Basement Special

Local pop-punk unit Happy. is keeping early 2000s pop-punk alive

by Cole Rojahn / Garnet & Black

When it comes to pop-punk, Happy. isn’t trying to be modern; in fact, singer Tate Logan, a recent USC graduate, would rather you feel like you’re listening to a band from ten years ago instead of a new, upcoming band.

“We consider ourselves pop-punk,” he assured me, “but people listen to our music and they’re like 'this isn’t pop-punk’ and I’m thinking, ‘Not in 2018, but in 2007 it was!’” 

And Logan's right; when listening to the band’s debut album "Cult Classic," I was instantly transported back to my middle school Warped Tour days. Complete with group vocals, drum fills and moody guitar feedback, the album is what the band calls a “collection of everything we’ve ever done.”

Happy. is comprised of Tate, Caleb Rucker on drums, Sean Bowick on bass, Chase McGuckin on lead guitar and John Palmer on rhythm guitar. Aside from Rucker, the entire band is local to Columbia, creating their own following mostly through shows at New Brookland Tavern and DIY basement shows. But now that they’ve released "Cult Classic," the group hinted that they might be ready for a new setting sometime soon. 

The band signed with independent recording label Rude Records in early 2018 and will tour the east coast this November, alongside Brigades, a post-punk group.

“For a DIY and house show scene, I think Columbia’s really great. Like I think there’s always parties and house shows and like, smaller venues and bars where you can do that, which was really awesome for us in the beginning, just playing to 12 or 13 people in a basement," Logan said. "That was awesome because there was a hundred different places to do it. And [for us] now, like, New Brookland is really great too. But when you look at places like Charlotte or Atlanta they’ve got so much more to offer once you get a little bit more of a following, and so there’s not really … like, here it goes from playing New Brookland or the Colonial Life Arena kind of thing and there’s…”

There’s no in between?

“Yeah, and we need … like we’re at a place where the in between would be really good for us."

All foreboding moves to larger music scenes aside, Happy. was able to sample the professional side of the music world while recording "Cult Classic" in Nashville, mastered by Sorority Noise’s Cameron Boucher with Cartel’s Will Pugh on production. 

“People just don’t realize how long it takes to record something that sounds really good," McGuckin said.

Happy. has definitely come a long way from their first collection of songs. After being questioned as to where their music could be found online, the band spent an entire night putting together and recording new material, "The Endless Bummer" and "April is For Fools" EPs. The group has shown tremendous growth within the tracks of their debut, sounding like a professional punk unit rather than the local DIY band heard in earlier recordings, like the products of their all-night recording sessions.

But is pop-punk a risky move for an up and coming band? It’s no secret that the genre has definitely seen its share of better days, with the decline of mainstream radio play and the recent closing of Warped Tour, one of the genre’s largest nationwide festivals.

But that doesn’t seem to worry Logan and the rest of the band. 

“No matter what the radios are playing, pop-punk will always have kids gathering in basements and warehouses to support this scene, and that’s really special,” he said. “There’s something rebellious about it in a sense for the youth, and I don’t think that will ever go away.”

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