Across the Pond with Unhappybirthday
Hamburg three piece Unhappybirthday make on-point synth-pop owing itself to colder days and warmer nights. After releasing both long and short plays in the last two years, they are currently working on their next full length, which will hopefully be released later this year.
Of course, we wouldn’t expect anyone this side of the pond to have heard anything by these guys. However, here at Backyard Opera we’re of the opinion it is essential listening. Unhappybirthday know that less is more. Both of their prior releases, Sirup (2012) and Kraken (2013), are riddled with perfectly placed guitar licks and rich synth melodies. It is simultaneously effortless and memorable.
I was lucky enough to catch up with the band recently to ask them a few questions.
Firstly, I would like to congratulate you guys on your two releases so far. ‘Sirup’ which was released in 2012 and last year’s Kraken are both excellent records. How long have you been performing together as Unhappybirthday?
We know each other from early childhood days and played in several bands in our hometown. 2011 was a strange year for all of us. We were tired of our way of living so we decided to get a place together, and redefine ourselves with new music. We started to write the songs for Sirup and that was the beginning of Unhappybirthday.
Was your sound a conscious decision or more of an organic melting pot of influences and experiences?
When we started writing songs together we were all annoyed by high-end-super-digital-recordings. We wanted to get back to the very basics and bring the spirit of simple garage punk songs together with all the great pop music we're inspired by. We started to record stuff on tape, without digital equipment, all by ourselves in our living room. We liked the fuzzy sound from the first minute on and kept going from there. So it was quiet a natural development.
The sound on Kraken appears to be far more refined and focused than what we heard on Sirup. Is that just you guys maturing and perfecting your song writing or do you think your sound will continue to evolve over the years?
We don't have a plan or a specific idea where we want to go with our music. All we do is follow our intuition and our inspiration. After we experimented a lot with fuzzy lo-fi sounds on Sirup, we wanted Kraken to sound more transparent and we will continue with that idea on our next record.
Would I be correct in assuming that your name is from The Smiths’ song “Unhappy Birthday”?
Your music can definitely be as bleak as The Smiths’ song which is something I really enjoy. It is essentially synth-pop, but it is dark and especially on Sirup rough around the edges. There are quite a few synth-pop and dark wave bands kicking around today. Are you influenced at all by any other synth-pop bands/artists out there at the moment?
We don't listen to synth or wave music that much, at the moment we're more inspired by 60s pop music, soundtracks and artists like Joni Mitchell, Prince or The Beach Boys.
On “Kalt” from Sirup you sing “es ist so kalt, so kalt, wie immer” (roughly translated to “it’s so cold, so cold, like always) and on “Kraken” the lyrics in the chorus are “Ich hab dich fast vergessen” (“I almost forgot you”). Your lyrics are quite nostalgic; do you find that the winter or the seasons themselves are an influence?
Last summer we started writing songs for our next album, songs about dizzy beach days and swimming pools, and we realised it's hard to continue that atmosphere in the long months of winter. It seems we are quiet meteorosensitive.
I noticed that you dropped a new song on your Tumblr. Are you guys going to be recording for a new release this year?
Yes, we're working on a new LP and hope to have it out this [European] summer.
What was the best thing the band achieved last year, or something you are proudest of, and what are you looking forward to the most this year?
Since we don't like playing in Germany that much, the most exciting thing was for us to travel and play in so many wonderful places all over Europe last year. 2014 is for friday nights alone at home, recording new songs and sleeping too long.
You can listen, purchase, all of Unhappy Birthday’s releases below:
By Andrew Miller