“It was very possible The Great Depression was going to be our last album.“
-Patty Walters of As It Is (2019)
On January 17th, As It Is began their US leg of The Great Depression tour to showcase their new album. The Great Depression openly discusses struggles with mental illness and handling depression along with other subject matter while on the band’s journey to destigmatize mental health. We caught up with the guys at the Nashville date to talk about the album, bringing on newly announced permanent member Ronnie Ish, and working with A Voice For The Innocent.
We started our afternoon with a good ole soundcheck. We were very lucky cause we got to hear a bit of a song they are not currently playing on this tour but are practicing for their next tour over in Europe. After soundcheck ended, the guys took a break to recoup and get ready for VIP. Obviously, fans were extremely excited for the VIP experience. Something I personally noticed that was different from other artist’s VIPs was that instead of playing a fews songs acoustically for fans, they played full band for the VIP. When bands typically do acoustic sets for this, some of the members are just kind of sitting there since their role isn’t particularly needed in that moment. So it was nice to see everyone getting to participate and I think the fans really enjoyed that and also getting to hear songs that aren’t in the set this tour. There were some great questions along with jokes, like Patty telling everyone he’d want Ellen Degeneres to play him in a movie. Once that was completed, the guys moved over to the meet & greet where they got to have a quick chat with fans and fans got a professional photograph taken for them by the one and only, Ian Coulson.
When VIP had concluded, our little groups once again broke away for some dinner breaks and to also let the other bands complete their soundchecks. We then met up with Ronnie, Patty, and Ben to sit down and have a chat about some topics we were interested in discussing, but also things we thought fans may find interesting. First, we wanted to talk about the new album and how it has compared to their previous releases. Ben started us off by telling us that they definitely had a better idea of what they we doing this time compared to Okay. where the concept was whacked on after the writing was completed whereas for The Great Depression, it started with the idea of a concept album. Patty then added that they took a lot of risks with this album and if it ended up being rejected by fans, critics, etc. he would’ve been able to sleep at night knowing they didn’t make a safe record. The Great Depression actually ended up being the most well-received album by people that were already fans of the band, and even by people who found As It Is from this album; the three agreed it was also the most well received by their peers. Whether it was friends or supporting acts on tours, they think they latched onto this music a bit more. Patty put it best when he said, “Art first. What everybody else thinks second.”
We were then curious to talk more about their last album, Okay., as it has been described as their “awkward middle child.” There were a handful of songs like "Soap" and "Austen" that had heavier elements compared to the other songs on the album (Patty stated Okay. had some of the poppiest music they’ve ever written as well) which we thought may have been the beginning of realizing the type of music they wanted to write for The Great Depression. “Okay. was about embracing experimentation musically … and it was just about finding our footing and discovering who we were meant to be as a band.” Patty explained. He then went onto talk about that era was also where they gained a lot of confidence. They were so used to being a small band on small stages, but they were now learning how to grow into playing bigger stages and instead of being scared of that they embraced it. “... it was very possible The Great Depression was going to be our last album. So for both those reasons, we took every risk that was in front of us musically and creatively because 1. We had the confidence in each other and ourselves and 2. We didn’t have a lot to fucking lose.” Obviously, we raised an eyebrow about The Great Depression potentially being their last album. I asked if it was the lack of confidence that potentially brought As It Is to an end but Patty went on to talk about the band was a very dark and toxic place in 2017 and just an overall difficult place to be. But then 2018 rolled around, where the began working on The Great Depression in January of that year and it became the brightest and most optimistic time it has ever been in the band.
We then decided to stray away from music talk for a bit and talk about something very important, them partnering with A Voice For The Innocent. AVFTI is a community of support for those that are victims of rape and sexual abuse and As It Is decided to have them out of The Great Depression tour. They have a table at each show where fans can grab literature about AVFTI and learn about how to help other and themselves, but also they are welcome to share their stories as well. We wanted to know how the idea to bring out a nonprofit came about but also why they chose AVFTI over other nonprofits they’ve worked with before. Patty was more than happy to list off a million reasons as to why they decided to do this. “With Okay. it sent out this message that ‘It’s okay not to be okay.’ and that you can be unashamed of your feelings and your struggles and your insecurities and be vocal. With this record, we wanted to take it a step further.” They knew that preaching about mental health and your struggles was one thing, but without action it’s pretty empty. They wanted their fans to know that they’re putting efforts towards helping not only themselves but their fans find the support they need. Ronnie also pointed out that Sharptooth, who is direct support on this tour, has worked heavily with AVFTI in the past so it just made too much sense to not take out AVFTI. He has also known Jamie, founder of A Voice For The Innocent, for years and knew they also supported him as a person because “he was someone who wanted to make a change and do it for all the right reasons.” Overall, having this table was important to them cause even if kids aren’t going up and sharing their stories (which this is some hard stuff to talk about so it’s completely understandable), they’re at least able to learn about AVFTI, take some literature home, and just know that there is that resource out there for them or someone they know.
Obviously, mental health is very important to As It Is, so we wanted to talk to their about their personal experiences. One thing a lot of touring professionals don’t necessarily talk about is the transitional period of being on the road and being home. As someone who has toured before, I know it can really impact someone’s mental state. Ben described this period as “a little weird … I always find the first week home and the first week on tour, I’m in a really odd mood.” He then discussed how there is an adjustment period because they all live such different lives at home, but then all those different lives have to come and live together on that bus for two or so months. “When you’re on tour, you’re thinking about going home. When you’re home, you’re thinking about going on tour” Ronnie talked about. It’s also never necessarily a break because you’re either just constantly working on, and thinking about, the next tour and/or you’re trying to do as much as you can with the people in your life before you leave for your next run. Patty then discussed how he’s very introverted and he tries to spend a lot of his free time alone to recharge himself. He likes being home because “from my perspective it’s that I am so insignificant in the grand scheme of how many people there on this Earth and how many people around me who don’t give a fuck who I am. That is something I like, crave and don’t often get enough on tour.” Being in the spotlight can also cause your words to have more weight and importance than needed, but “it’s really just not that big of a fucking deal, it just isn’t.”
Finally, one major thing we thought may affect their mental health on the road is hearing fans talk about their stories. Obviously, bands are grateful beyond words for their fans. They can’t be a band without them, but sometimes (especially when you’re already struggling yourself) hearing their stories can really affect them. Apparently with this record, fans felt more comfortable sharing their struggles with the band as they’ve also become more open about their own. Both Ronnie and Ben agreed that it never gets easier. It’s always hard hearing about the pain in a fan’s life, but you only have thirty or sixty seconds with them depending on the situation. “That’s probably what’s toughest for me, not being able to spend time with it or have a good conversation over it cause I just want to talk my ass off, especially when someone is struggling” Ronnie added. They’ve of course learned how to handle it all as best as they can so they can make it through the day.
From there, we decided our interview was complete and headed back into the venue and catch the rest of the show. We had not seen any of these bands before so we were pretty excited. Point North had the crowd hyped, especially for them being the first band on the bill. Hold Close kept that same energy up for the whole crowd. Then Sharptooth absolutely killed it and were absolutely all over the place (definitely gained a new fan that day aka me). Finally, it was time for As It Is to come on. Obviously, the crowd was excited and lost it the second “The Reaper” started playing. The crowd spent the set jumping, singing, and opening up a few pits. Our photographer even joined them in the pit to snap a few photos. Overall, every single band put on an amazing performance and then met fans after the show. We’re excited to see how the Boston show compares to Nashville, and of course, what the future holds for As It Is and all the bands on The Great Depression tour.
If you want to catch these awesome bands on the rest of The Great Depression tour, be sure to check out the dates and see when they’ll be in your city!
If you or anyone you know is a victim of rape or sexual abuse, be sure to check out A Voice For The Innocent’s website.
Check on the links below to listen to As It Is’ music and follow them on social media!
All photographs taken by Olivia Amaral