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The GATRS Chat with Happyness, SXSW Edition

While attending SXSW, I was standing in the covered court yard of Hotel Vegas, when I heard strands of one of my favorite bands playing. I instantly took off running through the open part, leaving my friends behind as they yelled…” Where are you going?” Without stopping I yelled back...” Happyness…” I knew I needed to say no more , they would understand.

After the set, I shyly cornered Benji and begged for an interview, ( actually I didn’t have to beg, he is  a most gracious person ), it had been something I wanted to do, since I first saw them live at SXSW two years ago.

Huddled in a dark alley behind Hotel Vegas with Benji and Jon EE, dodging the cars ( it was the busiest alley I had ever been in ) I finally got my chance!

Write In…

That is the new record coming April 7th

What is your favorite song on Write In?

( Benji ) It is probably different for each of us, but my favorite song is The C Is A Bag, it amuses me

Is it funny? Because I know the last time I saw you at SXSW, what really surprised me, because I had been listening to you since before Weird Little Birthday actually came out. I think the most surprising this was how humorous you two were. You didn’t just get up there and go through your songs. Plus the lyrics to many of those songs, if you really listen are very humorous.

( Jon EE ) We got a bit worried we were going to become a comedy band, and then I go serious and I guess we are trying to get somewhere in the middle.

( Benji) Being to serious was boring and that was a concern, so trying to be somewhere in between as Jon EE said. I don’t think we would ever be massively compatible with being an entirely earnest rock and roll band. I think we trip up to much

( Jon EE ) Yeah. That is probably why we do it, we just spend to much time fucking up

( Benji) It is a bit like someone at a fancy dress party who isn’t quite dedicated to the event enough to entirely play the role, so they spend every ten minutes laughing at them selves. It is a bit like that. I think we can never entirely see it through and not find it a bit funny.

(Jon EE) Like we have gone to Prom in a joke dress, because we were a bit embarrassed to go in a serious dress, because, I don’t know, like we were scared of someone giggling at us and not kissing us.

( Benji ) We are like the girls against the wall in Grease

The Wallflowers?

 ( Benji) Is that what a wallflower is? The person on the side of the Prom?

Yeah. Well, not just necessarily at the Prom, but someone who doesn’t really get noticed I think. They are rather shy.

( Benji) There is a Bob Dylan song called Wallflower. I mean, I can see why you would be that way, Prom is a terrifying experience. Why would you thrust yourself into the middle of all that.

( Jon EE) I was always the wallflower at Disco Parties

I was just the person who refused to go

( Benji) That is a much bolder statement though. If you don’t go, its more like… Yeah Fuck that.

How long did it take you to complete  Write In?

( Jon EE ) A year

(Benji) It took a bit of a long time, for various reasons. We had to take some time out. We were interrupted

Who does most of the writing?

( Jon EE ) Me and Benji

(Benji ) Either separately or together

Where is the oddest place you have been and gotten an idea for a song?

( Benji) Probably the NHS

( Jon EE ) I have no idea. For a song a couple of weeks ago, at a fancy cocktail bar in Northampton. It was mostly empty and I was there for a special occasion and it was nice.

( Benji) I got an idea for a song once in Luxembourg , we played a show there

( Jon EE) Oh is this a game of one-up maintop? I had an idea for a song once when I was part of the virgin space program and Richard Branson said me to go to space, orbiting, literally, not even in the atmosphere. I had the idea for a song called Spaceman.

( Benji) Space Odyssey?

( Jon EE) Called Space Odyssey. About a man being in space

( Benji ) Well done Jon

I can’t wait to hear that one

( Benji) Oh you will, you will

I have a question I have always wondered about. As you know, I have told you this, I always listen to Weird Little Birthday on my iPod as I sleep, so I don’t always hear the entire album. I will start it on shuffle and then go to sleep. It continues to play until I wake up. Is every song on the album about a birthday?

( Jon EE ) no

Ok because it seems to me as I listen…

( Benji) That everything is? I can totally see why that if you listen to the album in those kind of, through that kind of lens, you might think that, but, no, it really isn’t.

( Jon EE) We just really have a hang up of not being invited to birthday parties in the past

( Benji ) And I probably do think its worth the mention, that we wrote the majority of the album in a birthday heavy period

( Jon EE) Really?

( Benji ) Yeah. January , February, March, April. January and February are our birthday periods

(Jon EE) I think we wrote the album in like, October and November

(Benji) Ok, you might be right

Well the heavy birthday period writing sounded good at least

( Benji ) We have three birthdays that happen close together

(Jon EE) We all have birthdays . They happen

( Benji) Yeah. I had something very very important to say. The most important thing in the world to unlocking the deepest dark secret of our album and now I don’t

( Jon EE) You lost it because of all the Hall and Oats

( Hall and Oats kept playing continuously during our conversation )

I have actually listened to it fully when awake. While working. But, because I am working, I am not focusing on the lyrics, so it just seems like the times I do pay attention, it is saying something about birthdays. It is what I always seem to pick up on.

( Benji ) Yep. I can see why you would, there are plenty of times it does pop up, so if that happens to be the time you hear it…

( Jon EE ) I think there is just a thing about birthday parties and the whole wallflower thing. These are the parties that most people feel, in kind of their day to day life, a little inadequate  on some levels. They kind of have this great opportunity to have this one final stand to achieve everything they want to.

( Benji ) They are the candle in Beauty and The Beast. They finally get to shine.

( Jon EE) And sometimes, sometimes the most beautiful thing about it is, that sometimes it does go that way. More often than not, it probably doesn’t. We thought it worth writing.

Do you write music for yourselves or for your fans?

( Benji ) Well we didn’t have any fans when we wrote the first album, so that was completely for ourselves. The second record, I actually think we wrote it for ourselves also.

( Jon EE ) I think we actually made a conscience effort with the second album to write it for ourselves. Because I think, if we were writing for anyone other than ourselves, we wouldn’t have written it. I don’t think there is anyway would have actually materialized unless we were there going…this has got to be for us. It would have made it crap, then in turn it would not have happened.

And I understand that. I think if you are not writing it for yourselves, then it doesn’t come from your heart. I see so many people on social media who, if a band says they make music for themselves, people get outraged, they are offended by the statement. But how do you write for fans? You have so many different types of fans.

( Benji) Also, how do you write for fans, because you would have to have an unnatural ability to really introspectively know your fans, which lets face it, is impossible.

( Jon EE ) It never ceases to amaze me, how completely wrong people can be on the opinions of even people they know the best

( Benji ) I mean why would you even try to second guess your fans. I have no idea why the people who like us, like us really. I have never been told. I can try to second guess, but as soon as we try doing that it becomes futile

I mean, I could tell you why I listen to you if you like

( Benji) Why?

Well, mostly I like more slow mellow music. I also find it hard to find good mellow music, that still has an edge about it. You are not mellow all the time. Your instrumentation is upbeat. Actually, I think it is your voices also, they have a soothing affect on me. That’s as honest as I can get.

( Jon EE) I find it hard to sing hard

When I listen to music mostly, I want to be relaxed. Not saying all the time, concerts are different. When I am at a concert I can go see the most hard core band and really enjoy that, but I rarely go home and listen to it on my turntable.

( Jon EE ) I rarely listen to music that isn’t quite colorful, melodic or tuneful, but I do love when a band takes something beautiful and kind of scrapes at it, kind of really gnaws at you, then they bring it right back. There is really not a band I don’t like that doesn’t  have  a mellow element , even if its just a little element.

My parents raised me on Classical Music

( Benji) So did mine

I think that is a lot of it. The smoothness of it is comforting

( Benji ) I find it quite hard to listen to music that isn’t like kind of comforting or kind of pleasing in a sense. I find it difficult to listen to a sustained   period of time. Ultimately, the kind of music that really touches me is music that sounds nice and feels nice. There are plenty of my favorite bands that do those of those things.

How did Happyness start?

( Benji ) We knew people who were into the same music in London. London, despite being a massive city, if you are into the kind of music we are both into, feels kind of small. So we just played in friends band’s

( Jon EE) We each played in bands. Some kind of rubbish, some kind of wonderfully rubbish and flamboyant.

( Benji ) I think we kind of learned everything we started with in Happyness by being in a whole lot of hilarious bands

How long did it take you to really get your footing in as Happyness

( Jon EE ) Oh a long time. We made the album, we played it live. The initial attempts to translate it live. We just wanted an album. Thats the thing we most wanted. Every band we ever loved had an album. There are a lot of bands that become big for a little point in time and kind of do it off the back of being a big live band really. Which I get. We just wanted an album we could be proud of.

( Benji ) We made an album, then people kind of asked us to spread that album. We never thought by actually making that album we would have to play it live.

I know you have been to SXSW twice, maybe more, I don’t know. Why do you come back to Austin?

( Benji ) To make more people like us

Do you get a lot of exposure from performing at SXSW

( Jon EE ) Last time we were here we felt like we did, yes

( Benji ) It remains to be seen as of yet this time

( Jon EE ) But last time was great for us. We are the kind of people, well, our studio use to be not near where any of us lived. We use to have to go out to it and spend like a week, sometimes months there, so we have never had the thing of being able to just , on an average day, just stay and have a spot and just be a band. So we needed to come out somewhere. This time is the first time we’ve done it in what should be a sustained period of touring.

Tell our readers why they should go out and buy Write In

( Benji ) It is there. We made it. Money

( Jon EE) Why should you buy our album? Its is cheaper than getting a mortgage!

Thank you to Benji and Jon EE for the interview and the laughs, and always…the fantastic music! Write In is out now..GO BUY IT


About Teri (2416 Articles)
You can usually find me traveling, queuing, or at barricade for a band. I am most likely doing all three things in a day. If I'm not at a concert you can also find me digging through crates for that coveted black disc of vinyl.

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