r e b m A k r a M
Decorated Youth Magazine | 1
2 | Decorated Youth Magazine
DECORATED YOUTH Quality over Quantity
Decorated Youth Magazine | 3
PURCHASE A COPY www.decoratedyouth.com
STAY IN TOUCH Email: email@example.com Facebook: facebook.com/decoratedyouth Twitter & Instagram: @decoratedyouth
EDITOR & PUBLISHER Heather Hawke COPY EDITOR Jordan Fisher © 2012 – 2018 Decorated Youth Magazine All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced by any means without prior written consent from the editor, except in instances of review, as permitted by copyright law. For permission, please write to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cover photograph by Jack McKain. design by Heather 4Issue | Decorated YouthHawke. Magazine
Many thanks to: Jordan Fisher
Adam Alexander (Demo Taped)
No Big Deal PR
Dylan Jackson Scott (Rad Horror)
Alaina Moore (Tennis)
Kelsey Byrne (VERITE)
Press Here Publicity
Ben Story (Hush)
Lea Emery (Kid Wave)
Casey Harris (X Ambassadors)
Shore Fire Media
Cassie Wilson of Half Access
Natalie Somekh Russell James
Decorated Youth Magazine | 5
Editor’s Note This issue holds a special place in my heart. The idea for this issue’s theme came about nearly a year ago after a bad experience at a show where I felt an immense sense of shame for not being able to do my job as a photographer because of a disability. It really made me think about everyone else in the industry who deal with these things on a regular basis. With this issue, we wanted to shine a light people’s perspectives, we want to help banish the stigma of talking about what it’s like to live with mental health disorders and disabilities. We have op-ed’s from: Lea Emery (Kid Wave), Hannah White, Adam Alexander (Demo Taped), Kelsey Byrne (VERITE), Russell James, Cassie Wilson (Half Access), Ben Story (Hush), Emma DeBono, La Louma, Liz Brown, Dylan Jackson Scott (Rad Horror), Casey Harris (X Ambassadors), and Natalie Somekh. Our interviews are with Chris Farren, Liza Anne, Alaina Moore (Tennis), Billie Eilish and our cover feature is with none other than Amber Mark. As with these sensitive topics, we have trigger warnings before the some of the features as they are very intense and are not to be taken lightly. Please proceed with caution if you’re sensitive to topics surrounding: depression, suicide, anxiety, and sexual assault. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Hotlines in other countries can be found here: http://www.suicide.org/international-suicidehotlines.html -
6 | Decorated Youth Magazine
COVER Amber Mark – 50
OP ED’s + INTERVIEWS Lea Emery (Kid Wave) – 8 Hannah White – 10 Adam Alexander (Demo Taped) – 12 Chris Farren – 14 Kelsey Byrne (VERITE) – 18 Russell James – 20 Cassie Wilson (Half Access) – 22 Ben Story (Hush) – 24 Emma DeBono – 26 Alaina Moore (Tennis) – 28 La Louma – 32 Liz Brown – 34 Billie Eilish – 36 Dylan Jackson Scott (Rad Horror) – 40 Casey Harris (X Ambassadors) – 42 Liza Anne – 44 Natalie Somekh – 48
Decorated Youth Magazine | 7
8 | Decorated Youth Magazine
Photography by Polly Hanrahan. This is my experience but when I was in my teens I liked to think of my anxiety as a tree. I think I had read it somewhere. The stem, is me. My worry, thoughts and anxiety - things that happen - are the branches. Some branches grow big, way too big and I lose my balance. If I eventually manage to cut it off, or it falls off due to age - a different branch tends to take its place. Sometimes they’re many, sometimes they grow scarily fast. Sometimes they’re triggered by an unusually stormy winter and sometimes an unusually warm summer. I’ve found it hard to accept that there’s no pause button, but I’m working on it. Tree is growing, whether I like it or not.
Decorated Youth Magazine | 9
*TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains stories about living with chronic depression and having suicidal thoughts (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255) *TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains stories about living with depression and anxiety *TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains stories about living with chronic depression and having suicidal thoughts (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255) The Part of the Story That Gets Left *TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains stories about living with depression and anxiety Out Photography provided by herself. I was raised in a family that did not believe in mental illness. More accurately, my parents believed that it was a lie perpetuated by pharmaceutical companies and doctors bent on destroying individualism, identity, and creativity. It might have been a real thing, but only in extreme, embarrassing cases—and it wasn’t something one discussed in casual conversation. It certainly wasn’t something that affected my family. Those who relied on medication were weak, addicted, brainwashed by the pharmaceutical industry. Depression was a character flaw, a crutch used by people too afraid to face reality. They held this view for most of their adult lives, but they no longer do—and the reason why is fairly simple. I was diagnosed with clinical depression. *
10 | Decorated Youth Magazine
When we think about depression, we often think of the psychological symptoms described in the DSM-V: persistent sadness, hopelessness, suicidal ideation. To people who haven’t experienced depression themselves, or who rely on stereotypes from the media to envision its reality, it looks a lot like sadness. Familiar emotions we are all well acquainted with from an early age, sorrow and grief are tangible, easy to describe and easy to quantify. Depression, real depression that persists despite the changing seasons and passing years and wellmeaning relatives who believe it’s all in your head, looks nothing like that. What is often left out of conversations about mental illness, even by sympathetic activists, is the fact that your physical body changes, too. In particular, your brain is reshaped, especially if your illness occurs in your teens or early twenties.
Neurologically, depression changes you. It takes a fully functional, deeply creative person with grandiose dreams for the future and cauterizes their capacity for joy and hope. It makes long-term planning seem overwhelming and useless. In 2014, a neuropsychological assessment revealed massive structural changes to my brain, indicating that after half a decade of struggling with depression, I had lost the cognitive skills necessary to plan for the future and to create the meaningful art that I wanted to create. The empirical proof that it wasn’t just all in my head, and that recovery was possible, provided the validation I had been subconsciously seeking for many years. Apparently, it was a turning point for my family too, because they are now some of the strongest advocates for early intervention, whether that comes in the form of psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both.
* Because of my own experience, I feel a lot of compassion for mentally ill teenagers in particular. In an increasingly chaotic world, where mental health issues are becoming vastly more prevalent, the underdeveloped brains of young people are at especially great risk. While some adolescent angst is normal and even healthy, it’s important for parents and friends to recognize the signs that their loved one may be dealing with something more complex and destructive. There has been a great deal of debate in recent years about whether the voyeuristic nature of social media has increased young people’s susceptibility to mental health issues. I believe there is value to this conversation, and I don’t think for a second that it should be shut down. But maybe it belongs in the ivory towers where it originated, and not in the lives of actual young people who are suffering.
To the teenager with an undiagnosed mood disorder despairing over their insomnia or memory lapses, watching their grades take a steep decline, or battling with unsympathetic parents, it is ultimately unhelpful. It minimizes the very real struggle they are undertaking every day just to feel emotion in a way that doesn’t feel detached or unreal. The struggle simply to stay alive. * I don’t claim to be an authority on this subject. I don’t claim to represent every single person with the same diagnosis. Nevertheless, it is my sincere hope that by sharing my story I may be able to reach someone who needs to hear it. Someone who needs to hear that voice, however small, offering an alternative perspective to the lies being consistently reinforced by their chemically imbalanced brain: there is life after the oppressive bleakness of depression. That it’s possible to overcome, to achieve, and to ultimately be transformed.
Decorated Youth Magazine | 11
*TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains stories about living with chronic depression and having suicidal thoughts (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255)
*TRIGGER*TRIGGER WARNING: This articleThis contains about living withliving depression and anxiety WARNING: articlestories contains stories about with chronic depression and having suicidal thoughts (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255) Photography by James Robinson. *TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains stories about living with depression and anxiety I didn’t know that depression and anxiety had names when I first experienced the symptoms of both illnesses. I quickly grew accustomed to panic attacks, which I would first experience around age eight or nine. I knew that I had a severe peanut allergy and that, if I were to eat something with the nut that everyone around me seemed to enjoy as a snack or a spread on their sandwiches, my throat would close up and there was the possibility of death. I distinctly remember carrying around a water bottle everywhere I went. Looking back I guess it was sort of a mental crutch. I knew drinking water wouldn’t save me in the theoretical life-threatening situation that I would play over and over in my head. I was trained how to use an Epipen and what to do if an allergic reaction occurred, but having that water bottle made me feel safe. I believe my first panic attack happened when I didn't have it. If you've ever experienced a panic attack before, you know the confusion and the fear that surrounds one. My heart would race. The temperature in the room would rise. I would begin to feel the sweat forming at the top of my forehead and try to wipe it away my sleeve as quickly as it 12 |with Decorated Youth Magazine appeared.
If I didn’t, I knew someone would ask the very triggering question “Are you OK?” signaling that I did not look comfortable. That’s when the real mental trickery would start. I’d convince myself that the people I was with: friends, family, strangers, whoever were looking at me, wondering if I was “OK”. “The room isn't hot. Why is he sweating so much?” “What’s wrong with Adam?” I could almost hear what they were thinking. These panic attacks continued on throughout my life and got much worse and more often once I was in middle school. I’d never told anyone about these episodes. I would suffer in silence for years. Middle School is where I first met Depression. I think it snuck in with all the other changes and hormones. I remember being in 7th grade and just feeling inadequate. I remember feeling sad for no reason and putting on a happy face wherever I went because in my mind I had no reasons to be sad. I still had no official names or definitions for what I just knew as sadness and fear. It wasn’t until I saw the film It’s Kind of a Funny Story and drew similarities between the feelings I felt and those of the main protagonist.
Soon after, I read the book, which gave me more insight into the subject of mental illness and ways to treat it. I now had a name for the years of discomfort and confusion and it took me two years to gain the confidence to inform my parents of my struggle. There isn’t any polished, happy ending for my story as it is not yet completed. There is no formula for happiness. I still struggle with depression and anxiety. I take medicine; a truth I once found embarrassing but have since learned that medicine is something that I need. If you were a diabetic, you would need insulin. I’ve spent time in and out of the mental hospital sometimes inpatient and sometimes outpatient. I had suicidal thoughts, I attempted suicide. I’ve been to some low places but if you are to gather anything from reading this know that through all the unfortunate circumstances, you are never alone. Your mind may try to trick you into believing that you don’t matter or that the world would be a better place without you in it but this is simply not true.
Listen intently to the clichés that people utter in their attempts to comfort. It can be difficult to comfort someone waging a fight against an illness that takes so many different forms. Try to be patient with the people who don’t quite understand. Don’t let cynicism take over. You couldn’t have told me then when I was suffering but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Life is full of ugly. Sadness, pain and fear exist. They are big emotions or at least they seem bigger. Sometimes we let them overshadow the beauties of this world. Good moments are almost always overshadowed by the bad. This is evident after simply watching a night of the news. Don’t let that trick you. There will always be light to expose the darkness. You may get wounded a lot in this life but the wound will always close and sometimes you may be left with a scar. And when the light does come out to eradicate the darkness, be proud of theDecorated scars that it will show. These | 13 Youth Magazine scars represent the battle that you fought and won.
14 | Decorated Youth Magazine
Fa r r e n
Chris Farren is a songwriter from Naples, Florida who’s now living in Los Angeles. He’s known for being in Fake Problems, Antarctigo Vespucci (with Jeff Rosenstock), and for having released a few memorable solo EPs along with his first solo LP, Can’t Die, in September 2016. Photography by Erica Lauren. Interview by Heather Hawke.
salvage the band, but walked away with the sessions being disasters. Something did come from the trip though, as Chris decided to visit his then acquaintance, Jeff Rosenstock (formerly of Bomb! The Music Industry), who he only knew from a one-week tour years prior, and together they wrote a song.
charity he truly believes in, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Following another Antarctigo release, Leavin' La Vida Loca, in July 2015, Chris decided to make his first solo full length, Can’t Die, that was released via SideOneDummy in September 2016. Chris produced Antarctigo Vespucci was born when and engineered the entire album, Chris realized that he had so many When one of Chris’s best friend’s but his original vision of the LP was songs that never made the cut for (Casey Lee of Fake Problems) dad polished with the help of some Fake Problems material. He initially passed away in a freak accident friends: Sean Stevenson on drums, asked Jeff if he wanted to do a split around 2010, it was a hard blow to Casey Lee on guitar, Jeff Rosenstock 7,” but Jeff proposed starting a band and Matt Agrella adding horn all involved. The devastation instead. They quickly bonded over completely altered the future of arrangements, and Laura Stevenson Fake Problems. After a while, Casey the situation they both were going contributing vocals. through and became fast friends. quit the band and Chris was immediately at a loss, but they were After Chris released more solo This album saw Chris tackle mortality an ambitious team so he wanted to material, they recorded another both internally and outwardly, as at Antarctigo 7” and then hit the road. the age of 25 he went through a stay on the pursuit for a new Fake Working with Jeff gave Chris a boost hard time trying to process the fact Problems member. The remaining of confidence, helping him believe in that he would someday die. One of members spent a year writing an album, getting to LA to record with a himself once again. the tracks on Can’t Die called “Until I producer, and after it was made Can See The Light” has Chris talking After two Antarctigo releases in decided they didn’t like it and it about the shock you go through never saw the light of day. They did, 2014, April’s Soulmate Stuff and when someone passes away and the however, put two songs on a 7”, but October’s I’m So Tethered, Chris fact that you’ll never get to see them wrote and recorded an (all original) anymore. Another track, “Human since the memories from around Christmas album as a way to get that time were so terrible Chris felt Being,” speaks about the feeling of better at recording. indifferent towards it. not fitting in. The entire album is Chris opening up about some As Chris has always dealt with At one point, Chris even went to anxieties and insecurities that he New York to try out some co-writing depression, he donated all the faces on a regular basis. proceeds from that album to a sessions doing what he could to
Decorated Youth Magazine | 15
What’s the writing process like for you? Where do you mostly pull lyrics / music from? Are you ever intentional when sitting down to write? Is there ever a “I’m going to write a song now” moment or is it more ephemeral, like you’ve been kicking something around in your head for days, weeks, months, and then suddenly it comes spilling out? Like most songwriters (I assume), my process is always evolving/shifting/changing. For the past few years, when it's time to write a record, I set a schedule for myself. Right now, the schedule is: wake up at 6:30am, run through a few "self-care" things, like meditation, journaling, exercise and reading. Then, at 9am, I sit down with my guitar and write until around noon. I find the earlier I get started, the more likely it is I will have a finished song that day. If I let the world into my mind, like look at my phone too much, watch TV or listen to a podcast, it becomes increasingly more difficult to focus on writing that day. So I try to shut those things out until after I get a song down for the day. Often times, especially in the beginning few weeks of the process, the songs aren't very good. I spend a lot of time "getting through the bad songs to get to the good ones". But I think the process of sitting down and writing every day is crucial for me, because I am exercising the songwriting muscle in my brain, or whatever, so when true inspiration actually does strike, I'm ready and I have all of the facilities and access to
16 | Decorated Youth Magazine
the tools in my mind to put it together properly.
mindset. I need some level of solitude in order to write. BUT with that said, of course I am Lyrically, the songs start as stream of INFLUENCED by travel, as I am influenced by everything that consciousness. I will play the guitar happens to me whether I be at home and improvise some words and a or somewhere else in the world. melody. I'll then take those words and try to figure out why I said it, With your artwork, how did you where it came from, what is my interact with the artist/designer? subconscious trying to say? And I'll Did you contribute ideas or remain build the lyrics from there. hands-off? Was there a revision process? For some writers, writing is an extremely difficult and painful More and more, I've been doing my process. Is it easy for you? own art and design. I realized I could never convey what was in my mind It is extremely painful for the first to someone else over email. In that month or so of the process, riddled with excruciating self-doubt and self- sense, when I'm making my own art, the revision process is basically the loathing. Constant feeling of failure whole thing. I'll just start with no and despair, like I've chosen the idea and start throwing shit at the wrong path for my life, that I have wall until something sticks, then I'll tricked everyone into thinking I'm good at this and if I was ever good in just keep revising and retooling until it looks like something I like. the first place I will never be good again. Then, after about a month or What is your perspective on how so in, I'll have a few miniyou want to be represented breakthroughs with songs, and I'll throughout your visuals (press start to get excited about what I'm photos, music videos, album making, then it basically flips the artwork)? other way and I feel untouchable, like I'm making the best thing I have ever made, and the greatest music For me, I like the visuals to represent anyone will have ever heard. the overall aesthetic and mood of the music. They are essentially (and Does traveling influence you as an often completely) an advertising artist? Are you inspired by the device for the music. For my music, places you go, or do you think your which I consider to be musically very work would sound about the same fun, bright, poppy sounding, with no matter where you created it? lyrics that are in total opposition to those vibes, I like visuals that on the surface feel very familiar but have I've never been able to write on some very slight undertone of selftour. There is too much distraction awareness, self-loathing, some sort around and being on tour and of darkness. performing is a vastly different
Decorated Youth Magazine | 17
*TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains Op Edstories about living with chronic depression and having suicidal thoughts (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255) *TRIGGER and anxiety *TRIGGERWARNING: WARNING:This Thisarticle articlecontains containsstories storiesabout aboutliving livingwith withdepression chronic depression and having suicidal thoughts (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255) Photography by Noel Woodford. *TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains stories about living with depression and anxiety "Talking about depression is frustrating. It’s not black and white. It’s not linear, predictable or logical. It’s not comfortable. I’ll admit that talking about it makes me cringe as my natural response moves me to kindly tell myself to get the fuck over it. A subtle anxiety comes over as I choose my words carefully in an attempt to eliminate confusion or misinterpretation. It’s like walking a tightrope—this fine line between transparency and dramatization. Yes, this battle of mind and body exists in me for some reason. It distorts perception and can keep me in a dark bedroom starting at a mark on the ceiling for eight hours, sucking the color out of any situation. Yes, at times there are certain undesirable realities. No, I don’t need or want sympathy. I guess I’ve learned through trial and a lot of error to try to live in the micro instead of the macro. That no state of mind has ever lasted forever. That, regardless of feeling, there is always a step to take. It doesn’t mean I don’t still get depressed, and that those periods of time aren’t fucking bleak. I’m just saying, I’ve come to recognize that the human condition is messy and the goals in my life are no longer centered on attaining unadulterated joy and happiness. My focus is on embracing each moment on the path from A to B, whatever they may be."
18 | Decorated Youth Magazine
Decorated Youth Magazine | 19
20 | Decorated Youth Magazine
*TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains stories about living with chronic depression and having suicidal thoughts (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255) Even Though I Can’t Photography provided by publicist. The lights of New York City blind me as I emerge from my trusty Honda Element on December 28, 2016. The gargantuan city’s sounds assault my ears like knives and razors with an accompanying pain, not only in my body, but in my mind as well. I pull it together for 45-minutes to play my set at Rockwood Music Hall, then I enter the fray of Manhattan again. I’ve now shut down, incommunicado with anyone around me. I crash on the bed of my cousin later than night and rush out the door and out of the city when dawn breaks.
mostly the whole time. Once the drive home started the darkness began creeping in. By the time I got home it was back, not as hard as the previous December, but pervasive nonetheless. I informed my two producers this was the case: I’m chronically depressed and constantly suicidal. My autistic features and auditory integration disorder is off the charts and keeps me from focusing. These features lead me to meltdowns where I become almost catatonic. My producers, being generally awesome people, understood and were ready to work at my pace. It turns out my pace was faster than I’d expected. Once the sessions started rolling my mood was buoyed. Each day I would enter the studio depressed AF, and within two hours of work I was feeling present, engaged, and balanced.
The rest of the tour was cancelled because I came very close to attempting suicide. My wife had to drive me across the country back to our desert home in Albuquerque. I don’t remember much of it because I was sedated with medication to get me home safely. Even through the fog tragedies occurred: I put my head through the window of my car, I almost walked onto I40 in an attempt at death by tractor trailer. But I made it As this album (Wave/Water) came together, I realized home, medications were adjusted, and I emerged from something special was happening. Sure, I would return home in the evening, my senses spent, depressed, at the this awful, dark well I’d fallen into. end of my rope, but the work I was bringing home was the best work I’ve ever created. It was full of light, hope, It took a week for my new medication to kick in and once it did I realized I had to scrap all the material I had and meaning. I was making something beautiful out of the ugliness. planned to go into the studio with. I had spent the month of November 2016 as an artist-inresident at Big Bend National Park, and as a result I had two handfuls of songs which were to comprise my next record. After experiencing the most intense depression I’d ever gone through I re-evaluated what I wanted this record to mean. I immediately began writing in earnest, and the music never came so easily to me. The first song I wrote was about my NYC experience, “Only Breathe”. A poppy track with a darker subtext, and a dawning of hope. The rest of the songs mostly fell along this line: dark, but hopeful. I was feeling a lot better than the previous month and I booked studio time in May, right as I was returning from an April tour up the west coast. The tour went great; I was happy
Every shadow is cast by light, and the shadows in our hearts and minds are no different. If you look hard enough behind these dark places, you’ll see the light from which they originate. Wave/Water has been my path to see the radiance behind my darkness. Listening to the completed album is a healing experience for me, one I can take along on my various tours this year. Touring is hard. My mental health knot (PTSD, chronic depression, audio processing disorder, and now autistic features) often precludes my ability to function on a day-to-day basis, and this decompensation is amplified while on tour, away from home and familiarity. The same thing goes with my day to day practice of writing and playing: I feel blocked at times. I break through. Why? Because I just want to write and play my songs. I feel like they’re the only thing I have to give, and I’ll persist through just about anything to get them out there.
Decorated Youth Magazine | 21
Photography provided by herself.
Inaccessibility and ableism in the music scene are gradually starting to come to light alongside the other -isms and phobias that many are working to eliminate in order to make concerts a safer place for all people. Unfortunately, accessibility often comes off as an afterthought even though it’s one of the biggest hindrances in allowing people to go to and enjoy concerts safely. Rewind to 2013 when I started regularly going to shows... Since then, there’s been countless times I’ve experienced inaccessibility as a manual wheelchair user. When I first started going to larger general admission concerts I had no idea where I should sit and watch because I was never offered somewhere to be, but over time I’ve created my own safe spots in the venues I frequent the most.
22 | Decorated Youth Magazine
Many of them aren’t dedicated ADA areas, so it’s often a gamble as to whether or not I’ll be able to see the stage because different staff members are usually working, and some are more accommodating than others. There’s also a few venues I’ve been to that have a lot of stairs and no other way to the show floor. I’m lucky in that I can get out of my wheelchair and climb up the stairs, but it still discourages me from wanting to attend shows in those spaces. It also prevents a large majority of disabled folks from being able to go to those venues at all. Accessibility means more than just getting inside. Some of my worst experiences recently have been with a venue that is great about getting disabled fans inside early and through the elevator, but unfortunately make inside accommodations such a low priority that I’m left to pick between being unsafe in the front row or unable to see in the back.
There’s plenty of room to the side of the stage on the floor, and the venue even allowed me to be there once a few years ago, but they’ve become stricter since then even though I always reach out to request the spot a week in advance. The last time I went to that venue I reached out to the band I was planning to see to have them try and help me secure that spot and it worked just fine. I had been there two times within the same month and they wouldn’t budge in denying my requests until the third show when it was a band asking for me. Accommodations are more often met when it’s per request of the artists playing rather than from the disabled fans attending. This is especially frustrating because it’s not always that easy to reach out to artists, and power dynamics are the only difference in who is asking that we be accommodated.
There’s a common misconception that venues, and other buildings in general, legally have to be ADA compliant, but it’s not true at all. Many of these structures are older than the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and it would be an ‘undue financial hardship’ that could possibly put a venue out of business if they were forced to become accessible. Some are required to make these changes if they do a major renovation, but for the most part there’s not much holding them accountable for how accessible they are. There are still a lot of changes that can be made to increase accessibility without posing a financial crisis on a venue, and that’s why awareness,
advocacy and resources for the disabled music community are so important.
venues as possible to best prepare disabled fans before they even buy their ticket to a show.
Each time I’ve come across inaccessibility and ableism at venues, I’ve become more frustrated that nothing is changing. I eventually got to a point where I realized that simply being upset about it wouldn’t help, and that I needed to redirect that negative energy into something constructive.
This can then be used as a tool for bands and booking agents to see which venues are more accessible, but especially important, it can be used to help educate venues on how they can increase their accessibility to best accommodate all disabled guests. I’m very thankful to be the recipient of the Sub City APMAs grant through Hopeless Records, and eager to truly get this project off the ground. If you’re interested in helping me achieve this goal, feel free to reach out to @halfaccess on social media or contact me at halfaccess.org!
That’s how I came up with Half Access. I’m working to create a database of accommodation information on as many music
Decorated Youth Magazine | 23
24 | Decorated Youth Magazine
*TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains stories about living with chronic depression and having suicidal thoughts (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255) Photography provided by the band. Depression’s kind of a weird thing, and while that’s a serious understatement, it’s true. One day it’s sharp, violent, and angry, on others it’s dull, heavy, and desolate. It’s as varied as the range of emotions a person can feel. I’ve been dealing with some form of depression since about age thirteen, but I don’t think I knew it at the time. I didn’t feel sad, I had, like many people still have, the misconception that depression is limited only to sadness. What I did feel was inferior, to my friends, my classmates, my family, to the version of myself I thought I should be. Anytime I fell short of perfection I would panic, burst into tears, completely freeze up. I’d be inconsolable. There was one occasion, I forgot my science homework and I completely broke down. I yelled through my tears for my friends to leave me alone, that I was fine. I wasn’t fine. Clearly. One mistake made me less than what I should be. Whatever that was, I didn’t know. It was another year before my mom started taking me to therapy. Looking back on it now she must have had some idea of what was going on even when I didn’t. My mom and dad both deal with depression and have for most of their lives, and I have in them support that many people don’t. But, no thirteen-year-old wants to talk to their parents and it was another four years of angry outbursts, emotional breakdowns, and a general refusal to admit that there was anything wrong.
This is when it was the worst it ever was. Seventeen was hard. Nothing I did was good enough, I was furious with myself for falling short of a standard no one was holding me to but me. I felt worthless. I’d refuse to talk to anyone, I was so quick to anger, I’d scream at people at the slightest provocation and I hated myself for it. I spent hours walking around aimlessly to try to clear my head, to vent privately so I wouldn’t take it out on another person. Nothing scared me more than hurting someone I loved so I isolated myself as much as I could, but my refusal to communicate only made the moments my emotions broke though even worse. Sleeping for thirteen hours, staying in bed longer because I just wasn’t worth the effort of getting out of bed. Spending the weekend laying on the couch watching TV because I already knew no one wanted to see me. I hit a turning point when, one night, after months of thinking about it I knew I didn’t want to deal with anything anymore. I was laying bed thinking only about how I wished it all would just stop, the pressure, the anger, all of it. It wasn’t that I wanted to die just that I didn’t think I could handle my life anymore, suicide felt like my only option. But while I thought about how to kill myself I couldn’t help but feel selfish. Who was I to make that decision? What would my friends and family think? I was worried about it, but the whole point was so I wouldn’t have to worry about anything, no pressure, no stress. I wouldn’t be a burden on anyone anymore with all my stupid emotional bullshit. It really was my only option, and there was a moment of peace when I knew exactly what I had to do.
For a split second I wasn’t worried about anything, there was no more pressure. It didn’t matter how worthless I was because I’d be gone soon. But as fast the feeling came it went and I was scared, terrified of dying. I was so afraid my body went numb and I curled into a ball under my sheets and cried. I was furious because I choked, I couldn’t follow through, I was pathetic. I cried myself to sleep that night. Something of that night must have shown through because soon afterward my mom had me double down on therapy and despite my reservations I started taking antidepressants. I knew my parents had both taken them for years and I knew they worked for them, but I’d heard horror stories of people’s depression getting worse, deadly side effects. Moreover, I didn’t want people to think I was crazy. Between therapy and actually talking to my parents I started learning healthy ways to deal with my depression, not the least of which is just knowing I’m depressed and knowing what those thoughts are. It doesn’t make them go away, but it helps to know where they come from. I’ve been on Prozac for seven years now. Antidepressants don’t work for everyone, I know that, but they work for me. They’re not a fix but they help. I’ve pretty much come to terms with the fact that I’m going to have depression for the rest of my life, but I know what it is and I know how to deal with it at this point. My depression is a part of me but I try not to let it own me. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t but that’s the way it goes.
Decorated Youth Magazine | 25
*TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains stories about living with anxiety Photography by Cory Ingram. “Hello, I have anxiety” is sometimes how I wish I could introduce myself when at a party or social event. Almost to warn participants that any awkward, avoidant, or spaced out mannerism that may come after this ‘hello’ has nothing to do with me not wanting to talk to them, but merely stems from a deep rooted worry of, well, everything. However, on the outside, I look un-phased. I smile and mentally sift through my vocabulary for a witty comeback or clever out of the box question to dull the pain that comes with small talk. While, internally, I constantly check in with myself on how the conversation is going, making sure I haven’t said or done anything wildly embarrassing. This especially rings true when it comes to networking events. Through years of practice, I’ve learned how to get through small gatherings. But once I’m aware of the stakes involved, my skin starts to crawl. The phrase “it’s not what you know, but who you know” has always made my stomach churn and my knees buckle. It an inevitable fact that creating and withholding connections is a key to successful professional endeavors. But this added pressure of performance when you deal with mental illness, like anxiety and depression (often one coinciding with the other), makes it difficult to navigate. It seems near impossible on the days where you can’t even bring yourself to leave the house, let alone talk extensively about your passions and goals in any positive manner.
26 | Decorated Youth Magazine
So, the question is - why can’t we be more transparent? On one hand, it’s no surprise most of us feel we are not able to freely express when the bad days are. Even in the seemingly progressive pocket that is New York City, discussing mental health, especially in a professional workspace, is looked at as taboo. Society has told us, anxiety means you will worry too much about that deadline and willingly let the impending doom ball into a tumble weed of catastrophic thought patterns. Depression means you will always call in late, if you come in at all, and become a dry well of creativity. Mental illnesses like bipolar and chronic depression are even listed as disabilities when filling out a job application, which can be a catch-22. While it is a step towards transparency, the preconceived stereotype of what it means to have these disorders still lingers. Therefore, it seems our mainstream culture has not yet aligned with our disclosure methods. Even the phrase ‘mental illness’ or ‘mental disorder’ can be hindering to use in a public setting with people you are trying to make an admirable impression on. What’s more peculiar is how we tend to put a mask on when participating these networking events. We try to pretend to be ultra-confident and cool, discussing our talent, which normally displays how we are anything but the persona we are attempting to give off.
As creatives, we are vocal about our vulnerabilities through the work we make. We use tools like writing, singing, photographing, performing, painting, and several other mediums to highlight our highs and lows in a tangible way. Then we showcase these works of art to the masses, hoping others digest our message, empathize and ultimately feel less alone. So wouldn’t you think if we moved past the nerve-wrecking facade of having it all together, we could just be our flawed but lovely, transparent selves? The only way we can obtain the growth and understanding we want surrounding mental illness is, first, being more open and honest, especially when we are not at our best. If we want to see any real progression, it’s vital to be upfront about the bad days, beyond just through our craft. I want to work towards living in a professional world where we can freely say, “I create really awesome things, I’m a hard worker, and I also have this mental illness.” And, instead of hesitant tongues due to the so-called forbidden topic, we can welcome each other with open arms, patient minds and, in some instances, disclose similar struggles. Instead of pretending everything is perfect, we can cheer to acknowledging human beings are messy and complex, and, in turn, feel a little less alone.
Decorated Youth Magazine | 27
28 | Decorated Youth Magazine
Interview with Alaina Moore
Two years went by, and the then unmarried couple sold all their “My childhood was fueled by material possessions and saved up imagination and invention,” Alaina for a trip—one that Patrick had been Moore of Tennis recalls. She’s the saving up for since his sophomore Growing up, Alaina had very oldest of four kids who were all restricted thoughts of herself where year of high school, nearly seven homeschooled. Their days were she saw her strengths or abilities as years. As Alaina was planning on spent writing plays, songs, dressing innate and unchangeable; she traveling the world anyway, the two up, and running a fake newspaper. thought that she’d been born with decided to do the trip together. This Growing up in a conservative all the qualities she would ever have. adventure led to them buying a 30Christian home, they were only Adults in her life would notice traits foot sailboat and fleeing their allowed to watch PBS or MGM and point them out, like “you have a hometown of Denver to spend eight musicals, and Alaina has no doubt months sailing and exploring the good ear for pitch, you must be a that this upbringing influenced her singer!” or, “look at those hands, get North Atlantic coast. musical sensibilities. “I tell my this girl a piano!” She felt like her mother all the time that unfettered talents were inventoried and During this trip, the couple focused access to my inner creative self was defined, and that it was her job to on immersing themselves in their the greatest gift she could have new lifestyle to get everything they live up to them. It was in a given me.” Photography by Luca philosophy class, studying ontology, could out of the experience. There Venter. Interview by Heather where she read about essential and was no way for them to prepare for Hawke. how expensive living on a sailboat accidental properties and became could be. Although they stuck to a acquainted with the ancient Alaina took piano lessons from $200 monthly food budget, the cost philosophical debate over which housewives in her neighborhood and properties added together constitute of necessary ship repairs started to eventually started singing in church. a particular thing. “It occurred to me add up. They financially hit rock She says that she went to one of bottom and ended their trip in that all the things that had been those modern churches that had a pressed upon me as fundamental to Baltimore. They figured they could proper band, which gave her find jobs as they both had college my nature, were merely accidental experience as both a background degrees, but that was right at the traits that had nothing to do with singer and bandmate. She was a start of the recession so college who I was as a human.” This music major at a Christian university revelation completely shifted her degrees—especially in philosophy and sang in the chapel band, which is way of thinking. “Christianity is all and English—were expendable. where she met some of her lifelong about roles, gendered roles in friends and occasional bandmates: particular, that God has preordained Back in Denver, they were so “It was all good experience in a for you. As I shifted away from that inspired by their travels that they controlled environment, with very kind of thinking, it freed me to wanted to make their stories into little pressure.” During a creative become a different person: a something, that something being writing class in college, her professor philosopher, a sailor, a writer, a music. Although music seemed like told her that the best writers were performer, an artist.” While even an obvious release for the two, also philosophers, and that her now, in the present, as much as she Alaina had classical training on piano writing would benefit from a loves creating as a part of Tennis and Patrick had experience playing philosophy class. Once she took an she’s wondering about the next guitar in several local bands, neither intro course she was so hooked that chapter. “Will I sail around the world of them had foreseen their return to she changed majors, moved away and get my captain's license? Will I playing music as a lifestyle until they from her devout religious write a novel? I hope that Tennis went sailing. Even still, once they background, and studied philosophy isn't the only thing I'll be known for.” decided that music was their best at the University of Colorado. “I am route, they had no intentions of ever so grateful to that English professor. While at the University of Colorado, releasing their creations to the Alaina met her collaborator and public. husband Patrick Riley. The band didn’t form suddenly though. My philosophical training ended up being foundational to my work as a writer. It informs everything I do.”
Decorated Youth Magazine | 29
The formation of Tennis in 2010 was Alaina’s first proper introduction to songwriting and fronting a band. “It was nothing like church and I was out of my depth,” she says. “When I look back on my life I see how each little experience lead to the next, preparing me for the work I do now.” The resulting album, Cape Dory, was released in January 2011 and it not only retraces their route along the coast, but also follows the couple’s relationship that was constantly tested and strengthened. Their sophomore album Young & Old (2012) was the first time they wrote songs for the sake of sharing and performing them live. The album came about quickly, with the pair writing some of the songs while they were on the road touring their debut as they felt the momentum. The two spent time holed up in a Nashville studio recording with Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney, which was the first time either of them had worked with an actual producer. Proceeding Young & Old, in 2013 they released an EP, Small Sound, and then their third full length, Ritual in Repeat, in 2014. All the while, Alaina battled crippling anxiety every time they landed a new gig, and it lasted until the show was over. The anxiety came from being afraid she’d mess it up somehow, either by getting sick or having something unexpected happen. During her worst moments, Alaina says that meditation didn't help her, but physical exertion did. “Learning to get out of my head and into my body was really helpful.” She’s now accepted anxiety as an unalterable fact of her life, knowing that she worries most when she has something to lose. “If I avoided everything that made me anxious I would have nothing.
30 | Decorated Youth Magazine
I would have never written a song or played a show or learned to sail or married Patrick.” She explains that she uses fear as her compass, saying, “when I feel my anxiety flicker, I know I'm on the right track.” While on tour, to ease her anxiety Alaina tries to avoid extreme emotional highs and lows as much as possible. “I fall into the deep lonely quiet of the drive, the technical monotony of soundcheck, and my own pre-show makeup and wardrobe rituals.” She tells me that if she breaks everything down into little tasks that are unimportant on their own, it keeps her balanced and prevents her anxiety until suddenly it's showtime. “I rarely lose myself in a show. I am very aware of myself, the audience, my obligations to the band and the crowd. I've never met anyone who feels this way about being onstage. If there is anyone else out there like me I'd love to meet them.” Since she doesn’t get caught up in some exultant feeling during a show, she sometimes gets worried about not doing it “right.” “I certainly enjoy myself, but sometimes I don't, and I want the show to be consistently good regardless of how I feel about it. Every tour gets a little better. Every show I feel a little freer.”
The way she went about this was to listen back to their previous albums and notice the tendencies she has and which ones worked with the timbre of her voice. After the release of Small Sound in 2013, the duo kept being told by people they were working with at the label, who were really supportive and who they loved working with, that no one knew what to do with them—where exactly Tennis fit in. The members took this as a sign that they might as well do what is fulfilling for them and what goes with their temperament, since they didn’t quite enjoy making the previous album. They also felt ready to make an album on their own again.
“The first thing we had to do was let go of the band. We spent a year building an alternate life that didn't involve Tennis to see if we could still be happy.” They took to the sea once again, this time to the Sea of Cortez where they found utter fulfillment. “The farther we sailed, the less we cared about the myriad industry trivialities that normally filled us with anxiety. We proved to ourselves that the particular amalgamation of adversity, creativity, risk and beauty that got us out of bed every day could be found Alaina hears Tennis gaining in other pursuits.” They recognized confidence and experience with each they were happy living off almost no record. For their newest LP, Yours income which gave them a certain Conditionally, released last March, type of freedom, and they didn’t she started to feel much more miss all the attitude within the art comfortable with writing specifically and music world. “Living in this state for her voice. Since she grew up of mind for about six months was all singing other people’s songs and it took to make songwriting emulating their voices, she’s always appealing again. Cutting myself off found the task to be strenuous. She from the music industry broke its never knew what kind of song she power over me.” should be singing to suit her voice and she felt as if she didn’t have her own identity so she had to create one out of nothing.
Their writing process is usually done in a very matter-of-fact way. They only write when they’ve set aside time to write, and they don’t write while they’re touring. “I sit down for so many hours and hack away at it. It takes a long time for songs to start forming out of little phrases and chords and melodies.” The greatest difficulty, Alaina says, is that in any writing session, she’s sorting through dozens of ideas for many different songs. “Rarely do I work through a single song beginning to end. Sorting out which idea goes where is the most exhausting part. That's why my process is so slow. It usually takes me a month to finish a song, but I might have as many as 5 songs going at once.” She tells me that the process sometimes frightens her as it’s like “opening a locked door and looking into the darkest depths of your subconscious and hoping something good is hiding in the blackness.” However, she also says that the ability to open herself up through songwriting and explore her place in the world is incredibly cathartic and meaningful. “It's frightening, but some level of risk is necessary for healing.” While taking on a role as a captain on their boat in the middle of nowhere, the pragmatic concerns for their safety helped Alaina forgot about her usual anxiety and fear towards having writer’s block or writing a bad song.
She was able to pen down words easier in this environment where her inner critic was silenced. Once back on land, they self-produced Yours Conditionally in a cabin in Fraser, Colorado, and had Jim Eno of Spoon mix it at Public HiFi. Tennis decided to only release the album if they could preserve and protect the state of mind they had found while living at sea. “We spoke with a few labels, but decided that we could service our music and intuit our needs better than anyone else,” Aliana says. The couple emptied their savings account to launch a label, Mutually Detrimental, and to fund a proper album campaign. She says that there was a steep learning curve, but they had obtained helpful knowledge from their years with Fat Possum and Communion. “Selfreleasing isn't for everyone, but it works for us. I always used to say, ‘I didn't start a band so I could have a hundred bosses.’ I hate being told what to do. Starting Mutually Detrimental was a solid step towards freedom.” With this newfound freedom, and after getting over the hurdle of starting their own business, self-releasing, and then finding success and stability in it, they felt an elevated sense of confidence and gratitude and were inspired to create again. They released their new EP, We Can Die Happy, in November 2017.
Decorated Youth Magazine | 31
32 | Decorated Youth Magazine
*TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains stories about living with chronic depression and having suicidal thoughts (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255) Photography provided by publicist. Fall of 2013 was one of the toughest periods of my life, both mentally and physically. My lifelong depression was affecting me worse than it ever had, which seems hard to quantify considering I had already been battling suicidal thoughts almost daily for years prior. I limply waved a sword in the face of Inertia, pushing myself to continually put on a happy face in front of my music industry colleagues and friends, when all I ever wanted to do was leave unnoticed, crawl into a dark cave, and wither away into nonexistence. My only tangible proof that I did value my life was the wide-eyed alertness with which I commuted by bike alongside kamikaze commercial semi-trailer trucks down pot-hole-ridden streets in industrial Brooklyn. My gut knew that if I was going to survive at all, I needed to return to being a musician. I had “quit” years earlier due to hand pain that was so severe that I could barely oppose my thumbs. When I graduated from Berklee in 2005, I packed up my instruments and moved to Olympia, WA to work at Kill Rock Stars, where I wore wrist braces every day and often came in late due to physical therapy appointments. 8 years later, while living in NYC, I was determined to recommence physical therapy and occupational therapy, to at least give myself a CHANCE of playing again. Following my first appointment, my thumbs hurt so badly that I was locked in
the stairwell of that Upper East Side medical office building; I couldn’t turn the doorknob to exit. Late that night, after an hour-long train ride and mile-long walk, I finally reached my apartment. I used my forearms to open my front door, my apartment door, and to turn the bathtub knobs. I crawled into the hot water and cried, questioning the point of any of this. The first instrument I was reasonably able to play again was piano, because I didn’t have to bend my wrists in order to play. Physically, I could only play for about 15 minutes at a time before my forearms were on fire, but I always recorded every note of those improvisations. Each of those recordings was titled “Just Past Midnight 1", “Just Past Midnight 2”, etc., because that was the time of day I’d always record. Not because it was a magical creative hour, but because I allowed everything else in my life to take higher priority. My music was relegated to hobby hour — the thing I’d save until just before going to bed. Slowly, I began playing all my other instruments, too (winds, brass, guitar, bass, etc.), even though it hurt like hell, as it unfortunately often still does. When I listen back to those “Just Past Midnight” recordings now, it’s clear that I had music trapped inside me the entire time. I just needed to gather enough mental and manual strength to turn the
spigot. That turning came from a lot of shifts — moving to LA, going on anti-depressants, diving further into Buddhism, prioritizing quality alone time, staying single, and having a dedicated space to create. Finding that combination of positive shifts took some trial and error, but it was crucial, and it's still essential that I regularly check in with myself to make adjustments. On my fridge, I have a drawing of a girl holding a banner that says, "It's always worth it". And it is! It's always worth every effort to feel your best and keep that creative knob turned on. Why didn’t I talk to anyone about what I was going through all those years? I had no evidence that anyone in my life would understand, and the few times I gathered an ounce of courage to say something, I was met with the counterargument that I shouldn’t be sad. In my observation, people who haven’t experienced true depression don’t realize that that’s not how it works; it’s not about there being a “why”. I don’t suggest ever asking a depressed person “why” they are sad or listing off the reasons they shouldn’t be sad. Instead, ask them to explain what it feels like and ask them what they need. And then listen to their answer. You might not be able to cheer them up, per se, but you may be able to help them up.
Decorated Youth Magazine | 33
*TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains stories about living with anxiety Photography provided by herself. Next to my house is a two-story duplex. Living in the upstairs portion are a woman and a bunch of cats. Now that I’ve set the scene, let’s get down to business: my neighbor has a problem—she takes in stray cats. At first glance, this sounds empathetic and caring. But when you begin estimating the cats-to-square-footage ratio—and I doubt they’ve all had shots or been properly looked at before she takes them in—it takes a rather concerning turn. I tend to be judgmental towards her (albeit good-intentioned) gateway-drug-level of animalhording, but the truth is: I let in stray cats, too. They wander in, uninvited and unannounced, sometimes with damp and matted fur, and I let them stay. I feed them. I think about them often. I nurse them into health and let them feel like they belong here. They sit on top of my lungs, bellies heavy and swollen, teeth and claws sinking into my tender organs. My cats’ names are Fear and Anxiety. Being an independent woman, I never planned on having pets. Between my landlord’s high pet fee and my spontaneous traveling lifestyle, it wasn’t in the cards—or so I thought. That being the case, I never intended to have these cats, let alone to keep them or make them feel like this is their new home.
34 | Decorated Youth Magazine
But Anxiety, the door-to-door salesman of tight lungs and spiraling thoughts, never comes at a convenient time. He rings the doorbell during dinner or while I’m on the phone—and the cats named after him have a similarly inconveniencing schedule. Equally unpredictable little moments prop open the door for these cats to come in. A couple weeks ago, in line for coffee, I felt claws tighten in my lungs. Oh, the cats are back. A couple days ago, my pants bit into my waist while I drove and the sunshine uncomfortably warmed my left side next to the window. I felt pinched and small and large and anxious and by the time I identified that last symptom, I knew that the cats had snuck into my car. They’re very sneaky, my cats. But here’s the thing: they’re not mine and I need to let them go. Continually, I make the horrormovie-novice mistake of opening the door to them. There’s a time for hospitality, but at the expense of your mental health isn’t one of them. You can’t breathe with claws in your lungs. Last September in Portland, I walked by a dinner-and-movie theatre (if you live there, I’m sure you know the place) and saw a sign for a movie about welcoming house guests who turn out to be cannibals (again, if you’ve seen it, you know).
Anxiety is that cannibal. Or a vampire, accidentally invited in under the guise of being a “regular human.” And suddenly you’re being bitten or eaten. Really pleasant stuff. But not unlike what those cats to do the inside of my lungs: as they begin to settle in, I’ll feel like a hollow October pumpkin, being carved out and caved in from the inside, seeds falling out of my mouth like distorted what-ifs become words. But enough about the cats. You see, they’re not mine and I don’t have to be defined by what creatures wander into my soul or into my home. Sometimes, however, our houses become infested. Last fall, hundreds of mice made their home in my attic, becoming comfortable enough to host late night parties upstairs, to snack in my pantry, and to skitter across my living room; one night I found one in my bed and the next day an exterminator was called. Sometimes the creatures in our homes and in our souls are too deeply settled in for us to exterminate them on our own. We all need people to come beside us, to put their hands around our arms and under our lungs and to shoulder our pain. We need people to cradle the ache in our lungs like mothers we may never have had. And to tell us that this isn’t our name and that we are destined for things far beyond this tide, like a father teaching his child how to swim.
Op Ed On a trip to Chicago, my boyfriend and I stopped at a vintage shop, lured in by the shelves of old boots. As soon as we entered, the flustered shop owner explained that he had rescued an injured pigeon and needed help feeding it. Minutes later, my boyfriend was feeding an infant bird with a child’s medicine dropper, as the owner held the creature’s mouth open. Maybe we need people like that, too: both caring strangers and gentle confidantes. Maybe we don’t only need our punctured lungs cradled, but our whole selves. And maybe sometimes we need someone else to drop truth onto our tongues, when we are too fragile to reach for it ourselves. My tendency is to be selfsufficient, to hold my weaknesses inside, to internalize and to hope I can muster enough strength to change. But I’m learning it’s okay to be fragile sometimes. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to need truth through a dropper as you re-learn how the words feel on your tongue. Some mornings it feels like a fight, and it feels even counterintuitive to fight for something like peace. While anxiety makes its home in my lungs, I can feel peace residing vividly behind my cheekbones. But I don’t want peace only behind my cheekbones—I want peace to trickle down through those tense cords of my throat and drip into my ringing lungs and through the holes the cats ripped into my organs and maybe when liquid peace hits those open caverns, something like music will ring out and at the end of the day, I just want to live a good song. But the beautiful thing is when the water starts echoing through my lungs and your cradling hands and through his gentle words, we’re more than a song. As we cradle each other, we are an anthem.
Decorated Youth Magazine | 35
EILISH 36 | Decorated Youth Magazine
As of February 2018, Billie Eilish’s entire tour—a total of 31 shows that span across Europe and the U.S. through April 7—is completely sold out. That’s quite a statement considering her first ever headline show (that wasn’t exclusively industry people) was only last July in London. She’s also slated to perform at Tennessee’s Bonnaroo Festival in June and Tokyo’s Summer Sonic Festival in August. Photography provided by Interscope Records. Interview by Heather Hawke. Bringing it back to last July 10 at her first show at the London Courtyard Theatre she says, “I love traveling and that specific trip was like a dream to me, especially since the show was sold out, but I've never, never even had anything similar to that happen in my life [up until that point] so it was unbelievable.” Billie grew up homeschooled, a daughter of two actor and musician parents. At the age of eight she began singing in the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, where both she and her older brother Finneas O'Connell learned singing techniques, although it was mostly choral stuff. It was in this choir that Billie learned the proper way to sing to not ruin her voice, and she says she owes a lot to the choir as everything she uses, even music theory, was learned there. She and Finneas also gained experience with songwriting at a once weekly program called WISH. Some of the WISH classes were things like cooking and sewing, but Billie’s mom taught an in-demand songwriting class, which taught the basics, not rules, of songwriting; things like where to begin, the structure, and how to get creative with it. One of the assignments Billie’s mom gave her was to watch a movie or a show and write down certain lines she thought were good hooks, good titles, or good names. Billie chose her favorite show at the time, The Walking Dead, and her first song “Fingers Crossed” was based around the apocalypse and unintentionally came out as a love song. For Billie, she never really “started” singing and performing, she was just constantly singing or making noise or creating wherever and whenever. She says that since she was surrounded by creativity and art, “there was no way to not be creating in that house. There was not a moment where I wasn't making something.” She never had a thought cross her mind that being some sort of artist was something she should “pursue,” since it was already so prominent in her life. “I had so much time that I enjoyed—it wasn't like I was bored and I had so much time—I had time to actually create and make things, like when there's nothing you have to do, your mind can wander, and if you let it wander, it can turn into something crazy. I just used to let myself do that.”
Decorated Youth Magazine | 37
Billie’s dad used to make mixtapes of everything he liked—early 2000’s alt rock like Avril Lavigne, Linkin Park, Green Day—but the Beatles were also huge in their household. Billie then found her way into newer alt rock like Plain White T’s and Twenty One Pilots before being swept off her feet around the age of 12 by the rap and hip hop genres. The latter two are so impressive to her because of the many references amongst the rhymes and flows. She likes the rap that’s just for fun and doesn't mean anything, but what she was really sold on are the songs in which audiences really have to listen to the lyrics to understand them, the reference, after reference, after reference that make you stop and think. Along with listening to hip hop, Billie loves dancing to it. But back in 2016 while in a more advanced level dance class, she strained her growth plate, which is only something that can happen if you’re under 16. Dance has still played a huge part in Billie’s life, and you could say dance class was how Billie has now become so recognized as the next big female pop star: her track “Ocean Eyes” started out as a track that Finneas—who also produces— wrote for his band, but when he brought it to her and she sang it, they both loved the outcome and it was stuck in Billie’s head for weeks. As fate would play out, her dance teacher asked if she could record a song for a choreography and send it to him.
38 | Decorated Youth Magazine
As a result, “Ocean Eyes” went up on Soundcloud in October of 2015 and when the two siblings woke up, they had a flurry of emails and new plays awaiting them. That wasn’t the first time the siblings released music online. They had originally put out two songs for fun, one that Finneas wrote and one that Billie wrote. They never had any expectations for either of those songs, and they felt the same way about “Ocean Eyes.” Therefore they were in disbelief when the latter gained traction, and when it hit 100K plays they were overjoyed and didn’t think it could get any better. A main reason the siblings often collaborate on tracks instead of working with others on a session, Billie says, is to not lose that connection between what you want to say and what you're just saying to be polite. “When you're writing a song with someone, you kind of need to have some sort of bond or connection or trust.” Since her and her brother have always had that bond, they just get each other. She says that writing with him is so much easier than writing with a random person or someone that she doesn’t know very well. “I think it's always been that way and we can be honest with each other and not get insanely hurt by it. Of course, we have feelings and we'll express our feelings, maybe some things won't make us as happy as others.”
Being sad, Billie says, isn’t too unusual for her: “I've been through a lot of depression throughout the years for many sorts of reasons, and a lot just for no reason, just because my head and whatever. That has obviously been a big part of songwriting because it's inspired by thoughts and that’s what my thoughts evolve around.” Another big motivation in Billie’s writing, she says, are “stupid boys who are aware of what they're doing, but they pretend they're not aware. A lot of dumb situations where I've been used or whatever; all of the above I've been treated in any way you can think of.” She says this helps her writing because she can include all the horrible emotions that go into these relationships. One example is how her song “My Boy” started: “I ran into my brother's room and I just shouted, ‘my boy is being sus!’ and he was like ‘haha, I'm going to write that.’ Then I just stayed in his room and we just wrote the song basically, all around that fact, that my boy was being suspicious.” Another track of hers, “Bored,” was inspired by being trapped in a relationship that was going nowhere. She says that it’s about being in such a toxic place in a relationship where you’re treated so terribly for so long, you become accustomed to it, and it just gets boring. That track was on the soundtrack on Netflix’s series “13 Reasons Why” and was released last year. Her debut EP don’t smile at me was released last August via Darkroom/Interscope, who she signed with in 2016.
Decorated Youth Magazine | 39
*TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains stories about living with Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-2738255) *TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains stories
about living with Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia Diary of an Agoraphobic “Rockstar” Photography provided by publicist. Hello Internet, if you’re reading this that means you’ve found your way here through my band, through being an avid reader of Decorated Youth’s publication, or the lonely blue light of your computer screen sucked you in here like the dirty whore it is. Either way, you’ve made it and I commend you. If you read this far that means you want to hear about my suffering through mental illness and all its battles. For the next 7 or 8 minutes you will hear what it’s like to live in the mind of an opinionated asshole living with Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia.
“God. I have a question. Why do you hate my fucking guts?” is a very normal statement in my mind when I wake up. For those of you not familiar with Panic Disorder and/or Agoraphobia, let me break it down for you quickly. My entire day revolves around not having a panic attack. That is not an exaggeration. Panic attacks are extremely crippling and will make you feel like you are dying. They are extremely physical, bringing along symptoms like sweaty palms, racing heart, tightness in chest etc. Most people typically believe they are having a heart attack if they’ve never experienced an attack before. But, the real fucker for me is the mental aspect of panic which is a psychosis that brings upon symptoms like depersonalization and derealization which lead you believe you are going fucking crazy. If panic attacks occur enough, the world will look different, almost as if there’s a constant haze out there in the real world. Agoraphobia will stem from constant panic attacks so crippling that you will not leave the house. I’ve gone 6 months without leaving the house. There was also a period of time where I couldn’t recognize my ex-girlfriend. I knew she was there, I knew her name, but when I looked at her, the derealization would kick in and I’d be up shits creek without a motherfucking Xanax. So this is actually incredibly personal and embarrassing to talk about because even some of my best friends have no idea that I suffer daily with a very crippling disorder. I’ve also lost a few due to them thinking I was blowing them off when really I was just making up an excuse not to go out because I didn’t want to have a panic attack. This may sound ridiculous to many readers and even any of my friends reading this… I do not drive by myself, I do not walk by myself, and I do not go anywhere under any circumstance, alone. Crazy, right? Yes, I know… Because if this was me reading this 5 years ago I would’ve have thought, “This guy just needs to get up and do something with himself.” But guess what? It is very fucking hard. Other people with extreme Panic Disorder are smiling to 40 |themselves Decoratedright Youth nowMagazine knowing that someone out there understands. Because you can never really understand if you yourself have not suffered from it.
So now every day I try and force myself to do something outside of my comfort zone, whether it be walking my dog down the block alone or going to the store with someone I normally don’t feel comfortable with. I know I’m going to get better and be the strong independent man I once was, but it’s not going to be fucking easy. I will always suffer with this but I also know that there are ways of coping and leading myself back to normalcy. Please don’t say “I almost had a Panic Attack” when you thought you lost your phone or forgot an assignment at work or school because no you fucking did not. It’s extremely disrespectful for people suffering from acute anxiety. If you were going to have a panic attack ‘911’ would’ve been ready to dial. If you are suffering and you’ve read this far, please know that you are not alone. It can be a very difficult disorder to treat but when kept at bay you can live a very normal life. Please know that suicide is NOT the answer even though you feel like it may be your only escape. It’s a permanent solution to temporary problem. I wish I could write more and explain in further detail all of my daily struggles but I’m giving the Cliffs Notes version of life with Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia. Reach out to me via Twitter or Instagram and I’d be more than happy to try and guide anyone who needs it. I love you all. Yeah, life sucks… but that shit ain’t fair to anybody. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
Decorated Youth Magazine | 41
Photography by Danny Lowe. I've grown up all my life with technology. Computers helped me through my school work, and became a serious hobby. Now, just like everyone else, I use my laptop/phone and the internet for practically everything. There is one major thing I don't really do though, and that's most social media. And that's not because I'm against it in any way, but because, like a lot of the internet, it's all about the pictures. I am visually impaired (legally blind) and I enjoy what I can see, but complex images, especially photos, are pretty much beyond me. So for me, Facebook, Instagram, etc. are like a beautifully written book to an illiterate. Photo sharing has slowly become a more and more dominant form of communication, and is now basically a worldwide culture. Most people I know like to spend any idle moment looking at some photos or videos, and so many people take pictures the whole day long, simply for the joy of posting them. This makes me feel like there must be a side of life I'm missing out on. I sometimes find myself wishing I could experience what it is that makes it so irresistible. All this being said, I've come to believe that I may be better off without much social media. The more studies and scientific articles I read, the more it resembles some kind of addictive drug, and I've got enough vices already. Technology, and adaptive technology, is always progressing though. Who knows what a blind man might be able to see and do in ten years...
42 | Decorated Youth Magazine
Decorated Youth Magazine | 43
LIZA ANNE 44 | Decorated Youth Magazine
Elizabeth Anne Odachowski, who goes by Liza Anne, is currently based in Nashville but grew up on St. Simons Island, Georgia. To her, Georgia feels like “some hazy day dream” now, especially, she says, because Nashville is landlocked: “There is nothing more healing than salt water and I miss the ocean every day.” Photography by Brett Warren. Interview by Heather Hawke.
The only thing Liza ever wanted to do for a living was be a musician, so she moved to Nashville at 18 to study songwriting at Belmont University. After two years, with encouragement from professors and advisors, she decided to build her music into a small business. It has now been four years, and every year the business goals she has set for herself, she has surpassed. “You have to believe in and champion yourself. It feels natural to shy away from admitting you’re actually good Liza recalls that creative expression played a major role in her childhood, at whatever it is you’re doing,” she says. “To some extent that is but as a kid she didn’t fully comprehend what it entailed. “It was appropriate—nobody wants to be a narcissist—but, I learned early that I necessary for me to carve a place out where my emotions and feelings wasn’t going to convince anyone if I wasn’t convincing myself.” Of and internal life were valid and not course, running a business can be interrupted.” draining, but Liza knows it is also a Her trek into music started at age 8, space to be innovative in a way that other purely business minded people when she constantly spent time transcribing how she felt in journals. wouldn’t necessarily be. She feels This led to her writing her first song she’s been able to get as far as she has because she found a way to be at summer camp, where at the age creative in business rather than of 10 she learned to play guitar. letting business ruin her creativity. Once she got the hang of guitar, it “Both sides of it are endearing to didn’t take long for Liza to realize me—and they had to be because I she could do both singing and playing together. She used music as was running everything alone for years before I had anyone on my a tool to help other people team. I am so grateful now to have a understand how she—as an angsty team of people making everything 14 year old girl—dealt with feeling easier.” misunderstood.
If you’ve listened to Liza’s previous albums, you’ll know she doesn’t steer away from talking about depression and mental illness; however, for her newest album, Fine But Dying (released in March), she bares it all. Liza’s breaking point came when she could no longer act like she wasn’t frustrated by the way women were perceived in the South. As a child going to cotillion classes, she was told how to act like a lady: she shouldn’t approach boys first, she should be quiet and polite, etc. Her parents were very empowering, but it was the environment that told her otherwise. Growing up attending church, she was made to think that women created sin, which taught her that a piece of her entire existence was inherently “bad.”
During the creative process, as a result of this frustration, Liza chooses to search deep into those feelings and touch on how parts of her religious upbringing altered her life, as well as how she believed those things were the sum of who she was. This album gave her permission to take up space while forcing her to carve her own way and give her a playing field to command how people experience her. It was during the creation process where she realized that nobody could take up the space she Liza wrote and recorded her debut was supposed to take up, and she Most of Liza’s youth was spent full-length record The Colder Months couldn’t take up anyone else’s. She leading worship in a Christian while attending school full-time and wants every person who’s been church, and although she doesn’t through oppression to also relate to that anymore, she says that working three part-time jobs; unsurprisingly, the creation process experience that there’s no one you she learned pretty early on how to manipulate an entire room of people was full of long days and late nights. have to rely on except yourself to The album was released in February make you feel capable. into feeling whatever emotion she was trying to convey: “I don’t mean 2014, and it garnered critical acclaim. Her sophomore album, that in an irreverent sense—I just Two, was released in May of the got comfortable being in front of following year. people and emoting publicly.”
Decorated Youth Magazine | 45
The two years of making her newest record was a “divine sort of thing,” Liza recalls. “I felt like an open wound through the whole making process. Kind of as if I was spreading all of my insides across a table and assessing patterns and habits and mental spirals I had found myself in throughout growing up.” When it was finished, she felt healed and whole in a sort of way she’s not sure she would have found otherwise. “Spiritually, this album turned me inward. Not the isolating sort of inward but the soft and kind towards myself sort of inward.” She spent a lot of time in the last five years getting frustrated with her mind: “I didn’t know why I would spiral or have panic or not be able to eat for a few days or cry for a week or not be able to get out of bed or not be able to fall asleep or why I would have these episodes of neurosis multiple times a day.” She says she got so hard on herself and felt completely swallowed in her paranoia and panic, but this record lessened those feelings. “It was like meeting myself, holding her shoulders in my hands and saying ‘You are not crazy at all. You’re feeling these things and that makes them real.’ It makes me sad, thinking that I could have felt alive so much earlier in life if I just knew my emotions were real and valid and powerful.”
46 | Decorated Youth Magazine
It was almost exposure therapy for her to listen back to the tracks. It was a huge breakthrough on her path to self-discovery, where she was able to remember emotionally and spiritually where she was in the years before writing it. When it was time to record Fine But Dying, Liza and a few friends, including fellow Belmot alumni Zachary Dyke (of COIN) who has served as co-producer on all her albums, went to Paris and cut 11 tracks in 6 days. “I would do it all over again a million times. I think the collaborative parts are the most life giving. I made this record with friends so rather than having it feel like some selfindulgent centric ego trip, I get to share something so personal with the people who I care about the most.” They recorded at La Frette Studios, Liza’s dream studio which she thought she’d have to hold off on until years down the road. “I could spend the rest of my life in Paris and since this record was a sort of rebirth for me, I feel as though I was reborn there. I wouldn’t be the same women if not for Paris.” Liza says she sometimes doesn’t even know how to explain to outsiders what making this record felt like, the process of recording it in Paris was an experience that was so incredible for her that trying to put it into words feels like she’s discrediting it.
She says that it was hands down the best experience of her life. Making it was so substantially different than anything else she’s made, because she started to know herself in a more intimate way and really spend time with the tracks. She wanted to make sure the moment she released this piece of work that it had a space she’d taken time to think about and create. Liza’s writing process for her is “something so mysterious” she never wants to force it out. “It feels like magic. I am not going to pin down the muse—she will come when she will and I just have to remain postures towards listening—to my mind, my body, my intuition, the way life appears to me at any given moment.” She never wants to be an artist who writes thousands of songs just for the sake of “strengthening that muscle,” as she feels “writing should be out of the necessity of carving out space for an emotional experience you couldn’t portray otherwise.” “Not to be too witchy,” she says, but she can sense when she’s getting close to a song; “there’s a certain presence that comes onto you when you’re nearing that sort of birth. It’s spiritual and intuitive and seems to come from some other realm.” Many of the songs on Fine But Dying she co-wrote with her friend Trent Dabbs, who helped her piece together stuff she couldn’t quite put into words.
The writing process had usually been a very imitate thing for her, but inviting Trent in she says it was like sitting down with a therapist, and, in fact, much of this album refers to topics she talks about in therapy. Liza titled the album long before she had even written the titular record in its entirety. “I used to describe how it felt to be alive with my brain as ‘Oh, I’m fine but, my god, I’m dying.’ I figured I wanted an album that put to light how it felt to be alive with my brain, my consciousness, my mind.” As she always wants everything to be this immersive timestamp of wherever she is in her life, Liza knows the visual aspect of an album is vital, as “it gives people a whole different way to realize the universe you’re creating.” She says that it’s one thing to listen to an album and have our minds naturally start to attach visual experience to the sound of it all, but she wanted people to know what it looked and felt like when she was writing the album. “Seeing it all come together has been so healing. It feels like all of my insides are spread across a table. With the visuals especially, you entrust that sort of thing to a friend and end up meeting a side of yourself only they were experiencing in that specific light.”
The art for Fine But Dying was made by one of her closest and dearest friends, Kris Platt, with the help of Glenn Kennedy. “Honestly, Kris has just been listening to me live ‘Fine But Dying’ for the last 3.5 years. He heard me say things like I feel like this album is cutting me open, etc. and turned my lived experience and the experience of knowing me into a piece of art.” Working with friends, she says, you can just trust they’re going to see you clear enough to depict everything that needs depicting. “They aren’t going to make a distorted version of you, especially the ones who know you as Kris and I know one another.” As a touring musician, Liza knows keeping an eye on her mental state is of utmost importance, but for a while she didn’t notice how touring wore on her. “I was just trying to continue without any sort of change in habit. That couldn’t last long—our bodies are not machines, they need to be listened to and have rest.” For her, meditation, yoga, and mindful eating have all played a huge role in keeping everything sane. “It’s difficult to move around as much as I do and still find present-ness— but I’ve found that carving out space in every day, even if the only space you can muster is 5 minutes of deep breathing, helps so much.”
Decorated Youth Magazine | 47
Op Ed *TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains a graphic depiction of sexual assault and talks about a psychiatric hospital I have cold feet. I’ve been thrown into the isolation room. The walls are caving in and I am suffocating. I’m not insane. I’m not insane. Face pressed against the floor, my eyes flood like a tropical storm. I cannot breathe. The walls are caving in. They’re injecting me now. A needle in my right arm, my body is warm. I curl up into a ball on the ground clutching my cold feet as I cry myself to sleep. I am only twelve. Not even a teenager, and yet here I am locked away in a psychiatric hospital. This was the first of many visits. Spending weeks upon weeks on the second and third floor of the neurology building, I kept trying to convince myself that I was not like the other patients. Inpatient, outpatient, inpatient, outpatient treatment; this was a never-ending cycle throughout my adolescences. I realize I was raped. I was not insane; I was just lost. Sitting on my scratchy linen sheet as my roommate hallucinates about men in black trench coats trying to abduct her. My heart races, blood rushes through my veins, choking on my saliva, forehead as hot as lava; I was raped. I’ve gone six months without talking to anyone. Six months I carried a secret inside me that ripped me apart layer by layer until there was nothing left but my guts spewing out onto the tile. I am only thirteen. My perspective of the world changes drastically around me as my anxieties boil over into the tear-filled rivers I created like snow melting in the springtime. Everyone was out to get me, but I was really out to get myself. Paranoia ran my life as a shadow of darkness engulfed my conscience. I turned to self-harm in order to feel, selfharm led to isolation, isolation led to suicidal ideation, suicidal ideation just landed me back in the hospital. It was a vicious cycle. Fourteen. “Can you show us where he touched you?” I vomit into the trash can nearby due to the mere thought of my abuse. The social worker stares me up and down as my body shakes. I just want to go back to sleep. Situations become much more real when spoken aloud. I muster all my strength, “Everywhere.” Prozac, Paxil, Lithium, Wellbutrin… The meds stop working one by one as a long list of diagnosis fly out of my psychiatrists’ mouth. PostTraumatic Stress, Major Depressive, Anxiety, Oppositional Defiant – all disorders that begin to label me. I am no longer the girl with the loud laugh and long curly hair as I believe myself to become another statistic on the chart of mental illness. I am lost. I am not insane.
48 | Decorated Youth Magazine
The road to recovery. Eventually, I became incredibly numb and lost interest in the world around me. Getting out of bed was the hardest thing to do so I stopped going to school and would just sleep. Sometimes you have to hit bottom in order to find yourself, and I found myself in art. I realized I could reinvent myself and it was not too late to become the person I always wanted to be. I found the right medication and followed through with my trauma therapy. I dropped out of high school and attended another school for kids who were suffering from the same traumas. I was not alone. Music, poetry, and photography were crucial elements to my recovery. I began to channel all my energy into art because it helped me escape from reality. I built a home inside myself where I was free to follow my own path of self-discovery. At sixteen I started a music magazine. At seventeen I got to work with musicians who inspired me every day. At eighteen I got my high school diploma and went straight into working at my favorite local venue. At nineteen it is safe to say that I have become the person I have always dreamt of being. Without my past, I would not have had the passion in my soul, the fire in my eyes, and the dedication to life that I have today. Yes, I am a rape survivor, but that incident does not define me. I am a creative, beautiful, passionate, and strong woman who fights mental illness on a daily basis yet still kicks ass! I am my own Wonder Woman and I urge you to find the Wonder Woman inside yourself. You are not alone and you will never be alone.
Decorated Youth Magazine | 49
As a daughter of a German-born Buddhist artist, Amber Mark grew up traveling all over the world taking in diverse cultures which helped open her ears to a wide range of musical sounds. Her places of residency have ranged from India, Thailand, Nepal, Miami, New York, and Berlin. She’s now back in NYC where her godparents and sister also reside. They all live in separate apartments, but come together so frequently that it feels like one big shared place. Photography by Jack McKain. Interview by Heather Hawke. It was after the death of her mother in 2013 that Amber began to write and produce her own music. She found solace in the creative process and the EP that resulted, 3:33am, is where she honed in on her newfound talents and used this momentum as catharsis. “It was the first time I was writing music that I wanted to hear again to the point where I was even confident enough to show it to people,” she says. “It was exciting and also a release.” The relief of finally getting those feelings out on paper was a way for her to let go of those emotions.
The title of the album came about in a serendipitous way as she’s always had a relationship with the number three: Amber’s mother was born in 1953, her brother was born in 1983 and then she was born in 1993. Her mom then passed away on June 3, 2013 at 10:23 pm. It was during this time she really being spotting the number: “for 2 weeks, every night that I was writing I would be in the deep zone of production and then sort of jump out of thinking to myself that I should go to sleep I have to be an adult in the morning. Every time this would have it would be 3:33am,” she says. Also, with her initials being AM she thought it was only fitting.
As one can imagine. Amber went through a “rollercoaster of emotions” while writing this EP. “After writing 3 songs that were about what I was going through and loving them all, I slowly learned that I was writing about my coping with grief,” she says. “That immediately brought me back to when I was being handed a pamphlet all about the stages of grief.” When she thought of the project as a whole she began to play with this idea as a concept. “Regret is called ‘Regret.’ Anger is ‘Lose My Cool.’ Isolation is 3:33am is about devastation, but Amber recognized that she had to be ‘Space.’ Sadness is the interlude into uplifting and speak of things getting ‘Monsoon’ as well as ‘Monsoon.’ ‘Can You Hear Me?’ is lack of faith better, if not for herself then for and questioning. others who’ve been through loss.
50 | Decorated Youth Magazine
‘Way Back’ is overcoming. Writing about my mother passing away and me dealing with it was a very emotional journey, but very easy to write about because I had all these feelings clogged inside of me. When I felt the music was right, it basically just flowed out of me.” The production side was Amber’s favorite part of the creation process, but since she’s shy when it comes to expressing herself creatively she finds that working alone is when she’s the most productive. Going back to the beginning, Amber was born on a Tennessean farm to a Jamaican father and a German mother. Her mother was a painter, so she was surrounded by a lot of creativity in that regard. Recalling her mother, Amber says, “she would listen to music a lot while painting or just in general. I think I fell in love with music that way.” The creativity that was instilled in her by her mother as well as others allowed for her to fall for music on more of a creative side. “I end up using a lot of the different cultures I experienced. Expressing it through sound. It’s very nostalgic for me and I just really enjoy sounds like that.”
Decorated Youth Magazine | 51
52 | Decorated Youth Magazine
Decorated Youth Magazine | 53
54 | Decorated Youth Magazine
Although signing has always been a part of her life, Amber didn’t know it was a passion of hers until she taught herself how to play acoustic guitar while living in Berlin as a teenager. “I always loved music and as long as I can remember I knew I wanted to be a part of it. At first as a dancer and as I got older I learned more of the creative side of music.” She never took piano lessons, because her mom couldn’t afford it and they were always traveling, so her mom got her a guitar and she learned the basics through YouTube. Amber’s family lived in Miami and New York before her mother moved them internationally to India, where at roughly 9 years old, she studied thangka painting (a traditional Tibetan Buddhist form of art). India is the place Amber cherishes the most, as it was there that her senses caught ahold of a whole new world of music. It was there she became awed by sound. It was also in India where her most precious memories of her mother were formed. Her mother loved India—it was her home. She took Amber’s brother, who’s a decade older, when he was really young, and she knew she wanted Amber to spend some of her childhood there as well. Following a few years of living in a Darjeeling monastery, the family found home in Berlin.
This wasn’t the first time Amber had been to Germany: her mother brought her to Munich when she was just three, back in 1997. This happened to be the place where she saw her first concert—the one and only Michael Jackson—who she was obsessed with. That night still remains a pinnacle moment in Amber’s life. Now, being a touring musician, she brings up that she doesn’t have as much time as she used to for her family. “I think it gets a bit hard because my routine is quite scattered with a lot of traveling. So, making plans can be complicated.” However, her family is still a big priority in her life. “it's very important to spend the time because being around them keeps me sane. I just want to stick them in my pocket and take them everywhere with me.”
Amber’s sister, Chloerose, took the image for the 3:33am artwork. “We work well together because we get each other like no one else does,” Amber admits, saying that sometimes her sister knows how she wants things done before she herself even does. “We really wanted to keep the theme of having botanicals in the imagery as there were flowers in the single artwork we had done in the past.” After throwing a few ideas around, the sisters ended up choosing the very bare covershot. How Amber wants to be represented through her visuals wavers, but she says she always finds herself coming back to the idea of “simple beauty, raw beauty with subtle accents.” Although, she says, there are days she “wants Ang Lee and his creative support to direct visuals with me.”
Since the release of her debut album, Amber’s released a follow up EP, Conexão via PMR/Interscope When Amber was younger, her Records, and says that she sees mentors were her brothers, who herself intentionally sitting down to were all in bands when she was a kid. Other inspirations were her high write more so than during the making of 3:33am. “It can be school music director, Mr. Burris, frustrating because sometimes you who helped her confirm that she get nowhere, but it’s interesting to wanted to be an artist, and family friend and musician, John McDowell, see how my ear has and still is changing. Also, how much more I who she’d perform with at the know and am learning with each family parties. She recalls that she primarily had mentors when she was day.” younger, “when I started writing, that's when I began to rely on myself.”
Decorated Youth Magazine | 55
stay in touch
56 | Decorated Youth Magazine
Email: email@example.com Facebook: facebook.com/decoratedyouth Twitter & Instagram: @decoratedyouth
Decorated Youth Magazine | 57
58 | Decorated Youth Magazine
Decorated Youth Magazine | 59
60 | Decorated Youth Magazine
Amber Mark / Lea Emery (Kid Wave) / Hannah White / Adam Alexander (Demo Taped) / Chris Farren / Kelsey Byrne (VERITE) / Russell James / Cass...
Published on May 16, 2018
Amber Mark / Lea Emery (Kid Wave) / Hannah White / Adam Alexander (Demo Taped) / Chris Farren / Kelsey Byrne (VERITE) / Russell James / Cass...