‘Pop-punk’ is a pretty magical genre when done right – but, due to the tried and tested logic of ‘fun guitars, easy hooks’, it can be tempting to crank out carbon copies of everyone before you. It’s always a blessing to stumble upon a band that puts their own shimmer on the genre, forging their own path… queue Happy. Infusing elements of grunge and pop-rock into their sound, these guys have created a sound that is undeniably their own – a sound that has led them to admit that they “wouldn’t even really consider [themselves] a pop-punk band” nowadays. Today marks the release of Happy.’s glorious sophomore release, Imposter Syndrome. We had a chat with the trio’s own Tate Logan to discuss musical growth, mental health and the daunting reality of impostor syndrome.
We find Tate travelling back from a weekend with his family on the Sunday prior to today’s release. “I am feeling VERY excited and VERY nervous haha.” However, the spirits are high – “This is definitely our best work yet and we can’t wait to see our fans’ reactions. It is almost Halloween as well, so my plan this week is to hype up the album and also watch a ton of horror movies!”
But that’s enough with the pleasantries… Let’s address the elephant in the room. Quarantine. “We spent all of January in Chicago tracking this record and then went on a full US tour with Super Whatevr and Chapel in February and March. So when the lockdown first started, we all thought it would be pretty brief, so the time home with our family and friends was nice. However, we had no idea it would turn into what it has!” Yet, Tate notes that it’s been a great time for keeping up-to-speed with the group’s fans; “We’ve found all-new ways to connect with our fans though, and we will play shows again as soon as it is safe!!”
Another unexpected turn of lockdown has been the extra pressure on bands to film their own videos. “Filming music videos and promoting this album has certainly been strange…” Tate notes. The band worked with DirectorXJ for Sick is the New Sane and A Cure For Wellness, but filmed Liarliar and Background Noise all by themselves. However, the group are always involved in the visuals, whether they’re in charge of direction or not: “I am extremely hands-on when it comes to our visuals. We plan out every single detail of our videos, from the direction, our outfits, the props, the location, everything. It is very important to us for the visuals to be cohesive to how the song makes us feel.”
The importance of visuals is clear as soon as you start watching a Happy. music video – the visual atmosphere entirely emphasises the emotional direction of a given track. While Background Noise features heartwarming snippets from the Happy. Members’ respective childhoods, Liarliar takes on a much darker tone, as monochromatic visually as it is sonically; “Liarliar was a very personal video to make. I struggle with anxiety and depression and am extremely familiar with going to therapy. We wanted our fans to know that we are a lot like them and no one should be ashamed of their mental health.”
When it comes to Happy., the discussion of mental health is paramount; “We make a point to have our songs sound fun – we want our fans to feel uplifted at our shows! However, most of our lyrics focus on darker subject matter. We disguise heavy topics in upbeat songs to make the content more digestible.” This focus on darker themes roots all the way back to its origin – a cathartic solo project. “This band started as a solo project for me, just writing songs as a form of therapy after I lost a friend to suicide whom I played in a band with,” Tate tells us, “I am so touched by overly personal and specific lyrics. All of our songs come from a real experience I’ve had, or someone very close to me has had. Sean and John help me transform my ideas into something sonically greater and bigger.”
So – Imposter Syndrome. Why the name? “I think every artist has dealt with some form of imposter syndrome at one point,” Tate reflects. “Trying to get used to the fact that people can love something you created enough to get it tattooed on their body or drive 15 hours to see you can be intense… It’s incredibly humbling and we are forever grateful. But we are just people, like everyone else. The pressure that can create can sometimes be overwhelming! However, we love what we do and it just comes with the territory. We just want to talk about it. This album discusses both the extreme highs and lows of that.”
The sound captured within this album is also a huge step up from their debut in terms of maturity. “We were so young when we wrote our first album. Most of those songs I wrote between the ages of 15-19. This new album was written in the last year, after touring, meeting fans, and figuring out who we are.” This maturity doesn’t mean any slowing down, rather a more intense, sonically rich experience; “This album flows like a rollercoaster, there are fun songs and there are dark songs. There are songs about addiction, depression and death and there are songs about love, happiness and friendship. The writing process of this record was entirely different than our first album. We all sat down together and fleshed out each song, one by one, until we had a cohesive record. We practice in an old, empty church and have all of our song ideas written all over the walls. It was really raw and organic. All of the songs complement each other in a way we have never done before.”
Inspirations have shifted since the adolescence of Cult Classic. Once spired by “early 2000’s punk. All Time Low, Fountains of Wayne, Bowling For Soup, Cartel…”, The group’s sound has also taken some inspiration from surf rock to “incorporate a beachy feel into most of our music”. “Our influences for Imposter Syndrome were more aligned with Microwave, Heart Attack Man, Teen Suicide, Rozwell Kid… This record is darker than our first release, but still has the elements of a good/fun time.” Tate also lists Sheryl Crow, Fiona Apple, Jenny Lewis, Max Bemis, Ben Liebsch, and a sprinkling of Simon & Garfunkel amidst his biggest lyrical inspirations.
In terms of album stand-outs, Tate draws attention to Hooky. “It was the last song we wrote for the album and we explored a couple of different sounds within the song. We feel it’s one of the best representations of our writing style.” Tate also gives a little shout out to Black Picket Fence, “it’s another favourite. It’s the most personal song I’ve ever written and it’s also our first acoustic release. I think fans will be shocked to hear the piano and cello in this song.”
Before we leave Tate to carry on with his day, we can’t help but suggest a UK tour – to which he enthusiastically replies “YES!!!” He drops in the band’s desires to tour Australia and Japan too… when the time comes. Tate drops in a final bid farewell, thanking those who got Happy. to where they are today; “Thank you for everything. We wouldn’t be here without you. We love each of you, and can’t wait to be able to play shows for you again when it is safe. Be kind to yourself! ”
Imposter Syndrome is out today! Grab a copy here.