Success in the music industry comes down to a number of factors, talent sure, but presentation, luck and timing are arguably even more important.
Formed back in 2010, Newcastle five-piece, Let’s Buy Happiness, our guests today, probably know that better than anyone. Back in April this year before an album had even surfaced, they decided the time had come for the band to call it a day. For fans of the band this came as a huge shock; all the reports were positive, news of the band in the studio, a regular drip feed of singles, there was little hint as to what would happen next. For a long while it seemed the album, although completed, would never see the light of the day; with no band left to tour in support of it, and no label to release it, it could easily have remained lost and unheard. Last week came a long awaited and greatly received announcement, the band had decided to self-release the album they have been working on.
That album, Chants For Friends, is a masterpiece. The effort and time spent on making a record on their own terms is obvious. It’s clear from listening to this record, that it is written without the pressure of a label, their sound seems out of kilter with the current musical climate. Whilst at one point they seemed all set for a critical breakthrough, adored by The Guardian, featured on 6 Music and Radio 1, they seemed destined for success; time passes, hype fades, but musical talent remains. Their sound, a perfect blend of chiming guitars with a distinctly post-rock feel, rolling, rhythmic drumming, and Sarah Hall’s striking vocal delivery, a truly wonderful singer, like Joanna Newsom with all the rough corners sanded into something even more beautiful, is unlike any record we’ve heard this year.
Lyrically, they sound like what they were, a band formed in their teenage years, and slowly maturing with time. Songs laced with a heady mix of heartache and optimism, emotions entirely relatable to anyone, even if they’re now a distant memory to some of us. On stand-out track, Killing Time, we find Sarah pleading, “now I’m scared will you make all choices” questioning her self sufficiency whilst still doubting her lovers long term motives, noting “well you must have time to kill, if you’re killing your time with me” That doubt and feeling of impending heart-break are concurrent themes that permeate the entire album.
Compared to the bands earlier singles, the album showcases an all together cooler, darker sound, it would fit neatly alongside Sigur Ros or fellow North-Easterners, Lanterns On The Lake, in it’s blending of pop structures and post-rock guitars. The guitar work is a revelation, going from hazy meandering soundscapes to the buzz-saw intensity of another criminally underrated band from the region, Kubicheck.
Only the tribal drumming of Fast Fast, and the hazy melancholy of most recent single Run survive the cull of the bands old material. The tracks the band cast aside, Six Wolves, Dirty Lakes,Works Better On Paper, would make a fine start to a superb debut, however one of the most impressive things about the record is how stunningly it fits together. The tracks work together to create not just an impressive set of songs, but an album, a timely reminder of just what that means.
Where do you go next when a band create a master piece and then walks away from it? It’s a fitting way to go sure, but also a tantalising teaser for what might have been. Here’s hoping it brings them the success it so richly deserves!
IN THEIR OWN WORDS: Let’s Buy Happiness
FTR:You find yourselves in a relatively unique position, promoting an album after you’ve split up. What brought about the split?
LBH: I think probably because we attracted a lot of attention when we were so young, we weren’t quite ready to sign a record deal with no album to record, so we spent a few years creating our sound. But by the time it got to finishing the record, that industry attention seemed to die down, so we decided to just put it out ourselves, there’s been a lot of fans waiting a long time for it.
FTR: You’re self releasing the album, did you ever speak to labels about releasing it? Would you have wanted to release it on a label?
If a label had come along, we definitely would have spoke about it, but I think with the way the industry is nowadays, they’re all looking at new buzz bands, and I guess we ran out of energy with it all.
FTR:Where did you record the album? Was it done in one long session or sporadic visits when you found the time? Did you produce it yourselves?
The album was partly recorded at Chapel Studios in Lincolnshire and Ian Grimble’s (who produced the album with James) studio down in London. We pretty much had the whole thing written so we got it all done in about 6 weeks, spending a bit longer on the mixing of the record. We’d created a lot of the sounds ourselves before going into the studio as well, so this gave it a bit more direction.
FTR:What are your aspirations for the release? Are you just seeing it as a way of appeasing fans who wanted to hear what you’d been working on? Or is getting it out important for bringing this chapter to a close?
The main reason we put it out there was for the fans, they’ve been asking for this record for about 3 years now, and even though we are no longer a band, it seems the best way to finish it all off.
FTR:If the album were to be a huge success, would you consider reforming? Or perhaps playing these songs with a different line up?
There wouldn’t be another line up in Lets Buy Happiness, if we were to work with other artists that would be another project, LBH will only ever be us 5. If the album was to be a big success, I think we would definitely consider playing some shows, but who knows, we’d prefer for it to grow organically and hopefully people will still be listening to it and sharing it around in a few years.
FTR:What bands/musicians influence your sound? To me your sound is fairly retro, recalling a lot of bands I grew up with. Do you listen to a lot of old music? Did you feel the need to find a sound that fit with the current musical landscape?
The current musical landscape never really played a part in the writing of our music, the biggest influence to us in writing is how we feel at the time, our mood dictates everything about the song and the lyrics.
FTR:I noticed 6 Wolves isn’t on the album, and also that Fast Fast has been re-recorded from the single version. Do you feel your music progressed and changed from your early recordings? Did your influences change?
Of course at the time of the first releases we were only seventeen, so we had a lot of time to develop and experiment with different sounds and production techniques.
FTR:You were always famously DIY, is that something you felt strongly about? Or more a necessity for financial reasons?
We were always quite selfish when it came to the project, whether it being the artwork or the recordings and it helped us with the whole creative process. It’s nice to have had the freedom to write whatever we wanted without the pressure from a label telling us to change a song or whatever so its more radio friendly.
FTR:You’re from the North East, do you think this shaped your sound? It’s a very productive area for bands, and in particular guitar bands.
There’s some great bands up here in the north, bands like Grandfather Birds who we played with a lot of times are well worth checking out. There’s probably not as much attention given to bands from here, everything happens in London with the music industry so i guess that gives us all more of a strong identity.
FTR:Your album is currently coming out as a digital download? Where do you stand on physical formats? Do you feel vinyl pressing is feasible for smaller bands?
We wanted to put it out on vinyl, but with it being over an hour long, it would be quite expensive to press and we just don’t have the finances at the moment, maybes at a later date depending on it’s success we would look at a limited run of Vinyl, we all have a big love for vinyls, and it’s nice that theres been a resurgence in recent years.
FTR:Are any of you working on new musical projects?
Yes! We’re all still making music, whether it be together or in different projects, but we’re keeping that all under wraps at the moment, I don’t think we’ll ever stop making music. Hopefully a few of us will be releasing some music next year, we’ll be sure to let everyone know!
Let’s Buy Happinesses album, Chants For Friends, is available to download now from http://letsbuyhappiness.bandcamp.com/