In a world where millions tune in to their TV screens to watch wannabe celebrities compete over who’s hot and who’s not on Love Island, while simultaneously tweeting their woes of not sizing up the same as the silhouettes, you can’t help but wonder about this dangerous game of obsession and subsequently depression.
Spending some time in the confines of their ice-cold air-conditioned bus, As It Is frontman Patty Walters’ unfolds their grand vision for their taboo-breaking rulebook-ripping concept album ‘The Great Depression’ ahead of their first date on the last ever Warped Tour.
“You see it when you’re scrolling through social media, you see it when you turn on your television and watch certain shows, you see it at every moment on every screen,” states Patty. He’s embroiled in our generation’s love affair with depression, the central theme to their pop punk-departing third record that ups the ante in the way of harsh vocals, heavier riffs, and a heartbreaking expose of the problems at hand.
“It was very important to combat the idea, if not for anyone else then for myself, that we were not part of the problem. The majority of bands in this scene are a comfort for people who suffer from depression or anxiety or anything under that umbrella, and I think there are bands and media outlets that contribute to glamorising, to romanticising, to even fetishising mental illness which is not something I want to be a part of in any way.”
Split into four of the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, and acceptance – with the fifth, depression, taking centre stage, As It Is take the listener on an explorative narrative of depression in the modern age, tackling subjects as varied as toxic masculinity, the idolisation of death, and the acceptance of needing help.
“So much of this subject matter and the topic of discussion comes from the at-length conversations we’ve had before and after our sets, hearing their stories and talking about ours. I don’t think this record would even exist, or be nearly half the record it is, without those conversations, so I’m very thankful for everything the ‘Okay.’ cycle gave us and the vulnerable conversations that we share with our fans.”
2017’s ‘Okay.’ took As It Is to new heights commercially and critically, but it left them disillusioned with personnel changes and in-house tensions.
“A lot of the celebrations that should’ve been had with releasing this triumphant record that really grew our band and cemented these deep connections with our fans was put on hold to write this record and to create this vision, and we were living in this world of ‘The Great Depression’ throughout the entirety of the ‘Okay.’ cycle.”
There were bumps in the road so heavy that if it wasn’t for the vision that underpins As It Is’ brave new world, there might not be another cycle at all,
“There were months where the only thing that kept me in this band was writing this record to completion, and that’s why some of the songs are so brave because in my mind we had nothing to lose and everything to prove to leave this legacy behind.”
Their legacy, however, is cemented within the conversations that came prior to ‘The Great Depression’ with their fans and the ones that will come afterwards, which above all, is Patty’s hope in opening the floor to a new perspective.
“I want this record to spark a lot of important conversations that need to be had not only in our scene but in our society as a whole. With ‘Okay.’ we encouraged people to speak out if they weren’t okay, but with that being said, the receiving end of that needs to be listening. We’ve seen it with celebrity suicides, that people are not getting the help they need that they’re desperately crying out for. We saw it with Chester Bennington and it was nothing short of a tragedy, and a lot more work needs to be done regarding our perceptions of mental health in our society and with this record I want to have these conversations and not shy away from them.”
In outright refusing to shy away from the conversations the world needs to have, Patty has simultaneously ensured As It Is avoids shying themselves away from change in all possible ways. Musically and aesthetically, from new hairdos to heavier sounds, they’ve moved on from ‘Okay.’’s poppy pop-punk.
“I wasn’t experiencing the same lows I was experiencing while writing ‘Okay.’ because I was in a much better place, and maybe it’s a result of getting older and maturing, but writing another record about myself didn’t artistically fulfil me in the same way it did previously. I wanted to write something more universal, more mature, and more important.”
To fulfil this newfound artistic need, they enlisted the help of idols and influencers in the shape of producer Machine (Lamb Of God, Every Time I Die) and Underoath vocalist Aaron Gillespie for incendiary track ‘The Reaper’.
“An integral reason of why we wanted Machine as a producer was Armor For Sleep’s ‘What To Do When You’re Dead’ which he produced, because it’s not a dissimilar concept, it’s not a dissimilar subject matter, and it’s not a dissimilar genre from the era we were paying homage to with this record.”
Ironically, the era in question is the very same Aaron pioneered with Underoath.
“Underoath have been a huge influence to this band before this new direction. Our first record was recorded with James Paul Wisner who recorded Underoath’s ‘They’re Only Chasing Safety’, so we reached out to Aaron not entirely expecting a no, but if you don’t ask then there’s no chance. We were lucky enough that he wanted to collaborate and what makes ‘The Reaper’ so special and so strong is that we wrote that part with Aaron in mind.”
Much like ‘The Great Depression’ as a whole, every single aspect of As It Is’ new era is a multi-faceted, thoroughly-planned world that was created not only to inform and educate listeners, but to ease fans into a new model of As It Is.
“What Machine is so incredible at is knowing what’s important to a band, what their fans really latch onto. Through a lot of choruses, the vocal deliveries are quite clean intentionally, some of which were intended to sing quite aggressively. He told us to use other sections of the song to make those moments shine, so they’re more dynamic, not too exhausting to listen to or too alienating to people who know and love As It Is already.”
As a summer of Warped Tour appearances approaches and ‘The Great Depression’ brings itself upon us, Patty defiantly commands attention in laying out his plan away from sparking the conversations we need to have – and that’s to simply be the biggest band they can be.
“It’s our vision to not pursue dreams of the pop and mainstream world but to stay true to our roots and become the biggest and best band within this alternative scene, instead of trying to transcend into some entity of success in a pop world. That’s what matters.”
Taken from the August issue of Upset. Order a copy below. As It Is’s album ‘The Great Depression’ is out 10th August.
Featuring Death Cab For Cutie, Bury Tomorrow, As It Is and more!