Interview Happyness: “There was a lot of weird screaming”

Happyness: "There was a lot of weird screaming"

Haunted churches, songs about Jesus - South London band Happyness have a debut album like no other.

Happyness are a brilliantly odd bunch. A trio from South London, their debut album is about a kid who shares the same birthday as Jesus, right up until the point where intense jealousy gets the better of him and he heads out on a rampage. ‘Weird Little Birthday’ is the name of the record, and it’s grown out of one of several “movie ideas” the trio of Benji Compston (guitar, vocals), Jonny Allan (bass, vocals) and Ash Cooper (drums, vocals) form while in the studio.

“They’re big-budget,” says Benji of the movie concepts. “And we’re very specific about which actors we want in it - for example, the guy born on the same day as Jesus has to be done by the Coen Brothers.” ‘Weird Little Birthday’ is situated in the Deep South of America, where if No Country For Old Men and True Detective are anything to go by, insanity is king. “This guy goes fucking insane. He goes on a Jesus-fuelled rampage,” enthuses Jonny.

Another idea - yet to make it into a record - revolves around famous celebrities being based in a town (“Dundee - or maybe Bradford”) where they’re no longer famous. “So in my version Brad [Pitt] gets married to Jen [Aniston] and Angelina [Jolie] becomes an old spinster who lives with loads of cats,” Ash lists off. He’s got competition. “Your one doesn’t work as well as mine,” butts in Benji. “Brad and Angelina are big property developers. They’re trying to buy up the whole town and everyone else is fighting it.”

Oddities that work their way into sort-of album concepts probably stem from the strange environments Happyness expose themselves to. ‘Weird Little Birthday’ was initially recorded in an abandoned church, but the band had to jump ship when they got too creeped out. “We turned up one day and there was a headless crow with its babies in a nest all squawking. And we thought, ‘That’s it - we’re not staying here anymore’,” remembers Benji. It sounds like one of the band’s own movies. Perhaps if their career is at all autobiographical, this is the beginning of some Spinal Tap style adventure, without the downfall.

Where did you record the album?
Jonny: We wrote it in Bermondsey, but we needed to get out of the city. To get to a place where we could focus on it the whole time. We found this church two hours outside of London, an abandoned church. It was very well preserved and it was right next to this village. I don’t really know why it wasn’t being used anymore. It was very, very cheap; the rent. They wanted someone to use it, so we moved all our crap into it, started recording and very quickly found ourselves getting very cold - on warm days - and feeling eerie.
Benji: As soon as the sun went down it was a weird, creepy place. There was a lot of weird screaming.

I've heard that you can predict the future, Ash?
B: If he dreams something, you have to take notice. I was one offered a job as a dog-walker and I had an interview with a black labrador - and no joke, I had to have an interview with the dog - and Ash had a dream that if I took up this job, the dog would die on the tube.
J: And as far as we know, the dog’s still alive. So that proves it.
Ash: We’re not superstitious - we don't nod to magpies, touch wood or anything.

You’re the opposite of slackers.
B: In certain ways, but in others we’re incredibly lazy. Like asking Ash to turn the light off.
J: The problem with the studio is there were houses all round it, so we could only really do it during working hours. If you went past eight in the evening, people would start getting tetchy.

This summer, Happyness tour with Speedy Ortiz for a DIY Presents trip across the UK.

AUGUST
12 Edinburgh, Electric Circus
13 Newcastle, The Cluny
14 Brighton, Prince Albert

Happyness' 'Weird Little Birthday' is out now. Interview is taken from the June 2014 issue of DIY Magazine.


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