Toxic masculinity, depression, anxiety, and our very own mortality. Neo-emo band As It Is tackles all of these subjects and more on their third studio album, The Great Depression. It’s been a year since the album dropped and we’re back to talk about it because it still resonates hardcore with the majority of their fans, as well as many others. Plus, we can’t believe one of the best albums of 2018 is already a year old. So we’re feeling a little emo today as we reflect on the importance of such a great album.
After the release of their second studio album, Okay, it was clear that these guys weren’t messing around when it came to addressing mental health. That album taught us that it’s perfectly okay and normal to not be okay all the time. Taking place in a 50s-diner-themed dystopian society, Okay featured pop melodies and songs so upbeat you might not even realize how angsty they are. Often speaking out on the importance of mental health and finding help when you need it, it wasn’t shocking at all to see the band do another album centered around this theme.
“They stopped caring so much about what other people think and started caring more about what they themselves believe in and I think that’s something that we can all try more to do.”
Maeve | @shutupmaeve
Image: Ian Coulson
“When this album came out it was like a moment of pure relief. I felt again. I felt happiness, sadness, anger, I felt it all.”
Jonah | @hauntingstigma
Image: Ian Coulson
As It Is launched into this next era with the release of “The Wounded World” in May of 2018. It became immediately clear that this was going to be a much different kind of album. Lead vocalist, Patty Walters, had gone from a clean-cut blonde style and converse every night on stage, to a jet black emo fringe reminiscent of Gerard Way and loafers. Gone were the days of pegged jeans and rolled t-shirt sleeves. In their place stepped piercing red ties, snazzy black slacks, and the signature declining arrow. The single focused on the decline in our world and how we’re all to blame while putting an emphasis on the negative impact of technology.
The follow-up single, “The Stigma [Boys Don’t Cry],” came a month later. Tackling toxic masculinity head-on, this track is told in a sarcastic tone of the band mocking everything they themselves (or boys around the world) have heard in regards to what it means to be a man. Society places unrealistic expectations upon men to be tough and strong and never show emotions or they’ll be viewed as weak or fragile.
With the introduction of this era, and occasionally before it, it’s been obvious that the guys in As It Is aren’t concerned with what society thinks they should be doing. With lipstick and painted nails, floral pants, and a focus on how important it is to discuss our emotions with each other (to name a few), the guys were breaking gender norms all over the place. Society doesn’t get to decide what it means to be a man. It doesn’t make someone less of a man to participate in things “stereotypically” considered to be feminine. The hard focus on men being tough and strong is creating dangerous situations within our world.
The music video features the band amongst others in an all-male boarding (military perhaps) school where they’re being scolded and tortured for displaying any signs of weakness. While completely satirical and scripted, we can’t help but wince as the torturing takes place. We’ve all heard the phrases “don’t be a pussy” and “be a man.” Serving no other purpose than to emasculate, these phrases also insinuate that it’s bad to be feminine.
The album itself is a concept album that tells the story of The Poet, His Wife, and The Reaper. The album challenges and questions the ways our society portrays and handles depression, self-harm, suicide, and mental health as a whole.
If you close your eyes and allow the album to play without distraction for the entirety of its forty-four minutes, you’ll travel with The Poet as he struggles with the negative impact of social media and being a musician, but also as he experiences the love and positive side of music. It’s a story of love and loss and pain, as well as everything currently wrong in our world. We follow The Poet as he battles with his will to live and his love for His Wife. Which is stronger: depression or love? There’s an encounter with The Reaper and a realization that The Poet isn’t done yet. He wants to live.
Tracks like “The Hurt, The Hope” and “The Haunting,” show a much darker side of things, with a focus on life and death. There’s touches on self-destruction and trauma, too, before rounding out the album with “The End.” This track very much focuses on the hopelessness of our society and current ideas of mental health importance. It stresses that even when someone finally gets the courage to ask for help, there’s often backlash or everyone ignores them and brushes it off. It ends without giving the listener too many answers, allowing them to decide for themselves if the negativity in The Poet’s life was far too much, costing him his life. Or if he found the help he needed and worked towards bettering himself and his mental health.
I seem to have found comfort and acceptance in each of the songs on the album at some point and I think it shows how special an album is that I have been able to connect on some level with every song and the more time that passes the stronger the connection grows.Luc | @aiilucy
“From essentially being my musical form of a shoulder to cry on, to being the soundtrack of my more happy and energetic days, this album has been a constant in my life that I am so grateful for.”
Eden | @grndtheftautxmn
Image: Ian Coulson
Beginning with Warped Tour 2018, As It Is set out to create a space that was safe and inclusive for all. Every performance featured a speech on the current downfall of our government. Each performance held another speech about mental health and the importance of getting help and taking care of yourself.
Launching into a long series of tours around the world, the band set out to create a diverse line-up for each one. Featuring musicians of all walks of life — races, ages, genders, and sexualities — they more than succeeded. The only thing they didn’t include is musicians who don’t share the same ideas of inclusiveness.
Being within the walls of an As It Is show is like nothing else. Everyone, including photographers and merch slingers, are there promoting a space of inclusiveness. Anyone, no matter their shape or size or color or gender or race or religion or sexual orientation or gender or sex is allowed and welcome in an As It Is
The Re-Imagined EPs.
Even though it’s been a year since the TGD era began, the end is nowhere in sight for As It Is. Earlier this year, the band took to social media and began hinting at something new. Fans were excited to learn that a four-part EP series was in the works, breaking the album down into four stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, and Acceptance. Each EP took the three songs (previously placed in its rightful category with the release of TGD) and completely flipped them on their heads. The entire concept throws genre barriers out the window. And while only 2/4 of the EPs have been released, we’ve already experienced metal-core, acoustic, theatrical ballet, and 80’s pop, amongst others.
As It Is are proving they’re more than a pop-punk band or an emo band. These guys can nail just about any genre they take on. We can’t wait to hear what they’ve done with Bargaining and Acceptance.
Words: Kaiti Fleeger | Featured Photo: Corrine Cumming