Each December 25 for the past few years, we’ve offered up our whole catalog on Bandcamp for pay-what-you-want with all proceeds going to various charities, and this year we’re partnered up with Punk Talks (punktalks.org), a group dedicated to educating people in the music scene about mental illness and offering resources for treatment.
Mental illness has long been a topic our band deals with in song and in life, and I know many of you with whom we’ve spoken at shows that struggle with it as well, but I’ve never really spoken about it in a sort of personal way, so here goes nothing.
I’ve been aware of my depression for most of my life, starting around middle school and writing it off as puberty or something and having it become ingrained in my life from that point on til now at 29 still learning what it means and how to deal with it. Most of that time was spent in ignorance of what was happening, always writing it off as just being angry or being a loner in a small town or some other external reason that wasn’t my fault.
It wasn’t until 2013 that I started to accept the idea that there was something more going on. I can remember sad or angry blurs of our winter tour with Hot Water Music & The Menzingers (people whom I love and I wish we could do that tour again with me in a better mental state!) and coming home and shutting off from the world. I didn’t leave my room or eat, there was a physical component now to the private mental problems I was having. This was also the time we were writing Rooms of the House and I wasn’t replying to emails or texts from the band or contributing to the process, our relationships were very strained and I think the tone of “wow, I can’t believe this record happened” that comes across in the Tiny Dots DVD is derivative of this strain but it wasn’t something that felt appropriate to share with the audience at the time.
I started seeing a therapist in Boston, but even with my health insurance at the time, it was clear I wouldn’t be able to afford it for long, and by the time Rooms came out and we were going to be touring again, therapy was no longer part of my life and I went back to ignoring the problems. It helped a bit to acknowledge that I had an illness and it wasn’t just me being an ass to people to whom I was close or shutting off from friends to be alone and mope on a whim, but still my negligence in seeking treatment or active coping with the symptoms was antithetical to getting better.
Fast forward to this year when I met Sheridan Allen at Bledfest who founded Punk Talks and provided a way for people in the music industry to get access to mental health counseling. Their tagline of “You don’t have to be sad to make great music” was particularly interesting to me as in the past I’ve tended to channel my sadness and anger to write effectively sad and angry songs at the cost of my own health. We spoke for a bit in the following months while LD spent the summer writing new songs and despite spirits being pretty high most of the time, I could feel myself slipping again from the stress. Punk Talks connected me with a therapist with whom I talk every two weeks and has helped me understand things about myself that seem so obvious now but I was oblivious to before now. When I came home from our recent recording session and friends asked me how I was, I’d actually say “great,” and my own answer would take me aback, but it felt real. I doubt I’m cured or that I won’t slip into those sad episodes again, but I have such a better sense of self, understanding of my relationships and general influence on the world around me, and knowledge of ways to pull myself back up through the education my therapist offers me.
We’ve always tried to pair with charities that are close to us and the results have been stellar in the past, but its such a unique feeling for me today to be able to give back to an organization that I can personally champion as a group of good people doing good things for this community. All proceeds gathered this holiday from our bandcamp will be going to Punk Talks to help them continue to grow and offer more resources and assistance to musicians, industry professionals, and fans.
“In 2017 alone we were able to add 4 licensed therapists and nearly a dozen volunteer staff to help bring our mission of providing free therapy to music works all over the country. In 2018, we will be forming and launching our first ever Board of Directors, applying for 501c3 status, implementing accountability workshops, and a whole lot of other cool stuff we can’t mention yet. On behalf of Punk Talks: we are only just getting started and we can’t wait to grow with you in 2018!” – Punk Talks founder Sheridan Allen.
If you’re unable to give anything, the option is available to download without payment. All downloads must be completed on the 25th of December. If you are planning to download several albums or songs, please consider combining your donations into one lump sum on one of your downloads, instead of multiple small donations. This will help minimize fees and maximize the money that will be able to be donated. You will also need to download the songs within the 24 hours of Christmas Day as the songs will no longer be free come the 26th (ending noon GMT).
All music and a little extra can be found here:
Finding Felix/Tales from the Loop
As our yearly tradition of offering the catalog for pay-what-you-want continues, this year felt a little thin. In the past, when we aren’t able to include a new proper album, we’ve had live sessions, b-sides, and a few random other things. To that end, we’ve been so busy developing the new LP that there aren’t extra songs from this year to include. Since we didn’t want to have nothing to offer, we’ve uploaded the audio from an RPG session we played this summer.
For about the last two years, we’ve added roleplaying games to the band’s routine. It started as playing D&D on tour days off and a way to kill time and have fun together, but gameplay has worked its way to become part of our creative process. This summer while writing our fourth LP, we were designing and playing games to explore themes that we were approaching musically, and the games became a very harmonious part of the greater project. We could develop characters, relationships, and stories that explored longing or grief or some more ethereal emotional concepts, then come back the next day with a different perspective and develop music based on what we felt. So far, our attempts to use cards and dice to randomize chord progressions has been fruitless, but I can’t honestly say we never tried it.
Finding Felix is a recording of our July 2017 session of the Tales from the Loop RPG, set in an alternate 1980s with weirdness in a small town. Think E.T. or the Goonies but add robots. While this game was simply for fun and not part of a bigger study, there is nothing wrong with having fun, and you’ll find by listening that it’s sort of our nature to add some heavy emotional themes to a story anyways.
So listen as the rebellious rocker Kit Wilkes, the downtrodden hick Billy, the studious Peter Timmer, and his weirdo brother Chance get themselves into trouble in search of their friend Felix while the adults in town don’t seem to notice anything amiss.
AV / LD