We had the chance to chat with Happy Heartbreak, an alt-rock/emo-pop band based in Seattle. Happy Heartbreak is Craig Suede- vocals/guitar, Kylie Doebler- drums, Greg Olson- bass, and Serina Chang- cello. This group had us kicking back a bit to the early 2000's as they comped to bands from the emo-pop scene from that time such as Taking Back Sunday, but with a fresh twist. The group runs a tight ship musically and does a good job of varying their sound track to track all while still sounding like themselves (we were even able to fit in a comp to The Cure as you'll see soon!). Happy Heartbreak have an EP Flight Risk that they allowed us early access to so that we could review, you'll find that here as well. Flight Risk drops September 27 at Happy Heartbreak's EP Release Show at the Columbia City Theater in Seattle. Check out our review and interview below!
Flight Risk EP Review:
1. "Worn Out" - Musically, enjoyed this track immensely. However, the timing at times the vocals felt off with the music. We liked the hook here though. Also, we have to say we were not the biggest fans of the use of the cell phone in the track. This song seemed to be much more raw in comparison to the other more polished tracks that would come later on the EP.
2. "Not Running" - Extremely tight song with an addictive hook. Comps to bands that have influenced Happy Heartbreak (more on that later) from the early 2000's pop/punk scene. Guitar driven melody is strong and the use of the cello throughout is appropriate and is not overdone as bands such as Yellowcard overdid their use of violin. The use of screaming and choral harmonization in the background is a nice change of pace for the track and evokes comps to Brand New.
3. "Snowflake" - We loved the effects driven guitar in this track, it reminds us Robert Smith's incorporation of flange pedals into his guitar work in The Cure. The use of musical pause by Happy Heartbreak builds anticipation extremely well and the payoffs come quick which is cool, we wonder what Happy Heartbreak could do with a slow burn style track. We want to note that the drums in this track were a force for the rhythm section pushing the song, we dug them a lot.
4. "Again, Again" - Has an upbeat lead guitar riff to it that has a bit of twang to it that feels a bit alt-country. When combined with the cello, this added to that, which we were not sure fit the rest of the track, which we enjoyed immensely. The vocals were later presented in a duet fashion and this jived better, however it didn't seem to stick with the chorus. We enjoyed both parts separately, not sure how well they melded together.
5. "Neverland"- We enjoyed the drums here again and they are relied on heavily here, along with the cello to carry the rhythm for sections of the song. Happy Heartbreak threw everything at this last song including acoustic guitar, and we feel they were able to stick the landing.
Closing Thoughts: Tight, Tight, Tight, we can't say that enough. When they get going, Happy Heartbreak are so crisp musically. We were big fans of the driving choruses in this EP, the vocals were solid, and the drumming and cello were stellar. There were a couple of songs where we weren't sure about specific choices musically, (the use of the cell in "Worn Out" and genre juxtaposition we had difficulty with in "Again Again". Regardless, Flight Risk is a pretty solid effort from a group that seems to be winning fans with a sound and message that touches on listener's rawest emotions and at the end of the day, isn't that what music is all about?
Rating - 3.5/5
Happy Heartbreak Artist Spotlight:
1. How did you come to pursue music and how long have you been at it?
Music is the only thing that makes sense in this Life that feels so crazy. As long as I can remember, I’ve been singing, but I started playing and performing original music in early high school. I remember skipping lunch to play guitar in our school’s empty auditorium and dreaming of playing stages one day. Writing and sharing music is core to my identity, and I can’t imagine being anyone else.
2. Could you walk us through your process of writing music?
I’m lyrically driven. For the past few years, I’ve challenged myself to only write songs that make me feel uncomfortable. I generally start with whatever is nagging at my brain (choices, relationships, self-doubt) and then just try to reflect and process why I’m feeling this way. A vocal melody usually accompanies a phrase I can’t shake, and guitar provides the foundation to sing over. My band mates are incredibly talented musicians who are amazing about holding the vision and adding the layers that build the songs into the hopeful energy and passion that makes Happy Heartbreak.
3. What artists have inspired you in your career?
Haha, I’m such an early 2000’s Emo Kid. I used to listen to albums front to back on repeat: Brand New, Taking Back Sunday, The Ataris, Dashboard Confessional .. but I’m especially drawn to Andrew McMahon. Everything in Transit by Jack’s Mannequin painted my idea of the California dream before moving there from Indiana. Nowadays, I’m mostly inspired by the countless talented musician friends I know who remind me that the struggle is worth it to connect with others, the way their music connects with me. Specifically, the Seattle homies: Bobby’s Oar, TheDrifterLuke, Antonioni, Young-Chhaylee, and too many to name. The Seattle scene impresses me on a regular basis with its songwriters.
3. Do you have any favorite music gear (guitars, amps, effects pedals, keyboards, etc.) that you love to use? If so, what’s the story on them?
Acoustically, I’ve stayed loyal to Alvarez with Elixir strings for a long time now. Mostly, I play a Fender Strat through an Orange Tiny Terror. I love the way that amp sounds, so I’m pretty minimal on pedals: Carbon Copy delay, Monarch boost, and occasional Hall of Fame reverb with a volume pedal for swells. Most impressive is our bass player, who builds his Olympic Instrument bass guitars. They’re gorgeous, and I wish more people knew about them. And I know nothing about cello.
4. Can you describe the vibe at your live shows? Also, what do you enjoy most about a venue when you do a show?
There’s so much movement and energy. The vibe is connection, whatever that means to you, the show and the music is for you. If nothing else, I hope people walk away and say, “It’s not often I get to witness so much authentic passion.” But mostly, I’m just told that they can’t believe I sing the stuff that I do, that one part was hella uncomfortable, and cello is so cool.
What I enjoy most about a venue is when they take care of their musicians. Venues are just a space for people to gather, but some places create community by caring about the people in those spaces. Also, atmosphere that invites listening. I like places that provide the environment where people feel comfortable and safe to be themselves. Music is about connection, and listening is how we accept what someone else is sharing.
5. What is one thing that you want the public to know about your music?
I recently had a friend tell me that one of my new songs “doesn’t make you look good, man.” I guess I want ‘the public’ to know that I’m not trying to be cool. This shit makes me cry when I write it. This is just me being honest and processing Life in the only way I know how. For better or for worse, this is Me.
6. Do you have any upcoming projects you would like fans to know about?
On September 27th, 2018 we have a new 5-song release called Flight Risk. It’s about trying to learn what it means to be Home when you’re traveling all the time, failing and reflecting on relationships, Life as a single millennial, lessons I’ve learned, and a tribute to friends and family who have passed away.