Interview

An Interview w/ Happy Little Clouds

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Boston’s Happy Little Clouds are an exciting and intriguing young band.  I had the opportunity to speak with singer and guitar player Jac Mestel about everything under the sun, or at least the clouds.

 

   Hassle: So the band’s been around about 8 years. Please tell me a little how it all got started and how it’s evolved to where it is now.

   Jac: The band was started by me and my former drummer, Alex Toorish, back in 2010.  Alex and I mostly played as a duo over the years, but at times we found other guitarists and bassists to join us. Alex ended up moving on to other things in 2016. There have been so many iterations of the band by this point that it’s hard to keep track, but the current lineup with me on vocals and guitar, Rainy on drums, and Bishop on bass is definitely an amazingly powerful one. They both bring such oomph to the band musically. They are both really brilliant at their instruments; it has taken this band to another level. Hoping we can all stay together for a long, long time.

   Hassle:Boston’s music “scene”, has always been fairly transient in nature by being such a big college town and the annual exodus of students back to whatever circle of hell spawned them. How has the band been able to navigate this? Are you happy here or ready to start touring? Or both?
   Jac: Navigating the transient collegiate nature of this town has been interesting, but I feel like because I started the band after college and all of the current and former Happy Little Clouds members were also past college age, it hasn’t really affected band members so much. Maybe it’s affected the kind of fans we’ve had a little bit here, but our crowd seems to be the after-college people anyway so far. It might be a different story if we played more house shows.We’re definitely happy here and dearly love Boston and our music scene, and we’re also ready to start touring. I’ve been wanting to tour for years. I have definitely been infected with a travel bug. We’re thinking of putting together a small summer tour so we’ll see what comes of it if it does happen.

   Hassle: The video for Beneath is both very professional and yet still personal. How was the experience filming and preparing that video? Were they your ideas (visually expressed on the screen?)
   Jac: The experience of prepping and filming the video was interesting, complex, and magical. I had many many ideas for scenes, shots, and symbolism rolling through my brain for a couple of years before we started filming. I actually started growing my hair out about 2 years ago because I thought we would get to filming a lot sooner than we did. I’m a huge procrastinator as you can see by my hair length in the video, haha. So the whole thing was a long time coming. It was really hard for me to get all feminine-looking in the video because that’s just not me, but I felt like I wanted to really show my discomfort since I’ve really felt that way growing up in this society. I wanted to show the contrast between who society has told me to be all my life and who I really am. Our outer appearance can be a reflection of who we are inside. The less honestly we show that reflection, the more we trap ourselves and the less our inner selves and outer expressions match up. I wanted us to capture that trapped feeling somehow. I think it’s a really universal feeling too, but in my case it involves my own gender identity story. I wanted to tell that story as authentically and beautifully as possible. I think we managed to do that really well and visually expressed the song better than I could have imagined. I could not have done that alone though. I was really lucky that I had an amazingly supportive crew of people behind me; Namely, my bandmates Rainy Logan and Bishop Goguen, who both have dealt with gender/sexual identity issues themselves and who get me at such a deep level personally and musically. I’d be nowhere without our director, Jenny Bergman of The Secret Bureau of Art & Design, and our video and editing guru, Stephen LoVerme of Treebeard Media, who both really understood the vision we had going into it and were very sincerely there to help us make some beautiful art. They are true artists in every detailed sense. The ideas in the video were really a perfect combination of my original concepts, shot ideas, and visual symbolism as it tied in with the feeling of the song and the ideas and creative energy of everyone else on the crew and in the band. Jenny infused a storyline and much of the organization. Rainy had the brilliant idea of tying in the “inner children” to the story among other wonderfully imaginative suggestions.  We also couldn’t have done it without our actors, extras, kid wranglers and location hosts (many from the Boston music scene themselves). It was a lot of work at many different locations. It was the perfect storm.

   Hassle: Are you trying to infuse messages or politics or anything like that into the songs? They seem to have universal, timeless subject matter etc.
   Jac:We weren’t really trying to infuse any politics or anything controversial into the songs or this video purposefully. We were just being ourselves and telling a story about our own truths and a universal human experience. I wrote “Beneath” at a time when I was feeling really depressed and alone and unsure of who I was, just wanting to curl up beneath my blankets and shut the world out. I didn’t quite understand why I felt so frustrated. Turns out my inside just doesn’t match my outside no matter how much the world wants to try to convince me I’m wrong about myself. I had to go through my own process of coming to terms with being transgender and being okay with what that means for me in this world. I still have many more things to think about around it, so I’m sure there will also be more songs that come out of me too around those feelings. This song along with many of the other songs I’ve written has become my own sort of therapy for myself. I don’t write them for anyone else; they’re just songs that come from how I feel when I need to get something out. I go wherever the muse takes me. So “Beneath” starts with my feelings of sadness and isolation around my own gender identity, but the message of the song transforms into a really positive one of resilience and strength despite adversity. While things might seem tough, the seasons do eventually change and you get a chance to bloom into who you were all along under all those masks. The seed turns into a tree and all that symbolism, haha. I guess these songs just happen to seem a little political in today’s times since we still have to fight for our equality and basic human liberties by default of being LGBTQIA. We’re not yet equal to our heteronormative and cis-gendered counterparts. Many people take for granted the feeling of being born in the right body. They can’t wrap their heads around the way transgender people are born feeling like their body parts don’t match up with how their brain feels. Their brains feel like one gender and their bodies another and that causes major distress in every aspect of life. And then there is society trying to push you to constantly stay in the box that was set up for you even though you know deep down you don’t fit in it. Sometimes they don’t feel like they fit into any particular gender. Gender dysphoria is a real thing and it’s still not easy to deal with in today’s world. We just want to be ourselves and not be constantly questioned, looked down upon, bombarded by self doubt, discriminated against, or faced with violence because of who we are. It’s not a choice; it’s who we are. Maybe one day it’ll just be okay for us to be 100% ourselves in this society and our honest stories won’t have to be labelled political or controversial. Maybe we’ll be understood and accepted as equals. We still have a ways to go. I’m done hiding who I am and am privileged enough to have really supportive friends, family, and community. Others are not nearly this lucky, so I feel it’s important for me to be honest with my art, not only for myself, but for those who can’t be yet. There was a long time there where I couldn’t be open like this and all I had were my songs to be honest to, so I understand the fear of hiding who you really are every second of the day. It’s exhausting. It’s no life. Really I just want to help people who may be struggling with figuring themselves out like I was, so I hope this video and our music is at least a small drop in that bucket. If I had seen more representations of people like me growing up, I know that I might have found my own truth a little sooner and maybe I would have sought out more support earlier on and be further in my transitional journey. Call it political, or call it educating people through awareness and empathy toward our fellow humans. If it helps just one person, that’s a good thing.
   Hassle: Thanks so much. [Be sure to check out Happy Little Clouds April 29 @ the Midway or May 13 @the Dark Horse in Somerville or at http//www.happylittleclouds.com

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