As It Is, a Brighton-based rock band, have always made sure to keep the conversation as open as possible when it comes to the topic of mental health. They always do their best to make sure people are aware that it’s okay not to be okay but with their latest release, The Great Depression, they are doing more than just talk.
Since the era started for TGD, the band have made it clearer than ever that they want to help those struggling with mental health as much as they can. Before their show in Bristol, we had a chat with lead singer, Patty Walters, about their latest release, mental health in the alternative scene, and the future of As It Is in regards to how they’ll continue portraying mental health.
Alex: Can you explain a bit about the overall meaning behind your latest album?
Patty: ‘The Great Depression’ is about how, as a society, we glamorise mental illnesses in a way we shouldn’t. There have been bands who talk about their scars in a way that allows people to have a safe space, which is amazing. But equally, it hasn’t been done in the most beneficial way. We wanted to reinvent how we talk about a subject matter that’s deeply sensitive, personal, and a problem we need to overcome. We wanted it to look different and to talk about these things more sensitively. In a way, I think talking about self-harm and suicide in the blunt matter we did is more accurate to the reality of those things, but it was terrifying.
Alex: Your last album, ‘Okay.’, had a strong 1950s vibe, but TGD has a much stronger theme and storyline, making it a concept album. What made you decide to do that?
Patty: It wasn’t initially going to be a concept album. It was going to be an album that explored the conversation and the stigma around mental health and it was Ben’s [guitarist and vocalist] idea to make the record about somebody and I think that was the most important shift in the record because what really defines this band is how personal our lyrics are. It would’ve been a mistake to have not written these lyrics from first person. The record is from the perspective of ‘the poet’ meant we could still have a piece of us in the lyrics, but it was still about struggle, emotion, and feelings in a way it otherwise couldn’t have been. It allowed us to make the record from the perspective of somebody we hugely identify with but equally talking about things that are more important than just one person.
Alex: What made you decide to have mental health be the theme for the whole album rather than sticking to just a few songs, like most musicians?
Patty: I think writing another album in 2017 about myself didn’t feel as important as something that’s very real in the zeitgeist of 2017/ 2018. It was a turbulent and transitional moment politically and everyone was deeply dissatisfied with the state of the world. We wanted to talk about that because it wasn’t the right time or place to write about myself again.
I think album 4 will possibly be less conceptional and more personal to me because, throughout this year, I’ve gone through a lot regarding my mental health, physical health (getting sick earlier in the year and being in and out of hospital), going through the break up, and going through writing/ recording this record. It’ll be more personal to me because I’ll have more to say. In 2017, I didn’t have anything about myself I wanted to write about, I wanted to write about the world and topics that really mattered to me at the time.
Alex: With this album specifically, but also with your music in general, a lot of fans relate to it in a way which helps them with their own struggles. How does that make you feel and are those your intentions?
Patty: It’s always the end goal but it’s never the priority. The priority is always that it’s personal and true to us, and it was something we were especially conscious of with this record because when you try to talk about mental illnesses, I only identify with a handful of those experiences. Trying to put words in people’s mouths, how they feel, and try to represent them and speak for them, it would’ve been a catastrophe.
So, it was only important it was true to me, Ben, and the people writing these lyrics. If anyone else finds themselves in these songs, that is ultimately what we hope for but I think the second you try to cater to people and try to speak for them you’re just aligning yourself for failure.
Alex: I agree, there are so many different mental illnesses and you can’t write about the ones you haven’t personally experienced.
Patty: That would be inappropriate and it’s not portraying it in an authentic way. It’ll potentially stigmatize the conversation around it more because you’re speaking behalf on a topic you know nothing about.
Alex: You’ve been involved with mental health charities and you were doing workshops with ‘Hope For The Day’ throughout Warped Tour. What made you, and the rest of the band, decide to take it upon yourselves to do more than just talk about mental health, but also be involved in these projects?
Patty: If we were going to talk about mental health and scream the sentiment that nobody is listening and that as a society need to do better, we needed to step up. It’s important to walk the walk, and I’m glad we did. Being involved in non-profits is something I’ll love to align myself with more in the future. I think it’s where I belong; the Hufflepuff in me really resonates with it. It’s honestly been so eye-opening and fulfilling to be involved with.
It was kind of a wake-up call that the conversation isn’t enough when we were proclaiming it’s okay not to be okay, but people like Chester Bennington are still taking their lives. I think we need to redefine not only the way we converse but also just ask people how they are. If you’re going to ask, “how are you?”, but you’re not going to mean it and you’re not ready for a real fucking answer, then maybe you shouldn’t ask at all. We need to get better at having these tough conversations and being ready for truthful answers.
Alex: Do you think if an artist is already talking about mental health, they have more of an obligation to do something about it like you and the rest of As It Is are?
Patty: I think it would be more beneficial if people did, but I don’t know if it’s the inherent responsibility of every artist to be involved in charity projects. I have a similar opinion surrounding how it’s not the inherent responsibility of every artist to be a good role model. I like using my platform to be the best role model I believe I can be, and I’d like to think most would try to be. But, just because you’re in the public eye, you don’t necessarily volunteer yourself to be a spokesperson for all things good. I personally welcome it and I enjoy the responsibility of it.
Alex: The topic about mental health is a lot more prevalent within the alternative genre compared to mainstream music and other genres, what do you think about how it’s portrayed within this scene?
Patty: There are so many champions of wanting to talk about mental health, and I think that’s great. There can never be too many conversations because the more we talk about it, the more we destigmatize it. I just hope it’s being done in a tasteful and authentic way. If it’s true to the person writing the lyrics, and it’s about their experiences, they can’t go wrong. But I think the more we talk about it, the more progress we make so I’m all for it.
Alex: Do you think you’ll carry on having mental health be something As It Is talk about or do you think you’ll change to another topic?
Patty: I think it will always be a fundamental part of As It Is, mostly because Ben and I love bands that write sad songs. We identify with sad music, sad bands, and sad songs so introspective lyrics will always be at the forefront of what he and I write. It might not be necessarily as heavily “branded” as a record about mental health, but this is just speculating, we haven’t started writing our next record much. Mental health is incredibly important to us as people, but I don’t think we’d write another record about it if it wasn’t truly what we were needing to write. We wouldn’t do it for the sake of it or because anybody expected it. It was the complete opposite for this record, we wrote it because nobody expected As It Is to become a heavier post-hardcore influenced band. It was exciting for us, but we’ll always do what’s true to us, no matter what it looks like.
Thank you to Patty for chatting to us about his views on such an important topic to us all, and thank you to the rest of As It Is for continuing breaking the stigma. Make sure to listen to their latest album, The Great Depression, and see them on any upcoming tours!
Want to hear more from As It Is? Visit asitisofficial.com