Feature Friday: As It Is
Article + photos by: Hanna Branch
UK pop/punk group As It Is recently put out their third album, The Great Depression, and are currently on a tour supporting the album. The Great Depression follows three main characters through their journey with mental illness. While other bands have written a song or two about the topic, As It Is delves into each tiny crevice of mental illness and talks about it in a way that does not romanticize it, but rather brings light to a difficult subject.
We were able to attend the Orlando, Florida date of The Great Depression Tour. As It Is brought immense energy from the moment they stepped on stage. The band performed many songs off the new album, plus a few old ones. They also included an acoustic section in the middle of the set. Any band can hold their own on stage and create a show, but not every band can make crowd interaction genuine. As It Is, however, accomplished the best of both worlds. Each band member would look fans in the eyes and sing directly to them. You could see and feel the passion not only from the band, but from the crowd as well. Some fans were moved to tears while other screamed lyrics at the top of their lungs.
As It Is worked to create an all-inclusive show, and the band brought a sign language interpreter on tour with them. She signed the lyrics and anything the band members said to the crowd. As It Is also joined with an organization called “A Voice for the Innocent.” These steps show the band truly care for their fans and not only want to tour and play music, they’re also working towards making concerts a truly safe space for everyone.
We had the opportunity to interview lead vocalist Patty Walters and guitarist / vocalist Ben Langford-Biss before the show. Continue reading below to check out the interview where we talk about The Great Depression, touring the US, how the band has evolved over time, and more!
Q: You put out “Okay” a couple of years ago and recently released “The Great Depression”. There was definitely a change between the two albums. Did that change happen naturally or did it feel forced in any way?
A: Patty: It felt incredibly natural. I think everybody in this band unanimously felt like veering in a much darker and more aggressive direction musically and lyrically. This is easily the record that everybody in this band sees themselves in the most.
Ben: We’ve never been a band that wanted to make the same record twice, as well. So, regardless of whether it sounded like this, it would have been different regardless. I think any album is going to be to the next as drastic.
Patty: We love bands that just embrace musical experimentation like Paramore, My Chem, Panic! at the Disco, Fall Out Boy— some of our biggest influences. So we will always kind of push ourselves to experiment and see what happens, be that more aggressive, be that more poppier, just whatever feels right to us.
Q: Do you think fans were on board the entire time throughout the change both musically and aesthetically?
A: Patty: I don’t know how we got so fortunate, but our fans are so very accepting of any musical and lyrical experimentation that we’ve tried. There’s never been a single song, or an era, or an album that has been, as far as it seems, even slightly rejected. You see it all too often when bands release albums that it’s either too different or too similar to their previous release and I don’t know how we’ve gotten so lucky because it just seems like whatever band we feel like being, that’s what everybody wants us to do. We get away with whatever we want to sound like for the most part.
And I think, to be honest, that only encouraged us with The Great Depression, seeing that on Okay, “Pretty Little Distance,” and “Still Remembering” being some of the poppiest songs, “No Way Out”, “Austen”, “Soap” being some of the darkest songs. All those songs being met with such warmth and positivity only encouraged us to take some big musical and lyrical risks with [the new album]. I don’t think this record would exist without that sense of encouragement and courage and safety.
Q: When writing “The Great Depression,” did any of your old albums inspire or teach you about writing the new one?
A: Ben: I always feel we learn about what not to do than what to do looking back on albums. You’re always learning from your albums. The first record you basically have your whole life to write it. The second one felt like the highest pressure. The Great Depression we did in the complete polar opposite environment to Okay. Doing the first record, you don’t really know how much the environment affects the music and we very gradually learned.
Q: Now that your most recent album has been out for a few months and you’ve been playing it live, do you ever wish you would’ve done anything differently musically or lyrically?
A: Ben: I think we’re always wishing we would’ve done something different. Foley is usually the one who makes changes live, anything to make us laugh. Any changes he does is not for the audience to notice, it’s for us to notice and for us to have a laugh. It is always fun to throw things in like that.
Q: Since just getting off a UK tour playing larger venues, do you notice a crowd change now that you’re playing smaller venues in the US?
A: Patty: It depends, because sometimes you’ll play a larger venue and it won’t have the vibe and energy of a club show in the states to 200 kids. I would always rather play a show with energy no matter how many kids are there, whether it’s 300 or 3,000 or 30. If people are into it, that’s more important than the number of people looking at their phones or filming you, it’s like we want to be present, we want to be in that moment. We don’t want to tell you how to enjoy your show but we just want to escape our realities for a little while by playing these shows and having a really good time.
Q: “The Great Depression” as a whole goes into mental health and tells a story. Most bands will write a song or two about the topic but not entire albums. Was that something that inspired “The Great Depression”?
A: Patty: I think concept albums were much more prevalent, at least within this scene, ten to fifteen years ago.
Ben: [Because of] a lack of people doing it, or a lack of people doing it well, or a way someone talks about it properly, I think there was a lot for us to fill in where bands weren’t doing it.
Patty: Which is either from a lack of self-confidence or apprehension that it’ll be rejected by the people who listen to their band, but we just kind of are making ourselves proud…If anyone else cares about it after that, great, but if we write a record we don’t love, then we’ve failed ourselves and everyone around us. I think writing a concept album, writing our most ambitious album, was what mattered to us in that stage of our career.
Ben: It also goes back to the vibe in the room. If we’re not playing songs that we’re the proudest that we could be of, that affects our energy that then affects the energy of the crowd.
Q: Are the fans reacting how you hoped they would to the album?
A: Patty: You always hope but you never expect. The reception is beyond our expectation how warmly people have welcomed The Great Depression into their cities, their states, their hearts. It has been really humbling. I think the extent to which people have invested into the concept, the narrative, the story, the message of this record has been, I don’t want to say surprising because that implies there’s a kind of element of apprehension that people weren’t going to be able to understand….We really respect the people who listen to this band and they can draw their own conclusions and understand the subject matter.
I think people that listen to bands in this scene are a lot more intelligent than people give them credit for and so I’m not surprised that people related to this record and understood it to the extent that they have. It’s mostly just been emotionally overwhelming, the extent to which people see themselves in an album that is about us and about our story. The extent to which people truly care and desire to make the world a better place for themselves and the people around them, I think that is the most inspiring thing we’ve seen.