A spark of bright euphoric light, The Happy Fits soar in their sophomore album ‘What Could Be Better,’ an unapologetic upheaval of passion, hunger, and indie rock drive.
for fans of Young the Giant, Lewis Del Mar
Stream: “No Instructions” – The Happy Fits
It wasn’t long after discovering The Happy Fits that we fell head-over-heels for their fun and feverish sound.
2016’s debut EP Awfully Apeelin’, released four years ago to the day, introduced a musical marriage of youthful exuberance and playful enthusiasm that continues to set the New Jersey band apart from their peers.
As they’ve grown, the trio of Calvin Langman, Ross Monteith, and Luke Davis have held tight to the energy and excitement of their first few songs, which were released just before they went off to college. 2018’s debut album Concentrate capitalized on coming-of-age moments, transforming lessons learned into euphoric eruptions of invigorating energy. At the time, Atwood praised it as “a perfect oasis of rock and folk warmth, spanning a full spectrum of sounds and stories as The Happy Fits strut their stuff.”
It was an impressively cohesive and polished debut album for a band that were still figuring out who they were and what they wanted to be.
“Without a doubt we have made a ton of mistakes and bad calls in the past four years, but all of those experiences have provided us with information on how to maximize our efficiency and creativity,” the band’s Calvin Langman shares. “When we initially met, I was maybe one of the most naïve kids on the planet thinking I could just drop out of school and become a successful band overnight. We’ve learned this stuff takes time and patience, so we’re way better at managing our expectations than four years ago and we have learned to be appreciative of our small, incredible fan base.”
They’ve still got that youthful exuberance – a twinkle in the eye – but much has changed for The Happy Fits over the past few years.
“One big difference between now and four years ago is the way I’ve been approaching songwriting,” Langman reflects. “I think when I started, I was really trying to imitate ALL of my favorite bands, but after we met our producer and manager Ayad Al Adhamy, he taught me the value of a unified vision. I think our vibe is more defined now and especially with getting more active on social media, we’ve discovered our unique voice that resonates with our fans. Going into Concentrate, we knew absolutely nothing about music production, too, but starting around December 2018, I got really into making my own demos and home recording. This allowed me to experiment more with not just my songwriting, but the specific 2000s indie-euphoria vibe we are going after.”
In other words, The Happy Fits are growing up and coming into their own. It’s a daunting, but exciting part of every artist’s journey, and one that listeners can feel in full throughout the band’s dynamic new full-length offering. Arriving in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, The Happy Fits’ sophomore album What Could Be Better (independently released August 28, 2020) is a spark of bright musical light in the dark.
I go forty down a fifty
I grow one-inch under six feet
I can rise with the tide but when I go to the top
I need more, I need more, more to make this poor man go
I can slug the sleaze (Like a rambling runt)
My weak hands and knees (Got me banned to my bum)
My Id got the keys (I’m here for the fun)
Put my mind at ease
I just wanna go dumb
I go forty down a fifty
I found a way to kill a deadbeat
I can rise with the tide but when I go to the top
I need more, I need more, more to make this poor man go
– “Go Dumb,” The Happy Fits
An unapologetic upheaval of passion, hunger, and drive, What Could Be Better finds the Jersey trio finessing their song-craft and instrumental arrangements alongside producer and manager Ayad Al Adhamy. The ten-track record kicks with a musical lust for life, yet even the most fleeting listen will pick up on the band’s lyrical and sonic growth as they soundtrack the turbulence of their early 20s.
“What Could Be Better is all about trying to find validation and stability in the past few years since dropping out of school,” Langman explains. “I was always a diligent student and would attend hours and hours of classes and music lessons a week growing up, so when I dropped out of school, I was forced to face the harsh reality of transitioning from that structured, student life into full, independent adulthood. Definitely a driving factor in a lot of these songs is the disconnect I have with my parents and my decision to drop out of school. Even though we have thousands of fans showing us support, I still feel “unwhole” without getting full approval from my parents. Especially in the first two years after dropping out, I found myself on a plethora of days not doing anything but smoking weed in my room and trying to write songs. I always earned my self-acceptance through gauging my productivity and success growing up, but when you go into the creative world, you can spend 12 hours one day with a guitar in your hand and still come up empty-handed. This is what drove me to write Go Dumb and What Could Be Better (the title track) since I know that songwriting is what makes me happy in life and I know I should feel happy doing it, but there is always this lingering feeling of self-doubt and guilt for choosing a path that my parents don’t fully support. This theme is echoed in a lot of other tracks like No Instructions and Get a Job.“
I just wanna go to sleep again
Dream about a time when we were friends
I just wanna go to sleep and then
Maybe we’ll forget and have this end…
– “No Instructions,” The Happy Fits
What Could Be Better opens with the feverish indie rock jam “Go Dumb,” a quintessential Happy Fits track spilling over with energy and passion. It’s a welcome return to form that, as Langman shared above, opens up the theme of self-acceptance that plays so heavily in the coming songs. “I love that [the songs ‘So Dumb’ and ‘What Could Be Better’] round out the album because the choruses are almost inverses of each other; Go Dumb is G minor, Bb major, and C minor, where What Could Be Better is G major, B minor, and C major. Where Go Dumb is a proclamation and a jeer to my past self that dropping out of school is a “dumb” decision, the major chords in What Could Be Better give the song a more hopeful feel, almost like one day I will learn to accept myself and my decisions as they are. Growing up with a lot of classical folks, rock music is often talked down upon – so I always felt a little shunned after leaving conservatory to pursue rock, even though it’s the genre that I feel is my true passion.”
One of The Happy Fits’ defining characteristics from the very start has been the use of cello in their music. Langman is classically trained, and while the band also incorporates traditional rock instrumentation with six-string guitars, drums, and piano, the cello – which many might mistake for a guitar on record – is without a doubt a key part of the group’s DNA. It takes particular center stage on such rollicking tunes as “Moving” and “No Instructions,” two of the new record’s most effervescent back-to-back tracks.
“They really gave me the opportunity to show how much we’ve learned about using the cello in this landscape,” he explains. Our first single on Concentrate was Best Tears and I always felt like I was lying to the fans because there’s actually no cello in that track at all. With Moving and No Instructions, thanks to the great production of Ayad and the incredible mixing of Jim Stewart, we were able to incorporate the cello as a bass and make it work.”
Though they may reckon with difficult subjects in their lyrics, The Happy Fits tend to start their music in a place of sublime, energizing and fast-paced levity – two exceptions being “Sailing” and “The Garden,” each of which offers a breath of release with softer instruments and tender, stirring vocal deliveries. Elsewhere, the penultimate “Get a Job” feels like their take on Seattle grunge. One day, we’re sure they will end up breaking our hearts with a poignant and aching ballad, but that day is not today – and in truth, 2020 has given us enough heartbreak already.
Songs like the beachy “Two of Many” and the grittier alt-rock jam “Hold Me Down” highlight two different sides to the group’s cheery tonality, but it’s on “She Wants Me (To Be Loved)” that The Happy Fits hit their full elevation: A catchy, uplifting piece of sun-soaked euphoria, “She Wants Me (To Be Loved)” is What Could Be Better‘s stunning peak, a climax of musical grace and tongue-in-cheek lyrical depth that may very well turn into a runaway hit if given the right push. Three exciting minutes invite us to shed our worries and bask in the band’s glow as they dwell in the friend zone, lamenting an all-too familiar position while continuing to hold on hope for an unlikely love.
The Happy Fits end their record on another high note, in the form of the aforementioned title track “What Could Be Better.” A steady, driving beat in the verse pours into a fiery chorus as the band commit themselves to numerous harmonies and intriguing instrumental interplays.
“[This] is probably the only song that was written in a single stream of consciousness one day after I got high on a weekday in my bedroom,” Langman recalls. “I always have that inner voice that’s like “you shouldn’t be getting high on a weekday” or like “what are you doing with your life” so it was nice to lay all those negative feelings in the opening lines and then kind of sarcastically confront them in chorus, because honestly, what could be better than doing what you love?”
“Honestly, what could be better than doing what you love?” These are wise words to live by. The earlier we learn lesson, the better off we’ll be. For their part, The Happy Fits have made an entire album about internalizing this notion of purpose and passion. They’re still young, but they’re growing up fast and getting better all the time.
“We are all definitely most proud of the incredible fan base we have fostered in the past few years,” the band says. “The fans raised $7k for this album only in return for handwritten thank you letters and personalized messages. We are so incredibly lucky to have that kind of support, especially since we’re independent and don’t have that big label budget a lot of bands have. Honestly, without our fans none of this would be possible.”
What Could Be Better isn’t carefree, but it wants you to be.
The Happy Fits’ increasingly nuanced and mature indie rock hits memorable new heights throughout the set’s thirty-minute journey, bringing listeners though a series of highs, lows, and even higher highs that hit hard and leave a lasting impression. It’s a fun and feverish adventure for artist and audience alike.
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside The Happy Fits’ What Could Be Better with Atwood Magazine as the band goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of their sophomore album!
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Stream: ‘What Could Be Better’ – The Happy Fits
:: Inside What Could Be Better ::
“Go Dumb” came to life last summer after a frustrating month of songwriting. We all left school in 2017 to pursue the band full-time and by this point in 2019, it started to feel like all skills and knowledge I learned in school were slowly drifting away. My parents have never really been fully supportive of the band and I always felt like the decision to leave school was frowned upon by them and other members of the classical community in which I grew up. I was never inspired to be creative when I was younger but that’s all I found myself wanting to do. Saying “Go Dumb” is a jeer to my past; if songwriting makes me dumb then I will gladly “Go Dumb” to do what I love.
This was the last track written for the album around November of last year. I was living with a good friend of the band (we call him Mr. P and any folks that have been to a show in NJ or NY have probably heard him yelling in the crowd) and was currently displaced from my own home due to bubbling tensions with my parents and their struggles with alcoholism. I was at such a helpless point in my life that the only words I could think of were “I have no idea. I have no instructions”. It was the first time in my life where I truly felt helpless and that the situation was completely out of my control.
The melody for “Moving” was written a long time ago; I think I was in high school at the time going through a huge Shannon and the Clams kick. The words for the track were written also at Mr. P’s during the same stint as “No Instructions”. I settled on the title “Moving” just because so much in my life was moving very fast at the time; I had moved away from home, my parents were thinking of moving away, and friends were moving away after graduating college. Moving is emotionally brutal and I wanted to capture that in the euphoric melody at the end.
Two of Many
Growing up, two of my favorite bands were GIVERS and Reptar. I always loved jungle-beat, afro-pop indie-rock (like our song Achey Bones) and I thought of the riff for this song a few minutes before a shift at our local 24/7 diner in the Summer of 2018. I was going through a real low point in my social life and I didn’t want to go out anywhere (probably because I was working at a 24/7 diner). I hope people can relate to the feeling of not wanting to go out on a Friday night. Partying by yourself is simply underrated.
The opening riff for this song came to me one night when we were in Austin, TX last March when we were on tour with Deal Casino. I wrote the lyrics at the same time I wrote “Go Dumb” while I was writing in my sister’s old room that overlooked my father’s garden. It’s a beautiful garden (we do live in the Garden State after all!) and requires all of my father’s time and energy. It’s truly a magnificent sight in the Summer time when everything has blossomed.
Hold Me Down
“Hold Me Down” was the first track I demoed for the album back in January 2018. I had just downloaded Logic and laid down the simplest beat I could think of and the song grew out of that. Being on the road so much, it’s easy to feel far away from loved ones trying to chase our dream. This song is about how my girlfriend always keeps me grounded in reality but still supports me with all her heart.
She Wants Me
This is probably the oldest melody on the album. I think I wrote the “oh, oh, she wants me to be loved” riff sometime in high school when I was getting friend zoned by one of my best friends. Looking back at how dramatic I was, I thought it would be cute to build the whole song around that naive love we can experience when we’re younger. I had also been inspired by Charlie Puth’s bass lines so I wanted to do something simple and dance-y using cello plucks in the bass.
One morning shortly after waking up I had the chorus melody stuck in my head so I went over to my laptop and tracked, what is now, the verses and choruses. It was just an incomplete idea at the time and I stepped away from it for a while. I was surprised that the guys actually liked it enough to consider it for the album so I revisited it and finished the song with its final section right before going in to record the album. The song all stemmed from the idea of touring and not being able to see your friends and family for a long period of time.
Get a Job
I always thought the way The Beatles wrote songs about wanting money from a lover was hilarious. That’s definitely not a topic in a lot of current day rock songs. It almost feels inappropriate to say something like “I can’t afford you”, alas, I think a lot of people can relate to that feeling. Relationships cost money and especially since I’ve been doing long distance for a few years, the air travel starts to rack up. The punk vibe of the song probably came out of the angst I experienced working at that 24/7 diner I was talking about earlier.
What Could Be Better
This is probably my favorite track on the album. I remember getting really high one day last Summer and trying to write and instead I was just flooded with anxious thoughts: “What am I doing with my life getting high in the afternoon on a weekday?”, “What if we never make it?”, “What if I’m just wasting my time?”. I instantly picked up a guitar and tried to stomp the bad feelings away and that’s how the beat of “What Could Be Better” came to be. The line “there’s a hole in my consciousness where I feel I belong” if probably my favorite off the record, too. I was always self conscious in school and I never felt like I truly fit in. It wasn’t until after touring and meeting so many people who related to our song “Dirty Imbecile” that I realized the feeling of not fitting in is pretty universal. This chorus of this song is like saying “so what” to all those bad thoughts. At the end of the day, what could be better than doing what you truly love?
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