After the success of their debut record, Never Happy, Ever After, it feels like As It Is have achieved so much in the last three years. From touring around the world while showcasing their infectious pop punk numbers, it’s still hard to fathom how far this band have come since the very beginning. With their sophomore record Okay due for release in January next year, the five-piece have followed a new direction with this one, putting forward the message that “it’s okay to not be okay.”
We talk with leading frontman Patty Walters and he shares details on the writing and recording process, how he managed to fight the ‘sophomore slump’ and how his success on YouTube has helped him grow as an individual and in the music industry.
Congrats on your sophomore album, Okay. I feel like you guys are much more sure of yourselves on this album. How do you feel about this record and its entirety? What would you say made this release different from your debut record, Never Happy, Ever After?
I am pleased. I love how it turned out and I’m really proud of it. I’m also a serial doubter. I get crippling insecurity so it’s also really validating and reassuring when people tell me the record is good, I’m like, “Is it?”, a lot of the time so I appreciate you saying so [laughs]. I loved writing and recording it and I love listening to it. I’m really proud of it and I’m excited for everybody to hear it so it’s going to be cool. What definitely made it different was that writing Never Happy, Ever After, there was a wonderful but smaller group of people who knew about our band and had heard of us and listened to our music.
This time around, there’s obviously going to be that preconception and people are going to have heard and grown familiar with Never Happy and we wanted to write a record as good as Never Happy and you obviously want to achieve that reaction from people. This mental minefield where you’re constantly comparing the songs you’re writing to your previous work, to the work that you admire. Nobody writes a record wanting it to be just adequate. We really pushed ourselves to write a record that we’re proud of so I’m excited to hear what people think.
“The point of it is that you struggle and you fight and you challenge yourself and then after the months go by, you have this thing that you can appreciate and feel proud of…”
I think in this record you explore an important theme most people need to hear, “It’s okay to not be okay.” Obviously, there have been a lot of people sharing a lot of personal stories to you and how the band’s music has impacted them as a person. Did you feel like you were more vulnerable to your feelings when you were writing this one?
If I wasn’t, I was at least more honest about them. Or at least, a little bit more transparent about them. I went through a pretty intense breakdown writing this record. For the majority of 2015, I was unstable and I felt numb a lot of days and I was incredibly intuitive and selfish with my feelings and thoughts. I was kind of withholding them from everybody and keeping them to myself and I was doing a huge amount of detriment to my mental health and just my day-to-day living. Until writing this record, I just couldn’t run anymore. I cried a whole lot, I saw a therapist and now I’m not so… I don’t know, afraid to open up.
The more I talk about it, the more I seem to understand myself and that’s a huge message that I wanted to convey with this record is that suffering in silence is almost as detrimental as the problems you suffer with. To be quiet about them is to only perpetuate your own problems. Talking to people is a huge help and I wanted to just be honest about that. A lot of people kind of have this perception about me that I’m the ever positive, ever happy person they know on the internet or that they see at shows and I struggle, you know and so does a lot of people. I don’t necessarily want to advertise my negative thoughts as much as I want to advertise my positive thoughts. I want to be a positive person to these people. But hey, I’m not okay all the time; nobody is okay all the time. It’s okay not to be and a lot of the time we just need more than ourselves; we need music to help us through, friends to help us through, people to help us through in general.
My favourite song is “No Way Out” because the speech within the song was really direct and brought on a strong message. Another one is “Soap” and that song feels much angrier too. I know on your debut record, it was quite emotional but with this one, we see a dark side to the band. Some bands can go through a bit of a slump when writing their second record especially if the first one was well-received. Did you go through a slump or was everything smooth sailing for you when it came to writing this?
Oh no, certainly not. It was challenging and I was doubting myself the entire way through it. There’s a song on the record and it’s the last song on the record and it’s called, “Still Remembering” and it’s about a serious patch, a writer’s block that I and us collectively hit, writing this record where I was just so fearful that we hadn’t written a good enough record and that was all gonna get taken away from us, everything we worked very hard for over the last five years. So I wrote this song that kind of sounds like a breakup song about losing As It Is. It’s about losing our band, losing our songs, losing our fans and losing each other as friends and that’s just one example of the kind of huge doubt that we were experiencing writing this record.
I think it’s perceived as glamorous to write a record. It’s interesting that you stress a lot through the writing process because you want it to be your best work. It’s important to challenge yourself and of course that’s hard work in itself. The point of it is that you struggle and you fight and you challenge yourself and then after the months go by, you have this thing that you can appreciate and feel proud of and that’s how I feel now. So as much as it was an exhausting experience, I now get to hold this record in my hands and I can listen to it and be like, “Okay. It was worth it.”
You also worked with Mike Green for this one. What motivated you guys to pick him as a producer for this record?
We had talked about when we hadn’t even started writing this record. We obviously were just kinda like, “Well, who would we theoretically like to take this record to?” And Mike Green was one of the people that we said that we’d love to not only record these songs but put a creative stamp on them. There are at least three songs that we co-wrote with Mike Green but every song on this record was better shaped by him and I will give him that credit at every chance I get.
He was incredible to work with, he really was. And I love the way the record sounds but more so I love what he brought out in us. This record would not sound as good as it does if he had not challenged us and brought up the best in our abilities and our personal strengths so it was incredible. He is somebody that I really admire and look up to in this industry so it was a real privilege to work with him and learn from him.
You need that as a producer as well. You form a special relationship with him on a professional level and also a personal level and I think you need that in a band too.
Certainly. It was incredible to kind of, you know see that we worked so well; that he fit so well into our dynamic because we don’t always have the most conventional or the most stress-free dynamic in this band so it was great.
“…you have an obligation to be a role model to the people who look up to you but I like to think of myself as somebody that tries to be the best version of myself…”
You were an active YouTube contributor a few years ago. Did you feel like being part of that community boosted your confidence in starting a career in music?
When we started touring for the first time, it was abundantly clear that there were Patty Walters’ fans there from my YouTube channel that were becoming As It Is fans and that’s very much kind of engrained in our roots as a band and people often forget about that. I think something that’s hugely invaluable from my experience on YouTube is that there are people that have had me in their lives for such a long time on such a personal expense that they don’t forget about me [laughs]. We kind of have an investment in each other’s life. It’s interesting and bizarre. It’s something that’s only possible I guess through the artistic mediums of having a YouTube channel or being in a band. It’s special and it’s weird and I’m very thankful for it happening at all.
I agree with you. YouTube videos can be so personable depending on how you approach a video as well. Obviously, you shared a lot of stuff with your fanbase on Patty Walters and I think it’s rewarding in a sense because the fanbase that has grown with you also has seen you grow as a person.
For sure. I mean, I don’t necessarily think it’s an obligation to be a role model to anybody. You see it one way or another, you have an obligation to be a role model to the people who look up to you but I like to think of myself as somebody that tries to be the best version of myself for all that I can be and I like to think that I attribute that to a lot of choices I’ve made. I’m happy to be public about that because I don’t know, it’s something I have cried in and it’s something that people seem to respond very well and kind of see that in themselves and that’s incredible. So I not only loved doing that, I continued to do that because it’s fulfilling and enjoyable for me.
We saw you last year with With Confidence on your Australian tour. The Sydney show that you did at night, you guys experienced some technical difficulties too [laughs].
[laughs] It was confusing and hilarious for all of us on stage. We were having these technical difficulties so our merch guy Jack had to fix more than the sound guy did and we were just confused on what this man was doing because everything was going wrong for us. It was just a very weird situation.
How were those shows anyway?
We loved it. We really had an amazing time. It was our first time meeting With Confidence. We love those boys so much and we can’t thank them enough for showing us around and teaching us how to be Australians for the time that we were there. There’s a huge novelty of coming to a country for the first time; playing shows there for the first time and you know, exploring for the first time. Coming back, you don’t necessarily have that novelty but you have this other surreal and wonderful feeling of knowing your way around what used to be a foreign city. I’m really excited to come back to these places and to know my way around and to be like, “Oh I remember this. This is great.”
We’re coming back to Australia in early February – it’s actually the last day of January but also early February. We’re gonna do a handful of shows and apart from three shows in Japan that we do prior, these are gonna be some of the first shows where we ever played a lot of these new songs from Okay so it’s gonna be extremely exciting and special and we can’t wait. The Australian fans are crazy; they’re wonderful and we’re so excited to see them again.
I bet you’re excited to dig into a burger from Lord of the Fries when you guys come back.
I had Lord of the Fries a lot of times when we were there last and I’m gonna try and beat my personal record because I love that place so much.
It’s incredible to see how far the band have come since your early days. Looking back, what would you say has been the most important lesson you’ve learned so far being a musician?
The most crucial lesson I’ve learned so far is to be true to yourself, personally and artistically in a band. Success and money don’t mean anything unless you are fulfilled by what you do; we love what we do, we love playing the shows that we do, we love writing the songs that we do, we love the people that come to see us each night. That wouldn’t mean anything if we didn’t care about these songs and that we didn’t try our hardest and really pushed ourselves. Being fulfilled in this band – that’s what makes us happy and that’s what we always prioritise.
Okay will be available through Fearless Records on January 20, 2017
As It Is will be touring Australia next year with support acts Undercast and Between You & Me. Catch them on the dates below!
AS IT IS AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES 2017
Thu, 2 Feb 2017 – The Brightside, Brisbane 18+
Fri, 3 Feb 2017 – The Lab, Brisbane AA
Sat, 4 Feb 2017 – The Lair, Sydney 18+
Sun, 5 Feb 2017 – The Lair, Sydney AA
Tue, 7 Feb 2017 – Drone, Newcastle AA
Fri, 10 Feb 2017 – Evelyn Hotel, Melbourne 18+