By Jess Goulart
Photos courtesy of Happy You.
Imagine nine incredibly talented musicians jamming on an album together, skating through complex arrangements with an easy sly grin that you can almost hear. That’s the Brooklyn-based band Happy You. Their latest album, Giggle, is a surf-rock infused ride through vintage indie-pop. Neil Young tributes are splashed across their social media, and while their sound is a far cry from simplistic, the singer-songwriter spirit shines in their truthful lyrical aesthetic.
But what we most enjoy about Giggle is its tenacious production, which expertly builds layers and layers of sound into a swirling euphony. It’s obvious that these guys have a blast in the recording studio.
Happy You is James Krivchenia, Matt Bachmann, Peter Walters, Rivkah Gevinson, Kyle Boston, Lucas Ellman, Derek Baron, Adam Gundersheimer, and Kiril Orenstein. BTR caught up with Krivchenia to chat about music school and plans for future Happy You albums.
BreakThruRadio (BTR): What’s your background as a musician? What brought all of you together?
James Krivchenia (JK): I actually grew up next door to Pete, who’s the main singer in the band. We’ve known each other since we were nine or 10 years old. We went to high school together and were in bands when we were little, making music with the cello and snare drums, just messing around. Then me and Pete met our friend Matt in high school. We were all in a band in high school called The Dogs. Then we went to college, did our own thing, I studied music and Matt and Pete studied other stuff but we stayed really good friends. We would make albums when we went home for the summer. Eventually they moved to New York and we got Happy You going for real.
BTR: You mentioned you all live together, what’s that like?
JK: It’s been really awesome. We’re around each other a lot and we’re all best friends so we get plenty of each other, which makes for an interesting dynamic. We do get sick of each other, but for the most part it’s pretty great.
BTR: Did studying music in school inform your style?
JK: Yeah, definitely, I mean… being in a band and writing songs is actually a reaction against the whole music school vibe in a lot of ways, but yes it’s informed it. I got turned onto all sorts of kinds of music because of it, and I don’t feel any kind of affinity towards specific themes of music, I’m more drawn to people’s personalities. I like a wide variety of music and am not locked in.
BTR: What do you mean by “the music school vibe”?
JK: It’s just you spend all day playing music and thinking about music and it forces you to confront a lot of ideas about… why you want to make music in the first place a bit more starkly. You question yourself a lot more. You definitely go through a lot of struggles at first, but I enjoyed it in the end, and it helped.
It forces you to focus, and that definitely helps you grow.
BTR: You’re probably going to say Neil Young… but what are the major influences for Happy You?
JK: Yeah [laughs] Neil Young is an icon to all of us. When we were really young we were all really into his vibe–super heart-felt, not-selling-out aesthetic, so we very enthusiastically worshipped him. But musically, now, it’s all over the place. There’s [nine] people in the band and everyone has such a different background and listens to different stuff. It’s crazy, you naturally go back to a lot of the music you grow up with. We grew up in the ‘90s, so I think that’s inescapably part of our sound.
BTR: Is it difficult to play in a band with so many members?
JK: For just scheduling it’s definitely a pain in the ass. Actually organizing that many people is often challenging, but in terms of when we actually play together it feels really… it’s a good group of friends and that’s always been a big part of Happy You. We’re together because we’re best friends, we’re drawn together in that way first.
BTR: Is that where the name comes from?
JK: No, actually, Pete made up the name. We used to be The Dogs and Pete came up with the new name. You can take it a lot of ways, but the way I like to take it is he made it up as ironic or a little cynical. To me, it has that kind of bend to it. But it’s a pretty ambiguous name, so take it how you want.
BTR: What was the recording process like for Giggle?
JK: We recorded it a while back now in Wisconsin, in my mom’s garage. We’re really into recording, that’s how we first developed our first musical relationships with each other–recording music as opposed to playing shows. We really love to go all out and have fun recording. We were there for a month just messing around losing our minds.
BTR: Can you tell me about the album art? It’s really cool!
JK: Our friend Vanessa Haddad is a Brooklyn-based artist whose always done all the artwork for us. During the recording process we knew the album would be called Giggle, so we went to Vanessa and she ended up wanting to get a bunch of kid photos from us and do a collage format.
BTR: So what’s in the works currently?
JK: We actually have a lot of new stuff in the works. We’ve been, over the last few months, focusing on getting our live band together, but we’ve also been writing a bunch. We have about 20 or 30 new songs. I think the general plan is to do the whole album retreat thing, so group the songs in clusters of three and release new stuff for a while as fast as we can. We’re also set to record an EP in a week and a half, so that will be the first one and then we’ll do a bunch of those and get some creative momentum going.