I had heard that everyone’s first time is a bit awkward, uncomfortable and not all that it was cracked up to be. As a result, I was racked with nerves as I walked into the cosy backstage area to conduct my first ever interview (armed with only a microphone and an internet list of ‘25 best interview questions’), but the band were so open and relaxed that my nerves quickly dissipated and the only worry I was left with was how the band’s dry, sarcastic wit would translate in print. For the next hour and a half the conversation drifted from band names to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and being chased out of Burger King.
How long have you been playing together as ‘Happyness’?
Jonny Allan: I can do this exactly (after about a minute of calculations…) 11 months and 3 days!
Ash Cooper: That means the anniversary is coming up
AJ: Any big plans?
Benji Compston: Nothing much: some candles, maybe some gnocchi
Were you guys in bands before Happyness?
Ash: None of note
Benji: Apart from U2
Jonny: They were all kind of teenage and angsty
Benji: It was sort of prepubescent-sex-rock
What were some of the band name ideas before you settled on ‘Happyness’?
Jonny: We’re still planning on bringing some of them back
Benji: Haemogoblin was one for a while
Ash: Fuck Buddy was somewhere on the list, but that’s probably not appropriate to say in an interview
You record in your own studio right?
Benji: If you can call it that yes…
Jonny: We started out recording the album in a church cause we wanted somewhere cheap, and it was abandoned so the rent was like nothing
Benji: The first track on the album (‘Baby, Jesus (Jelly Boy)’) was the only full church recording to make it on the album
Jonny: Yeah it was definitely haunted and we didn’t like it, so we left very quickly
Ash: We had a bunch of cheap gear, and so we just relocated to a barn – that’s not as soundproof as most studios – and that’s where we are now
That first song on the album has a line “I’m the motherfucking birthday boy don’t steal my thunder, Baby Jesus” is it about a guy that was born on Christmas?
Benji: Kind of, it’s not the meaning of the whole song, but that line was about one of our movie ideas which we joke about sometimes. This one we wanted the Coen Brothers to direct and it tied in nicely with the theme of the song. It was about a kid who was born on Christmas day and it bothered him every year gradually getting more frustrated by his Southern US religious family who would totally fucking ignore him on his birthday, and eventually he just kicks off on his 18th birthday and loses his shit.
Jonny: It’s a coming of age kinda thing
Benji: An exploration of puberty and religion
Are you as cool as your music?
Jonny: That very much depends on how cool you think our music is
Benji: Let’s just say we know the difference between a sweet potato and a red potato (glancing at the remnants of their dinner on the coffee table)
Jonny: I don’t know what a red potato is…
Ash: Let’s just say two-thirds of the band know the difference between sweet and red potatoes.
I have a few questions about your lyrics: In ‘It’s on You’ you mention that you want John Coltrane’s retirement plan? Care to elaborate?
Jonny: (joking) We have like a Bernie Taupin [Lyricist notorious for his collaborations with Elton John], we sit there with three grand pianos and just tinker some music out
Benji: And he sits there in a swanky apartment in Los Angeles, and just churns out some lyrics and sends them over. And we’re just like “thanks man” and put them to music – so you’ll have to ask him
Jonny: He’s very uptight about syllables, you don’t drop syllables or he will get pissed off
Ash: That’s a tough one for syllables as well: ‘John Coltrane’s retirement plan’
I have to admit, first time I heard it I thought the words were ‘I just want John Coltrane’s green eggs and ham’…
Benji: That’s incredibly interesting, just to get the melody right when we were first writing it, we used to sing ‘John Coltrane’s green legs and hands’ (for once being genuinely serious…I think)
Ash: Yeah we have an old demo of the song that is titled ‘John Coltrane’s green eggs and ham’
Benji: And it has a sample of a Coltrane sax solo over the top of the whole thing. That’s weird man.
What is it with you guys and hating parties? You have a song called ‘Leave the Party’ and multiple lines about killing people at parties and/or missing them entirely throughout the album.
Benji: We just don’t get invited to them..
Ash: It’s been a while since we’ve actually all been at a party together
Jonny: For the record, we are yet to turn down a party invitation
What would you be if you weren’t musicians?
Jonny: I think I’d be a tree nurse
Ash: Is that a thing?
Jonny: I don’t wanna spend all that time in school to become a tree surgeon
Ash: I’d kinda like to do the thing from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, where he takes the toothpaste lids home and builds a sculpture
Do you mean you want to be Charlie building the sculpture, or Charlie’s Dad working in the factory?
Ash: I’d do both; I’d be the Dad working at the factory stealing the lids, then go home and build the sculpture myself
AJ: Fuck Charlie, right?
Ash: Yeah, fuck Charles
If you could be one person, who would you be?
Ash: Can I be Matthew McConaughey? Like do I adopt their minds? Cause he thinks he’s the shit
You self-released your album with the label name ‘Weird Smiling’, why did you choose to do it yourselves?
Ash: That’s the best way to get signed
Jonny: We’ve got a hideous contract, the execs are dicks, always breathing down our necks
Ash: We gave ourselves this biggest advance, we’ll be paying it back for years
Johnny: I’m contractually obliged to change my outfit twice a night
And finally, my flatmate’s singular contribution to interview question ideas was ‘where is the weirdest place that you’ve urinated?’
Anon: I actually nearly got arrested for pissing on a nursery when I was 16
Wow classy, have you had any other run-ins with the law?
Jonny: We once got chased out of a Burger King, cause I was drinking a beer and this woman instead of just asking me if I could leave, pulled the fire alarm. And then said “I’ve called the police, they’re on the way, just wait here till they arrive”, and we were like ”err, I think we’ll just leave” and then she said ”but you can’t, I’ve just pulled the fire alarm!”
Anon 2: Also, I do kind of want to apologise for this, I once pissed and threw up on the side of a hospice
So you mean you hospissed?
*the mildest of laughter*
Jonny: Hey maybe you should be writing our lyrics for us