Behind the Music: Happy Girl

When we were writing Autonomous there were several different directions and ideas that were tried over the past year and a half.   Even though some of the songs were re-workings of older songs (It's Still On is a remixed, re-recorded version of our song Please from the Disagreements ep - 2008) a few of the songs happened all at the last minute.  Happy Girl was one of them.

Happy Girl was born of a drum track.  My old friend Leigh Grant did us a big favour and came into the city to track drums on a couple songs, and a few ideas we had.  Back in the Spring of 2014 we had him come in to record at Valt Studio, Jordy's downtown production space.  It was hardly a massive room, and the equipment was simple and effective, but we ended up with a lot of great stuff!  It was during this session we recorded the drum tracks to Hardly Spoken, Happy Girl, and two others that didn't make the album but may still be used one day!

Originally I had Leigh track drums for another song entirely: one which I later decided really didn't need to be changed.   So with a great drum performance, and a decent sound I was left feeling as though it would be a complete waste if those tracks were never used.   A new song was born, and it morphed into Happy Girl.

As soon as I liberated the drum tracks for a new song I bounced them down to a stereo stem and put them into Ableton Live.  From there the song stepped up a couple bpm;  from 113 to 116.  A new bassline was improvised, the one you hear in the song in fact, a kind of new wave synth bass part that led to the rest of the song.  A simple synth part filled out where the verses should be and then a quick vocal line was recorded, which was later abandoned, and it sat incomplete for months.  It wasn't until we put it up for review with Don Harrison that the song really took it's final shape.

It might be the most deceptively simple lyric on the album.   I mean, "happy girl make a happy world."  isn't too earth shattering.   However I like their simplicity and enjoy the unspoken suggestion of a deeper meaning blended into them.   Isabelle's chorus hook was also a delight to find.  As I had been trying out a few ideas she started quietly singing "if I want to I'll let you know," which when combined with her melody took on a nice shape.  Each lyric was without a lot of pretence and fit in with the idea that we were trying out.   A world where the women are happy is in fact a safer and calmer world.  A woman's right to choose whether or not she'll have anything to do with you is indicative of a similar point.  Not too complicated, but still with a point to it.

One of the most fun elements to the song for me is the bongos I played.  Not being a percussionist I generally approach those instruments on a need to hear it basis.  If I can imagine the part in my head I will keep messing around trying different things until I find it.  The bongos were one of those happy studio discoveries.  Never played them before but thankfully you just need to hit them in time and they do their thing!  Little finger rolls and syncopated patterns started magically happening and suddenly I had a track.  We ended up extending one of the breaks on the song when we went in to mix, so you can really hear the percussion being banged around!

Once we got to the Armoury Studio to mix I had a chance to really appreciate how well played the drums were.  Leigh was always a good drummer, back in the 80's with After All, then in  the 90's with Pure, but I will offer that he is even better today.  His playing has more feel and style to it, and his skills at tuning and working the kit have just improved with time.  Very grateful for his excellence on this track.   Of course having Don Harrison add his guitar always makes a song better, so cheers to him as well!

Have a listen and please let us know what you think!




Happy Girl
words and music by Henning, Dunlop, Grant, Harrison
Recorded at Boutique Empire Studio and The Valt Studio
Mixed at The Armoury Studios, Vancouver
Produced and engineered by Henning
Mastered by Craig Waddell at Gotham City Studio
Artwork by Robert Edmonds

Vocals: Mark Henning, Isabelle Dunlop
Drums: Leigh Grant
Guitars: Don Harrison
Synths: Henning

Lyrics:
Happy Girl makes a happy world
Happy Girl

If I want to I'll let you know
If you want to just say so
Happy Girl

Happy Girls make for happy boys
Happy Girl

If I want to I'll let you know
If you want to just say so
Happy Girl
Happy Boy
Happy World

Why is the truth never enough (why is the truth never enough)
Why is the proof never enough (why is the proof never enough)
Why is the money never enough (why is money never enough)

Happy Girl

If I want to I'll let you know
If you want to just say so
Happy Girl
Happy Boy
Happy World

©2015 Combine the Victorious

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