Happy Noose: Entering the valley

Olympia band polishes their darker edges on the way to crescendo

By Rev. Adam McKinney on June 19, 2013

On Happy Noose's self-titled debut, the charged punk instrumentation in concert with frontman Ryan Scott's Timothy Grisham's deep, morose vocals went a long way toward connecting musical dots in the listeners' minds: clearly, Happy Noose are a band that takes its cues from early '80s UK New Wave, early Goth like Bauhaus, and other contemporary poets of melancholy punk.

Even though you'd get partial points for making those connections - and it certainly helps that the songs had names like "Empire Fades," "Enter the Valley," and "Robbed" - further inspection and the release of their following albums has helped to clear the air about just what kind of band Happy Noose is.

Their forthcoming releases, the Amagosa and Haunted EPs, find the Olympia band embracing the darker, more romantic side of their sound, even as their hooks become bigger, catchier and more anthemic. Where their earlier output was spunky in that youthful punk sort of way, Amagosa signals the natural maturation of a still relatively new band circling and landing on its voice.

Most of the traditional punk sounds have been excised from the band, leaving something that actually sounds oddly similar to a fuzzier version of the National. Like Matt Berninger, Scott's Grisham's baritone serves as an anchor, keeping everything together and guiding the listener through wide valleys of despair in search of fleeting moments of joyous abandon - a crescendo of guitar, bass and drums.

"There's never been a real road map of ‘we want to sound like this or that,'" says Grisham. "I have a massive record collection, like thousands of LPs, so there's touchstones that I unconsciously pull from, but mainly I think we're not trying to sound like anything; we're just trying to do our own path, and we're trying to make each song fit in with a greater set of songs while still taking steps to make it different."

It's easy to understand Grisham's desire to make Happy Noose its own thing, and to slightly demur when people (read: me) casually call out aspects of other bands that can be heard in their music. Everyone wants to be their own thing, at least to some degree. Certainly, it would seem to me, being from Olympia should intensify this need for individualism. If nothing else, Olympia has established itself as a hotbed of unique artists. Whether or not that's the reality, it's certainly the goal in many Olympia artists' minds.

"I've been playing, personally, in the Olympia scene for twenty years," says Grisham. "There is a perception of individualism in Olympia, but I also think if you compare some bands, there is a lot of tropes that Olympia has created over the years, and more recently there is definitely pockets, like scene pockets, within Olympia, that are kind of autonomous from each other, where before (the Olympia scene) was just one big deal.

"I think, for us, one thing we've tried is to not really fit in with a particular set of bands, and to make sure that our music is our own personal expression. That's probably very ‘Olympia' in philosophy, but at the end of the day I think that in any small scene, people want to play music that their friends like and that their friends play. We don't really care about that. ... It's not like we want to approach things in a parochial sense. We just want to get our idea out there."

The two EPs on deck for release this year are certainly full of ideas, and their drive to expand the sound of Happy Noose is as noticeable as it is oddly effective.

HAPPY NOOSE, w/ Romantic Feelings, Handwritings, 10 p.m., Wednesday, June 26, Le Voyer, 404 E. Fourth Ave., Olympia, no cover, 360.943.5710