2018 has been an amazing year for As It Is. From the release of their third studio album The Great Depression to the final ever Warped Tour, and now The Great Depression tour featuring their biggest headline shows, there’s been no stopping them this year.
CelebMix was able to sit down with frontman Patty Walters before their Birmingham show and talk about touring, the album, fans, and much more.
Hey Patty, as we’re backstage at one of your shows I feel we should start with how is tour going?
I don’t really have the words for how humbled we are that the record has been so warmly received and welcomed into these cities and countries. To see the connection with how much it means to both the people in the crowd and the people on the stage, it’s been a special tour.
When you released the album did you ever imagine that it would get the reaction it has?
I mean there’s a certain degree of hope and expectation, but you never know, you can only hope. Musically lyrically and aesthetically it’s such a departure from what As It Is has been in the past, so we really did hope that it been true to us and our artistic integrity meant that it would translate well but you just never know.
With The Great Depression being a concept album, did this play a part in staging for the tour?
In a big way yeah, we weren’t quite as strict on the division of the four stages of the record. It’s all about how it flows but there were certain moments where there was no question where a song would go. We knew it was The Reaper for the intro, The End before the encore and that we were ending with The Stigma (Boys Don’t Cry), those things were set in stone and everything else fell into place around it. I’ve spent such a long time finalizing the setlist, months making sure it was exactly right and it all falling into place and going so well every night has been really rewarding to see.
Talking about the concept, how did this come about?
It was always going to be a concept album to some extent, an exploration of society’s romanticization and glamorization around depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicide and mental illness and we were just going to explore this idea from every angle we could think of. A deep dive into the shortcomings of society and the music scene and how we could be doing better. It was Ben’s idea to make the album about a protagonist we called The Poet amongst other characters which I think is the best thing that could have happened for the record because it still feels personal, it’s still about feelings, emotions, and struggles but it’s also from the perspective of someone you can identify with. I think one of the things that define As It Is is the lyricism, how personal it is to the people writing the lyrics and I think it could have jeopardized the accessibility of the record if it hadn’t been from the perspective of someone so for that I’m very grateful. It was fun to wear someone else’s skin and write lyrics from their perspective for a little while, characters that aren’t necessarily true for me.
The concept is centred around mental health and you’ve also done a lot of work with mental health charities recently, through this era you’ve really connected personally with fans even using the voices of some on The Handwritten Letter. With this concept was it important to you to involve the fans?
I think there are so many aspects to this. The Great Depression (the song) and The Handwritten Letter are the Yin and Yang to each other. The Great Depression is from the perspective of someone who writes music and The Handwritten Letter is from the perspective of someone who listens to music. The Handwritten Letter is about how music makes you feel understood and less alone, so for that reason reaching out to people who have been to dozens of our shows it was not only just potentially cool for them it so cool for us and makes that song so special. Equally the Great Depression is the cynical, jaded view, seeing all the ills in writing personal lyrics and talking about mental health. A cynical look at how people say you save their life basically saying I’m the poet and the problem. The two songs are complete opposites for each other and it kind of touched on where this record was going to be, before the concept of the poet it was exploring that idea. It’s always been with not only the people who listen to our music but how we listen to music. I’ve always identified to sad music and records so I understand just as much as everybody else, so involving fans was definitely on our mind.
Were there any messages that you hoped fans would take from the record?
The objective fact that we didn’t save anyone’s life was the big one. I would love for people to truly feel, appreciate and be elevated that they’ve saved themselves instead of this band. It’s a big reason why the end is open to interpretation on whether the poet chooses to live or die because that is the choice of every person every day. You can choose to continue to put it behind you or not and we didn’t want to choose an ending on behalf of anyone else. I hope this record truly highlights that we love and appreciate the people who listen to this band and we love that we’re here for them in their darkest moments but we’re not saving anybody, they’re saving themselves.
With the themes and such a change in sound were you apprehensive about releasing the album?
In a big way, yes but I wasn’t apprehensive in the sense that this is easily the proudest I’ve ever been of one of our records and unanimously we all love and are proud of this record. Even if it had totally bombed, I would have stood by this record. I’m proud we took this risk I’m proud we wrote a concept album that is talking about some real shit. Although equally, I would have been very disheartened if we had alienated people who have been with us for years. It would have been a very difficult pill to swallow but you can only do your best and write about what means something to you. Writing another album about where I was in my life in 2017 wasn’t important to me, it was about writing about the world and conversations we need to be having. I think that’s been the most rewarding and humbling thing of all there are people who have been with this band from 2013-2014 that are still here and connected maybe even more than ever to this band and I feel so proud of that.
What was the inspiration in changing your aesthetic to fit the album’s concept?
Firstly, we love bands that change drastically from era to era. We love Fall Out Boy, Paramore, My Chemical Romance, and Panic At The Disco! but this record was very consciously and intentionally inspired by post-hardcore music, the music we grew up loving. Something I really wanted to let inspire this record was when I got into Green Day, Blink-182, Sum 41 – they were inspired by bands I’d never heard of, bands like Descendents, NOFX and Bad Religion. I only know about those bands due to who exposed me to alternative music in the first place so I really wanted to channel and pay homage to post-hardcore bands that inspired us when we were in our early to mid-teens, bands like Funeral for a Friend, Hell is for Heroes and Hundred Reasons. Larry Hibbitt from Hundred Reasons co-wrote The Fire, The Dark with me and bands like Underoath, Aaron Gillespie sings on the record. It was all very intentional and changing the image and my hair was very intentional. Every band had the black emo MySpace fringe going on, channeling the era that inspired this record was totally intentional.
You’ve just mentioned the collaboration with Gillespie on The Reaper, how was that?
It was incredible, we didn’t meet him until after the song had been recorded. We sent the file and the lyrics, the first time we heard it was during rehearsals for the Okay UK and EU shows and it just blew us away. He is genuinely just a hero of mine in a big way, an idol through and through, and I covered that band numerous time when I was 13/14 guitars, vocals, drums, all that stuff. But to hear your voice going back and forth with Aaron’s, mine and Ben’s, there are no words for how that feels, it was so surreal and so cool.
If someone is reading this who hasn’t heard of As It Is how would you describe it to them?
I always struggle with this, I never know what to say when total strangers are like ‘hey what does your band sound like?’ But I’d go with mid-2000’s emo nostalgia.
If you had a time machine that would take you back to any one point of your music career which would it be?
That’s such a cool question. I would love to go back to our first show. It was in a living room, it was a student uni house next to a skate park in Brighton called the Level. We played to a full living room of I don’t know how many people, 30? We were so proud and I’m sure we sounded so bad, but it was so exciting to just finally be doing this thing, to have it all come together in our first very show. Now we’re doing the biggest headline shows of our lives and it would be so cool to revisit such a humble beginning playing a living room, I would love to see that.