To See You Happy: Experimental Christianity Leaves Us Hanging

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Ed. Note: As they are designed to, these "What's In a Names" get a little fanciful sometimes. There is in fact no church on Phillippine Street - in fact, there is no Phillipine Street in Houston at all, though there is one in Jersey Village - and Joshua Littleton is still very much on this Earth. The poem "To See You Happy" is real. Our apologies to To See You Happy for any confusion.

It's a well-known fact that most band names are essentially gobbledygook, but here at Rocks Off we're trying to find meaning in the oddest monikers.

It started out so well. We found To See You Happy through the Super Happy Fun Land calendar, and in addition to having a name that made us what to explore its origins we were thoroughly digging the first experimental Christian music we've ever heard.

Not to start a holy war or anything, but working in a sheet-music store, you really come to hate the question, "Do you sell Christian music?" It always leads you down a road of endless covers, slight tweaks, and half-remembered hymns and never to anything with an original voice. So it's nice to hear someone really tackle sacred music from a road less traveled.

Singer Joshua Littleton has a voice that initially makes you want to punch him, but like Dylan, if you listen to it for more than a minute you realize there is some real power in his warble. It drips honesty and a kind of desolation, even in uplifting tracks like "We'll Make It Through."

True, the music isn't really experimental when you put it up against Houston bands like The Manichean, but the strength of the songwriting is undeniable. You can do a lot with just a distinctive voice and backing based off a holy strumming if you've got the lyrical chops to back it up. To See You happy does. Coming off a Blitzen Trapper playlist when we discovered them, it was the perfect music for the mind and mood not of a murderer, but the murdered. Or maybe the martyred. That name, though...

To See You Happy? You don't even know us. Maybe we're assholes and happiness isn't something we deserve. Or maybe we like sitting sad in the corner dressed in black. In fact, that is sort of our trademark. We don't need some indie band trying to screw up this image we've tried so hard to cultivate.

That being said, we headed out to a small church on Philippine St. to meet with Littleton, and found him sitting in a pew lost in quiet contemplation of a large, rather amaturely done icon of Christ. He was calm and courteous at first, more than happy to divulge the origins of the band's name.

"Before we get into that, though, take a good look at Jesus's left eyebrow over there."

We got up and examined the icon, not noting anything particularly interesting about either of the Lord's eyebrows. Suddenly, there was a popping sound, like air rushing to fill a sudden vacuum. When we turned around Littleton was gone, all his clothes in a heap with his jaunty hat on top. Apparently the Rapture makes a popping sound.

It's seemed like the band's name would remain a mystery, but as we were digging through Littleton's pockets for money we came across an oft-folded piece of paper. On it was written a poem by someone called jn_ann24.

To See You Happy:

I'm alone and lonely With my heart that I try to mend; I look at the distance, And found you, With your happy and contented face

I did not bother To know the reason, Because I know It's because of her,

I try to act normal In front of both of you, Even my heart bleed And start to die... Because I just want to see YOU HAPPY

More puzzled than ever before, we left the church. There is a science of happy, now, you know? It's a new branch of psychology called positive psychology that isn't dedicated to curing illnesses so much as it wants to encourage fulfillment and enjoyment. Too often we ask why things go wrong and not why things go right.

Maybe hidden in the positive pain of To See You Happy's music or in the cutting prose of this odd little poem is the answer. Why salve the wounded heart when you can vaccinate it against hurt?


To See You Happy (n): 1. Experimental in a genre that is not usually experimental. 2. A poem by jn_ann24. 3. The sound of not being sick.

To See You happy plays tonight at Super Happy Fun Land tonight with Bo and the Locomotive and Jackie Morning and The Glories.

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