I don’t know if I’ve ever come across a band that has such an un-googleable name (maybe if there’s a band called ‘Free Porn’ they would have some competition) but it’s not really fair on them because Happy Birthday are definitely worth finding. A hidden crystal in the plethora of shit that is the internet. They released their debut on Sub Pop last year and I had a chat with lead singer Kyle before they were unveiled as the secret act at a recent White Heat.
So this is your first UK tour?
Yeah, well I’ve been here before with another band but yeah, this is the first Happy Birthday tour.
Oh cool, who were you here with before?
Witch – it’s more like my heavy rock band. We didn’t really go on a tour; we played ATP last year, the Nightmare Before Christmas thing, and we played a show with The Melvins.
The Melvins? That must have been cool?
You know I’ve never really listened to them that much but there’s definitely a few songs of theirs that I’ve really liked. But for whatever reason I’ve never had any of their albums.
So yeah, your first tour with Happy Birthday – have you guy been going longer than Witch?
Well Witch is a weird band because we put our first album out in 2006 or something, but we only play like maybe a few times a year. It’s really loose – J (Mascis from Dinosaur Jr) is away on tour quite a bit and I’m always doing other shit, but Happy Birthday’s been playing for almost two years now. The lineup is a little bit different right now though.
How did the current lineup all fall in to place?
Well Chris, who plays bass on the album and also helped me to arrange some of the songs, he doesn’t like going on tour – then I started playing with Allen, who’s an old friend of mine, on the tours, and then for this tour we have Kurt, Chris’ brother, playing the synthesizer.
And he’s okay with touring?
Yeah, and adding that synth really makes me feel a lot better on stage. A lot better and a lot weirder, which is always good. There’s a lot of synth on the album but we’d never played live with it before, so it finally feels complete to me when we play live.
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How was the recording of the album?
It was really good, we recorded ourselves – I usually record everything I do myself – so there’s good and bad sides to that, as in I can do whatever I want, but that’s also a bad thing because I end up taking forever on it. I really like recording myself but I think for the next one I might experiment with working with someone just to do something different.
Where was it all recorded?
In Brattleboro, Vermont where we live.
What’s the music scene like there?
It’s a very small town, so over the years there have been places to play and patches where there have been loads of shows, like we had a sort of punk venue we all ran and had a lot of shows there, but that’s shut down so now it’s kinda just – there’s not that many shows but there’s still a load of people who make music, like Matt Valentine lives round there and there are a load of people who have lived there and gone on to do something else, like I grew up with Matt from Matt & Kim. Oh and Ruth’s sister, Tune-Yards, she’s amazing, you should check her out.
What else is there to do in Vermont when you’re not making music?
Well I don’t have a job so I concentrate on writing songs most of the time, sitting on my roof, drinking an espresso. But it’s just a really beautiful, mellow place where you don’t really have to worry about doing too much. Like, I love partying, but I can’t get anything done if I’m doing that the whole time!
I noticed a couple of you produce art as well?
Yeah, I drew the album cover and my brother’s a really amazing artist so I work with him a lot, and then Ruth does art. That’s always been my other main focus. In the past few years I haven’t really done as much as I’d like to because I’ve been concentrating on the music so much, but I feel really good when I draw, I feel like I can do whatever I want.
Yeah I guess it’s because it’s mainly for you so you don’t have to think about other people’s opinions so much.
Yeah, there’s not as much stress built in to it – it shouldn’t be like that with the music but it is for whatever stupid reason.
How’s everything been since the album came out?
It’s been good, I feel like not being able to tour has kind of set us back a bit – if we’d been going on tour solidly since it came out it might feel like there’s a bit more going on.
Have you played in the US much since?
Yeah we’ve done a few short tours; lots of sleeping in dorms and smoking weed with college kids, it was good. Definitely been some shows where there’s just one person in the room which makes you feel kinda shitty, but it has to happen.
How do you feel about being the secret band tonight?
Yeah it’s cool, I don’t know why it’s like that though! I really have no idea if people like us over here, I’m kind of blind to the whole thing, but I’m excited.
What’s set for the future after this tour?
Well actually I made an album under the name of King Tuff, it’s just a solo album but it’s more rock n’ roll kind of stuff, power-pop style, so I want to keep doing that again and record another album. I have enough songs for that and nearly enough for another Happy Birthday album, but I feel like Happy Birthday can kind of be anything because the first album was kind of random, a lot of different styles, so to me it’s kind of whatever I want it to be.
Would you say Happy Birthday was your main project?
I don’t know man, it fucking changes all the time because I always end up playing with different people circumstantially, but basically I’m trying to write 3 albums all at the same time – I’m trying to do a Witch album as well – so I’m really all over the place when it comes to songwriting, that’s what keeps me interested.