m e n t a l h e a l t h i n m u s i c — f o r e i g n o b j e c t s
Rocking Taboos Mental illness is fast becoming less taboo, even in the music industry. Marc Bryant talks to Novocastrian singer/songwriter Amy Vee about the continued bid to de-stigmatise the issue. You could be forgiven for thinking the links between mental illness and music only exist within the heart-achingly deep and down trodden lyrics or psychedelic meanderings of ‘misunderstood creative genius’-type musicians. Isolation and alienation are indeed easily relatable topics for young audiences. While this can be true, it is this general stereotype that only compounds stigma attached to the term mental illness, says Newcastle-based musician Amy Vee. “There are so many examples of famous musicians who are known to have experienced mental illness — such as Morrissey of The Smiths, who talks openly about living with bipolar disorder, or Brian Wilson from The Beach Boys who has spoken about his schizoaffective disorder,” explains Vee. “However, we should not let the mental illness overshadow their brilliance as artists, rather accept that is part of them. Because in truth, mental illness can affect anyone. Statistically, one in five Australians will experience a mental illness in a 12-month period. So anyone, whether creative or not, can be affected. It’s important for young people in particular to be aware of this and seek help early.” Vee herself has worked in mental health promotion and suicide prevention for the past four years, working on a national project that assists scriptwriters who are looking to portray mental illness and/or suicide in film, television and theatre.
As an award-winning songwriter, Vee says musicians will often draw on their personal emotions and experiences to spark their creativity. But the major risk factors for common illnesses such as depression and anxiety, are more likely to manifest as a result of lifestyle factors and risk taking behaviours. “This can impact on your wellbeing, particularly if you are consuming lots of alcohol, worrying about being able to pay bills, or if you’re on the road touring for long periods of time. Even not eating healthy or having no regular exercise are risk factors for mental health problems,” states Vee, an honours graduate in psychology. Vee adds that more research needs to be done to understand the impact of mental illness on musicians. “There is a survey currently being conducted by the University of Queensland about musicians’ work experiences and how these can affect their mental wellbeing and attitudes. This is important work that might help us to lobby for better support and standards for people working within the music industry. “The Musicians’ Wellbeing Survey can be accessed via their Facebook page and it takes around 15-minutes to complete. To take part, you need to be at least 18, earn an income from music, and have worked as a musician for at least the past six months,” Vee explains. To highlight the early warning signs of mental illness and encourage young people
Depression & anxiety Depression and anxiety are among the most common mental health problems experienced by young people. Depression is a serious illness, often accompanied by a range of physical and psychological symptoms, including extreme lows, that can interfere with the way a person is able to function in their everyday life. Anxiety is an overwhelming feeling of fear or worry for no apparent reason, with episodes so severe it can be immobilising. In a crisis: • Lifeline Phone 13 11 14 • Kids’ helpline (ages 5-25) Phone 1800 55 1800, or kidshelp.com.au For information and support: • Youth Beyond Blue 1300 224 636, or youthbeyondblue.com • Headspace headspace.org.au • Reach Out! reachout.com • Sane Aus 1800 18 SANE (7263), or sane.org
You guys have just released your second EP, 321. How do you feel you have matured since your first EP was released? We are definitely a lot more seasoned as a band, as far as doing the hard yards on the road and stuff like that. The songwriting has matured a fair bit too. The EP was recorded with the help of Phil Jamieson of Grinspoon, how was it working alongside him? What did you feel you guys got out of the experience? Phil did all our pre-production for the record. We had around 8-10 rehearsals where Phil came in and we played the songs to him, he helped us pick the ones that were “EP worthy” and then he wrote out all the arrangements and helped us tighten them up. He also helped with a few vocal melodies, it was really awesome having him there, he wasn’t trying to make us sound like something we’re not — he was just trying to get the best out of us. He did a really good job with it. How long did you guys spend recording the 321 EP? We tracked the EP in four days, but after about the third day my voice pretty much shit itself just as I was supposed to do another two vocal tracks. I had to finish off those two tracks when we got home by tracking them in Studio Seven with Phil Eegs, a local engineer in Port Macquarie. You boys have gone from pubs and clubs to supporting bands such as Grinspoon, Philadelphia Grand Jury, The Scare. How much have these shows helped boost popularity for you blokes? It’s hard to say, a few people added us on facebook after our show with Grinspoon 32 reverb
magazine issue #053 — December 2010
in particular to seek help, Vee has worked with Newcastle-based musician and producer Gareth Hudson on the ‘Rockin’ the Black Dog’ campaign, which has to date included a large outdoor festival and more recently, a youth band competition. Hudson says, “The aim was to use music to engage young people and musicians and increase their awareness of mental health issues. While the music did not have to explore these issues, we wanted to provide opportunities for young people to get important information about looking after their own mental health.” “It is important that young people talk to each other about mental health issues and that they know where to go if they suspect something is not quite right. The same goes for musicians themselves,” he adds. For some artists there is the added burden of coping with their success. Veteran music manager John Watson says the importance of a healthy body and mind is not lost in the music industry today. With over 20 years in the game, managing artists from Cold Chisel to Silverchair and Birds Of Tokyo Watson explains, “Some artists really feel the pressure because fame brings a level of scrutiny that’s hard to imagine.” “Musicians are now encouraged to talk about issues and support is provided wherever possible. Thankfully there aren’t the same taboos surrounding mental health issues that there were even a decade ago.”
launch. We also played an all-ages gig which was only advertised through our facebook account — that brought plenty of the youth from around here to the show. You guys have backed up the genre of rock ‘n roll with quite an energetic live set. When it comes to writing new material, do you guys try to maintain writing songs with that “live, wired and jumpy” kinda feel in mind? Absolutely, everything I write I always picture in my mind how that song would sound live. If you can have a really energetic and exciting live rock ‘n roll set and you practice that a few times, once you head into the studio you can get it down just like you do it live.
UNEARTHED IN PORT Having recently been named winners of the Triple J Unearthed Festival of the Sun competition, four piece Port Macquarie rock ‘n roll outfit, The Foreign Objects, are preparing to startle your ears this summer with the sound of their sophomore EP, 321. Sean Frazer chats to vocalist Luke Wells. saying stuff like “last night was awesome”. When you can see something first-hand like that it looks productive. The best thing about doing a gig with a band like Grinspoon or Philadelphia Grand Jury is that you get to play in a room chockers full of people. When they’re people in the audience you don’t know, it’s really
rewarding when they all dig the show. What is the following like for you guys there in Port Macquarie? We’re starting to get an awesome little music scene happening [in Port Macquarie]. We did a gig the other night and there were 300 people there at the Beach House for our EP
The Foreign Objects recently won the opportunity to play the sold-out FoTSun again this year through the Triple J Unearthed competition. You guys must be stoked to win your way there by a hand of votes in popularity? Yeah totally, it’s really cool. Our first single off the EP was ‘Candy’ and Triple J played it, a few days later I got a call saying we were chosen to play FOTSun. We were totally amped up about that. We played the festival last year and we were the first band on the very first day at about 5 o’clock in the afternoon and around that time everyone was pissed and ready for music so we came out and filled the front of the stage with people. It was great! The Foreign Objects play the Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle, Friday December 10, and the sold-out Festival of the Sun in Port Macquarie, Saturday December 11. 321 is out now through Cross Section/Inertia.
Follow us on Twitter
Published on Nov 29, 2010