Superhuman Happiness is a musical house designed by Stuart Bogie and built and maintained by a cast of musicians and artists primarily in and around the city of New York. In October of 2014, the band released the single “Catch A Break,” ushering in a new sound that features vocalist Andrea Diaz. The song was composed by Bogie with his longtime collaborator, Eric Biondo. The lyric addresses city life, and living on the hamster wheel of ambition and survival. “Catch a Break” was produced by Royal Potato Family label mate Sam Cohen and mixed by Chris Tabron. The single is the first in a series of releases revealing Superhuman Happiness’ discoveries in sound and poetry.
The group released their first full-length album in 2013, entitled Hands. The record applied an approach coined Intentional Collaboration by which the musicians, over the course of several rehearsals, practice musical and theatrical improv games simultaneously drilling certain musical skills, while opening up their creative impulses and developing the group mind. Many of these games are simple clapping patterns, which over time became the foundation for the majority of pieces on Hands.
The music on Hands was developed and performed by Stuart Bogie, Luke O’Malley, Eric Biondo, Ryan Ferreira, Jared Samuel, Nikhil Yerawadekar and Miles Arntzen, with additional performances by Colin Stetson, Afi McClendon, Abena Koomson, Kalmia Traver, Shaneeka Harrel and Joci Adams. It was engineered by Phil Pallazolo at Seaside Studio in Brooklyn, mixed by P. Pallazolo, Hernan Santiago, Josh Grant, Dan Huron, and mastered by Hernan Santiago.
Prior to that, in Autumn 2012, Superhuman Happiness recorded the score (alongside Kronos Quartet) for the Oscar and Emmy nominated documentary Film How to Survive a Plague. It was composed and produced by Stuart Bogie and Luke O’Malley and recorded by Superhuman Happiness and Kronos Quartet. Red Hot provided Music Supervision. The film itself was directed by David France, and produced by Howard Gertler.
Superhuman Happiness, acting as the house band, shared the stage with Kronos Quartet, Tony Allen, Sahr Ngaujah (Tony nominated lead from the musical Fela!), M1 of Dead Prez, Rubblebucket, Congolese rapper Biloji, Grammy award winner Angelique Kidjo, Sinkane (DFA records), and Abena Kooson, performing the score to How to Survive a Plague live at Lincoln Center Out of Doors (2013) as part of a series celebrating Kronos’ 40 year career. The concert also featured performances of music from the Red Hot & Riot 2 compilation featuring the music of Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
Superhuman Happiness functions as film composers, a creative back-up band, and independent performance unit all at once. These three areas of work encapsulate the mission of the group and their art.
Superhuman Happiness was founded in 2008 to seek joy and love through shared rhythm and melody, composed and improvised. Their mission is to pursue a happiness greater than that experienced by an individual mind. The first release, Fall Down Seven Times Stand Up Eight, was an EP of instrumentals written by Stuart Bogie and recorded in his friend’s basement on an 8 track tape machine. It includes performances by Luke O’Malley, Eric Biondo, Jordan McLean, Ryan Sawyer, Ryan Ferreira, Oren Blowedow, Zachary Mastoon, Aaron Johnson, Chris Vatalaro, Eli Asher, and Brian Chase of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The song “Human Happiness” was released on a split 45 with CSC Funk Band on Electric Cowbell Records. It is Superhuman Happiness’ first release.
Between 2009 and 2012 the group became a staple of the music scene at the now defunct venue Zebulon in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The band performed regularly and hosted many guest musicians including saxophonist Colin Stetson, trumpeter Michael Leonhart, drummer Patrick Wood, Alex Toth and Kalmia Traver of Rubblebucket, and Jordan McLean of Antibalas. The band grew and changed gradually over the years, developing new approaches to song based music fused with improvisation – all within the context of live dance music. The closing of Zebulon was an injurious blow to Brooklyn’s music scene, and Superhuman Happiness was unable to find a comparable venue that invited the relaxed creative interplay that Zebulon cultivated. The venue was mentioned in David Byrne’s book How Music Works and Superhuman Happiness dedicated their album Hands to the venue. While the group was developing the music for Hands, performances at Zebulon were integral to their process.
Drummer Miles Arntzen, at the time 19, was publicly auditioned for the group (initially unbeknownst to him). Bogie had been practicing and work-shopping ideas in Miles’ parents basement in the West Village for several months. When the time seemed right, Bogie booked an untitled show at Zebulon for the two to perform as a duo. After each improvised piece, another member of the Hands Superhuman Happiness line up joined the music onstage, ending with the full band in the incarnation that appears on the record.
In 2011 the group released an EP entitled The Physical Music which they recorded in David Sitek’s Stay Gold studio down the street from Zebulon. Four of the songs were released on 45s, GMYL/Hounds on Electric Cowbell Records, and Needles and Pins/Oh Tatiana on Royal Potato Family. The later began Superhuman Happiness’ relationship with Kevin Calabro and his Royal Potato Family label. This relationship quickly became integral to Superhuman Happiness as a functioning entity, and soon after solidifying Calabro’s involvement, the group began performing more consistently. Notable performances include Celebrate Brooklyn (2010, 2011), MassMOCA (2013), Lincoln Center Out of Doors (2013), the Fall Down Festival (2013), All Good Festival (2013), Equifunk Festival (2012), The Undead Jazz Festival (2012), and Burlington’s Precipice Festival (2013).
The majority of tracking for The Physical EP was done over a 5 day period in 2009 when Bogie was unable to join TV on the Radio for a planned promotional tour due to financial constraints. As a consolation to Bogie, the group generously offered him studio time and enough cash to hire an engineer. The album features the work of Jared Samuel, Eric Biondo, Jeremy Wilms, Torbitt Schwartz, Patrick Wood, Ryan Ferreira, Dan Huron, Jon Natchez, Colin Stetson (Bon Iver, Arcade Fire), Sarah Neufeld (Arcade Fire), Michael Leonhart (Steely Dan), Sahr Ngaujah, Shaneeka Harrel, Abena Koomson, Jordan McLean and Aaron Johnson (Antibalas), and Luke O’Malley, Bogie’s long-time production partner. The sessions were often lose proceedings as drop in personalities made their way onto the record. Additional recording at Bogie’s apartment included his mother, Kathy Bogie, among the chorusters in GMYL.
The song GMYL attracted the attention of record producer Paul Heck, who quickly became a supporter of Superhuman Happiness. Heck invited the group to record several songs for Red Hot compilation records, including Red Hot and Rio 2, “Um Canto de Afoxe Para o Bloco do Ile” featuring Cults and Superhuman Happiness, and Red Hot & Riot 2 Fela Kuti’s ITT featuring Sahr Nguajah and Kuti’s No Buredi feat. Amayo of Anitbalas, Sinkane, and Nneka. Red Hot served as the music supervisors for the film How To Survive a Plague, and as producers for the event Red Hot Fela Live at Lincoln center out of Doors. The group continues to work with Red Hot, most recently Bogie and Grey McMurray created The Watchmaker (2014) for the Red Hot & Bach compilation. The pair created, produced and released a pieced based on an extrapolation of 8 bars from Bach’s Cello Suite No 3.