kurt cobain

GENIUS OR MADNESS? MENTAL HEALTH IN THE MUSIC SCENE
March 7, 2016 5:57 pm

Do you consider yourself an artist? Have you always leaned towards exploring artful activities that embody your emotions like music, painting, or acting rather than seeking family-pleasing, societally accepted, ordinary life goals like many of those around you? This, like many of us, has probably left you feeling alone and void of any practical solutions to the unclear problem. Well, likely those feeling are valid, as we creative people with unconventional life goals tend to suffer from mental illness seemingly more than those with “realistic goals.” Not to mention the musicians that I find to write the most heart-wrenchingly deep songs both lyrically and musically have the proclivity to feel life’s trials much harder than others, generally speaking. In the same way they feel euphoric joy, they also feel crushing lows, yet have found ways to craft those feelings with particular design.

Sometimes the ups and downs of a touring musician’s lifestyle is a set up for mental disturbance. Imagine playing your heart out to a high-octane room filled with strangers whose goal was to come watch you do what you do best- and have an amazing time doing so- because that’s what is expected of you. Essentially, you go from 0 to 100 and back down to 0 in a couple hours. Imagine that performance several nights a week in a different city every night. If that’s nothing, take into account travel time, costs and methods. There is such a thing called post performance depression where your brain struggles to level out the amount of endorphins it just massively pumped in a second, just to have that moment pass. Then it’s over. In David Bamberg’s words from his autobiography Illusion Show,

“Then you are really alone in that sea of empty seats and the color, light, music and warmth of the applause are just a memory, and, in spite of all the excitement, you know it’s been a lonely life.”

As a local musician, I have experienced this phenomena; the pre show nervousness, the powerful outlet and the praise from an audience, and then … Nothing. It’s a harsh reality even when you don’t tour. I can really see why touring musicians end up either addicted to drugs or going through major mental health crisis. The toll it takes on your body and mind gives you that instant gratification, much like that of a drug. Because, in the moments of performance your life is spectacular and special and not a single bit mundane.

Keep in mind, not all musicians suffer from mental illness or addiction, but a large percentage of us do- more specifically over 60% of us. There are varying reasons for this, but I’m a firm believer that we have to have that manic energy or deep pain to be able to make genuinely soulful and relatable music. If we can’t search the darker part of our psyches, we’re just making bubble gum flavored music.

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Whenever I would tell a teacher or family member what I truly wanted to do with my life, it was mocked in a half sympathetic tone, because those goals were far-fetched. No one actually becomes a famous musician, right? The environment you grow up in and the affect from people around you are large factors to the epidemic of anxiety and pain in artists. I am fortunate to have had a mother who supported me for everything I wanted to do and it made me stronger as both a person and an artist. I, myself, suffer from bouts of depression like many musicians and artists. I know that, from experience, channeling my feelings of anxiety and depression until I’m deep into my music is what makes it so beautiful.

There are so many important people whose lives were taken too early. Amazing musicians such as Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, Phil Ochs, Ian Curtis, Kurt Cobain and Richard Manuel to just name a few. A majority of these men suffered from addiction and other mental health issues and took to self medicating.

As a community of art and music, we need to recognize the signs. Artistic people are also stubborn people who likely won’t ask for help until it is too late. Most mental illnesses can be managed and while they can feel massively unbearable at times, you will feel better in the morning.

“Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem” and I wish I could go back to 2003 and tell Elliott that before he ended his own life, and I’m sure I’m not alone. In fact I read in an interview that he was at a bar and started talking to a random man who was also contemplating suicide because of his addiction, and Smith simply said ‘Don’t’. But tragically that same demon took Smith’s life far too early.

Unfortunately for most creative people who have ended their lives (or considering to do so) way before they got the chance to become a Cobain or a Winehouse, there is no beautiful legacy to be left, rather a traumatic disaster leaving loved ones to question and to remedy an avoidable pain. Here are a few ways you can reach out for help:

  • Message your closest friend- sometimes just vigorously typing out what you feel can go along way 
  • Talk to the person you are most comfortable with- they’ve been there for you before, they will do it again 
  • Seek therapy- a most helpful, yet often dismissed option. No one is above having someone to talk to  

Though I have studied my fair share of Psychology, I can honestly say the best advice I had ever gotten about self harm as a teenager was “write all of your major problems and stressors down in a letter, put it in an envelope and seal it. Write on the front ‘not my problem’.” I can almost guarantee when you look back on those envelopes years from then, the realization of how far you have come will be as loud as the Nick Drake record playing in your background and you will always have that pride to hold onto.

Mental health is a very important issue that can no longer be ignored. It’s not taboo and the stigmas don’t matter. What matters is you.  So help us beat the invisible Beasts, and know we are rooting for you.

DILLY DALLY SETS BABY’S ON FIRE
November 16, 2015 8:23 am

For the past few weeks, Dilly Dally has been touring the U.S., leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake. Well, maybe not death and destruction, but the band did put on a hell of a show at Baby’s All Right on Saturday.

Dilly Dally is the work of childhood friends Katie Monks and Liz Ball, who met while attending high school in Toronto. They bonded over their mutual love of the Pixies, Christopher Owens, Pete Doherty, and Kurt Cobain. However, my gut reaction upon listening to their debut LP Sore, is that Monks and Ball are spiritual successors to feminist hardcore punk bands like Hole and Babes in Toyland, with their songs covering topics that include menstruation and self-reinvention after heartbreak.

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dillydalllSigns posted outside the venue warned attendees that video recording would be taking place at the show. They weren’t kidding. A video production team had set up camp directly in front of the stage, flanked by journalists and photographers, in all likelihood to the dismay of the audience (sorry). However, it’s no surprise there was so much press in attendance; Dilly Dally has already been featured in publications including Pitchfork, Consequence of Sound, Stereogum, and Rolling Stone. And judging by the reaction of the audience, the band will not be slowing down anytime soon.

Saturday’s concert was sold out, and the venue was packed. This didn’t stop the crowd from dancing and, in one case, crowdsurfing. The guy with the video camera got shoved a couple of times. The passion with which Monks and Ball deliver their work is palpable, each one breaking a sweat early on in the show, and (along with the audience), eventually becoming drenched by the end of it.

The climax of the night came during the band’s performance of “Desire”, a song whose chorus is delivered in a gloriously lingering battle cry of repressed emotion. It’s a sound contemporary music hasn’t heard in way too long, and already I’m having fantasies about Dilly Dally beating the crap out of the excessively made-up artists whose overly produced nonsense is currently passed for popular music. It’s going to be awesome.

Heyrocco Smells Like Teenage Movie Soundtrack
October 9, 2015 1:31 pm

In Charleston, where there is nothing to do but skateboard, drink “shitty box wine”, and hangout, three dudes in high school formed a band called Heyrocco that personifies the teen angst of growing up in the suburbs.

Nathan Merli sings lead vocals and plays guitar, the guy with the real cool name Chris Cool plays bass, and then there’s Tanner Cooper or “Taco” on drums. Together they make melodic grungy tunes about the awkward, vulnerable, and rebellious feels of being a hormonal teenager.

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I first saw Heyrocco back in June at Shea Stadium.  Their debut album Teenage Movie Soundtrack had just come out on Old Flame Records and they were about to play their first show back in the US after a super successful tour in the UK.

They opened to a scattered crowd and played songs from the album which covers pretty much every topic that teen-dom entails.  Let’s see, there’s girls, peer pressure, horny teens, virginity, clumsy sex, hookups, heartbreak, house parties, hating everyone and everything around you…yup, I’m pretty sure that covers everything.

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Heyrocco describe their sound as “disney grunge” and it gives a very 90s feel to them that sometimes (bear with me as I try to compare them to other bands) reminds me of a grungier Motion City Soundtrack but if Conor Oberst was the vocalist.

I wonder if they would hate it if I compared them to Dashboard Confessional’s “Hands Down” or Simple Plan’s “I’m Just a Kid”I’m going to do it anyways, because their music reminds me of a time where I would play songs like that on repeat with my bedroom door shutting out the world so I could wallow in my teen angst to the band (the only people who understood me). Dramatic, I know.

It was funny talking about some of the verses with Merli.  He stopped mid-sentence at one point and was like, “Oh my god, I sound emo.” Because it’s true adolescent feelings and behaviors can sound pretty ridiculous, especially from an outside perspective. But Heyrocco embraces the humor in it, for example by holding up a t-shirt that says “daddy issues” at the end of the music video for “Loser Denial”.

Other times, especially when they played their song “Virgin”, Heyrocco really sounds like Nirvana.

“Virgin” makes fun of stereotypical macho males bragging about sexual conquests and pressuring others to do the same.  They approach many similar themes in the same deadpan style of Kurt Cobain, and to complete my mental comparison for the night, Cooper was wearing the same “Hi, How Are You” Daniel Johnston t-shirt Cobain often wore.  

Although Heyrocco claim to be “packing more bowls than venues” I would say they’re doing pretty well.  They are currently back touring in the UK, where they have been selling out shows, and are playing in Manchester the 13th before coming straight here to play CMJ on the 14th at Webster Hall.  So what’s next? Some touring around the US then on to Canada eh. I also vaguely remember Merli saying something about going in a different direction with their music…but anyways still can’t wait to see what they do next. So cheers Heyrocco, thanks for reawakening the nostalgic angsty teen in me!