Happiest Lion
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Happiest Lion

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | SELF

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | SELF
Band Folk Americana

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Happiest Lion is the solo-project of Caleb Groh, a nineteen year old from Boston, Massachusetts. His first two albums, Homemade and Caleb and the Caroling Caravan were characterized by a captivating folkish fasntasy-esque sound and were also released for free. Caleb is about to release his third album, Mammoth Moon, for which we are extremely excited. We were recently able to ask Caleb a few questions about the new album, the art he surrounds his music with, and baking little sugar biscuit men with anise seed.


You have a new album being released tentatively later this Spring. Can we expect the new album to pick up somewhat where Homemade left off, which drew from both electronic and acoustic sources to achieve its sometimes dreamy, sometimes ponderous qualities, or do you believe it’s close to the folkish, troubadour-esque qualities of your Christmas album Caleb and the Caroling Caravan? Perhaps something completely different? A Black Eyed Peas tribute album?

Caleb: This one is absolutely nothing like Homemade. It’s definitely something a bit more similar to Caroling Caravan album #1. I’m happy about it and I’m not. I’m satisfied more with these newer songs, but I’m going to miss the harder-to-classify, older stuff. It wasn’t a deliberate change, hearts just change, minds go elsewhere for a while.

The art you surround your music seems to be highly-inspired and well thought out. From something as simple as the beautiful wallpapers for your Myspace and previously mentioned Christmas album website to the music videos for “The Ever-Lit Tree” and “Image of Chicago” I have yet to see a piece of “art” you have associated yourself with that I wasn’t highly impressed with. What do you believe to be the inspiration behind these various works of art, and am I correct in assuming you put a great deal of care in this aspect outside of your music. Often times it seems very Wes Anderson-esque but perhaps that is way off.

C: Thank you! Luckily, the friends who made those videos had minds which agreed with “the people”. If I create something, I need to be happy with it. If I’m not, nobody else is going to be. I suppose it’s that simple. My friend Zac worked so tediously on that Ever-lit Tree video, and I didn’t even know what was going on until he sent it to me finished.



Speaking of the music video for “Image of Chicago” (originally named “Kevin and Brendan Paint An Image Of Chicago”) I must admit that I have yet to find such an aesthetically satisfying and artistically inspiring music video as this one. Can you shed any light on the basis behind the creation of this video?

C: Jack Sjogren made a video for one of his songs (under the moniker Endanger Us), and then decided we were going to make something for one of mine. We called up our friend Roxanne Wuco and drove around for a day, filming little scenes and making things up as we went. We made it to the pool for the last scene, just before it closed. Swimming with shoes is tough.



You also worked with an artist named “Casual Women” on that song. Did you work with this artist again while creating the new record?

C: Casual Women (Sam Cowan) recorded the song, and I loved to listen to it, so I asked if I could write and record some lyrics, and he was completely fine with it. He doesn’t make any appearances on the new record, but I’m sure we’ll work together again.

Do you plan on touring anytime soon?

C: I’d love to tour, and with a band, but it’s tough finding musicians with open schedules in a college town!

What college are you attending at the moment?

C: I’m not going to school. I don’t feel it’s necessary for what I plan on doing with music. I’ve got to take what time I have now and run with it.

What are some bands that you’ve been influenced by in the past or recently? Any 2010 albums you have been especially excited about?

C: I think everyone is excited about Jónsi’s release, I’m looking forward to that. Lately I’ve been listening to his music, Ryan Adams, Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne… the goods.


The "goods"
This is an open ended question that I am trying to “harvest” as many answers as I can for. Lady GaGa?

C: Good for her.

Your songs seem to be highly intricate, both within the lyrical and musical aspect. Can you discuss a little bit about your writing process?

C: I don’t have any particular writing process, but for the most part I just sit and think things out. Writing only works if I’m in a good mood.

Besides your music, are there any other activities you have been getting into recently? Model building? Blogging? NASCAR watching?

C: Hmmm. Besides music, I’ve been reading, baking… not much else. Most of my time is going toward music.

What kind of things have you been baking? I am completely useless in the kitchen.

C: Most recently, there were little sugar biscuit men with anise seed.

On your Myspace you state that you are “eighteen and music is your deal”. You seem to have achieved a depth of songwriting talent that most artists don’t achieve until much later in life, or ever. How old were you when you started songwriting and do you believe there been any particular “catalysts” in your life that have expedited your talent?

C: I think everyone has been a catalyst. I don’t want to just live and die, I want these songs to last longer than I do. I’ve been writing songs since I was about nine or ten and listening to Radio Disney. Life was good then. I started writing the instruments in at maybe twelve.


A collection of chillwave buzzbands
Do you have any nostalgic favorites from your Radio Disney days?

C: To be honest, I wanted to be into those songs, but I never did feel any attachment to them. I think it was mostly just cool to be able to pick the music.

Do you have anymore “holiday based” albums planned? Can we expect an Easter concept album this Spring as well?

C: The Easter record is a pretty nice idea! Maybe that’ll come along. I’ll be working on a few more Caroling Caravan albums for sure.

How do you know if a lion is in fact “the happiest?”

C: How big is that smile? - Aesthetic Octopus


If I were to rename this blog I think something like “Awkward Dude With Guitar…” might be apropo. Some of the best music of the last few decades could be described as such. Think Bob Dylan, Bright Eyes, Elliott Smith, Nick Drake, etc., etc. I’m not saying Happiest Lion is in the same category as those guys but he’s at least on the same planet. Happiest Lion is Caleb Groh. He’s now based in Boston and Mammoth Moon is his second record. Til the month of June Mammoth Moon is for sale for $1 as a digital download from Bandcamp here.

I’m smitten by Caleb’s vocal style, obtuse lyrics (and song titles), and the eclectic sounds on this record. The style of music is a nearly indescribable mix of folk, indie rock, Appalachian jugband (not really, but that’s a vibe I’m getting on a couple of songs) and some kind of butchered bluegrass (mandolin, banjo on many tracks). - Songs:Illinois


Discography

Homemade('08)
Caleb and the Caroling Caravan('09)
Mammoth Moon(2010)

Photos

Bio

Happiest Lion is 19 year-old Boston resident Caleb Groh, who's been writing songs steadily since 12 years old, and recording them since 15.
He's released three records in the two years which have comprised Happiest Lion's musical promenade: Homemade('08), Caleb and the Caroling Caravan('09), and most recently, Mammoth Moon(2010).

Caleb writes stories, and dramatizes plots with banjos, mandolins, guitars, keyboards, and various percussion. Partially devastating, equally as jovial, none of his lyrics pertain to his life, but rather lives which may or may not have been led, in the future or in the past. He plays and records everything himself.

Caleb's first collection of songs, Homemade('08), was recorded at 16, and all seventeen songs are left stripped and lo-fi, with virtually no mixing. The record is an interesting collage of electronic and folk instrumentation.

Autumn of '09 brought about Caleb and the Caroling Caravan, a Christmas record with 9 folkified classics and original pieces. The Caroling Caravan was mixed and mastered by Chad Wahlbrink, a friend and peer of the same age, who at the time was interning at Ultrasuede, a Cincinatti recording studio.

Caleb released Mammoth Moon in May of 2010, with 14 songs which proved more matured than the previous two releases. Chad and Caleb teamed up again, both seeming to have grown significantly in their chosen paths and passions.

Caleb Groh plans to release music until he is dead, and spread his songs to wherever they may be considered any good.