Composed of one Rich Mandell and one Phoebe Cross, whilst they may seem initially relatively unassuming, Happy Accidents are a collective that harbour an abundance of substance and self-cultivated experience. Belonging to the same safe inner-city sanctum that’s home to artists such as Fresh, Charmpit, Dream Nails and countless other socially conscious punk artists, the London indie-punk two-piece are one of those artists that soundtrack both the quiet moments of your life and the more celebratory grandiose ones.
Marring wry, borderline withheld composure with excitable punk energy, the group encapsulate the mood of the nation’s frustrated ageing youth. This, combined with their DIY orientated ethos, earnest reliability, and penchant for cooking up banging melodies has allowed the band to bounce up the rungs of the ladder with rapid speed.
However, the group have made some changes as of late. Firstly, last year saw the amicable departure of their bass player Neil, a process that led the band to become a two piece. Secondly, the group severed contractual ties with their label Alcopop Records in order to retain personal freedom and to abandon a sense of the project becoming more of a business rather than a creative endeavour.
To cut ties with a label in a pursuit to go solo - especially with a label as prominent and connected as their own – would leave most freshly emerging bands with mouths agape. But as many can attest to, Happy Accidents aren’t ones to sit in content stagnation, a fact they’re about to showcase with their third, digital long play Sprawling.
Announced just weeks prior to it’s May 29th release date, Sprawling is a delicately robust offering that just radiates the band’s articulate charm whilst also subtly progressing their sound. It’s also the start of a new, exciting chapter within the adventure novella that is Happy Accidents. With the new record chasing up to meet the horizon, we got in touch with guitarist and vocalist Rich to know more about the band, the record, their history and what’s next.
For those new to Happy Accidents, can you give us a super simple background on the band?
"We are Rich and Phoebe and we started in Southampton and we’re now based in London. We play indie-ish punk-ish sort of music and are releasing our third record."
To give readers a bit of an indication of the sound behind Happy Accidents, what are your primary inspirations, both musically and culturally?
"Our inspirations change all the time, and most of the time it’s all subconscious as opposed to thinking ‘we want to sound like this’. I think we’ve always been influenced by our friend’s band, early on that was bands like Great Cynics and Doe. Recently we’ve been listening to lots of Hop Along, Big Thief, Spoon, Frank Ocean, Charly Bliss, all sorts of stuff."
Sprawling is your third full length, did you learn any lessons from creating your first two records that you incorporated into the creation of the album?
"We definitely learnt a lot from making those records, though they were so long ago it’s hard to pinpoint what they are. Since recording our last record I’ve started producing records for other bands, so I’ve made loads of albums since, and was more focussing on what I learnt from those experiences. It’s been super inspiring seeing how other bands work, and I’ve had loads of opportunities to figure out how it is we’re most comfortable going about it. So this time round we finally had the skills and resources to make our own record, and so we just went for it in a way that felt best - felt a lot more free!"
Sprawling was announced just weeks prior to it’s May 29th release, was there a reason for this last minute announcement?
"Well in the past we’ve had to wait like nine months to release the first song, and then there would be another three or four months until the whole thing is out. And I guess the reasons for this make sense, in that you often have to wait for physicals to be pressed, and it definitely puts you in a better position as as small band to get press attention etc. But the wait kinda sucks and it makes sometimes makes the whole thing feel like more of a business venture than a creative one.
It’s been really exciting going straight to the release and has kinda breathed more life into it, hopefully that translates to the listener. We got our tracks back from mastering and then six days later the first song was out. Who knows if it’s gonna benefit us in the long run, but then it’s been great just trying stuff out!"
There’s quite a contrast between the vocals in your sound, how do you approach the vocals in your work?
"We write together and then figure out who’s gonna take the lead on each one. Some tracks just fit better for me and some are better for Pheebs - this time round it’s a much more even split across the whole thing which feels right!"
In relation, there’s both wry lethargy and youthful energy in your sound, especially on this record. What’s your approach to channelling such emotions?
"I think it’s just whatever comes out - it’s not really thought through that’s just a result of us being who we are and making stuff. We’re excitable on some days, we’re lethargic on others. I guess we try and strike a balance."
Sprawling has a much more sombre sound in comparison to your other records, what was the reason for this change in tone?
"I don’t know if sombre is a word I would use for the whole record, though it does have its moments for sure. I think our old records had its darker moments too, though maybe they were more obscured by pop punk. This time round we wanted to slow it down and make everything more vibey and pretty, and maybe that lets the lyrical content come through a bit more? I’m just guessing here. I don’t know if any of these changes were super intentional, though when I listened back to the whole thing for the first time it was definitely a moment of ‘ooo this is very different isn’t it?’"
Could you expand on the subjects explored on Sprawling?
"It’s hard to find a way to sum it all up! It’s definitely more stream of consciousness than our other records which makes it a lot more difficult to define what each song is about. I think what we kept coming back to was conflict - and reconnecting with the important stuff, people, nature, etc. I guess it could have been called Perspective, but that’s not as good of a name as Sprawling."
This record is being entirely self-released and self-promoted, what challenges and rewards are there when going completely independent?
"The rewards include flexibility, and being able to make quick decisions between the two of us without having to go through other people. It’s felt a lot more fast, organic and fun, and that’s kind of what we wanted from it."
"Challenges are that it’s obviously slightly higher risk in that we don’t have the benefit of the relationships a label would have. And if it goes wrong there’s not really anyone to blame but ourselves, but it’s a step we wanted to take and I’ll guess we’ll find out the result soon enough!"
Obviously, this is releasing during a very bizarre time. With release shows and tours utterly out the question for now, how do you plan on promoting the record?
"We have some stuff in the works! And currently we are torn between doing that stuff, or just putting all of our energy into the next thing. Hopefully we can find a way to have the best of both."
Finally, anything you want to end on?
"Umm, Sprawling out 29th May! If you care, thanks for caring!"