EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Five Minutes With… Happyness

Debut album Weird Little Birthday earned London three-piece Happyness significant critical attention, with The Guardian calling the album “thrilling and charming.” The band’s uniquely wry sense of humour – expressed both through the playful, allusion-filled lyrics and the consistently bold compositional choices – has won them fans across the world, and highly anticipated follow-up Write In will only turn more people onto the band’s endearingly downbeat, shoegazey brand of guitar pop.

We caught up with Benji Compston while the band was shooting their new video.

Hi there, how are you and what are you up to today?

Hello ! We are in Los Angeles shooting a video for our new single ‘Through Windows’ involving a microwave and a handsome man.

To those not familiar with you, how would you describe your sound?


What are the 5 albums that have influenced you the most?

Good Morning Spider – Sparklehorse
Spirit of Eden – Talk Talk
Summerteeth – Wilco
Confections of Love – Brute Force
Little Criminals – Randy Newman

Which other artists are you into at the moment and why?

I like Mush from Leeds because they’re really good – both on and off record.

Are there any key pieces of equipment that you are using to define your sound?

We have an Aria electro acoustic which cost about £50 and has been used countless times. Our recording setup is pretty integral because we’ve self produced everything we’ve done.

What would you say some of the challenges artists face today in the music industry?

Finding a band name that isn’t already taken….

Where do you gather songwriting inspiration?

Rotisserie food items, magazines and PCP

Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when putting your music together?

Music first then lyrics – this time.

What’s the best gig you have ever done and why?

We just played a show in Boise, Idaho which was awesome – and perhaps our favourite show ever. The potato state has always been kind to us.

And the worst?

Probably a show last week in Austin with a wasted sound guy who thought he was a pirate and used a mixing desk a bit like it was a Nintendo.

If you weren’t a musician what would you be?

Considerably less famous.

If you could perform alongside any other band or artist, living or dead, who would it be?


Do you have any particular gigs or festivals that you dream about playing?

I think we’ve kind of always wanted to play Solidsound, the music and arts festival curated by Wilco each year. Because, I mean, who wouldn’t.

Tell us about Jellyboy Studios. How did you come to start recording there?

We needed a space where we could record ourselves without any time restraints. We first rented an abandoned church for a month but it was freezing and didn’t work, so we moved to Jelly Boy which is an old carpentry workshop/barn about an hour outside of London. It’s structurally dubious, but pretty big and got electrics and so we tried our luck and set up in there. It became a real home for us, and as much as part of the records & the band as anything else. It’s a shame to see it go.

What is it about the space that you enjoy so much?

It’s got a wooden vaulted ceiling which I think helps give it an awesome sound – we try to use as many room mics as we have space for, to take advantage of that. I think part of what we love about that space is that it was somewhere that was ours and where we could just spend hours talking or working on whatever we wanted.

You’ve said that this record is a bit of a departure from the “anti-earnest thing we had.” Care to expand on that point a little?

On the first record – I think we had our guard up a little bit emotionally or at least we tried to deflect emotions by adding in more cynical or absurd sentiments – and that was a conscious thing to avoid ever sounding preachy or over earnest. On this album, I think we’ve relaxed a bit about all that.

How important is a sense of humour to the band’s creative process? A track like “Through Windows”, with its traded vocals, seems to demand a spirit of playfulness in the very way it’s composed.

It’s important yeah – although we occasionally have to remind ourselves that we’re not entirely a comedy band.

If you could wave a magic wand and fix one thing about the music industry, what would it be and why?

I find it frustrating how the way a lot of areas of the industry’s response to music tends to be dictated by very regimented criteria. Whether it’s to do with the structure of a song or its length or its tempo or whatever. I know it’s such a shallow dewy-eyed thing to say, because everybody working within the industry is so bombarded with music that they need a way to filter it all. But I guess I find it frustrating that anyone has to think about music like that.

Finally… In a perfect world, what are you up to at this time next year?

Writing the allegorical children’s story about noodles I’ve been meaning to write for 5 years.

Happyness’s UK tour kicks off today, scroll down for dates.
Their new album Write In, is out now on Moshi Moshi Records. Listen to “Bigger Glass Less Full” below:

Happyness On Tour:

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

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