As It Is are gearing up to the release of their third full length album, 'The Great Depression'. For this album, the band are back with a new look and new sound, and there were plenty of reactions to their return. Whilst on this year's Vans Warped Tour, frontman Patty Walters caught up with us to discuss the new record, the struggles of releasing a concept album in 2018, the reactions of fans and the difficulties on the run of this tour.
Walters speaks openly about his own relationship with mental health and explains that this year's Warped has had “it’s had its ups and downs. This is day 17 of the 20 day stretch with no days off. We’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel now, though. Warped tour is an interesting place for my body and mind.”
Walters explains that there comes a time to be honest with oneself, "this time around I’ve learned to accept that this isn’t where I thrive. In 2015, Warped was very tough for me. But that was just generally a tough year for my mental health. And we’ve written a record about that.
“It’s pretty well documented,” he laughs. “I’m finding similarities this time but I’ve started using my 25 minutes on stage to do this word-vomit speech that’s like a diary entry where I talk about how the day has been, the ups and the downs, the pros and cons.”
Part of the difficulty stems from the amount of people on the tour. “I’m very introverted,” says Walters. “I love to be alone. We’re lucky enough to have a bandwagon but it means you’re very rarely alone so I’ve made my bunk look very nice, so that’s my space.”
Another aspect of Warped Tour often seen on social media is the party/social side of things. Over time the straight-edged Walters has become more comfortable being authentically himself in this type of environment. “I’ve become very comfortable part of the nerdier, reclusive people,” he says. “So I play Werewolf most nights and talk to Sleep On it about playing Dungeons and Dragons and just all this super nerdy stuff and I love that. It’s nice to just be unashamedly that version of myself instead of trying to impress anybody or conform to any clique.”
In the lead up to releasing 'The Great Depression', Walters talks about how confident As It Is are in their album. “This is the first record where there aren’t [any nerves]. Which is extremely interesting because this is our most ambitious and different record. But I’m really confident in it… Even if this record was a critical disaster I'd still be proud of it.”
Rather than feeling nervous, Walters expresses how surreal it feels to be releasing this chapter of their lives, because they have been sitting on it for quite some time. “We started writing this record before ‘okay.’ was released. So we were kind of living in this concept throughout the entirety of the ‘okay.’ cycle. So when that was a brand new and exciting record for everyone else, we were really invested in this one, it has been our baby for a very long time.”
Although the concept came about before the 'okay.' cycle was finished, the group didn't enter the studio for 'The Great Depression' until January 2018, so there was still about a year and a half between the two recording processes.
Upon releasing their first single from the record, 'The Wounded World', As It Is also revealed their new aesthetic. Wearing suits and makeup, Walters also dyed his hair, which sparked a sizeable reaction in their fanbase. They were expecting there to be mixed opinions, Walters explains, “and I think if you’re not creating polarising opinions then you’re probably not doing yourself any justice as an artist – you’re not doing anything brave or different or unique.” However, the placement of the reaction is what was surprising. “The majority of the criticism and backlash has been about my haircut. Not about the music or the art or the message, it’s about the haircut. It’s interesting. Maybe that’s representative of 2018 social media culture, maybe that’s the way it’s always been.”
Walters admits that it can be awkward to have that disconnect with your own fans, “but I guess I understand that as somebody in the public eye everything you do is going to come with an opinion and people are entitled to dislike things and that’s cool – but [style] is really like an accessory to the art. As far as we’re concerned, it’s irrelevant.”
‘The Great Depression’ is the band's first concept record and Walters explains how the whole process of writing it was something As It Is had never experienced before. The original idea came from how we as a society discuss mental health. “It’s been so interesting with this album because it was January fifth of 2017 where I just had the idea called ‘The Great Depression’ and to talk about the potential societal romanticisation of depression and mental illness. But with that we knew, in the back of our minds at least, that we wanted to write a darker record.”
Adding that they have taken inspiration from post-hardcore and emo music. "Between that and the title, ‘The Great Depression’, they really married well. So it was really on that day like, alright, I’ll be dying my hair black, we’ll be dressing a little smarter, like we’re Refused or Funeral For A Friend. It was really just this all-encompassing vision before a riff, before a lyric, before anything. So that’s what makes this record pretty special – it was a moment of clarity, nearly like an epiphany of, yeah, this is absolutely what the next two years of As It Is needs to look like.”
Bringing it back to the concept, Walters says that it was an exploration for him it's a record about asking a lot of questions and not necessarily preaching or contributing too many answers. “It was really for me understand whether we as a band, we as a scene, we as a society were responsible and guilty of romanticising depression. To at least some degree, we in this band felt the weight and effects of those conversations that so many people who had been part of those conversations. It was tough to know if we were doing the right thing. And then to some extent it’s about, is art too objective to have any right or wrong answers?”
The idea to make it a concept record came from guitarist and vocalist Ben Langford-Biss, “Which I think was smart,” says Walters, “because there was a risk of this record not being as personal as previous records because it’s not in the first person, it’s not about the pain and thoughts and feelings of any one person.”
The band clearly take pride in every aspect of their band, and have created a completely new side to As It Is for this chapter. It's impressive to see and inspiring to hear Walters talk so passionately about what they have done. The band have clearly made something they are proud of and it certainly looks like the next cycle will be filled with new opportunities and successes.
'The Great Depression' is out now.