MOST BANDS JUST WANT TO GET HUGE IN WHATEVER WAY POSSIBLE. SORORITY NOISE ARE DIFFERENT – THEY WANT TO HELP.
WORDS: RYAN DE FREITAS.
“Depression is not a trend. Depression is not cool. Depression is not hip. It is a serious mental illness that we should help others fight to better their lives as well as our own. Stop glorifying sorrow and start lending a helping hand to those that need it the most.”
Speaking as much to his peers in bands as to those who listen to his music, Sorority Noise’s Cam Boucher laid out the above statement in a letter penned for Alt Press prior to the release of their excellent sophomore record, ‘Joy, Departed’ last month. The glorification of mental health struggles is an issue very close to his heart and Boucher realises that he can do something more positive with his music.
“A friend of mine committed suicide no more than three or four days before I wrote that thing for AltPress,” he confides. “A lot of people I know have passed that way, and I think that prompted me to be like, wait, even if the music I write doesn’t hit a large group of people, just if it hits some people, if we can let some people know that there is something brighter, that’s a good thing.” A very good thing.
Depression, suicide and mental health struggles have often been the subject of Boucher’s lyricism and he knows that fans pick up on that, so he has taken the chance to speak directly to those people with a message of solidarity: “I’ve started talking about songs when we play them live just to be like, ‘hey, this song does paint this image of this thing but I want you to know that things do get better, what we have to do is to accept our mental illness, to accept our problems and then go on from there because it’s with us forever. It’s not something that’s going to disappear.’”
“I want to take a positive stride to try and help people make the best of what they’re going through and let them know that there are other people that are experiencing the exact same things,” he continues. “I think to open up a conversation in the punk community about all of this is really important, and if I can somehow help those that are struggling with the same things I’ve gone through or that I continue to go through, the whole thing we’re doing is going to be way more gratifying and I’m going to feel like I’ve made an impact. Even if one or two people take something away from it, that’s important to me.”
It’s interesting that Sorority Noise – especially on ‘Joy, Departed’ – instil this positivity into the actual presentation of their songs, too, juxtaposing often heavy lyrical content with poppy hooks and singalong choruses. Boucher insists that’s just as much for himself as it is for the listener: “For me it’s the only way to get it out. No one really wants to feel those things so if I put a pop syrup or glaze over it, it’s much easier for me to reach those dark subjects,” he reasons. “I think putting a poppier, more fun aesthetic to them, people listening to it can also feel light while also trying to deal with the things that they’re dealing with.”
For Boucher, the idea of positive presentation is not limited to his creative output. Anyone who has spoken to him can attest that he’s a warm, friendly and welcoming person, seemingly dealing with his own struggles by applying a similar glaze to his life as he does to his songs.
“When I first went to therapy in 2011/2012, I was the president of my high school. I was the head of the cheering section for all the sports teams. Just because a person has a certain demeanour or outlook on life doesn’t mean they don’t struggle with things internally,” he stresses, “and being that I play music I have to like… not hide. I went to college, I work, I’ve had to learn to keep myself out-front as the most positive person I can, so that others can get the most positive parts of me. I’ll still go to my room for like eight, nine hours at a time and not talk to anyone at all, or I’ll have to leave class because I’m having an anxiety attack or an episode or something like that. It happens every now and then but you kinda learn how to deal with those things and you take them in stride.”
Given the soul-bearing nature of his lyrics, it’s probably not too surprising that making music is a huge part of helping him deal with it all. “I have music to do, you know? I think creative outlets are the most important thing to help fight, or deal with, what you have going on. I get to play music nearly every day for people. Or even if I’m alone, I get to pick up a guitar and play a chord, and I get to write some things down about it. I can’t draw for shit and I can’t take pictures but I can attempt to write some things. I have friends who do paint, I have friends who do take pictures when they’re feeling low and that helps them get out of it, so I think that songwriting is just the thing that I’ve turned to.”
‘Joy, Departed’ references suicidal thoughts and past pill addictions. The idea of performing such dark, intimate songs to people must be intimidating.
“Sometimes.” He considers. “There’s certain songs, especially with Old Gray [his primary outlet prior to Sorority Noise], there’s songs from years ago that don’t resonate with me as much now, so it’s harder to play those because it makes me more vulnerable because I don’t feel those things anymore, but it brings back past thoughts. It’s intimidating when that happens.”
That may be less of an issue at present, but drawing on past feelings when performing is still something he’s had to learn to navigate. “Sorority Noise is all pretty fresh, but there’s some things, especially on ‘Forgettable’,” he reflects on the band’s previous LP, “there’s this one song called ‘Blonde Hair Black Lungs’ where I say the lyric ‘I’m so scared of dying alone that I’ll kill myself right here right now’, and I’ve actually stopped during some shows and started explaining that lyric. We all feel that – the appeal of the act of disappearing – but the last thing I want to do is seem like I’m the state of mind to do it now.”
It’s a rare thing to see an artist taking such direct responsibility for his lyrics, deconstructing any ambiguity that comes with them and acting on the realisation that there’ll be people listening to these songs. Boucher is taking specific care to approach these things properly. “I touch on death a lot because I’ve been strangely desensitised to it in my life,” he states, almost unnervingly frankly for a twenty-two year old. “But I don’t want to create this perception of death as a positive option at the same time.”
Sorority Noise are destined to scale new heights following ‘Joy, Departed’. Given Boucher’s documented struggle with pill addiction, are there any concerns about heading out on a heavy touring schedule?
“Oh, no,” he quickly reassures. “Charlie, our drummer, had a very dark patch with that as well and he’s done an incredible job – I’m so proud of him for overcoming everything he has. We’re both in a very clean and positive state of mind now, so we’re the most boring band to tour with probably. We just like hanging out, we don’t really drink that much, we just play some music, have a great time, smoke some cigarettes, get back in the van try and go to bed at a reasonable time.”
“We’re very lucky and fortunate to be on these tours and very fortunate to be involved in this community,” he concludes with humility. “We don’t really wanna screw this up.”
Sorority Noise’s new album ‘Joy, Departed’ is out now.