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Swim between the reverb: Premiering Double Happiness’s debut LP ‘Surfgazing’

Words by Max

Photos provided by 4000 Records

My eyes are closed and hand is playing with the wind resistance as we turn onto the highway. The car smells of sunscreen, an umbrella awkwardly sticks next to my head, and in the back seat, my brother pretends to sleep with his mouth open. A thousand different scenes rooted in humidity, sunburn, and broken thongs come flooding in upon hitting play on Double Happiness’s debut album ‘Surfgazing’ via 4000 Records.

Riding the reverb-drenched overlap between B-52’s style surf and soothing Souvlaki-ish shoegaze, Double Happiness produce fully-realised tunes that conjures barefeet-on-the-hot-road nostalgia and images of interdimensional-SLSC boogies. Vocalist and lead guitarist Peter Fergusson absolutely nails the production on this album, with perfect twangs, lush echoes, and an authentic vintage DIY feel permeating every song. There’s a love and attention-to-detail which is hard to miss here, and the Brisbane quartet tastefully explores sand-in-toes grooves, sun washed retro surf aesthetics, distinctly Brisbane-y 6-string jangles and a dreary suburban gaze’d melancholy. Double Happiness is also made up of two couples, which goes along way in making the record feel so cohesive; a married rhythm section often leads to a tight sound! The guitar lines in Surfgazing go down like a piece of watermelon after a long-day in the water. ‘Spooki Tiki’, ‘Kev (Rishikesh)’, and ’Oysters Can Dream’ are great examples of restrained, but impactful playing, always giving the track what it needs, but never taking up too much room. There is plenty of space for the dialled-in reverb to ring out, overdubs to add flavour and Simon Welchman’s drums to crash over the top.

Maybe the two best songs at effectively combining the surf rock/shoegaze elements is the opening track ‘Red Beach’ and ‘Snapper Rocks’.

‘Red Beach’ starts with pulsing palm-muted chugs and builds to a twangy, perfectly placed lead melody, with call and response vocals painting specific, colourful images of Bribie Island: “crab pot, fish n chips, then the kids get stoned/the rush to catch a wave in the cyclone.” It’s hard to escape the feeling that both the singers are just having so much fun reliving various fond memories and having the chance to put it on record. Meg Welchman’s bass-lines have a strong post-punk feel here that also distinctly permeates ‘Oysters Can Dream’, ‘Finish’, and ‘Spooky Tiki’, one that shows a distinct and delightful Joy Division influence.

‘Snapper Rocks’ picks up the tempo, with really tight-sounding, driving drums giving the foundation for Kristin Fergusson’s airy call-and-response vocals to talk about an incoming storm and the power of mother nature. This is one of the surfier songs on the albums, with the guitar work here paying respects to the rougher non-Beach Boys/Jan & Dean side of the genre in The Shadows, Dick Dale, The Chantays and The Belairs. Double Happiness thoughtfully blend tones and tropes from genres they genuinely love into a polished, tasteful and overwhelmingly fun album. There’s a strong Brisbane/coastal feel and influence on top of the wonderful instrumental/production that triggers my nostalgia and a smile behind it. Give it a listen!

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