Interview & Photos By Yising Kao 3/1/19
As It Is will be on the cover of our March issue dropping next week!
Concert Photos: https://www.galaxy-mag.com/asitis-chainreaction
Check out As It Is' music & tour dates here! https://asitisofficial.com/
Signed with Fearless Records, As It Is formed in Brighton, England in 2012, consisting of vocalist Patty Walters, guitarist/vocalist Benjamin Langford-Biss, guitarist Ronnie Ish, bassist Alistair Testo, and drummer Patrick Foley. Their style is a combination of pop, punk, and alternative, and they write their own lyrics. As It Is released their first two albums with a more pop-sounding style, Never Happy, Ever After, in 2015, and Okay., in 2016, written with honest lyrics surrounding mental health and the idea that “it’s okay not to be okay.” With their newest record, The Great Depression, released in August 2018, As It Is has taken a completely different direction by transforming into a darker aesthetic through their music and fashion style. It may have been risky and they weren’t sure how fans would receive the new aesthetic, but the album was extremely successful and hit the UK’s Top 40 Official Charts. The Great Depression tells a narrative from the perspective of “The Poet,” who finds himself face-to-face with Death. Patty has said that the album is about the societal romanticization of depression and asks more questions rather than providing answers. The track list is split into four stages of grief, which are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, and Acceptance. I got to chat with Patty and Ben on their tour bus at their last U.S. show of The Great Depression Tour at Chain Reaction in Anaheim, CA on February 22. As It Is is a genuine and inspiring band who’s creating music with a powerful message by raising awareness about mental health, and challenging problematic behaviors and stigmas such as toxic masculinity, which is exactly what society needs right now.
You guys are so genuine and always make the effort to connect with fans, whether it’s grabbing their hands while performing or coming out to meet everyone after shows. It’s the little things that can mean a lot to someone, so they're not just another face in the crowd. What do you hope fans take from your shows? Growing up, were there any bands you looked up to who treated their fans the same way you guys do?
Patty: First and foremost, I want our shows to feel like home, like a family because not everybody’s home is a safe place. It was never really the expectation. It just kind of serendipitously happened along the way whether that was because of us or because of our fans. It’s just what happened and I think what’s so very interesting is that when we were growing up, it wasn’t a very closely knit family when you went to shows.
Ben: I’d go to see bands and I would never have any expectations to meet them. One example is when I met Funeral for a Friend just at the bar, in the middle of their set. They were just so nice and it was the first time I’ve ever met anyone in a band I liked. That really stuck with me. I think when you grow from that and see bands that you love are like that, it naturally comes, and you want to do the same for your fans as you know that band did to you as a kid.
People need to understand that artists are human too and they can suffer from mental illnesses. It can be easy to fake a smile sometimes just like everyone else. How did you gain the courage to open up about your mental health?
Patty: I'm not even certain that it was courage. It was a very unfortunate breaking point and more tangible than anything. I internalized all of my struggles throughout 2015 and a fair portion of 2016, before I broke down and started therapy, and was open and honest with my bandmates, my family, and my friends. It’s one of these things where we never intended to be ambassadors for mental health. It just fell into our laps in a way and we’ve always expressed ourselves through lyrics. It has always been the cathartic and therapeutic thing for me. It takes your thoughts and puts them onto paper, so they're not really in your body as much anymore. So, I don’t know if it was necessarily courage. It was just a state of necessity.
Ben: Yeah, it just kind of happened. As time went on, just the stories that we’d been hearing from fans, and the things people talked to us about have become so much more honest over the past few records. It wasn’t like a purposeful thing, like going in like warriors, but when you're presented with that platform and suddenly, you realize you can do something good with it, then that’s what we do. A lot of people have a platform and don’t use it and that’s fine, but I think we’d be doing ourselves a disservice if we didn’t take the full opportunity of what we could potentially do.
It’s incredible how you use your platform to spread mental health awareness and challenge stigmas. You're really helping evolve the music industry for the better. The Great Depression has a completely different style than your past albums, so what was your process like experimenting with new sounds through production? How did your songwriting process compare to your last albums? Do you usually write poetry first and turn it into lyrics?
Ben: I kind of write tropes with no intended sense of melody and Patty picks out the good bits, and makes it pretty. Patty hears the melody and I kind of just spit the words out.
Patty: I guess it’s a combination of conscious and natural evolution of our sound and genre. You can definitely tell in hindsight on Okay. that we were experimenting with elements that were “poppier” and darker. From Never Happy, Ever After, poppier was like “Pretty Little Distance” and “Still Remembering” and “Until I Return.” Darker was “No Way Out,” “Soap” and “Austen,” which are all just kind of clumped together. We just enjoyed the more aggressive sounds on and off stage, and I think a lot of people gravitated towards the aggression and the angst, and the dissatisfaction, be that because of the mental health-related sentiments or because it was 2017, and the world was really fucked up in 2017. It could be a combination of both, to be honest. So, it made sense for us because we were also dissatisfied with the state of the world in 2017. Politically, societally, but equally, we wanted to reconstruct the way in which bands in the scene portray mental health, depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicide, and we didn’t want to glorify or romanticize or glamorize those topics.
Ben: Being dissatisfied in that context, we were also dissatisfied with our own band at the time, so we took a completely fresh approach to everything, doing it like we’ve never done before.
Some bands just talk about mental health, but they don’t actually act upon it, so I really appreciate what you guys are doing.
Patty: Thank you!
You guys partnered with nonprofit organizations like A Voice For The Innocent, (which helps victims of rape and sexual abuse share their stories and find help anonymously through resources) for this tour and Hope For The Day for Vans Warped Tour (a proactive suicide prevention organization that provides mental health education). How did you come about finding these organizations and deciding that you wanted to combine them with your music? It’s very unique.
Patty: We became aware of A Voice For The Innocent as an organization and as people on Warped Tour of last year.
Ben: I reckon we probably did the same for Hope For The Day, but on 2015 Warped.
Patty: Yeah, which I think in itself is a testament to Kevin Lyman opening the door to some nonprofits for great causes, food donations, and blood donations. So, we became aware of so many of these nonprofits within our scene and just wanted to work with them. It’s also an extension of Okay. in the sense that with that record, we encouraged everyone listening to understand that it’s okay to not be okay, and to speak out unashamedly and unafraid. With The Great Depression, with the sentiment that nobody’s listening, we wanted to open the door for people who are listening, like nonprofits, because as much as we can listen and empathize, we’re not trained professionals. We can only do our best that we’ve learned along the way and more often than not, that’s not enough. So, with Hope For The Day, A Voice For The Innocent, and other organizations, it was important that we were just not talking the talk, but we were walking the walk and really taking a stand and creating loud action.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you can talk about?
Patty: Very excitingly, we are releasing four EPs this year. We have reimagined the entire record in numerous genres and on March 1st, the Denial EP comes out.
Ben: We have four EPs for each stage of the record, with three songs on each one.
Patty: It was something we were passionate about obviously, but it was also a way of, before moving onto the next really ambitious project, expanding upon and still being present in the world of The Great Depression. I think it’s something we were guilty of in writing The Great Depression. We started writing it before Okay. was even released, so when Okay. was this very sentimental, present, personal record for everyone, we were busy being creatively invested in this new world and all these characters, and we didn’t get to live it at the exact same moment as everybody, and we didn’t want to repeat that. We wanted to be present with everybody and it was just an exciting way of doing that.
Ben: Yeah, I'm excited to do the different interpretations because we’ve only ever really done a couple of acoustic versions of songs. We’ve never really done anything like this and it’s not an acoustic album, by any means. It’s completely reimagined. I mean, no song’s really the same stylistically but the thing I find most interested with reimagined things like this, is when you hear a song done so differently and sounding so differently, I always find completely different interpretations of the lyrics. When I listen to different versions of songs, I hear or understand different things from it, just because of how different it sounds, so I'm quite excited for that, a completely new interpretation of The Great Depression.
That sounds amazing! I’ve never really heard of any bands who have done something like that. It’s like a completely different style, like how you guys made the Jukebox version of Hey Rachel.
Patty: Yeah, that’s a really great way to consider it. Every song is vastly different.
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS
Favorite coffee shop in the England?
Ben: I think my favorite coffee is Twin Pines. Its an independent coffee shop.
Patty: Brighton has got some really amazing coffee shops. Trading Posts is my favorite café, but their coffee isn’t my favorite. Small Batch has some really good coffee.
If you got a dog, what breed would it be?
Patty: I love Chow Chows. I don’t know if I’d necessarily get one, but they’re my favorite breed. But they're huge and they shed, and they have too much energy for me.
Ben: I love Lurchers. No one really seems to know what they are, but they’re like Greyhounds, but not as muscle-y and they don’t need to run as much. They literally get about thirty minutes of energy in the day and they're lazy for the rest of the day, so that would work perfectly for me. They just have really funny faces and big noses like me.
Are they like, tall and skinny?
Ben: Yeah, you know how people look like their dogs? I think it’s narcissism in dog owning for me.
Favorite song to perform on this tour?
Patty: I think “The Wounded World” has been my favorite on this tour. Or “The Reaper.” The start and the end.
Ben: Probably “The Two Tongues.” That one’s really fun. I’ve actually recently started enjoyed playing “The Truth I’ll Never Tell.”
That’s one of my favorites.
Patty: Yeah, I definitely have the most fun playing that one.
Ben: Yeah, I’ve really come around to that one.
What have you guys crowdsurfed to before?
Ben: Patty and I used to go and tear up Slam Dunk Festival, way back in the day as fans.
What cartoon character best represents you?
Ben: You're the blue one from The Powerpuff Girls.
Patty: Bubbles. I was going to say, vocally, SpongeBob is probably quite similar to how I sound and sing. But Bubbles is actually like me.
Ben: I feel like I'm an antagonist in a cartoon, maybe Mojo Jojo.
Patty: Shaggy from Scooby-Doo.
Ben: Yeah, that’s a great show.
Thank you for the interview!
Patty: Thank you, that was fun! We’re really excited for everyone to hear the reimagined EPs.
As It Is