INTRODUCING: Half Happy: "You're singing about things that create a bit of guilt or pain but it sounds collectively happy" 2

INTRODUCING: Half Happy: “You’re singing about things that create a bit of guilt or pain but it sounds collectively happy”

2023 might be only a few months old, but Cardiff outfit Half Happy are proving themselves to be one of my favourite new bands. Their new single ‘Runaway Girl’ shows another side to their songwriting. Yes the swooning, longing and jangling guitars are there again, but the lyrical brevity, vocal switch ups and wistful chorus are another step up in their songwriting, and that’s saying something since we loved their first two tracks. A wonderful ode to escaping painful situations; the fluttery harmonies, sepia lined guitars and insistent drums, give way to Rose’s wonderful sighing vocals. Guitars coo and baselines bounce like heartbeats as she tries to find tiny moments of joy in the midst of sad situations. Her spoken word switch reminds me of Wolf Alice as she tries to break bad habits.

Their debut offering ‘Love Sweep’ is a swoonsome tune about longing and love and is a fantastic introduction to emerging Cardiff band Half Happy. They describe it as ‘a love song by people who never thought they’d write one.’ Rose’s wonderfully expressive voice is imbued with a hazy quality, underpinned by dreamy, waltzing percussion and jangly,sepia-tinged guitars. Before being swept away by the rush of the shimmering, gorgeous chorus, where she’s overwhelmed by the feeling of love. Fans of the Sundays and Alvvays will find much to love.

They followed it up with the subtle jangling swell of ‘Steal Me Away‘ that displays a more cinematic and wistful palette, and the liltingly gorgeous new track ‘Runaway Girl.’ Self reflective, bittersweet and bloody glorious, Half Happy have captured my heart.

Zac and Rose started writing music together in lockdown on garage band and created a mini studio in their living room in Llanishen in Cardiff. When everyone could go back to the pub, they went to the studio with friend Tom Rees (of Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard) and recorded a few tracks. To bring the band to life, they asked long time best pals Jon and Pete to join. They’ve all known each other for 9 years. I caught up with the pair to find out more about Half Happy.

So how did Half Happy start life?

Rose: So we literally started writing songs together in the lockdown, in 2019. And then before we released anything, we launched the Facebook page. Then about two years ago, we released a demo, and that was just to see if anyone kind of responded to us, or if there was the audience, because we knew that we were quite quite far away from releasing anything properly and being the band that we wanted to be that way.

So then we recorded the three songs that have come out now. We recorded them in 2020, because, basically, we were just trying to work on getting a full band together. We’ve all been friends, so it was kind of a surprise as well looking back. We wonder why it took so long to kind of come to the agreement. But we already had Jon who’s our best friend who plays bass. Pete came in like, early summer. So a long story short, the full band started September of last year with the release of ‘Love Sweep’.

I think as well as the harmonies, what struck me about the songs was how plush and professional they sounded from the start. Sometimes new or unsigned bands don’t sound so good. Did meeting producer Tom Rees help?

Rose: Yeah he’s produced the three songs so far and he produces all of his own stuff too. He does like Panic Shack. He’s done everything! He’s done loads of bands that we love like Boy Azooga and stuff.

So did you have the songs before you went in to record them?

Zack: Well the demos were literally written in the living room. In like our own mini studio or whatever. The songs that we’ve just released were just a kind of like a step up from those years. Tom has just really brought them to life.

That’s fascinating, I didn’t know the journey. I heard ‘Love Sweep’ and was like, ‘God, this could just be a band that’s on the radio’ That’s quite impressive.

So in that way you were a band conceived in Lockdown?

Zack: For us, it still feels like early days, but it also doesn’t feel like early days. It’s two years, but yeah we have been going for so long in the background but only been out in the public for a year or so. So we had time to nurture and actually think about what direction we wanted to go down, you know, sound wise.

Rose: Yeah, I think lockdown was like, Catch 22 for a lot of bands. Obviously, for us, we weren’t at the stage at all to play live. But we took that time to just write and just spend a bit more time on the songs, you had the kind of luxury of time in that sense.

What acts influence you?

Zack: I guess a lot of stuff that I’ve been listening to lately is the Marias, they have had a massive impact on the band, just their production.

Rose: Yeah, and the Men I Trust is one that we’ve always loved. We went to see them in Clwb and I think that’s kind of like similar, probably where a lot of our inspiration comes from as well. Wolf Alice is a big inspiration too. There’s certain bands that like formed our friendships but also in hindsight, formed this band. We all found out we all loved Radiohead, Tame Impala, Foals and Wolf Alice and then that’s how we were started to become friends with each other at uni and then we’ve like followed those bands. When we first all hung out, Wolf Alice weren’t half as big and that’sf been kind of nice to see them progress and get to the level they at are at now at this stage. They’re quite a big inspiration.

Zack: We’ve been listening to Squid alot too, they just released a single yes they’re like post punk. Wet Leg too.

So I am assuming the lyrics come from your experiences?

Rose: Yeah, I think they’re all kind of situations from the past that have happened or something that had happened to me like last week and I’ll write a song about it. They will come from something that’s actually happened or real to me, and that’s how I write them. They seem to be like little stories the things I’ve written so far. We just went to the studio recently and the guys just wanted me to tweak literally the odd word. So that’s when I can still get back into that story and that kind of creativity within the song, but not like change it drastically,

I love the way you throw real imagery into the songs such as the train on ‘Runaway Girl’, it roots them, brings you back to earth…

Rose: They are literally things, all things that have happened. Memories. Everything kind of shapes it. Anything can give inspiration in that sense. The songwriters that I love the most do this. I referenced it in the Huw Stephens show – I listen to Father John Misty and things like that, and the way that he thinks about love, but then he then he like references like a lot of mundane things as well. I quite like talking about a subject topic and then just like throwing in something that which is mundane, or really referencing being in that moment and having to deal with real life as well as all of these like daunting feelings that you might have.

Zack: Yeah, I think ‘Runaway Girl’ was the one we wrote first too, but yeah it was released last. So we’ve released them backwards from the order they were recorded in. Yeah, I think that’s how we planned it to show different things. That’s probably why we’ve picked the single we want to come out with as a band – we wanted to come out with a punch.

Rose: I think in that respect, when we were deciding about what order to release the songs, with ‘Love Sweep’ it just did seem a bit more like kind of an everyman feel because of the whole situation. I thought maybe because the content of the other two, that maybe they just might not work as like introductions. You need to get to know us a little bit more first.

Zack: So the stuff we’ve written now is again a new dynamic, a new range and it quietly progresses on what we already what we’ve already released.

Rose: I think you can definitely hear the progression. It’s so funny because we are releasing them now and we keep saying it. But obviously, we wrote these two years ago and they haven’t really changed that much since. But our musical tastes are different, we didn’t know Squid two years ago. Wet Leg weren’t around two years ago.

I did read in your bio your post punk side is going to come out soon?

Rose: Yeah but just more fun and you know, we are constantly trying to like develop a sound. Yeah. So, yeah, we’ll see.

So are you working towards a EP or an album eventually?

Zack: We will see how it goes. You know, the vision, I guess, is to release a few singles, maybe put out an EP. It’ll be good to put the collection of songs that we’ve already released as a whole as a piece and then yeah, just see what happens.

You have your first show coming up in the Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff this Saturday the 1st of April, this is probably the first introducing interview I’ve done with a band where they haven’t even played a gig yet!

Rose: (Laughs)Yeah, I think we do feel we are very young band we are very kind of fresh in that sense. Maybe because obviously, we’re part of the Forte project.

Zack: Yeah, there’s other bands in that in the group that are like different stages, one called NOOKEE. And they, they’ve played loads of stuff, but they haven’t released anything. But we were the other way around we hadn’t played live. So it was just interesting to see what stage the other acts are.

So where does the musical vision come from?

Zack: Musically well, it’s all me, I write all of the parts. I don’t know where it comes from, though. It’s just me sitting down with a guitar and just whatever comes out.

Rose: Yeah, I think like, the nicest thing that happened when we first decided to start writing together, was a lot of the songs like came really fast. They came really quickly, we found it was just quite an easy thing to do, we would just throw ideas at each other,

I don’t want to presume but are the words mainly yours then Rose?

Rose: Yes. I’m quite an avid writer really. I’ve kept this diary thing since I was 13. And it’s just been this growing like document of stuff. I kind of just dipped into that. It’s like, moments of time. And some bits of kind of poems and things that literally from a really long time ago. Some things I’ve literally just lifted and chucked in almost line by line.

It’s quite rare to keep a diary in this era of social media…

Rose: It does help, it’s always just been there as like a method before we even started contemplating really putting them into songs. Yeah. It’s always just been this kind of tool that whenever you kind of have a build up in your brain, and stuff that you just need to flush out, you just write it all down.I guess that’s inspired a lot of the songs. It’s just kind of dealing with kind of things in not like in teenhood, really, it’s kind of it has people have said it has a bit of a coming of age feel, which I guess is completely true it really does.

It’s probably a cliche to say your songs could be a soundtrack to a rom-com, but you’ll get that one alot….

Zack: When we were like, trying to think of music videos and stuff, we would just play the song to like, other music videos or like, films just to see what kind of fits.

What’s your latest single ‘Runaway Girl’ about, I get a sense of escape?

Yeah, so that’s that’s that was written about uni and basically just spending a lot of money and, and I think it was more just like when partying kind of takes over a little bit. Just you know, kind of, it’s basically like the kind of feeling of like you have regrets but then actually, you don’t really regret that time because you made other friends.

Zack: We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that journey.
Rose: Yeah, exactly. It’s just kind of it’s understanding like, oh, that probably wasn’t the best behaved.

Everyone’s human. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone. With the things you enjoy there’s often a payback. I think with a hangover there is always a bit of regret in the morning.

Zack: It’s just a bit of guilt, isn’t it? But we’re over that guilt now.

Rose: I think you’re right, the song was probably like closure.
It’s funny. I think a lot of these things have been closure. As I say, they have just kind of been not like open wounds. That’s probably a bit dramatic. But yeah, I think it has this been a bit therapeutic for me to kind of write about them because I would never it’s a weird thing. You’d never show somebody a diary, but you wouldn’t mind singing about it.

I suppose what you can do is make a painful situation something like positive as well.

Rose :Yeah, I think that’s what I love. Yeah, I think that’s that’s kind of what I loved initially, about when we started writing together. Like Zach’s music was just, it has that kind of bittersweet feeling. There’s like loads of kind of like hooks and and guitar riffs where it just swoons you will just get too into this like feeling but it’s been picked up by predominantly happy the music, it’s bittersweet. But then that’s why I like the lyrics, they can combine with that. Yeah, I find that sometimes it’s like, you’re singing about a really, not like a super painful thing, but some things that kind of create a bit of guilt or pain but that sounds collectively happy which is is where the band name came from.

Zack: That is actually how we came up with the name.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.