Calvin Langman of The Happy Fits is Playing Pickleball Like There’s No Tomorrow

Plus, a premiere of the band’s “Moving” video.

I’m in Blairsville, Georgia right now, with my girlfriend and her parents. It’s in the middle of nowhere. So far through the pandemic there’s only been 78 cases here. It’s actually closer to North Carolina than Atlanta, it’s right on the border. We spent the beginning of quarantine in New Jersey, because our tour got canceled. We dropped by Georgia on the way back and picked her up; she stayed with us for like two months. I just got here last Friday and I’m leaving on Monday. It’s a short 12-hour drive. [Laughs.]

So I’ve been playing pickleball — America’s fastest growing paddle sport! I started getting into it at the beginning of the year. There are tennis courts near us that were advertising it, and I was like, “We played this in gym class in high school for a couple weeks, and it was kind of fun!” I went for one clinic and it was just honestly like a drug, it was so much fun. I played baseball growing up, but around 2009 there were budget cuts and extracurriculars became too expensive and I started being solely a musician. I was never really into video games or anything, so I always had this facet of play kind of absent from my life until the beginning of this year. 

So I started playing Pickleball, and it’s just so much fun. It’s the perfect mix of a low-impact sport and high-intensity reaction time. Before the pandemic happened, I was going to try to play pickleball in all the states we were touring in. I started a little note on my Notes app called “Calvin plays pickleball.” I was going to make an Instagram page. I think I’ve ended up playing in about 10 cities in six states. It’s just such a diverse game. I’ve played with college kids, 70-year-olds, Black, white, Hispanic, Latino. It’s just such a diverse crowd and everyone is so nice. Everyone just wants to help you get better. 

One thing all pickleball players have in common is that they’re like, “The game is like a drug to me.” I’ve worked out, I’ve done exercise, it’s always very tedious and boring, but I can play pickleball for hours until I can barely walk. I still want to keep playing, because it’s that much fun. Through this pandemic I’ve just been playing a bit with my parents. Just in my backyard they installed new pickleball courts, which is awesome. I highly recommend it if you’re into tennis or anything.

It’s a lot like tennis except the court is half the size. Part of your side is called the kitchen, and you can’t go in the kitchen unless the ball bounces there. The main way people play is they go right up to the kitchen and then they do this thing called dinking, that’s when you lightly hit the ball. The goal is to hit the ball lightly enough so that when it reaches your opponent, it’s kind of below waist-height. You don’t want them to be able to smash the ball over the net. It’s a game of really intense focus and not slipping-up. I’ve tried tennis before, and I’m just not a runner. That’s just way too much court to cover. Most people on pickleball courts are older, they’re not running around as much.

You’ll usually have an intense 10-15 minute game, and then switch up and be with a different player on the other side. I was hoping to go to at least one or two pickleball tournaments this year, but they all got canceled, unfortunately.

It’s basically a harder wiffle ball. There are indoor and outdoor balls, those have more holes in them so the air can pass through them easier. I prefer playing indoors because I’m still young and I can still slide on my knees. The older people usually get a kick out of that. I usually have knee pads on. The paddles are smaller than tennis rackets, and they’re usually made of honeycomb, carbon fiber filling. They don’t have holes like a tennis racket does. I actually invested in the most expensive one. It was a big investment for me. The Engage Encore 6. Totally worth it, I love it.

In a time where positivity is hard to come by, The Happy Fits are here with their transportive, sunny second album, What Could Be Better, out August 28. Turning a love for the Killers and Violent Femmes into their own compact pop songwriting, the New Jersey-based trio started as a casual summer project for high school friends Calvin Langman, Ross Monteith, and Luke Davis before going off to college. After their debut EP, 2016’s Awfully Apeelin’, took off on Spotify during their first semester, school stopped looking like the natural next step. Following their 2018 full-length Concentrate, The Happy Fits have further honed their ambition for What Could Be Better’s collection of crowd-pleasers.