Cork post-punk act Pretty Happy are one of the musical success stories of covid times. Scoring International acclaim for their quirky single ‘Salami’, the theatre-influenced three-piece, who often dabble in spoken word elements in their music, have been grabbing airplay as far as afield as US’ mega-station KEXP, and look set to be one of 2021’s breakout acts.
In fact, the band, who released their EP ‘Sluggers Bridge’ this July, have been slightly bewildered about it all. “It’s me an Arran screaming about pork, of all things,” vocalist Abbey Blake joked to the Irish Examiner earlier this year.
“Ironically,” Blake told us recently, “Salami was the song we nearly didn’t record but then received the most attention for. It’s definitely given us more confidence to get a lot stranger in our song writing.”.
“The EP was recorded in Blackwater Studios in Fermoy back in September 2020. We had recorded the EP just before Arann and Andy moved to London. We hadn’t played live for some time, so the songs were quite new besides Salami. I think we were trying to capture our live energy in the studio so we recorded the songs live together, besides vocal and guitar overdubs. We were also trying to establish the theatrical Art Punk style we had begun to explore with these songs. Salami was the single that kicked off the EP.“
The EP is the product of a variety of approaches to writing, an almost scattergun type thing that sees Pretty Happy come out with inventive, imaginative music.
“I suppose we either start off with a riff or a sentence and we just keep building,” Blake says. “No one comes in with a finished song really. We’ll have a melody or a rhythm and someone will start to speak, sing or shout over it, starting off with a short phrase or word, and then we’ll develop the story from there. Or we’ll start with a word or sentence we think sounds odd or interesting and add music as we go.”
“The theatre background started off just influencing the way we performed,” she continues. “I think it was weird to act in plays one minute and then hop on stage with a guitar the next. It was uncomfortable going up there as ourselves, so we started performing, becoming more wild and erratic. Eventually then, this started really influencing the way we wrote songs.”
Music blogger Nialler9 described recent single ‘Sea Sea Sea’ as an oddball (it was a compliment, in context), and that’s a badge of honour to the band. “The oddball at the party still got an invite,” Blake says. “‘Sea Sea Sea’ is a strange song so I think he encapsulated it well. We wear the name oddball proudly.”
“You can never predict how a release is going to be received. But still it’s always excitement for us. It’s also fun to see how each single has tapped into different audiences.”
Those odd twists may be even bigger in the future, judging by how the band spent lockdown.
“Abbey and Arann started making some techno during lockdown behind closed doors for the craic, sampling old Irish writers and Catholic sexual education videos over terrible beats. Meanwhile Andy was taking himself way too seriously and listening to orchestral music non-stop. In terms of the band, lots of emails, lots of zooms, lots of behind the scenes stuff.”
The return, for Pretty Happy, it’s clear, is likely to prove a big one.