13 Questions

13 Questions with The Double Happiness

Following their excellent new LP, ‘Roadhouse’ the Brisbane band take part in our 13 Questions.

There are just some bands that come along at the right time, and Brisbane’s The Double Happiness are one of them.

The latest incarnation of the band comprising of guitarists/vocalists Kristin and Peter Fergusson, bassist Adele Pickvance and drummer, Simon Welchman, The Double Happiness dispense the kind of stories that are inspired by locality.

Making waves with the excellent single, No Place Like Nundah, the four-piece continued their ascendency with their debut full-length, Surfgazing which landed 12 months later in 2020. Two years on, and while there are still inflections of the surf rock and shoegaze that seemingly inspired the title of their debut, on their follow-up Roadhouse, The Double Happiness combine spaghetti-western riff-a-rolla with a sunny pop sensibility.

With tracks like Red Room, Warrego and Drive In, we are met with songs that leak with nostalgia, making us take stock and think about the years gone by. It’s a chaotic world, and we are the architects in the creation of it. Bands like The Double Happiness write songs that serve us with a humbling reminder that it’s actually healthy to step back and think about the past.

For me personally, it’s snaking through the Cunningham Gap on route to northern New South Wales to visit my parents. Those luscious green mountains fading as you enter the New South Wales/Queensland border to be met with drought-stricken landscapes the deeper into New South’ you get.   

Bands like The Double Happiness unlock these parts of the memory. That’s what art is all about, really, and last month the band took part in our 13 Questions feature where we spoke about the important things: coffee, their inspirations, and, of course, their new record, Roadhouse.

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1. Can you tell us the history behind The Double Happiness?

The Double Happiness: “The story, which is a couple of love stories, really begins about 30 years ago, when Pete and Kristin met Meg. We shared a love of music, the same kinds of bands – alternative/indie- and a common desire to play in bands. We found ourselves at the same parties, gigs on and off for years. Through Meg (by this stage our neighbour) we met Simon, who became Meg’s partner in life, and also shared a love of music.

“One afternoon in 2015 Brisbane we were all at the 40Year Flashback celebration of local radio station 4ZZZ, when Meg suggested that we should have a jam. Little did we realise that we were an instant band: Peter (lead guitar), Kristin (rhythm guitar), Meg (bass) and Simon (drums). Double Happiness was not only the brand of ping pong table in our practice room, but the symbol for marriage. Given that we were two married couples, it was perfect.”

2. Roadhouse is a really nice progression from Surfgaze, but distinctly The Double Happiness. Can you tell us the inspiration behind it?

TDH: “We’d always hoped to record a spaghetti western record. Some of our earliest songs are Warrego and Ride Alone. They’ve finally found their home on Roadhouse. We wanted to record a triptych – City, Surf and Western, and Roadhouse completes the thematic release. We are huge fans of David Lynch (Twin Peaks especially) and the soundtracks to Tarantino films such as Pulp Fiction and Django. The Twin Peaks-inspired tracks are Red Room, Audrey and Roadhouse. There are also local references and nostalgic nods in Drive In, and Pete’s love of dogs is evident in Raggedy Dog and Dingo.”

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3. Listening to The Double Happiness reminds me of something I consider the ‘Brisbane sound’. Not the Go-Betweens but that lovely Screamfeeder vibe! It got me thinking – who are your influences?

TDH: “Wow!!! That is amazing to hear. We are huge fans of the Brisbane sound, and both the Gobies and Screamfeeder. In fact we now have former Go-Between, Adele Pickvance, playing bass with us since our darling Meg passed earlier this year. Kellie Lloyd is a great friend, and joined us on stage at our album launch to close the night with Not What You Said. We love and would say we were formed while listening to bands such as Ups and Downs, The Church, DIIV, Stereolab, New Order, Pixies, The Shadows, The Sundays and many artists on the Flying Nun record label, including Look Blue Go Purple. But what ties this all together is that the gig we were at when Meg popped the question featured on the bill, Ups and Downs and Screamfeeder. It’s an incredibly small world experience.”

4. Listening to Red Beach then Drive In gave me the first pangs of homesickness after six years since moving from Brisbane. How important is to capture the locality through your songs?

TDH: “Oh! That’s really beautiful, yet there’s also that hint of longing in this question. Local references are incredibly important to us, it’s part of our shtick. When we reflect on our own memories and experiences, it connects us to our audience. It’s amazing how often people will tell us their story, and share their memories of places and people and experiences that we touch on in our songs. In fact, the image used on the cover of Roadhouse is of the now long gone UFO Service Station that was on the old Gold Coast Highway. It has sparked so many comments and conversations. Our single No Place Like Nundah is probably our most nostalgic, revisiting not just the suburb itself, but the Brisbane of our childhoods. Beaches of our Great South East also feature on Surfgazing in songs like Red Beach, Snapper Rocks and Coochiemudlo.”

5. I guess by extension there is a real honesty that plays out through your songs, too. Is this a key focus of yours?

TDH: “Yes, that’s an interesting observation. When your lyrics are based predominantly on reflecting on your formative years, they’re telling a story of experiences that have stayed with you and how those experiences shaped you. It’s a way of finding meaning, and songs have that beautiful ability to provide a catharsis to some of those experiences.”

The Double Happiness - Roadhouse

6. Some fun questions now – do you have any hobbies outside of music?

TDH: “Sure do! Pete plays competitive Table Tennis, and loves to cycle, and paddle as well as record and mix music. Kristin has a radio show. They have five adult children so family time is also really important. Simon grows succulents and makes wind chimes from broken cymbals. Adele is a Twitcher. She loves a rare bird.”

7. Brisbane is renowned for its coffee (and rightly so). Presuming you drink it of course, I have to ask – favourite coffee shops?

TDH: “Ha! Yes! Favourite haunts include: Reverends in Fortitude Valley, Death Before Decaf in New Farm, Bunker Coffee Milton, Brew in the Brisbane CBD, Blackstar in West End, Alphabet Cafe in West End, Goodfolk in Bardon, Campos (anywhere that serves it).”

8. Funniest band story?

TDH: “We laugh a lot when we’re rehearsing or preparing to play. Kristin often gets to the point where she cannot stop and any little thing sets her off again. 

“Like most bands, we talk a lot of crap and sometimes it provides inspiration or the lyrics for our songs. We’re currently working on a song called Gary Is Gone based on Adele’s adventures with a Gary in her teen years. She had us in stitches recalling her brother spying on her snogging Gary on the landing.

One moment that will always bring a smile to our dials is in the clip for Oysters Can Dream. Meg picked up a toy lobster and began to speak the bridge song lines to it. Simon reflected this footage to make her look like she was evil twins speaking secrets to the lobster.”

9. Favourite boxset over the last 18 months?

TDH: “What’s a boxset? Killing Eve, Nine Perfect Strangers, Alone, Derry Girls.”

10. What was the last book you read?

TDH: “Kristin: Wisdom from your Spirit Guides by James Van Praagh; Simon: Just Kids by Patti Smith;

Peter: The Wim Hof Method by Wim Hof; Adele: Sexing The Cherry by Jeanette Winterson.

11. Favourite records so far in 2022?

TDH: “Screamfeeder: Five Rooms; Renovators Delight: Bark All Night; Mess Esque: Mess Esque; Thelma Plum: Meanjin; Sharon van Etten: We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong; Warpaint: Radiate Like This.”

12. With the Labor government romping to a recent election victory, has the mood in Australia changed much?

TDH: “There seems to be more compassion in the government’s approach to people doing it tough, and with the cost of living, the housing crisis and the effects of global warming by way of extreme and recurrent floods, we desperately needed a change. People are also still dealing with the impact of COVID on their health and workplaces. There are still many challenges ahead though and there is a great deal of stress around.

“We’d like to see music and the arts better supported by governments in Australia. It is so critical, particularly in times of stress and anxiety in the community.”

13. And what Brisbane bands should we be listening to?

TDH: “Girl and Girl, The Far Outs, Baby Cool, Doggie Heaven, Glows, Slowrip, Full Power Happy Hour, SGO, Mess Esque, Platonic Sex, Sacred Hearts, Renovators Delight, Adele and the Chandeliers, The Stress Of Leisure, Nice Biscuit.”

Roadhouse is out now via 4000 Records. Purchase from Bandcamp.

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