One Story Of Recovering From Mental Illness

Sarah shares her story of a year of recovering from depression, exploring the challenges and the stigma attached to it.

Written by Sarah Williams for World Mental Health Day 2019. Trigger warning: suicide.

On Mental Health Awareness Day last year, I somewhat ironically published an article about the horrors of depression, and the relief of overcoming it. I say ironic, because a few days after publishing it, I tried to kill myself.

I fucked it up, and then tried again about a month later. And then again, a third time, in December. 

At the time I remember being frustrated and embarrassed that I couldn’t even do that properly. Suicide is really fucking difficult. Also, the chairs they have in A&E treatment rooms are so uncomfortable it’s really not worth the hassle. 

That was a year ago. Three suicide attempts between October and December 2018. Looking back, my sole focus for the last 12 months has been on trying to get better. And you know what? I am better. Continue reading “One Story Of Recovering From Mental Illness”

The Best Ways To Support Independent Records Labels (From The Labels Themselves)

Sarah speaks to the owners of small, independent record labels, to understand the best way people can support them and to demystify some preconceptions about small music businesses.

Written by Sarah Williams.

We’re currently running a competition to support small record labels, where you can win a massive bundle of vinyl, CDs and other goodies. Head to our Instagram to enter.

The role of the record label has changed in recent years. Small, independent DIY labels are popping up all the time, but they don’t have the capital to fund recordings or the clout to market bands to a mainstream audience, as a label would have done traditionally.

Instead, many of the record labels we love are started at kitchen tables by keen music lovers,often to help their friends or to release their own band’s music. Nowadays, record labels are a helping hand, a word of advice, financial support and a labour of love.

Outside of Shout Louder, I’m part of a team that keep the cogs turning at Lockjaw Records. Although we’re relatively well established, we’re not doing anything for profit. The reward for our hard work is seeing our bands reach new listeners and play bigger stages. Many label proprietors are passionate punk rockers, who simply want to keep the scene alive.

I spoke to some of the small labels I respect the most, to understand how best to support them. Continue reading “The Best Ways To Support Independent Records Labels (From The Labels Themselves)”

Punk Rock Coffee: A Hungover Tale of Lockjaw Records’ Latest Creation

Rick Delaney taste tests Lockjaw Records’ Coffee midway through Manchester Punk Festival. The result is this hilarious, hungover story, that’ll resonate even if you don’t have the slightest interest in coffee.

Lockjaw Records (Sarah Shout Louder’s other love) recently teamed up with Sham City Roasters to create their own bespoke Lockjaw Coffee. They challenged Rick Delaney, who usually writes serious stuff for Dying Scene, to take it for a serious taste-test. 

Bravely, Delaney chose to do this early in the morning, halfway through the liver-crippling marathon of Manchester Punk Festival. He’s a true hero; here’s his (inebriated, tangential, absolutely hilarious) story.

In screaming sunshine, I hotfoot across Manchester with a photographer on the verge of alcohol-induced paralysis and a shopping list of accoutrements and crucial equipment for a coffee morning. The goal is a double review – the latest compilation and a custom coffee blend from the hardworking and frankly spectacular bunch at Lockjaw Records.

Surprisingly minimal fucking around in shops later – camera operator Josh Sumner [Shout Louder’s resident photographer] sweats outside – we get the gear and head for an apartment on the North side of town. We call Carly Ashburner – one of many truly magical humans attending Manchester Punk Festival 2019 and literal bench-presser of band members. She meets us on the street in typical high spirits. We head upstairs.

In the swankiest of weekend rentals, overlooking a spectacular Manchester cityscape and the Peak District National Park, I find a scene of absolute mayhem. Continue reading “Punk Rock Coffee: A Hungover Tale of Lockjaw Records’ Latest Creation”

“Thank You, I’m Sorry”: Impostor Syndrome In Music

“Great set, man!” The internal cacophony of anxiety and self-doubt is all too familiar to Lucias from Call Me Malcolm, as he describes in this amusing piece about impostor syndrome.

Written by Lucias Malcolm, of Call Me Malcolm fame. This is part of our #MentallySound series, exploring mental health in music. 

The following is a work of fiction that happened last week. Any similarity to person or persons is entirely likely.

The gig is over. Nothing broke, up to and including equipment and/or bones. The crowd seemed happy, or at least, no one threw anything. But who can really tell? The band rush to pack leads, instruments and sweaty t-shirts into whichever bag is closest. I crouch at the front of the stage fighting a particularly impudent stretch of gaffer tape as a figure approaches.

“Great set man!” he smiles.

Shit. I think to myself. Not now. But it’s too late. I can hear the gavel banging already…

~

Anxiety: “ORDER! ORDER! I call to order the Council of the Inner Monologue.

[Indecipherable murmurs from the countless other voices in Luke’s head]

Anxiety: “I have called this urgent meeting to discuss the most recent and egregious compliment from a stranger, to wit, ‘Great set man’…”

Depression: “Point of order! We are yet to discuss the matter of Something Stupid the Host Body Said When He Was 13.”

[More murmurs and disagreement]

Anxiety: “On the contrary, we went over this in great detail every week for the past 23 years.”

OCD: “Point of order! We can’t start the meeting until we’ve established absentees. Confidence isn’t here.”

Self Hate: “He never is.”  

[More murmurs]

Anxiety: “ORDER! ORDER! Absentee noted. Now, all in favour of replying to the stranger with an inaudible mumble, say ‘Aye’.”

~

I mumble something inaudible in response, offering a smile so lacking in conviction it’s hard to tell if I’m even conscious.

“Yeah man, I really love how much fun you guys have on stage.” He offers with a warm smile.

~

Self Hate: “Point of order! Raising the issue of the errant ‘really’ in the strangers follow up compliment.”  

Anxiety: “Noted and seconded. Too much stress on the word to seem genuine. All in favour of raising the threat level to ‘Suspicious’, say ‘Aye’”

[Cries of ‘Aye’]

Anxiety: “Motion carried. Trigger the Self-Deprecation Clause and instruct the host body to pour scorn on the compliment in principle.”

~

“We’re normally a bit tighter than that.” I stutter. Crisis averted. For a second there, he might’ve gotten away with thinking we were good.

“No seriously, you were so tight. The breakdown in that last song was insane!”

~

Anxiety: “Emergency point of order! Suspicion duly confirmed. Host body was erratic in execution of musical instrument during last song.”

Depression: “Motion to abort Council of the Inner Monologue, quit the band and move to Dieppe to make shoes.”

Anxiety: “I see no other sensible option.”

Self Hate: “Initiate the Cobbler Protocol!”

Anxiety: “Noted and seconded. All in favour say–”

OCD: “Emergency! Emergency! Host body placed the wires ABOVE the foot pedal in the bag. Unacceptable. Motion to–“

~

“I also wanted to say,” the man continues, unaware of the eight-way conversation the voices are currently conducting in my head, “Thank you for talking about mental health. I suffer myself and it means a lot that you bring it up.”

~

Anxiety: “I… well… this is most unexpected.”  

[Door opens]

Empathy: “Sorry I’m late. What did I miss?”

Depression: “We’re moving to France.”

Anxiety: “The host body was presented with an unexpected compliment. We’re trying to establish the root cause of such a breakdown in social protocol.”

Empathy: “Maybe it was genuine? It probably took everything the guy had to come out to the show tonight. Maybe, it took even more for them to walk up to a stranger and start a conversation.”

Self Hate: “He’s right. Motion to discuss this awkward moment in detail at 3am every morning for the next week.”

OCD: “I’ve already made a note.”

Anxiety: “Agreed. Now, I suggest we enshrine in law the Imposter Syndrome Initiative. To wit, from now on, all compliments are met with a genuine ‘thank you’. All in favour?”   

~

Before I can respond, he leaves. I mull over whether I’ll ever feel comfortable in conversations with strangers, moreover ones offering compliments. Either way, I know it’s already on the agenda for a lengthy 3am brooding.

Moments later, I’m packed up and standing by the merch table, offering my best ‘come hither and part with your money’ eyes to people glancing at t-shirts. It works, because a figure approaches.

“I thought you guys were great today,” she offers.

~

Anxiety: “This is it folks, this is everything we’ve trained for. Triggering the Imposter Syndrome Initiative…”

~

“Thank you!” I insist.

~

Anxiety: ““ORDER! ORDER! I call to order the Council of the Inner Monologue. Host body accepted compliment with entirely too much enthusiasm. May be taken as sarcastic. Abort! Abort!”

~

“I’m sorry.” Shit. Baby steps, Luke. Baby steps.

Written by Lucias Malcolm of Call Me Malcolm.  They’re excellent, they’re great live, they talk a lot about mental health, and you should definitely go compliment them after their set. 

If you enjoyed this, read Lucias’ other articles about music and anxiety: There Is A Bear On Stage and Everything Is Probably Fine.

 

 

 

Girls To The Front: Female Promoters Revitalising UK Punk Rock

We explore the recent upsurge of womxn in putting on gigs in the North of England, the ingrained sexism in the DIY community and what we can do to challenge it.

Written by Sarah Williams. Photos by Cold Front Photography.

We’ve created a ‘New Women of Punk Rock’ Spotify playlist to accompany this article – listen now.

Although it’s one of the more progressive communities, even in 2019, UK DIY punk rock remains a veritable sausage fest.

Attending shows as a woman alone, I’m often asked who my boyfriend is, which band member I’m banging, or whether I’m actually interested in the music I’ve paid good money to listen to. When working at shows, there’s an assumption that I’m there to help out on the door or sell merchandise, and that I wouldn’t know the difference between an XLR and a Speakon.

I organised Shout Louder Fest in February 2019 but, in the run up to it, multiple people assumed that I’d employed Ian ‘Tree’ Robinson of Anarchistic Undertones to book it for me – I was just tagging along at my own gig (comments which he did his best to quell). As someone who frequently writes about punk rock, I’ve often had folks on the internet assume that I’m a guy, even when Shout Louder profiles are full of selfies with my hair running amok. Out at gigs with our resident photographer, Josh, it’s often assumed that he’s the running things and I’m simply there to hold his lenses.

So, although the punk scene is an increasingly inclusive space, there’s definitely still work to do. Continue reading “Girls To The Front: Female Promoters Revitalising UK Punk Rock”

Why I’m Not Coming To Your Gig Tonight

Social anxiety in live music can be a challenge. Support your scene, but not at the expense of your own mental health.

This article written by Sarah Williams is part of our #MentallySound series, discussing mental health in music. Trigger warning: anxiety.

Today, my anxiety has anxiety. I am experiencing my own personal apocalypse.

I am entirely aware that the visions of catastrophe in my head are irrational, imagined and impossible (or at least implausible), but they’re there nonetheless. A cacophony of intrusive thoughts, false assumptions and self-criticism rattle round my hollow skull, a jarring, overwhelming rush.

Counting to ten isn’t helping. Telling myself I’m being illogical isn’t helping. Distracting myself isn’t helping. Self-care sounds like a waste of time, when I’ve got so much work to do. I need to just sit, ride this wave out and hope it doesn’t ruin my evening.

I’m going to a gig. I love gigs. I love live music more than anything else.

I desperately do not want to go.

I’m lying facedown on my bed, trying to muster the courage to put a jacket on and locate my house keys. Everything is impossible.

Continue reading “Why I’m Not Coming To Your Gig Tonight”

7 Punk Rock Bands To Stalk In 2019

Our recommendations for ones-to-watch this year – these bands are set to explode.

Written by Sarah Williams. Cover photo by Cold Front Photography.

Now that we’ve completed our round-up of 2018 (check out our top albums, EPs, festivals and live bands) it’s time to look ahead of the future.

The DIY punk scene is thriving in Europe currently; it’s feels like we’re on riding the crest of a wave that’s growing into a tsunami. Online connections are enabling us to share recommendations and enthusiasm across continents, so word is spread quickly about exciting new acts.

It’s easy to find new music nowadays, however I’ve believe there are two methods that stand out above the others: watching support acts at gigs and listening to recommendations from your friends. In 2019, I implore you to get out and see as many new bands as possible. To get you started, here are Shout Louder’s top recommendations:

0P4C7276

Wolfrik

Canadian thrashers Wolfrik are unlike any other band I’ve heard… although it’s safe to say they’re fans of Alexisonfire, A Wilhelm Scream, Protest The Hero and Belvedere. I’ve been keen to get their EP Skeleton City into the ears of anyone I can find and, so far, everyone’s been bowled over by their awesome sound.

Fortunately Skeleton City also found its way to the ears of the Manchester Punk Festival promoters, who pretty much instantly added them to the bill. If Wolfrik are as good live as they are on record then they’re going to tear the faces off the whole UK punk scene when they arrive in England in April. Erring on the metal / rock end of the punk scale, they combine a variety of genres, but it’s all fast, raucous fun with a healthy dose of experimentation. Continue reading “7 Punk Rock Bands To Stalk In 2019”

We All Fall Apart At Our Own Pace

Reaching out to your friends is hard, but we’re all going through this together.

Written by Sarah WilliamsPart of our #MentallySound series, discussing mental health in music. Trigger warning: depression, self-harm.

During an especially dark and turbulent bout of depression I endured recently, I found a familiar Iron Chic lyric rumbling round my skull:

“We all fall apart at our own pace.”

That one cadence repeating itself over and over; an old, beloved song suddenly taking on new meaning. I was wrapped up in my own personal apocalypse, but that one line reminded me of the importance of reaching out to my friends.

For me, depression comes in waves. Some days the sea’s calm and I’m stood on a beach in the sunshine, digging a moat around my sandcastle and enjoying a Calippo. Other days there’s a light ebb and flow, lapping round my ankles. Sometimes it’s choppy in the waves but my head’s above water, I’m staying afloat.

In this particular period, it was like a tsunami had hit. I’m toppled by giant waves, levelled by the force of it, choking on salt water, crushed by the weight of it on my chest. This is as bad as it gets: I can’t eat, I can’t speak, I can’t get out of bed, I can’t wait to get the courage to kill myself.

Sometimes depression just feels like a part of regular life, like an itch you can’t scratch but you can just about ignore it. But on these occasions, it becomes frighteningly apparent that it’s an illness. It’s utterly, hopelessly debilitating.

I lie still and wait for it to pass. It takes days. Continue reading “We All Fall Apart At Our Own Pace”

How To Beat Post-Festival Depression

Written by Sarah Williams, cover image by Josh Sumner. Part of our #MentallySound series, discussing mental health in music.

The struggle is real. We have all been there after a great weekend: suddenly alone, wanting to grin and cry in equal measure. Post-festival depression is the worst part of loving live music.

You’re mentally exhausted from the sheer amount of fun you’ve had. At best you’re a hungover, sunburned mosquito-feast, at worst you’ve sustained an actual injury. You’re bruised and broken from the physical exertion of a ‘holiday’: mosh pits, human pyramids, sleeping on floors.

You’ve showered but you can’t cleanse your insides; sitting in the office on Monday morning feeling like a ragdoll stuffed with shit spaghetti, desperately hoping none of your colleagues notice your mental state.

In the weekend punk-bubble it’s completely appropriate to curl up in a ball on the floor if you need to, to joke about your hands shaking or your jaw aching. You can show off your pit bruises and laugh about all the stupid things you did when you were peak drunk.

Suddenly, Monday comes and you’re crash landing into the reality of your day job, forced to keep schtum about this ‘other life’ you’re living. When your colleagues have innocently spent the weekend ferrying their kids to swimming lessons, doing a spot of gardening and redecorating their kitchens, you can’t exactly counter it with tales of gincidents, Class A’s and a complete disregard for your own physical well-being. When you’re enduring this inevitable dip, the worst part is that you have to keep quiet and pretend you’re totally fine.

Having experienced the crushing loneliness of post-festival depression umpteenth times now, I wanted to share my advice on overcoming it.

Reach out to your friends

There’s a good chance that they’re feeling just as shit as you are, so reach out to your mates and make sure they’re okay. Share the pain. The post-fest depression hits us all at different times; for me it’s usually about half an hour after I say goodbye to the last person I see, when it’s had a little time to sink in. It might vary a bit depending on the strength of your bangover, how long your journey home is or who you’re going home to. Continue reading “How To Beat Post-Festival Depression”

5 Things I Learned From Touring Japan [by Almeida’s Tom West]

Tom West of Almeida imparts some valuable advice to anyone touring or visiting Japan (a.k.a. the Punk Rock Holy Grail).

Article by Tom West (Almeida).

Last month, thanks to RNR Tours, Almeida realised our longtime dream of playing a run of shows in Japan – and had the honour of sharing a stage with Belvedere, Waterweed and our cruddy buddies Darko every night.

In my experience, playing in a band – particularly a DIY punk band – means that your proud achievements don’t always translate when talking to regular folks with regular lives. Cramming into a smelly van for hours and rating the service station toilets out of ten isn’t the most jealousy-inducing boast, no matter how many different countries you’ve rocked the fuck out in.

But there’s something about touring Japan that seems to really resonate with people and help them (accurately) realise, “Wow, you’re really serious about this!”

For this and a million other reasons, going to Japan was a highly gratifying landmark experience for Almeida, and if you’re in a touring band I’d highly recommend you start networking in order to get out there as soon as you can.

If you do get around to it, there will likely be a few culture shocks and bits you’ll forget to do, so here are some top tips to help you survive.

Travel

A 15 hour flight may be daunting (and very boring if your in-flight entertainment conks out – grazi mille, AIitalia airlines!), but if you’re used to long stretches of staring at the back of someone’s head on tour, you’ll be fairly well prepared.

Make sure you pack comfy gear like PJs and a good quality neck pillow – if you travel on a budget like us you probably won’t get much decent kip on the rickety old seats. It’s not just vital that you stay comfortable for the sake of your flight, but you don’t want to be spending your whole time on the road in Japan trying to pop your neck back into place.

We took our instruments and drum breakables on as hand luggage, which was a good way to ensure they weren’t getting smashed about by the airline – but make sure you’ve established whether it’s ok to do so, as you may incur heavy charges if you haven’t cleared it with them beforehand.

Almedia plane.jpg

Crew

RNR Tours were an awesome well-oiled unit to work with, helping us get from A to B, all the while making sure we got some time in to stroll around a 16th century castle in Nagoya, see the bright lights of Shinjuku, and frolic with feral deer in Nara. As ever, it’s important to not faff about too much in the mornings if you want enough time to see the sights.

We’d have been absolutely hopeless without our team. Unless you have a fluent Japanese speaker in your band, you’ll outright need to employ a tour manager at the very least.

The RNR team are incredibly efficient and assisted us every night with loading our gear in and out of the venues. If you get into a similarly fortunate situation, you can help them (and yourselves) by ensuring sure you label and number your bags to avoid something getting left behind. Probably good practice for any tour, to be honest. Continue reading “5 Things I Learned From Touring Japan [by Almeida’s Tom West]”