Happyness arrive in Dublin in support of recent album Write In. The self-produced album was recorded for a measly £500, the majority of which went towards an 8 Track tape recorder. Write In, recorded in an abandoned bookshop is lo-fi DIY college rock, reminiscent of Teenage Fanclub, Sparklehorse, Pavement, and almost every fuzzy grunge slacker sounding mid- nineties band. Managing to sound familiar but not overly regressive, they deliver their own brand of slacker rock with real heart and finesse. Testimony to the regard for the band, Write In, like its predecessor is out on Moshi Moshi here and Bar None records in America. Both Indie labels of note. Over the course of the night Upstairs in Whelan’s they play with cool precision, wild abandonment and a rooted loyalty to melody.
Diving in with ‘Anna, Lisa Calls’, there’s a flurry of footsteps towards the stage. ‘Anna’ is followed by ‘Anything I do is Alright’ from their debut, their biggest hit, or certainly the one with “the most likes on Youtube”. Singer and guitarist Benji Compston is an engaging frontman, jovial, and subtly entertaining. He delivers a couple of zinger one-liners, as well as some expert handling of a piss-head heckler. The insanely talented Jon EE Allan takes lead vocals on ‘Anything’, and makes beautiful noise with his 12 string guitar. The multi-instrumentalist even designed the artwork for Write In, further emphasising the DIY approach of their work. It’s unfair to single him out though, after all drummer Ash, according to Benji, is “the only one working” tonight. He’s definitely beating all hell out the drums. But the expanded live band are all prodigiously talented yet play with effortless cool. The talent on display is further evident with the frequent instrument exchanges that take place through the set.
Allen takes to keyboards for the Beach Boysesque ‘Through Windows’, both vocalists harmonising beautifully. It typifies how heartfelt and tender the band often are. They shift gears slightly on Weird Little Birthday’s ‘Naked Patients’ – sounding more like well-known Beach Boys influenced bands from Glasgow and Illinois. They do remind of so much, but yet manage to have a distinctive enough style that‘s unique enough to be singular. Switching back and forth from album to album, but mostly leaning on their latest effort, the Whelan’s crowd are treated to gems like ‘Bigger Glass Less Full’, ‘The C is A B A G’ (Write In) and ‘You Come to Kill Me’ and ‘Montreal Rock Band Somewhere’ (Weird Little Birthday). They sound heavier and unconfined live. They occasionally get completely lost in the moment, almost oblivious to the crowd, but we’re fully engaged with them.
Happyness seem to be enjoying themselves; as much as they would allow themselves to appear to be anyway. They play loose and free, their prowess juxtaposed with a laid back attitude, feeding off the intimacy of the venue, the enthusiasm of the crowd, and the negativity of a solitary idiot. Often playing until it becomes a full on distorted meandering free for all jam, they have an live intensity that sometimes veers towards the sublime. It’s clear we’re privy to a pretty special show. When the band reaches a cool flamboyant crescendo they leave a small but fully involved Dublin crowd hungry for more. They’re expressive and eclectic, recognisable yet original, and always with an underlining affection for melody. It’s clear when Happynesss return; they’ll be playing a bigger room. They deserve to be.