“Put your hands up if you’ve never rocked out to a cello before,” The Happy Fits lead vocalist Calvin Langman asked at last week’s XOXO Tour concert while opening for The Maine at Union Transfer. With my hands in the air, I decided I’d become a cello convert. After their 2016 EP intended only for friends and family blew up on Spotify, Langman, along with guitarist Ross Monteith and drummer Luke Davis, decided to “try and make it work.” They dedicated themselves to producing songs dominated by cello, a secret weapon that is “all power chords,” making it ideal for rock music, Langman says.
The Happy Fits finished recording their second album, What Could Be Better, in early March 2020, and they got on the road to begin touring the same day they finished recording. Five days later on March 13, the country shut down along with their dreams of having a “really electric live album,” as Langman puts it. Finally back in person, the concert featured the band at their best, making music designed to be performed live and connecting with fans in a way distinct to them. While singing about heartbreak and paralyzing uncertainty, The Happy Fits manage to put on a show that exudes hope, showing that optimism and realism are not mutually exclusive.
Langman grew up with the “archetype of a rockstar” who “drives Lamborghinis and date models,” but that's not how he wants The Happy Fits to be seen. Rather, the trio wants fans to relate to them as people who “fill out paperwork and stuff.” There is nothing “untouchable” about them, says Davis, and their music is an effort to reflect this. Their single “Changes” from their forthcoming album deals with the struggle to hold onto a sense of youthful emancipation and enthusiasm. “The more you learn how to live, the harder it is to keep that light aflame,” says Langman. But despite taxes, heartbreak, and the pressures of conformity, Langman completely switched trajectories, took the instrument he had been classically trained in since childhood, and pursued a career making the indie–rock music he loves. Something about watching him prance across the stage with his cello talking with the audience about loving someone who doesn’t love you back makes it seem like it’s all going to be okay.
The Happy Fits' music and media presence are part of an effort to combat a concept that Davis introduced to me as toxic positivity. Describing people as “bundles of emotions,” Langman believes that in trying to be positive all the time, “you start to degrade really fast” and can never be truly in touch with yourself. Through their music, The Happy Fits confront head–on the difficult topics that often occupy or even consume the parts of our minds we typically keep to ourselves, but with an electric beat that makes you want to get on your feet and dance in spite of yourself. This isn't a contradiction—we should be able to celebrate reality, even if it's far from perfect.
The band embodies this ideology by only inviting genuine moments of positivity during the show and unintentionally during our conversation. Their energy is infectious, demanding that everyone jump up and down for their lightning–fast cello epic and making sure to shout out each and every member of their team at the end of the show. The self–proclaimed Jersey boys engage directly with the Philly audience during the show, talking about being secret Eagles fans and playing at previous Philly venues. The transcript from my interview with them reads more like a conversation with me and one other person, as the three of them are so in sync that they finish each other's thoughts. They celebrate one another—Monteith calls Langman the band’s “energizer bunny” and tells me I should meet their guitar tech, who is truly happy all the time.
As the community the band has built grows, Monteith tells me they have several new singles to release and plan to be touring again in the fall with their new album. Over the summer, they’ll be working on more music videos and promo for the album. But mostly when I ask them about the future, they don’t look too far ahead. They are motivated by small, genuine moments of joy, like sleeping on a day off, playing pickleball, and doing more livestreams to engage directly with fans, especially those from other countries. For now, they’ll continue to make music to make you think, but more importantly to make you dance. There’s nothing like a cello to lift the spirits.