Add to Calendar20231028 17:0020231028 23:59:00America/New_YorkThe Happy Fits present Happy FestDoors open at 5:00 PM. More show details at: https://wellmonttheater.com/shows/the-happy-fits/The Wellmont Theater, 5 Seymour St, Montclair, NJ 07042
Vundabar is a Boston-based trio that delivers jangly, fuzzed-out math-and surf-tinged indie rock shot through with plenty of post-punk spirit.
Formed in 2013 by vocalist/guitarist Brandon Hagen and drummer Drew McDonald while still in high school, the duo eventually recruited bassist Zack Abramo and began playing locally. Sporting a melody-rich blend of knotty folk and loud-soft-loud indie rock à la Beantown luminaries Pixies, Vundabar issued their debut album, Antics, in late 2013. They adopted a grittier tone on 2015’s Gawk, which added grungy post-punk to the mix. The cathartic and dense Smell Smoke arrived in 2018, delivering an earworm-heavy set that was both bracing and sincere, and in 2020 the trio released the tight and succinct Either Light, which saw them working with a producer, Patrick Hyland (Mitski), for the first time. In 2021, online snippets of fans singing along to the group’s 2015 single “Alien Blues” flooded social media, which garnered millions of streams for the seven-year-old cut. Devil for the Fire, Vundabar’s wide-ranging fifth studio effort, appeared the following year.
In an age of hyper-stimulated doom-scrolling and over-polished social media stars, humble Hoboken three-piece Phoneboy are all about living in the moment. Singer/guitarists Wyn Barnum and Ricky Dana met at a tiny technical college lacking much of an indie scene. Pulling in Wyn’s childhood friend, bassist James Fusco, the three college boys bonded over a love of midwest emo. But while you may find a tinge of that teen angst that comes with youth, Phoneboy are ready to turn up.
Phoneboy’s early efforts quickly earned a following on social media. Serving as a de facto street team, fraternity brothers shared the band’s breakout, ACID GIRL far and wide. Before they knew it these floppy-haired crooners had racked up over a million streams across the web. It’s the kind of word-of-mouth buzz that makes you think the internet wasn’t such a bad idea. “There’s definitely a tension there,” says Wyn, speaking to social media. “There’s all this distraction, all this fake fun everybody’s pretending to have, but at the same time the discovery potential is insane.”
Coming of age in a global pandemic, the band sure are sharing lots of experiences. Remote learning has offered them plenty of time to work on their sound; flipping through files on yes, their phones, to piece together bits and bobs of riffs and licks. It’s commendable to come off so easy breezy in these uncertain times, but Phoneboy makes it look like no big deal. Their joyous jams and shuffling beats come right on time to get your butt off the couch.
You wouldn’t call them old souls, but their youthful exuberance is deepened by an already wisened sense of pop-production and alternative song craft. Pairing a ’90s art aesthetic against a fresh clean sound, these phoneboys are ready to bust out beyond TikTok. And with perfectly crafted hip-shaking singalongs like these, maybe we can all take a break from the endless notifications, put our phones done for once, and finally get back out on the floor.
The verdant forests and cresting waves of Jordan Topf’s childhood in Santa Cruz have always lingered in the back of his mind, even as he traveled the world with a variety of bands and writing and producing for other artists. So when he decided to utilize the isolation of the pandemic to launch a solo project, Topf tapped into that vibrant memory. Under the banner of Windser, Topf’s music brims with the complex magic that comes from digging into one’s own experiences—so much crackling warmth and golden glow, but not without its lingering shadows. Inspired by the radiant California music he was raised on and powered by a well-worn indie rock tenderness and beguiling songwriting, Topf finds bleary-eyed beauty in joyful memories and painful loss, in the littlest experiences and the life-altering events. Windser’s debut EP, Where the Redwoods Meet the Sea is out now.
My musical journey began when I started experimenting with beatmaking in college. I loved crafting samples directly from vinyl and I dove deep into the world of music production studying audio engineering under mixing mastermind John McBride—whose distinctive voice appears at the beginning of “Cocaine.” I took a break from music, until my former roommate and fellow musician Clint Michigan encouraged me to pursue my creative streak and so I shared my demos with the guys behind Pizzaslime Records. Their belief in me led to more writing and producing my music with Charlie Brand. I’m excited to finally be able to share the first song with you.
Formed in 2017, Flycatcher’s ability to construct sing-a-long melodies and gut-punching instrumentation, while also tackling the dissonance of depression and difficult relationships, proves their power in casting an empathetic, universal eye.
The New Jersey-based quartet, made up of Greg Pease, Justin VanNiekerk (guitar), Jack Delle Cava (bass) and Connor Carmelengo (drums), are known for their undeniably anthemic arrangements. Albums Other Things (2018) and Songs for Strangers (2019) garnered acclaim for their ear-worm choruses, tight textural dynamics and propulsive, driving percussion.
Stunt––Flycatcher’s new EP out on Memory Music this April 4––is all about finding and channeling a more authentic version of yourself, and all the vulnerability that comes with that kind of internal journey. Writing these songs helped the band try out different sounds and new tonal directions, channeling the energy of early-00s indie, with the euphoria of pop and punk.
Dentist comes from the oceanfront urban landscape of Asbury Park, New Jersey. Their sound combines the freedom of the beach atmosphere and the urgency of the city into a fuzzed out, surf punk-tinged brand of indie pop with hooks and infectious melodies to spare. The ethereal vocals of Emily Bornemann are countered by the sometimes aggressive, but always addictive sounds of Justin Bornemann on guitar and Matt Hockenjos on drums.
Dentist formed in 2013, built around the songwriting partnership of Emily and Justin. The pair had been writing songs and performing together in various ways since their first meeting at the legendary punk hangout, TGI Friday’s. The band released their self-titled debut album in 2014, which Pandora described as “a deliriously infectious collection of fuzzy, California-styled, indie pop jangle and sun dappled garage rock crunch.”
Dentist released their sophomore album, Ceilings in the summer of 2016 via Little Dickman Records to critical acclaim. The band began touring regularly and Dentist’s notoriety continued to grow along the way. During this time period Dentist received praise from the likes of Stereogum, Noisey, Flood Magazine, and Collide and were also named one of the top bands at SXSW 2018 by The Mercury News and NPR’s Sound Opinions.
Dentist released their third album Night Swimming in July of 2018 on Cleopatra Record. Their strongest release to date, the album was described by The A.V. Club as having, “tight chemistry, killer hooks, and a distinctive sound that’s both lo-fi and retro-pop smooth.” Following the release, Dentist embarked on a month long tour across the country. Dentist has been on bills with many national acts. The list includes Television, A Giant Dog, White Reaper, Modest Mouse, Laura Stevenson, Mrs. Magician, Death by Unga Bunga, GYMSHORTS, River Boat Gamblers, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and Spider Bags to name a few. In the fall of 2019, Dentist joined fellow Asbury Park duo Brick + Mortar on a 5 week US tour. They released the single “Someone Like You,” which was featured on Taco Bell’s ‘Feed the Beat’ website.
The beginning of 2020 was full of promise, but it took a hard turn that no one expected. Instead of making music that reflected on the depression that set in during lockdown, Dentist decided to work on an album that would inspire them and their listeners to hang in there and look forward to better times ahead. Dentist’s 4th album was released in September 2022 via Cleopatra Records. Goldmine Magazine boasted, “intense power-pop excitement.” New Noise Magazine vowed, “their strongest album yet.” The Punk Site declared, “easily this trio’s most accomplished, catchy and engaging album to date.” Glide Magazine added, “all sorts of ’90s power-pop vibes.” In addition, their most recent single “New Dress” was added to Spotify-curated playlist Fresh Finds: Rock. In October, the song “Spilled Coffee” was licensed by Hulu for their new show Power Trip. In September 2022, Dentist performed at Sea Hear Now Festival on the beach in New Jersey along with Green Day, Stevie Nicks, Boy George & Culture Club, My Morning Jacket, Gary Clark Jr. and others. In 2023, they plan to tour, including a West Coast run in the Spring.
Once nearly lost to time, Minneapolis five piece Hot Freaks resurfaced nearly a decade after disbanding when their ten year old single, Puppy Princess, finally found an audience on TikTok and what was to-date only an obscure gem exploded into a bonafide viral hit. Like remembering how to ride a bike, the Freaks have effortlessly returned to full form, prepping a forthcoming tour with the Happy Fits with fresh jams uncovered from ancient times circa 2013, and new compositions from the present day. Tapping into their long history from unreleased early works to freshly minted music perfectly embodying their signature, high gloss dancy disco pop, with radiant notes of MGMT, Of Montreal, the Carpenters, and Mitski.
THE HAPPY FITS Present: Happy Fest @ The Wellmont Theater in Montclair, NJ on October 28 with Vundabar, Phoneboy, Windser, Franklin Jonas and more! Eight bands. Two stages. All day. Jersey strong baby!
Outdoor stage begins at 3:00 PM.
The Happy Fits’ third full-length is a massive leap forward for the New Jersey trio, who have already built a serious following with their energetic and electrifying pop-rock style. At once a showcase of rock-solid songcraft and gleeful experimentation, Under the Shade of Green is a deceptively bright opus that also zooms in on the anxieties and catastrophes of daily life while never losing its irresistibly hooky attitude.
Under the Shade of Green is the latest chapter in The Happy Fits’ impressive rise, dating back to their bonding in high school in 2012. Cellist Calvin Langman and guitarist Ross Monteith started playing covers together in earnest, and when Langman revealed some original songs he’d been working on, drummer Luke Davis came aboard to join in a creative genesis that would result in the Awfully Apeelin’ EP from 2016.
After Awfully Apeelin’’s “While You Fade Away” scored a placement on Spotify’s Fresh Finds playlist, the trio dropped out of college to focus on the band full-time; by the time the group’s debut album Concentrate was released in 2018, they’d amassed a growing following. After that album, the band hit the road two years before recording their second album What Could Be Better, which saw release in 2020 and was written with the band’s live audience in mind.
“We wanted a record that would be really electric live,” Langman explained—but right when the band was ready to hit the road behind it, the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Undeterred, The Happy Fits got resourceful and staged livestreams for fans on their YouTube and Twitch accounts, embracing a “crazy variety show” vibe that included turning their couch into a puppet and, eventually, making a music video for every song off What Could Be Better.
And Under the Shade of Green reflects the band’s changing perspectives through the last few years—how they’ve grown, what they’ve learned, and how to face the uncertainties that are yet to come. “A lot of our earlier stuff was centered around my coming of age,” Langman reflects while talking about the songwriting process behind this new album. “The pandemic made me take a step back from my personal experiences. It felt like a weird time to just continue writing about myself.”
Sonically, Under the Shade of Green is bold and vibrant, spanning the multifarious sounds of modern indie rock and gentle psychedelic touches that feel fuzzy in all the right ways. “We could really sit and experiment with these songs, and make them the best they could be,” Davis explains while talking about the five-month recording process behind the album. “We always strive to sound more than a three-piece,” Monteith adds. “Our goal was to make this album sound larger than the last, and I think we accomplished that.”
The swinging “Little One” was inspired by British singer-songwriter Tom Rosenthal’s own songs written for his daughter—a concept that, through Langman’s songwriting perspective, becomes a call to all those feeling uncertain about their place in the world. “A lot of these songs are trying to hit on universal concepts,” he explained. “I wanted to try to write a song like that—a song that tells people that they belong.”
With a massive anthemic sway and surging synth chorus, “Changes” aptly took many shapes during the recording process, reflecting the constantly-in-motion times in which the band was working. “It developed entirely through the recording process,” Monteith explains. “It had completely different lyrics and a different riff when we first recorded it.”
“Things changed so rapidly during the pandemic that it was hard to keep up,” Langman continues while talking about the song’s themes. “I started to get a little bit down on the world, but it’s a pretty dark path to go down if you’re nihilistic about everything. So the song’s about trying to find love in a world that’s very much on fire.”
From the punchy “Dance Alone” to the serpentine riffs of “Do Your Worst,” Under the Shade of Green finds The Happy Fits unloading earworm after earworm—even as darkness looms, as suggested by the album’s cover of a pineapple covered in flaming money. “It’s a metaphor for what we are all seeing and not talking about enough,” Langman says, reflecting on the album’s overall arc. If these songs don’t make you feel alive—well, you might just want to check your pulse.