By Melissa Hekkers
Happyness, a three-piece alternative rock band made up of Jon EE Allan, Benji Compston and Ash Cooper from London will be among the Fengaros Festival guest musicians next weekend, a trio known for their sense of humour, wry puns and punchlines, as well as their flexibility in swapping roles within the studio.
Winners of the 2015 NME Award for Best Lyric, the Cyprus Weekly spoke to singer-guitarist Benji Compston prior to the band’s arrival.
Cyprus Weekly: You’ve been playing as a band for three years now. How would you say this collaboration has evolved over the years?
Benji Compston: Yes, for sure. When we started making music for this band, we didn’t have a name and had barely played live. Now that we’ve been touring for the past three years and played together hundreds of times, the way we are together has definitely evolved. I think it would be hard for it not to have, naturally.
CW: How would you describe your music?
BC: You can play it to your parents or grandparents and they [mostly] won’t think you’re going through a personal crisis.
CW: You’re known to swap roles within the studio. It takes some talent and a strong synergy to do this. How would you say this contributes to your music?
BC: Who plays what in the studio generally depends on who’s feeling the most awake, or the least hungry. Our studio (which has sadly now been sold for development) was pretty small – and so instruments were within reach from just about anywhere in the room – which made ‘swapping roles’ pretty easy. We all have our preferred instruments I guess – Jonny is the sole Xylophone player in the band, however.
CW: All of you write your songs, which are said to have wry puns and punch lines. What is it you write/ sing about, and what drives the need, or, should I say, desire, to include humour in your lyrics?
BC: Sometimes I think saying things with a bit of a sense of humour, whether trivial or important, makes them all the more poignant. I think we also just keep each other entertained in our own little world by laughing with/at ourselves.
CW: Your first album was a self-release and you eventually worked with names such as Moshi Moshi Records in the UK and Bar/None Records in the USA. How has having a record label behind you helped you bear fruit as a band?
BC: Moshi Moshi Records were responsible for the purchase of our Nord Stage Piano – which has really changed our live show. For over a year, we never had a piano on stage, which made playing a bunch of our songs really difficult. Bar/None also introduced us to one of our favourite artists – Brute Force. It’s nice to be part of the Moshi Moshi and Bar/None families.
CW: What is your opinion on indie records as opposed to being backed by record labels?
BC: We self released our first album, before it was then re-released by Moshi Moshi and Bar/None – so we’ve done both. There are upsides and downsides to both, so it just depends on what you’re looking for.
CW: Happyness won the 2015 NME Award for Best Lyric for the line “I’m wearing Win Butler’s hair / There’s a scalpless singer of a Montreal rock band somewhere” from the song “Montreal Rock Band Somewhere”. Can you tell me a little bit about this?
BC: We were playing Montreal recently on our last North American tour and Win Butler actually turned up at the venue about an hour before we were meant to go on stage. He’s an enormous guy and it crossed my mind he might think it was some kind of ‘diss track’ [a song primarily intended to disrespect a person or group], which it’s not. He left five minutes before our set after drinking some whiskeys.
CW: There seems to be a story behind the name of your band. Can you tell me more about this, too?
BC: Brute Force, who, I was saying Bar/None introduced us to, wrote a song called ‘Hello Moscow’ – it’s from that. We actually had the pleasure of playing with Brute a few weeks ago in New York City.
CW: I’m assuming this is the first time you will play in Cyprus. How do you feel about this and what do you expect?
BC: We are looking forward to it immensely.
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The Fengaros festival returns for its seventh consecutive year and remains dedicated to its enduring goal of presenting fresh and original live music from around the world. The scenic village of Kato Drys will once again provide the beautiful backdrop for the three-day event, with three different stages entertaining crowds over August 3-5.
The Field Stage, the Village Stage and the Church Stage, will host more than 35 acts from Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Kuwait, Niger, Israel, Australia, England and the US, in a line-up that showcases the multi-dimensional, uncompromising and selective aesthetic of the organisation. Parallel events will also take place at the village’s Museum of Folk Art.
For more information, visit: fengaros.com