ASBO Meets: The Happy Fits

The Happy Fits, an Indie rock/pop trio from New Jersey, creates these powerful and luscious pop songs with a very unique composition. The band that always seems to be touring, it’s almost fitting that when I call them, they are in a van, driving to a gig. I talk to the trio Calvin, Luke and Ross about gigging, writing and fruit. 

So the music video for the new track ‘Do your Worst’ will just have come out when this interview goes up. Following you as secret pineapple dealers, where did the inspiration for that come from?

Calvin: I think we were trying to think of an idea, we did one music video meeting before She wants me (To Be Loved) and we knew we had to have like a really quick turnaround and we just came off a twelve-week tour. So the tour was fresh in our minds and we know this album’s very pineapple-centric cause we pick a different fruit for each album.

I don’t know if you know exactly but there’s a sequence from Mindhunter that was just a bunch of compilation shots of these two traveling salesmen on the road. And that’s kind of how we feel like when we’re on the road, we’re kind of like traveling salesmen. 

So we bought like 40 pineapples from local Sam’s Club and we got, I think it was like 50 cans. And then our great art director, Elizabeth Adhamy, who’s our producer and manager’s wife. She was able to cook up those labels. 

I was able to assemble up with the help of my girlfriend and my girlfriend’s family. And from there we basically were like, all right Julie, what do you need us to do? We filmed over two days, two very intense days of shooting. But it was a really, really fun time.

I did like the bit of end cause I was expecting you to try and flush an entire pineapple down a toilet. 

Calvin: It was in a motel and we did get our deposit back. I think what we did first is we accidentally used the can of pineapple rings and should have used the chunks from the beginning. So the rings didn’t work. So we all had to get our hands a bit dirty and pick them out of the toilet.

That’s not a clog you could explain. Don’t worry, it’s art! A track that I think sort of harkens back to the Concentrate days, your stronger bridges non-linear structures the really infectious drums, and that incredible cello, what was the process when writing this song?

Calvin: Oh yeah. It was the first song we demoed for the record back in January. So I was living at Ross’s house, I think when I wrote it and it was like a really, really late night. 

I did not expect anyone to like it at all. And when someone doesn’t like your stuff it feels like you are letting the band down. Like you’re letting yourself down at the same time. So was just in a very dark place when I wrote it. 

I’m excited to see what people make of the connotations of Do your Worst, I think could mean something a bit different to everyone.

I just had those two chords in mind. I was listening to do, you know, the song Give Me Back My Man by the B-50 twos?

I don’t unfortunately.

Calvin: It’s just got like this running drum beat and it’s really awesome. But it has a very similar vibe and I don’t know, we were also listening to a lot of The Drums at the time. So I just had this very simple beat in my head and like knew I wanted to put some dark chords over it.

You keep picking a different fruit for each of your albums as well. Do you know could you sort of pin down a moment where you’re like, yeah, that this is what we’re going to do.

Calvin: Honestly I don’t remember when we settled on a pineapple. I think it was when we released Another Try last summer, in the artwork Elizabeth put a pineapple lamp in and it just fit the aesthetic nicely. And from there we were like, could a pineapple possibly work? 

Luke: And we just went with it. That’s usually how every album has gone, except for like Awfully Appealin’. We end up always choosing a fruit to fit the themes. 

With Concentrate it’s like these songs are really like just to the point, specific. And so that was kind of that part. And then for what could be better is like if it’s grapefruit, it looks sweet on the outside but inside they’re a little bitter. So the lyrics are a little more serious and to the heart as well.

I think the pineapple was something that we could expand more and more on. Calvin had a really good description of it last time. Almost about the same thing almost in the way of, on the outside of pineapple’s a little bit spiky and then on the inside, it’s sweet. 

So we can do a lot with pineapple. We can become pineapple dealers and make a whole music video out of it. But, we think of a fruit that looks aesthetically pleasing. And then sometimes like a lot of other stuff follows that inspires us to do other stuff with it.

Perfect. And just on touring, where are you going to at the moment? 

Ross: We have a makeup show in Louisville Kentucky, which was supposed to be on our last tour. And then we had to cancel it due to some sickness. And then tomorrow we have a show in Columbus, Ohio. Almost forgot where we were.

You released a record in 2020 and I’m assuming that you haven’t really had a chance to tour that around? So are you doing those gigs? 

Ross: So we stopped touring for almost two years because of COVID. And before that, that’s kind of all we did was touring. So when we were able to start touring again, we started up again in November, we did a two month headlining run and then we took a break.

So not being able to tour for two years and now coming out of that, are there any songs that you’ve performed on stage that you’re like, I didn’t know they were gonna get this reception?

Calvin: Yeah definitely. Our most popular track right now is So Alright, Cool Whatever. And that was one that when we brought it to Adya at Diamond City studio back in like 2017, I think it was like a five-minute long, I don’t know, rhapsody. 

It was crazy. And we literally sat down for like two to three days, just trying to make it work. And I remember just like being a really stubborn artist at the time and being like ‘It’s our song, it should be like the way we want it.’ And he was like, ‘yeah, but it could be like also a really good song another way.’ 

And he was totally right, now it’s our biggest song and it’s probably my favourite one to play live. Everyone always jumps up and down and it’s a really good time.

Ross: The other one is Moving, which isn’t one of our most popular songs off of our most recent record. But when we seem to play it live, the real hardcore fans that know all of our music, they seem to resonate with that one. Usually, by the end of the song, they’re very energetic and jumping around. 

Luke: As well as our song She wants me to be loved, we never had it as a single necessarily, but then it picked up over the year. And now it’s one of our biggest songs off that album.

Calvin: And the cat video helped.  

Luke: Yeah I guess got a little traction because someone made a video of this like comic called Warrior Cats. And it’s basically like this cat love story with personifies cats and it ended up getting like over a million views. Cal said it’s over 2 million views now. 

A person used our song on this cat video and it ended up getting a lot of traction and then now live, we see a lot of people just jumping around and going crazy to that song. So it’s a lot of fun to play as well.

Wonderful free pr. I also see that you are coming to the fair British Isles. 

Ross: We can’t wait.

In October. So is there anything you are super excited to see in London, cause you are doing three shows from what I remember?

Ross: Four shows right now. It’s one in Manchester, two in London and one in Edinburgh. 

Yeah, we’re very excited. So I was actually born in Scotland. All my family still live over there except for my parents, me and my brother. We also have tons of friends in England. 

Luke: Calvin and I have never been before. So it’ll be the first time seeing any of my family and my friends over in Scotland and England will be able to see us live. So we’re going like a week early.

Is there anything you’re particularly looking forward to, do you have a list set up yet for things to do? 

Luke: I mean I want to have Guinness really bad. 

Ross: That’s an Irish thing.

Luke: I know.

I wouldn’t get a Guinness in London. 

Luke: I’m excited to just explore pubs and try the food. I’ve always loved being on tour and trying new food. So I think it’s gonna be cool over there. 

Ross: We’re going out to Scotland a week early. Cause my parents just got an apartment in Edinburgh. So I have some things planned to take them around and like there’s Arthur Seat, which is a really nice hike in Edinburgh. Obviously the castle is very touristy, but I love it. 

Luke: We could still go to Ireland for a Guinness?

Fly to Ireland, get Guinness in the airport, fly back.

Ross: And then London. I went to London when I was young and I love that city. I haven’t been back in since I was probably, I don’t even know maybe, eight years old. So we’re very excited to be back there. I am excited for them to see it for the first time. It’s a very unique city. 

Luke: Ross is our guide.  

Ross: I’ve never been to Manchester though. So that’s exciting, also Berlin. 

For those who don’t know, you have an interesting band set up. What has been sort of when you’ve taken the band somewhere, what’s been the most interesting reaction to say, by the way, this is a cello?

Calvin: I mean, you’d be surprised the amount of people that think it’s a violin or think it’s a bass still. So a lot of people just have no idea what I’m playing, but for the people that do know it’s a cello, they’re usually they’re so encouraging of it, which I love. I never learned how to play bass, but I grew up listening to indie rock music, like Franz Ferdinand and The Fratellis and all that. 

It’s all I really wanted to play. I realized after, I don’t know if you know, the Two Cellos the Croatian guys that like cover rock songs after they started releasing like Metallica and ACDC covers, I was like, I could totally play this. 

Luckily I just started playing cello with Ross and he never was like, do you want to learn bass instead? So we kind of just went with it and people have been really, really nice about it.

Just on The Happy Fits in general, you’re an indie rock band with this like feel-good feeling in all of your music. What would you say, what would you say in your writing or in your production that you attribute this to? 

Calvin: Every song kind of starts as just a melody. I think we try to only bring melodies that are catchy, which already gives you that boost of serotonin to the writing table. I think words are definitely the thing that comes last and I’m glad that comes across in the music.

There’s definitely a difference between Concentrate and What could be better. What do you think were the major changes between going from your first to your second album?

Calvin: I think I learned a ton from our producer Ayad Al Adhamy. He’s done our, the first two records we released and then the one that’s coming up. And when I went in, I didn’t know anything about songwriting or producing at all. 

So when we went to write the second record a lot of the stuff that we learned from Concentrate, we were able to just like already go into the studio with pretty solid songs that didn’t need much workshopping. 

We didn’t have to sit down for two to three days with any track and like figure it out. They were all kind of just there. So that was, it helped with streamlining the process. And we were able to add in a few more layers, because we had a bit more time to do that rather than just working on arranging.

Luke: We had a bit of a time crunch. We only had six weeks to make the second album. And what really helped was that Calvin was getting good at editing. 

A lot of the vocals that were tracked on there, Calvin actually did. We went into a separate room while Ayad was like comping everything together and we were really able to go kind of nuts with some harmonies and add to it.

Cause we started embracing the fact of we are a three-piece band, but in the studio, we can really make these songs the best they can be. 

There are a lot of artists that go in the studio and then they make the song and then try and figure out how they can accomplish that same feeling live. And so I think we went in with that mindset too, as opposed to trying with Concentrate, cater to the fact these songs will sound exactly what they are like live. 

So with adding more layers and being a little more experimental on the next album with that in mind. And then when we got the studio for six weeks, we were just like, boom, boom, boom, boom. And so I think that was a big factor in it as well.

Perfect. Just to sort of start wrapping up, what have you been listening to recently out in the greater music sphere?

Calvin: Oh Yard Act, we listen to a lot of Yard Act.

Oh ASBO are good friends with Yard Act.

Ross: Oh, that’s so sick. We just discovered them a couple of months ago and they’re so much fun. 

Calvin: It’s like a Talking Heads, pop punk vibe. It’s sick. A lot of Idols. Let’s see, what else? There are these two bands we’re kind of friends with, I guess you could say Greeting Committee and Lunar Vacation. They both dropped albums last year, that are awesome. 

Luke: I am obsessed with Royal Blood, I think they’re my favourite band of all time. So Royal Blood is a huge influence on me. And I definitely love our little more rock and roll riffs. Definitely reminds me sometimes of those crazy riffs that they can do and the sound that they can make, as they are two people. 

Ross: There’s a band that we’re about to go see in two weeks in Brooklyn, they’re called Franc Moody. Their 2020 album Dreaming in color I can’t stop listening to that album. I’ve been listening to that album start to finish, like almost every day in the car and I’m just really excited to see them live. 

Calvin: And Del Water Gap too. His new record is incredible. 

Among you, which one of you is the national fencing champion?

Luke: Ross.

Ross: That was Calvin’s lie. I mean it’s not completely false. I was a national fencer, but I was never a champion. I was good enough to get to the national stage, but I was never good enough to win, but saying champion in our bio made it slightly more flaring and interesting when we were just starting out in 2016. So that’s what we stuck with. I thought it would juxtapose me being an orchestra nerd pretty well.

We got one guy who could poke you once. Now Calvin with the cello straps. Do they only come from one person still or do you now have someone who makes them custom?

Calvin: Still one guy, Mike Block. He teaches at Berklee College of Music in Boston and he’s awesome. I think I ordered my sixth strap because I always break him from playing too hard and he said I’m definitely his most reoccurring customer. 

I have to keep sending them videos of me jumping around and be like, yeah, you just need to like reinforce them more like they’re just not built for the stage.

So what’s next for The Happy Fits. You’ve said that you’ve got an album that is in the works. And you’re coming to England what’s after that.

Calvin: So I think we’re actually announcing that album just like a few days after the Do your Worst video comes out. (Writers note: It was announced on the day this comes out, I haven’t leaked anything)

Calvin: I think we’re just pumped on this new record. We think it’s our best one yet. And the singles we’ve released so far, like it’s just the tip of the iceberg, honestly. And we just moved our headquarters to Eastern Pennsylvania. So it’s around 30 minutes from where they (Ross and Luke) live. 

We have our studio and live stream room and our video room all set up in this new house and it’s so great to have everything just in one place now. 

Luke: So is the tour going to be announced? 

Calvin: Oh yeah. I think we’re also announcing with the Do your Worst video another US tour for this fall and it’s a big upgrade from last year. I think we were playing like 500 cap rooms then announced like we’re going up to like 1500 some nights. We just did a tour, at the main and they were playing like those size rooms. 

And I mean, it’s going to be very different from your original tours because I looked in and there’s an interview you did back in 2016 where you had spreadsheets. It was very do it yourself.

Calvin: So yes, we were touring basically right after we dropped out of college with no plan. And then we were like ‘all right, what do we have to do to like, be a band?’ It basically ended up being a lot of spreadsheets and emailing thousands and thousands of people to let us play. 

I think we had our first US national tour. I think I booked it before I was 20. Or after I turned 20, but we were able to do like a fall US run. It was like early 2018 but once we got a booking agent the venues we started playing were way better. 

Luke: We were playing like 150 capacity rooms, 200 at most. Sometimes it’s like a 500, which was terrifying at the time. And then house shows in some random people’s basement in the middle of nowhere. 

And so to go to now looking back on our headlining tour and supporting with The Main, like we’re in houses and like there’s catering and like people are like loading in our stuff and we feel weird cuz we’re like, ‘you don’t need help?’ And they’re like, this is our job. 

So we’re like used to doing that like DIY routine the whole time. So it’s been a really incredible feeling and we’re just excited to keep rolling with that.

You can listen to Do your worst which is out now on all streaming platforms. Also, they have a US/EU Tour for their new album, Under The shade Of Green which is due to release on the 26th of August. Follow them on Instagram @thehappyfits