It’s been a little less than a year since we first wrote about the Happy Children, and quite a bit has changed for the band since then. They have a new lineup, a new album, and, soon, a new book. 2017 proved to be a tumultuous year for the band. Their founding members, Caleb Hinz and Mitchell Seymour, remain the brains behind the band, but they are beginning 2018 with fresh ideas and a new outlook.
Self Help Book, the Happy Children’s newest album, released on Jan. 16, features Jon Lindquist on the drums. “We’ve been playing shows with him and we brought him on pretty soon after Judah [McCoy] left,” says Hinz. “He’s one of the first people we met after everything, and he’s a great person. We love him.” The “everything” that Hinz is referring to is an issue that shook the local college music scene back in April. McCoy’s then-girlfriend publicly accused him of domestic violence, at which he was promptly removed from the band.
Those familiar with the Happy Children’s 2016 EP, Small Talk, will notice a difference in the band’s lyrical approach to Self Help Book. The album has a lot of the same indie-prog, punkish crossover sound of the band’s older tracks, but the lyrics highlight a vulnerability and personality that wasn’t present on Small Talk.
“Last time it was very energy based,” explains Hinz, “and a lot of the words were kind of crazy, a little bit more abstract, a little bit more just f–k it. But this time, we had more to talk about at this point and I think that was pretty apparent early on — especially when we made ‘Long John Silver.’”
“A lot of Self Help Book is about really confronting the past as a way from moving on from it,” Hinz says. Putting Self Help Book together was a necessary and cathartic release of the emotional burden that the loss of McCoy brought on for Hinz and Seymour. A few of the songs on the album were written with McCoy, and because he was such a longtime friend, Seymour says, “From the beginning, right out of the recovery phase when we started focusing on the music again, it became clear that this album was more about something we had to get off our chest than something that was creatively explosive.”
Along with lyrics, the new albums is sonically more cohesive than Small Talk. The recording process, which took place at Flowers Studios with Ed Ackerson, went quickly. “We had limited time, we were paying full price for a professional studio off our own dimes […] so we went with a live approach partly out of efficiency,” says Seymour.
“I think it’s also a little bit more photographic that way…a time capture rather than repainting a soundscape of a song,” adds Hinz.
As far as the book release goes — set for Feb. 17 as part of their album release party at the Electric Fetus — Self Help Book has an actual self-help book that goes along with the album: 56 pages of writing, drawings, and childhood photos of Hinz and Seymour that follow the story arc of the album with a heavy emphasis on motherhood. “My mom is the s–t, she’s all up in that book! I don’t think there’s a single picture of either of our dads in it,” Hinz says.
“When people come to the show and buy these CDs that we had for Small Talk, I was like, ‘No one is gonna use this,’ but it was filling some need to go home with something that’s not a t-shirt, that’s not apparel, but is still a physical thing that represents what you just saw. So this was an attempt to do that in a way that creates an physical product with meaning that you can actually experience, that’s not just like ‘Damn, that’s cool album artwork,’” explains Hinz.
“Album artwork is a one-time experience,” elaborates Seymour.
In the wake of a heavy year for a local band, the Happy Children are making the best of the situations they’ve faced and are turning it into something to look forward to, something to experience. While they are already working on the next Happy Children project, Self Help Book can be found on all streaming sites, and the release party is at the Electric Fetus on Feb. 17 from 3-4 p.m.