INTERVIEW: Pretty Happy

“I think you’re the first person to say we have genuine talent…” laughs Pretty Happy’s guitarist Abbey Blake when I enthusiastically tell her I love the music that the Cork art punk trio make. Bassist Arann Blake laughs at my compliment too. The bandmates (who are also siblings) are sat in their car, windows rolled up, sweating to death whilst talking to me on Zoom via their smart phone. They’re about to go on a well-deserved holiday to Kerry after releasing and promoting their recent EP, Sluggers Bridge.

Along with drummer and friend Andy Killian, the trio create riotous, tongue-in-cheek post-punk offerings often centred around their observations and experiences of living in their home county of Cork in Ireland. We spoke about the “uniquely Cork” humour that underscores their new EP, growing sick of the sound of your own songs, facing up to the fact you’re never going to be like Rory Gallagher and winning over fans in the most unlikely of places…

Hello Abbey & Arann. For anyone who doesn’t know, can you tell us how Pretty Happy first got together?

Abbey: We’re siblings, so we kind of always played a bit of music together as kids.

Arann: Our Dad was a drummer in a band in the 80s & 90s around Cork in Ireland, so he was always putting musical instruments around the house and stuff. Our Mother is big into blues music and Rory Gallagher. I think she always wanted one of us to become a famous blues guitarist. Abbey & I actually got guitar lessons together at a very young age and we both rejected them…

Abbey: They were just awful. We were sent to this local young fella – who looking back, was obviously a stoner – and he was trying to teach us something like Bryan Adams’ ‘Summer of 69’ and I just absolutely hated it.

Arann: We just wouldn’t practice; it was so funny. He’d be like, “go away and learn that chord.” Then we’d come back and be like, “we didn’t learn the chord.”

Abbey: We just didn’t want to do it. I remember coming home and giving my Mum back this awful mini strat that we got in Smith’s toy shop, and I was like, “Mum, I’ll never be Rory Gallagher. Stop.” and that was the end of it. But we did start jamming and I did pick up the guitar again when I was 16/17. If you listen to Pretty Happy’s early stuff, it just sounds like rip offs old Strokes songs. I had no FX on my guitar and Andy our drummer was just doing simple 4/4 stuff. You can definitely hear the progression and it’s only gotten weirder since we’ve actually learned how to play.

Arann: We’ve been going for three or four years now and I think we really needed that time to develop. Kind of like what Abbey said about the Strokes, I think that’s what happens when you’re in a band. At first, you mimic other bands, because you don’t know how to develop your own style. And then you do something a bit different and you’re like, “Okay, there’s something in that,” so you write a new song and that keeps going until you start to have a bit of a repertoire of songs that are kind of a new style. But it was fun kind of learning stuff as the band started to gig more.

Abbey: Our first gig was a metal gig and we were the lightest, lightest, pop rock version of ourselves at the time. Andy was living in London for the summer, so we hadn’t really jammed that much and Arann just got onto us and he was like, “we have a gig” and Andy was like, “Oh, I didn’t know this was an actual band” and that’s how Pretty Happy started. It was never supposed to be a band. It was always just jamming with pals.

Arann: Abbey would always bug me and be like, “let’s start a band or something” and I’d be like, “Alright, get off my back – a band with my little sister?” Fine…I’ll pick this great friend of mine that I know, but he doesn’t actually know how to play the drums. Then as it went on, it obviously became the main band and became the band that people actually took notice of. People were like “there’s something to that, what you’re doing there.”

Abbey: It’s good to hear your thoughts on the start of the band there Arann. Thank you so much for letting me in. Appreciate it man…

If it makes you feel better Abbey, I’ve got an older brother who makes music and he probably wouldn’t let me be in a band with him – mainly because I can’t actually play.

Congratulations on the release of your EP, Sluggers Bridge. I read that you described it as being “uniquely Cork and influenced greatly by the people and humour of the city.” We’re a London based blog, so can you elaborate on that a little for our readers…

Abbey: I think all Cork people would call it the “real capital” of Ireland. Cork people love Cork so much. They’re just very funny people.

Arann: It’s funny talking about this and being from Cork, it’s like “I’m pretty and I’m funny and I’m sound…”

Abbey: Cork people always have an ego. It’s a joke all over Ireland that Cork people fucking love themselves. I think there’s so much slang and just the constant slagging – people will mock you relentlessly in Cork. It’s so good. You can’t take anything seriously because you will be slated. I think that’s why we’re so jokey in the band and especially with that EP. Even the title Sluggers Bridge was an old slang term our Nan used to call Arann. She’d say “Oh go look at sluggers bridge there” because he drank stuff so quickly…

Arann: It was a milk bottle I was drinking, I was a baby like, I was just drinking my milk…We’re a post punk band, so I think there is an expectation to be very serious and take yourself seriously. But you couldn’t possibly do that in Cork.

You’re putting Cork on the map. Do you have a favourite track on the EP? If so, why?

Abbey: We’re sick of them by now…

Arann: You don’t promote an EP by saying “I’m sick of all the songs,” Abbey. The correct answer is “but they’re all so good, how could I choose?” It depends. What is funny, I think, when looking at your own music, is that it’s so hard to enjoy it. You hear it and then you remember all the different versions of it that you put down in the studio, so it becomes more like this mathematical thing. It’s so hard to enjoy your own song.

Abbey: I’m also disgraced when hearing myself. I hate hearing myself. Do you ever hear your own voice back played back, and you realise it’s fucking awful? And I can’t hold a tune. I can’t sing, so that’s why I kind of shout and stuff. So yeah, I can’t listen to our songs much.

Arann: Is it a bit late to ask if we’re allowed to swear?

Swear away, it’s all good.

Abbey: Okay, if I had to pick a favourite it would probably be ‘Sea Sea Sea’, because I think that was written so quickly and that was my first time properly “singing.” It’s my favourite to play live too. It’s always our last song, so you know that your last minute of energy can be spent.

Arann: There’s a big outro at the end which we always love to close the show with. It reaches a fever pitch so that’s a very fun song to play. It just descends into madness a bit.

I love that you’ve just admitted to hating your own EP. That’s really cracked me up.

Speaking of ‘Sea Sea Sea’, I know you directed the video for that Abbey, and you were nominated for Pinewood Studio’s ‘Lift Off First Time Film Makers Festival’ award, which is amazing. Talk me through the concept of the video and where you got your idea from…

Abbey: Yeah, it was cool. It was kind of like something I had to do, it was like, “Oh, shit, we need a music video,” and the lads had moved to London, so I was like, “Okay, fuck you, you’re in London, I’m gonna do it and I’m not gonna tell you what I’m doing.”

It was really fun in the end. I studied film in college and my final year was cut short because of COVID, so the video was my first time getting back with a camera, coming up with a concept and editing it. We filmed it during winter on a beach in Cork and I had to beg my girlfriend to be in it. I was like “Please, will you just do this video? You have to run into the sea. Yes, it is November, but I’ll bring whiskey hot chocolate…” and she was like “for fucks sake, fine!”

The sea was the perfect backdrop for the video and the beach was perfect for the concept of kind of digging your own hole. The song is essentially about coming out, facing rejection and also trying to talk to older generations about gender and sexual identity and stuff like that. I was really lucky with my parents when I came out, they were so cool and open, but I’ve seen different reactions from people before. I think a lot of that is provoked by fear of the unknown.

I don’t know. I hate saying meanings for music videos. Take what you want from it…

It’s an important issue behind the video’s concept and a great video! This is honestly the most self-deprecating interview I’ve ever done. I’m into it. How are you feeling about the return of live music after Covid-19 put a stop to it last year? What’s the situation like in Ireland at the moment?

Abbey: That’s a big thing in Ireland at the moment. The fact that sporting events are back with no social distancing, but not gigs.

Arann: At the time of speaking, there’s been a lot of backlash against the government about the double standard. It’s a real point of contention.

Abbey: It’s weird, because it’s been a year of talking and saying “Oh yeah, we’re a band, we do band stuff,” and then not properly gigging. We’ve done live streams, but I think that’s a totally different thing. We had to adapt from performing to a live crowd to performing to a camera.

Arann: You have to point the energy in different places, it’s so weird. In terms of acting, it’s like Theatre vs Film, it’s about creating an energy in a room or a venue, versus translating that energy to a camera lens. It’s much weirder and it took a while to get used to. I don’t know if most touring musicians today would be used to that kind of thing, we definitely weren’t at the start. We’ve done around 8-9 of them now.

Abbey: I think we’ve always had that thing of conjuring up energy though. I always loved having a “bad crowd” or playing old country pubs and you see these old fellas with a pint of Guinness at the bar looking at you like “what the fuck are they doing?” I love those gigs because I like trying to turn people. I love screaming my head off to someone who hates it, I don’t know why. I way prefer that to a crowd that likes us. I think we’re very awkward with praise, so I prefer that situation.

Arann: They were sort of lovely gigs though. Abbey would be screaming her lyrics from ‘Sea Sea Sea’ – “you hate your son / but you love yourself” – at these old men from…

Abbey: …you got our own lyrics wrong there Arann. It’s the other way around, it’s “you love your son / but you hate yourself”

Arann: Well, I don’t have to sing it do I? We never listen to our songs because we’re sick of them, remember? We’ve both already established that…

But yeah, those kind of gigs were so funny because you would go on and at least if they don’t like the style music we’re playing, which they normally don’t, you know it’s pretty out there, they did appreciate what we were saying or trying to do. We’re really looking forward to have a couple of gigs coming up and it’s just going to be fantastic to have a crowd again. We’re really buzzing.

Abbey: I remember getting a handshake from one of the old fellas at the bar that I mentioned after the gig. He was like, “Jesus, you really put into what you’re playing. You really go mad on the guitar, don’t ya?” It was just like a “fair play, you’re doing what you’re doing” kind of moment which I loved.

Arann: I remember at another gig, we were in a bar where the stage is literally in the middle of a functioning bar. We were doing soundcheck, and people were watching matches and having drinks while we were trying to sound check a punk song, and there was a woman who just shouted “Will someone turn that off!?” as we were checking levels and stuff – and that’s when we knew the gig was gonna be a slog. So we just screamed so loudly that people either left, or the people who stayed kind of had to listen to us.

A bad reaction is still a reaction, you know? If you know any venues that would hate us, please give us their details…

I’m sure I could think of a few venues in London or Essex (where I’m from) that I can recommend. What’s next on the agenda for Pretty Happy? Any new releases, anything you can tease us with?

Abbey: We’re going into the studio to record next month. We’re writing for the first time in so long, because the lads have moved home from London, so it’s the first time we’ve actually had free time when we’re not just practicing for a gig. It’s just us jamming for fun again, which is so nice.

Great stuff. Finally, are there any new bands or artists that you’d like to recommend to us?

Abbey: We love what Elaine Malone does. Her stuff is insane. Her live show is insane, I’m just in awe of her. We had her on for a gig with Angry Mom a few years ago and it was my first time seeing her. She just stood on stage with a harmonium and a guitar and she played the harmonium with her feet, whilst she also played guitar and sang and I was like, “Holy fuck.” I remember sitting on the floor in front of her and being like, “how is this one person making such layered music?” It was so beautiful. Then we saw her with her full band and it’s just like…honestly, you’ve got to see her live, she’s so good.

Arann: Arthur Itis also has a new album coming out on Art For Blind Records, who we released our EP with. If anyone likes us, then check out what he’s doing. He’s doing very cool off-the-wall post-punk stuff. He’s definitely someone we listen to a lot. Everything on Art For Blind Records is unbelievable actually, they have some great acts.

Thanks so much to Abbey & Arann for the chat!

Follow Pretty Happy on bandcampSpotifyInstagramTwitter & Facebook

Photo Credit: Nicholas O’Donnell

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

PLAYLIST: November 2020

We’re almost out of Lockdown 2.0 here in the UK, but whether you’re feeling excited or apprehensive about the changes the new government measures will bring, our November playlist is here to help distract you. There’s an eclectic mix of alt-pop delights, atmospheric electronic soundscapes and some shimmering indie and alternative guitar tunes. Take some time to scroll through our track choices below and make sure you hit play on the Spotify playlist at the end of this post.

GENN – ’23rd March’
The latest single from Brighton based trans-national band Ġenn, ‘23rd March’ is propelled by whirring hooks, capturing the charismatic energy of the band’s magnificent live show, as it builds with a sultry power to a gritty grunge-fueled seething anthem. ‘23rd March’ is taken from Ġenn’s upcoming EP Liminal, set for release next year on Everything Sucks Music. (Mari Lane)

Nervous Twitch – ‘Tongue Tied’
The latest single from the Leeds three-piece, ‘Tongue Tied’ is a comforting ode to “Self-reflection and amazement over the contradictions in life”. Propelled by scuzzy surf-rock inspired hooks and an instantly catchy uptempo musicality, it’s a colourfully retro slice of uplifting punk-pop. ‘Tongue Tied’ is out now via Reckless Yes. (ML)

Tired Lion – ‘~Cya Later~’
Aussie band Tired Lion have just shared their new album Breakfast For Pathetics and it is SO. GOOD. I love frontwoman & guitarist Sophie Hopes’ voice and this track is apparently one of her favourites on the record – it also happens to be one of mine too. (Kate Crudgington)

Francis of Delirium – ‘Lakes’
“The main idea in ‘Lakes’ is that we are all fed by other people (or other “rivers”) to eventually form who we are, one large lake fed by other water streams, one community,” explains Francis of Delirium’s songwriter Jana Bahrich. Taken from their upcoming EP Wading, which is set for release next February, this single continues to show Bahrich’s talent for writing poignant guitar tunes about the interweaving nature of life. (KC)

King Hannah – ‘Meal Deal’
Liverpool’s King Hannah have just released a complete beaut of a debut EP, the magnificence of which is showcased perfectly in ‘Meal Deal’. Inspired by an unsuccessful flat-hunting mission, it’s steeped in an all-encompassing ethereal splendour as the utterly spellbinding majesty of Hannah Merrick’s vocals flow alongside swirling War On Drugs-reminiscent hooks. Tell Me Your Mind And I’ll Tell You Mine, the new EP from King Hannah, is out now via City Slang. Watch the homevideo for ‘Meal Deal’ here. (ML)

Serena Isioma – ‘Stop Calling The Police On Me’
“This song is about searching for peace outside of the society that doesn’t understand you,” explains Chicago-based musician Serena Isioma. “There was a heavy police presence in my household growing up. It was very toxic. Eventually, I stopped coming home altogether. I was much happier hanging out with my friends.” Isioma, a first generation Nigerian-American, neutralizes these hostile memories via ambient guitars and honeyed vocals. I’m so excited to hear their new EP The Leo Sun Sets, which is set for release later this year. (KC)

Amaroun & Jung Mergs – ‘Highest Head’
GIHE fave Amaroun’s latest offering sees the London artist teaming up with rapper Jung Mergs. Switching between the rich, smooth power of Amaroun’s soulful refrains and the fast-paced poignant spoken-word lyricism of Mergs, it builds with a gritty, grimey groove and whirring, fuzzy energy. (ML)

Rosé Petal – ‘Dripping’
I love this hypnotic new single from Rhode Island-based, alternative R&B/electro-pop producer and songwriter Rosé Petal. It’s a beautiful combination of sweet vocals, sultry beats and atmospheric electronics. (KC)

ZAND – ‘Inappropriate’
Self proclaimed “ugly popstar” ZAND has just released their new EP Ugly Pop, and ‘Inappropriate’ is one of several savage bangers on the record. ZAND’s wit and defiance in the face of their critics shines through in their candid lyricism and polished, yet punishing beats. (KC)

STRAIGHT GIRL – ‘Limón’
A vibrant, jagged electronic soundscape inspired by disjointed and self-critical thoughts, ‘Limón’ is the latest single from Leeds-based electropunk STRAIGHT GIRL. Released via Come Play With Me, the track is a cathartic new offering that sees the artist confront the darker parts of themselves and transform them into energetic, intensely danceable beats. (KC)

CIRCE – ‘Dancer’
An evocative dark-pop gem inspired by a morbid fascination with an infamous cult, London-based Circe’s latest single ‘Dancer’ is taken from her debut EP, She’s Made of Saints. The track is a sultry, cinematic tune exploring the dangerous allure of Californian cult The Source Family. I wholeheartedly recommend you listen to Circe’s EP if you’re a fan of any of the following: The Handmaid’s Tale, David Lynch or Stranger Things. (KC)

October and The Eyes – ‘Dark Dog’
New Zealand-born, London-based songwriter October and The Eyes recently shared her debut EP Dogs and Gods, and this dark, sultry single is lifted from it. Speaking about the track, October explains: “It’s about the uneasy feeling of being watched, that at any moment something bad could happen. There’s an anecdotal malformed dog who’s always near – limping, snarling, growling and drooling. It’s one you feel equally sorry for as you do fear it. You cannot outrun this dark dog, so you decide to make peace.” (KC)

Yumi And The Weather – ‘What Will Become Of The Wishing Well’
The latest single from Brighton based artist Yumi And The Weather, ‘What Will Become Of The Wishing Well’ flows with soaring rich vocals and twinkling uptempo vibes alongside glitchy beats and a driving energy. A soothing slice of alt-pop reminiscent of the electro-strewn grandeur of The Postal Service. (ML)

Elaine Malone – ‘You’ (1000 Beasts Remix)
A captivating, blissful lo-fi new offering from two of Cork’s freshest talents, ‘You’ is a beaut collaboration between songwriter & multi-instrumentalist Elaine Malone and electronic artist & producer 1000 Beasts. Led by Malone’s original beguiling vocals and lullaby-esque lyrics, 1000 Beasts has tentatively transformed the track with his distinctive percussion and the result is a magnetic soundscape that acts as an aural tonic for testing times. (KC)

Smoothboi Ezra – ‘My Own Person’
Smoothboi Ezra is an 18 year old songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer from Greystones, Ireland. This song is about “not being happy but not being able to do anything about it” which is the over-riding sentiment for most of 2020. I love this track and can’t wait to hear more from them in the future. (KC)

Hearts Beating In Time – ‘Simone’s’
The latest single from Berlin-based Hearts Beating In Time, ‘Simone’s’ offers a totally dreamy, twinkling soundscape. With elegant layers of shimmering synths alongside the glistening charm of Rebecca Theuma’s vocals, it’s an instantly captivating slice of immersive electro-pop. (ML)

Jenny Moore’s Mystic Business – ‘I Am Afraid’
Reflecting on how being alone as a female identifying person can be both scary and exciting, ‘I Am Afraid’ is propelled by funk-fuelled bass-lines and an empowering, shimmering energy. As it builds with the twinkling power of voices uniting together in harmony and jangling, playful percussion, it’s a poignant, impassioned ode to female strength and resilience. ‘I Am Afraid’ is out now via Lost Map Records. Watch the joyous new video here. (ML)

Pinlight – ‘Grow Slow’
The new single from Edinburgh-based hearing-impaired artist Jenny Laahs, aka Pinlight, ‘Grow Slow’ flows with an uplifting twinkling energy and luscious honey-sweet vocals. A refreshingly uptempo slice of sunny alt-pop, it’s the perfect danceable accompaniment to a solo lockdown living room rave. (ML)

Kama Vardi – ‘The Gate’
An uplifting slice of folk-pop, Kama Vardi’s ‘The Gate’ flows with a twinkling romanticism and joy-tinged lilting musicality. Oozing a captivating allure alongside the soothing splendour of Vardi’s vocals. Moonticket, the upcoming new album from Kama Vardi, is out now via Bread For Eskimos. (ML)

LISTEN: Elaine Malone – ‘You’ (1000 Beasts Remix)

A captivating, blissfully lo-fi new offering from two of Cork’s freshest talents, songwriter & multi-instrumentalist Elaine Malone and electronic artist & producer 1000 Beasts have shared ‘You’, a re-working of Malone’s debut single.

Led by Malone’s original beguiling vocals and lullaby-esque lyrics, 1000 Beasts has tentatively transformed the track with his distinctive percussion and reharmonizing of each verse, and the result is a magnetic soundscape that acts as an aural tonic for testing times.

“I first discovered ‘You’ way back in 2018, when Elaine first released it ahead of her debut EP Land,” 1000 Beasts explains. “It always struck a chord with me so I reached out to Elaine to see if I could get my hands on the stems and experiment with the track. Thankfully she agreed & then Covid came along and finally gave me the time and the opportunity to sit down and give the piece the attention it deserves – it’s probably one of my favourite remixes to date.”

Listen to 1000 Beasts remix of Elaine Malone’s ‘You’ below.

 

Follow Elaine Malone on Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, InstagramSpotify.

Follow 1000 Beasts on BandcampFacebookTwitter, InstagramSpotify.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut