SURF-GAZERS THE DOUBLE HAPPINESS: “LIFE IS SHORT, HAVE COURAGE AND BE KIND TO EACH OTHER”
Original photo by Mark Cranitch. Handmade collage by B.
Brisbane’s The Double Happiness are comprised of two couples that play spooky-surf reverb-a-riffic dream-pop! Their music is joyous, fun and makes you want to dance. Every time we’ve seen them play we’ve had the most fun. They have a new record Surfgazing forthcoming on 4000 Records. We caught up with them to find out more about it, as well as their love of surf and shoegaze, their first concert and more.
I know that creativity, courage and connection are important to The Double Happiness (us too!); why?
MEG (bass/vocals): These are the values that we all hold dear. (Alongside with dancing like maniacs – also very important). Courage is backing yourself, putting yourself out there and not giving up, stretching yourself creatively by trying things that keep your energy up and your vibrancy levels elevated.
Keeping your connections strong is vital right now; we are nothing without other people. These are all good messages during these strange and unsettling times, and the music industry has already begun creatively connecting with audiences through online hangouts and events like Isol-Aid and Couch Choir. Life is short, have courage and be kind to each other – finding new ways to be creative is the upside of these weird times.
How did The Double Happiness come into being?
KRISTIN (guitar/vocals): We’ve been friends for over 20 years through mutual friends, and attended parties and gigs, always loving the same kinds of bands. We met up at the 40th birthday celebration of 4ZZZ at the Spiegeltent, as we were SO keen to see Ups and Downs. We got the set list, and Meg had the brilliant idea of suggesting we get together to have a jam. Meg and Simon were a ready-made rhythm section, and Pete and I were guitarists. We jammed some songs we knew and loved like ‘Candy’ (Iggy Pop and Kate Pierson) and ‘Doused’ (DIIV). Before you knew it we were writing our own songs. ‘City’ was born shortly afterwards, and the songs and the joy just kept coming.
The Double Happiness have a “surf-gaze” sound; how did you first discover surf music?
PETE (guitar/vocals): I have always had a long love affair with surf guitar. We all love The Pixies and I was inspired by Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago, The Shadows and the killer Pulp Fiction soundtrack.
KRISTIN: I grew up listening to my Dad’s surf guitar records – he was a huge Cliff Richard and The Shadows fan.
PETE: We’ve never been fans of guitar chords played at lightning speed. The key to our kind of surf riff is minimum notes – maximum melody. The Pixies were always a surf band in my book.
How did you arrive at combining surf and shoegaze to make your sound?
KRISTIN: Our influences and inspirations are shared which has made song writing such an easy and fun process. We all loved shoegaze bands such as RIDE and My Bloody Valentine in the early ‘90s, yet we have a soft spot for 60s sounds as well.
SIMON (drums): There’s been a revival in recent times of shoe-gaze through bands like Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Froth, Beach Fossils and with Slowdive coming back with a new album which we dig. Locally we also love Relay Tapes, Ultra Material and Pleasure Symbols.
PETE: It was becoming apparent that some of our songs were very surf, and others had a dreamy shoe-gaze sound. It made perfect sense to combine the two!
The surf influence is very apparent in your music, is there any non-obvious influences that might surprise listeners?
KRISTIN: The jangly guitar sounds are reminiscent of bands like The Sundays and The Go- Betweens, but the indie-folk influence of Jose Gonzales is present in our theme tune – Double Happiness (I Want My). We can’t underestimate the impact table tennis has had on us either!
PETER: I’m the true table tennis tragic of the band. It’s a highly complex sport. The competition bats generate so much spin. Check out the high level stuff on YouTube kids! How good is Stereolab’s Ping Pong?
MEG: I hear elements of Stereolab in our songs which is surprising as we don’t have keyboards in the band, but sometimes we get into a heightened rhythmic groove that they capture in their songs.
In the beginning, who or what inspired you to first pick up your instrument? KRISTIN: Sister Margaret playing Abba songs to us on guitar during wet lunches in Year 3. MEG: Teachers are so influential! Mr Stanger in Year 5 introduced me to acoustic guitar. Finding an “Archie” comic-style bass guitar in the instrument cupboard in Year 8 sealed the switch to bass guitar. SIMON: Friends at school gave me a window into the drumming world. Realising that I could imitate the music I loved listening to in my teens like Joy Division, The Cure, The Smiths, REM and The Clash was encouraging. PETE: I fell into classical guitar lessons in Grade 6 but that only lasted a couple of months because I didn’t know what classical music was. I picked up the same guitar at age 20, learnt to play “Skip to My Lo” and “Venus” and the rest is history. What was the first concert you ever went to? Can you describe it to us? KRISTIN: U2 Festival Hall 1984. It was everything. MEG: Midnight Oil and V Spy V Spy at Byron Bay Arts Factory (when it was known as “The Piggery”) I think it was 1985. I went with my Mum, sister and brother. My Dad sat in the car park reading the newspaper! It was so energising to be part of a big crowd and experience such a strong performer like Peter Garrett. SIMON: Johnny Diesel & The Injectors on the back of a truck parked at the front of the Narrabri Golf Club. Slim pickings! Next was Rat Cat and the Violent Femmes at the Byron Bay Arts Factory. PETER: I ordered my first pot of beer in the early 80’s at the Victory Hotel then went to see Howard Jones at Festival Hall. I wouldn’t rate his music these days but at the time the performance blew my teenage mind. There was this Jamaican guy with a wall of percussion instruments. Amazing! Two couples make up The Double Happiness; what’s something important you’ve learnt from your significant other while making music together? KRISTIN: That Pete has an incredible ear for recording and mixing. He’s completely self-taught, very focused and is doing such a fabulous job. MEG: We have such respect for each of our multiple roles in the band and how they interweave. We do all our own recording, mixing, artwork, t-shirt design, networking, social media and more. I really enjoy everything that we all bring, but I do really get a buzz watching Simon drum on stage. He is a phenomenal drummer, laying down creative and complex beats that drive the songs. SIMON: That Meg is a bad-*%$ bass player! She obviously loves the stage and playing to a crowd. She is also a social media power house. PETER: That Kristin comes up with the coolest riffs. A lot of the lead writes itself. It’s always fun and exciting jamming. She’s great out front on stage and enjoys the spotlight. Kristin and Meg both create such a great vibe together with the crowd. You have an album coming out, Surfgazing; what was inspiring you when you were writing for it? MEG: Tides, crashing waves, soundwaves, sandy toes, great riffs and rolling beats. KRISTIN: We have a strong connection with The Great South East and often include references to local landmarks and places that hold fond memories in our hearts. Bribie Island features on the new album in the song “Red Beach”, “Coochie” was written on a ferry to a resort on Moreton Bay, and “Snapper Rocks” is a nod to the thunderous surf down near Coolangatta. So surf and beach references are very prominent in this next batch of songs, but there are other themes – completionism vs perfectionism in “Finish”, and clear communication in “Not What You Said”. The first single from it is Wild Bikini/Spooky Tiki; can you tell us about each song please? MEG: “Wild Bikini” is a magic carpet ride spliced with a B-Grade beach movie from the 60s with a sprinkle of I Dream of Jeannie. KRISTIN: “Spooky Tiki” takes me back to The Brady Bunch Hawaiian Vacation double episode from 1972. Peter and Bobby Brady found a Tiki in a dig that their Dad was working on, but they didn’t know it was cursed until Greg wore it surfing, and all hell broke loose. Filmed and edited by: Simon WelchmanCan you give us a little insight to recording the record? You recorded at Kristin’s work the Music Industry College and at home, right? KRISTIN: Yes. It’s been so good to have access to the studio at MIC as well as the assistance from the music dept at the school. The drums and vocals were recorded there, but the majority of guitar tracks and mixing has all taken place at our place, mostly in the walk-in wardrobe. MEG: I have a lot more insight into Pete and Kristin’s relationship through recording vocals in their wardrobe. They have some very cool outfits in there! We love seeing The Double Happiness live your shows are SO music fun! We love that Kristin and Meg wear super cool outfits on stage; who are your style icons? What’s your favourite outfit you’ve worn so far? MEG: Audrey Hepburn, The B-52s and Nice Biscuit. The boys always look good too – Simon sports some killer paisley. Pete has a ripper ‘50s bowling shirt with a Tiki detail. KRISTIN: My style icons are Serena from Bewitched, Agent ‘99’ from Get Smart. My favourite so far (and this is so tough) was what we wore at The Outpost in January to launch “Wild Bikini” – A-line dresses made by Grace from Nice Biscuit from vintage bed sheets, with a Flintstones bone in our beehives for good measure. Photo by Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie zine. What have you been listening to lately? TDH: Relay Tapes, Majestic Horses, Film School, It’s Magnetic, Loose Tooth. Lastly, in the spirit of your band name The Double Happiness; what’s something that makes you really, really happy? MEG: This new album. It is really going to be everything you need in the world right now. KRISTIN: What she said! Please check out: THE DOUBLE HAPPINESS. TDH on Facebook. TDH on Instagram.
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