Happyness release their second album – the soaring indie-odyssey ‘Write In’ via Moshi Moshi. To celebrate the release, the group have gone deep on the album, and provided NME with the stories behind each song.
I think we started out going for a Roxy Music, or even a Wizzard thing on Falling Down, but it ended up a lot more indebted to David Kilgour and The Heavy Eights or something. I love how on those records he’s so content to just sit on a chord progression for 5 minutes, because it seems to just hit exactly the way he’s feeling.
Benji has Crohn’s Disease. And almost exactly half way through recording, he had to go for major surgery, which stalled album plans for a good few months and meant we had to rethink a lot of things. This was the first thing we wrote after he got back to the studio.
I think it’s probably about coming right to the point of spilling your feelings, but backing out at the last moment. When you find yourself changing what you’re saying mid-sentence.
‘The Reel Starts Again [Man As Ostrich]’
This was inspired partly by ‘Trouble In Paradise’ and partly by the lobby arrangement of a hotel we stayed at in Cleveland last year. There was a television that was on all night, a fish tank and a concierge, all set in a perfect row, so that neither the fish nor the concierge could watch the TV. There was a reality police show marathon on.
It was mostly tracked live in a rehearsal studio in the middle of a big windswept cornfield – next to it was an enormous, broken shell of a greenhouse full of soil and weeds and rock doves. We all had a pretty tough year (who didn’t?) – I think this song’s probably about finding comfort in something. The last song we recorded for the album (you can probably hear the relief).
This started as an instrumental thing on guitar and piano. We had to name it immediately to save the Logic file and the name just kind of stuck. The song was written later standing around the piano and the recording was pretty much finished the same day. But the chorus started out as kind of a purposeful mishearing of ‘Ride Into The Sun’ by The Velvet Underground – I used to think it could just as easily be heard as ‘Right Into…’, or ‘Write In To…’ – so maybe it’s a song sung to a newspaper, we haven’t quite decided yet. About a week after the album was mastered it struck me that the fade out sounds like a car driving into the distance, which goes nicely with the words.
‘Uptrend / Style Raids’
A few years ago we spent a whole day walking around a big sprawling flea market in Paris determined to find something vaguely musical. Eventually as it was getting dark we managed to find an old supermarket announcement microphone and a Bontempi chord organ that Benji’s cat immediately broke.
We recorded Uptrend live and were already using all our normal sounding microphones for the instruments, so the guide vocals were done into the Paris mic and we liked them too much to change them. We were out of mic stands so we had to tape it to a lampshade.
‘Bigger Glass Less Full’
‘Bigger Glass…’ started with an oblique strategy that we learnt from Terry Gilliam: apparently he made Brazil without ever reading 1984. We were trying to sound like a Pierre Cavalli song we’d heard once a very long time ago. It couldn’t sound less similar if we’d tried. We added the acoustics when we were in LA mixing with Adam Lasus – as of now the only thing we’ve ever recorded outside the UK.
‘Victor Lazarro’s Heart’
The tinkling sound at the beginning of the end is a toy bird that we borrowed from Benji’s niece a few years ago and forgot to give back. She’s moved on to real animals now so I don’t think she’s missing it too much. Victor Lazarro is John Travolta’s boss from the movie Face/Off – so this song’s mainly about mood swings.
‘Anna, Lisa Calls’
We wanted a lot of the songs on this record to be walking home at night songs. This is probably more of a walking away from home at night song. I think it’s got something to do with someone feeling completely euphoric one moment, like they’ve made sense of everything, and completely the opposite the next.
‘The C Is A B A G’
We recorded this one live on a 4-track cassette machine and added the keyboards and extra vocals later. It’s partially an environmental song about the sea being the world’s ileostomy bag, and partially a big-glamorous-party song, and partially a flat-red-future-at-the-end-of- ‘The Time Machine’ song.
‘Tunnel Vision On Your Part’
My favourite Tom Waits song might be ‘World Keeps Turning’. I guess the sentiment kind of stuck. Something about trying to wrestle the real world into a plausible story-arc.
See Happyness live this April
Fulford Arms, York (April 11)
Brudenell Social Club, Leeds (April 12)
Picture House Social Club (April 13)
The Cellar, Oxford (April 14)
The Hope & Ruin, Brighton (April 18)
The Louisiana, Bristol (April 19)
Buyer’s Club, Liverpool (April 20)
Whelan’s, Dublin (April 21)
The Hug & Pint, Glasgow (April 22)
Think Tank, Newcastle (April 24)
Gullivers, Manchester (April 25)
Hare & Hounds, Birmingham (April 26)
The Dome, Tufnell Park, London (April 28)
Handmade Festival, Leicester (April 30)
‘Write In’ is out now via Moshi Moshi