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September 28, 2017

Typically, it’s just another day of sifting through my ever growing email inbox (6700 and counting). It’s virtually impossible to keep up with the flood’s of requests, whether it be coverage for shows, interviews, previews, reviews, new album releases, shows etc.. all while trying to maintain, and grow the sister company called Cultnoize Media & PR (shameless plug). But Seismic-Sound allows me to find those bands that my soul yearns for, as well to connect with, and as you are reading …. gloat about.

Enter Happy Abandon … very few times, does a album get so far under my skin, that I can’t focus on the task at hand, but it did just that. I could not get things done without looking at the stereo and shaking my head in disbelief. It was so beautiful. Then as soon as I found out they were coming to Seattle, it was a no brainer … I must hear this live.

But first I wanted to find out a little bit about this band from North Carolina, and learn a bit about em.

PV: Peter Vance (vocals, guitar)
JW: Jake Waits (drums)
JE: Justin Ellis (Bass)

SS: So, I have already told the “Higher Ups”, that this new album of yours, is probably one of the 10 most beautiful albums I have heard this year, in the same category  as Mount Eerie, Vagabon, Folk Yore, Perfume Genius etc. Its absolutely the most beautiful complex piece of work I’ve heard in awhile. This album sounds like its coming from a very well seasoned band that’s been together for awhile.

With that said….I don’t think its easy finding musicians, as equally as talented all in the same band, especially younger bands. But I have to be honest, this band sounds like you were all hand picked studio musicians out of L.A. It all just seems perfect. I mean the cohesiveness is beautiful. Was this the first incarnation of Happy Abandon, and if so… was the chemistry amazing right out of the gate?


PV: The band initially formed as a two-piece between Jake and me. Our chemistry was absolutely immediate. As we started demoing out songs for our first EP, we knew we wanted soundscaping elements beyond just guitar, drums, and vocals.  Alex (Thompson, studio keyboards/pianos and arrangements) began working with us, initially to flesh out the recordings, but was soon playing live with us.  We added Justin as a full member a year later, right before we released the EP.  He had played a few shows with us in the past, so we thought he would be a good fit.

JE:  Alex doesn’t really play with us live anymore due to him purusing an awesome career in musical theater direction, but “Facepaint” was recorded with the four of us as equal partners.  But when we tour, it’s just Jake, Peter, myself, and some backing tracks.  We’ve all played in bands together and separately in college, so we’ve known how to play with and off of each other for a while, which really helped get the ball rolling. Thanks so much for the kind words – I LOVE that Perfume Genius record.


SS: It seems that in the industry now,  smaller bands in particular, need to be pumping out constant material to stay relevant and in the minds of people. How are you traversing the current state of the music industry?

JW: With a machete.

JE: I feel we’re an anomaly in that regard.  We just put out our first album out after 2 years of being “Happy Abandon”, and other than a non-publicized EP and single that we self-released last year, we haven’t really put out anything and instead focused on touring and honing in on the songs so we could make sure they were exactly what we wanted them to be before we recorded.  We have a music video coming out in November and will probably start demoing out some new stuff within the year, but what’s helped us grow more than anything else is touring and keeping ourselves open to any opportunities that come our way.


SS: What’s been the favorite part of this whole process of making the album? The final product? The touring? Or just being done.

PV: I think I can speak for all of us when I say that the recording process for “Facepaint” was incredible from start to finish.  If I were to pick a specific moment that touched me the most, it was hearing Alex and Camille’s (Faulkner, violinist and co-arranger on “Facepaint”) string arrangements played for the first time over the recordings. It affected me more than I expected, and made me appreciate the songs that much more.

JW: Busting out my classical percussion chops: gong, timpani, concert bass drum. Percussion is dynamic, and I strive to innovate the traditional techniques I’ve learned. Rhythmic or aesthetic inspiration comes from everywhere; the mountains we drive through–or the storms–the bands we’ve been playing with, their art, their performances, and in person have all been inspirational.

JE: My favorite thing about recording “Facepaint” was how efficient, yet relaxed it was.  We recorded the bulk of it at a house on Lake Gaston and lived there for a week with its’ owner, Jason Merritt, who produced the record, and Jamie Candiloro, who flew in from LA to help us record and later mix the record.  Just the five of us waking up, making eggs and coffee, recording all day and into the night in our pajamas, and sitting on the porch every night just hanging out and drinking.  It just felt really homey, and was definitely the most fun I’ve ever had recording something.


SS: So the west coast part of the tour starts here in Seattle (not counting Vancouver). For any of you, who haven’t been to Seattle, what do you think when you hear about Seattle? And is there anything you’d like to see while here, if time allowed?

PV: I hear that there’s a nonagressive drizzle that happens pretty much all the time. I hope I prepared for that. I’m a huge fan of the live session video series that KEXP does, so I would love to visit their studio. And I guess I plan on just following Justin around, who seems to want to live here.

JE:  I visited Seattle for the first time this past April to see Radiohead, and it met and exceeded every one of my expectations.  I’m so excited to see it again.  Totally gonna do KEXP and Discovery Park again.  I’d move there in a heartbeat.

JW: I forgot my raincoat!


SS: One thing each of  you must have with you on tour besides the obvious necessities?

PV:  Before every tour, I always get a handful of herbal remedies to keep me in tip-top condition.  I use a wellness tincture, slippery elm lozenges, and herbal throat spray. I also basic vitamins and teas.  I’m always very aware of  my stamina when encounter such constantly changing environments, and I want to make sure I can perform well every night – because that’s the whole point of touring.

JE:  Touring is my favorite thing in the world because it mixes travel, playing music, and hanging out with my friends.  But I bring my sleeping bag every time.  I’m not superstitious or anything, but having that constant – whether I’m in a bed or on a floor or a couch or in a tent – helps me establish whatever I sleep on or in as “home”, no matter where I am.  I’m also really tall, so having something that covers my feet is really great.

JW: Rings of Speed. On tour we sometimes have to run from Orcs, and a +2 to your speed can be crucial for surviving the road and getting to load-in on time.


SS: I’m a new fan of Schoolkids Records, can you tell me how this beautiful partnership began. Was it just geography?

JE:  I grew up in Raleigh, so I’ve been shopping at the namesake Schoolkids record stores my entire life as an avid music consumer.  I met Stephen (Judge, owner of the Schoolkids Records label and stores) years ago when I was trying to set up an in-store for my band at the time.  When I joined Happy Abandon and we decided to tour out to SXSW in 2016, we were hunting for any NC connections that could help get us a showcase or two.  Stephen’s friend Peter Blackstock, who championed our Peter’s old band back when he lived in Raleigh, recommended that we reach out to Stephen.  But it wasn’t until we played Stephen’s party twice at SXSW that he actually got to see and hear us.  We started talking about putting out a record with him a few months later, and he’s now as much a part of the nucleus of our band as Alex or our friend and advisor Missy.  The whole Schoolkids Raleigh staff are big fans of the band too, so it really feels like we have an adopted family supporting us and our ambitions.


SS: Lastly …. since there is so much bullshit going on in the world of ours today, can you tell me something you find that’s beautiful and puts a smile on your face, as you travel and interact with lot’s of different people?


PV: The breathtaking landscapes, coupled with the extreme hospitality of everyone we’ve met reminds me of how great this country is, even if it’s being run by the wrong people.  

JE: My faith in humanity gets restored every time we hit the road.  We’ve been so lucky to make friends of strangers who were willing to put us up for the night, feed us, our buy our music, and we see them every time we come back through their towns.

JW: I smile thinking about the determination that Peter, Justin and I have. Motivation is great. Inspiration is grand. But getting up every day and doing our band thing despite the world’s bullshit is the best.

Vermillion Gallery @ 8PM: Vacationeer/Happy Abandon/Eggshells/I Wish I Was A Punk Band

2 Comments leave one →
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