Happy Birthday with Residual Echoes, The Boom Bang and Shitty/Awesome
9 p.m. Wednesday
8911 N. Western
Happy Birthday hadn't even celebrated its first birthday before the quartet inked a record deal with one of the most respected independent record labels in the country.
The group hits its terrible twos in November, and it will be a day of mixed emotions for Kyle Thomas, lead singer and brainchild behind the Vermont pop act.
"I always get sad on my birthday," he said. "There's this double meaning to it " for me, at least. It matches our music. It's definitely catchy and fun, but a there's also a more sensitive, emotional side to it."
The band was born in 2008 with the intention of playing a one-off show of a few pop songs Thomas had written, but was too embarrassed to play alone.
Over the course of a few practices, he already knew the band would stick around beyond that first show; he and his friends (Chris Weisman and Ruth Garbus) were simply having too much fun.
And it only took four more shows to get signed by Sub Pop "¦ although the label reps hadn't heard Happy Birthday yet.
"They hadn't even listened to us before we signed with them," Thomas said.
But the band didn't exactly just fall into a record deal, either. Thomas had already been approached by Sub Pop, which was interested in his solo stuff, recorded under the moniker King Tuff. The trio had other music business links as well.
Thomas also performs with the psychedelic folk group Feathers (along with Garbus) and Witch (which boasts Dinosaur Jr.'s J Mascis as drummer). Weisman's brother, Kurt, also plays with Feathers and Witch, and Garbus' sister, Merrill, is better known as Tune-Yards.
It's a crazy puzzle of collaborations and family connections, but the result is a straightforward pop band with simple aspirations.
Thomas, mostly, controls the songwriting that goes into Happy Birthday. He's known as a relentless songwriter, churning out tune after tune for his web of musical projects.
He looks at it like a job, and he does a fair amount of research, increasingly leaning on, oddly enough, Lil Wayne.
"Rap songs are so simple, but very complex at the same time," Thomas said. "It's a magical thing to achieve, and I strive for that "¦ to have as little going on, but be interesting the whole way through."
He picks at and dissects every melody, chord and loop in songs ranging from Weezy to The Beatles. It's aided his songwriting, but has adverse effects on his listening habits.
"It's actually kind of sad, because I can't listen to music like a normal person anymore," he said. "I can't pick not pick songs apart. It's depressing really. But it's, OK I guess "¦ it's worked out pretty well so far."
His newfound collaborators have helped, too. Despite being an active member of several bands, Thomas feels this is the first time he's been challenged, in a positive way, by his band mates.
"You learn to work with other people," he said. "That's the biggest thing, especially when you are a songwriter like me."
The diverse influences made their way into a sleek, but unpredictable, debut album released in March, bolstered by the jangly, joyous single "Girls FM." A cobbled mix of lo-fi shoegazers, melancholic anthems and moody, trudging ballads, "Happy Birthday" leads to an open road for the act, and Thomas couldn't be more pleased with the possibilities.
"This is the first band that I had that I could make sound like I wanted," Thomas said. "My styles are always changing, and this band can change along with that." "Joshua Boydston