To celebrate a year of 'okay.', here's our interview with Patty from just before its release.
The problem with New Year’s Resolutions is that, more often than not, change doesn’t happen overnight. Sure, the odd person does have an epiphany and turn their life around in the frigid depths of January, but for most of us mere mortals, getting better is more about being honest with ourselves, staying the course when we screw up – and patience. That’s something that As It Is frontman Patty Walters knows a thing or two about.
“As human beings we’re all vulnerable and imperfect,” he considers, enjoying some rare time off the road. The band’s second album ‘okay.’ is just around the corner, and he describes his current outlook as, “equal parts excitement and terror.” These 11 songs mark a significant step up for the transatlantic five-piece – completed by guitarist / vocalist Ben Langford-Biss, fellow six-stringer Andy Westhead, bassist Ali Testo and drummer Patrick Foley – yet they also capture some of their darkest moments to date.
“Right in the middle of making this album, I had a devastating breakdown,” Patty reveals. “I spent the whole of 2015 acting like I was fine, when really I was the complete opposite. People would ask me how I was, and I’d say, ‘Yeah, I’m okay’ and smile; I’d be the version of myself that everyone expected me to be. Inside, I was feeling a whole lot of pain and insecurity. In many ways this album is a commentary on that situation – our way of saying, ‘You know what? It’s okay to not be okay sometimes.’ Music has this incredible power to unite and comfort people, and that’s what I hope we can do here.”
Weaving together intimate, personal musings and surreal conceptual touches – particularly a 1950s theme that extends from the album cover to lyrics reflecting a seemingly idyllic, but actually deeply troubled suburbia – As It Is are exploring new ground for themselves and UK pop-punk.
“It’s a new image and a new chapter for us,” nods the vocalist, “but in a way it also represents who we’ve always been. We’ve written songs that sound positive and uplifting, while lyrically they’re so dark and pessimistic. The concept is a way of portraying that duality and conflict, while the world becomes increasingly polarised – driven by all these underlying, sinister values. Everything that’s happened since we put the concept into place has made it seem more relevant and important…"
“This has been a truly freeing experience,” he continues. “Some of the things we’ve written about, we hadn’t even shared with each other before. We had to break down our own reluctance, to really talk, before we could share with the rest of the world. There are songs on there about Ben’s grandad being in the hospital, about Andy and I growing up in families where our parents had separated, so it could get pretty uncomfortable – but also invaluable. With ‘Hey Rachel’, which is about my sister going through anxiety and depression when she was younger, I was very conscious of how many people would be hearing it. Fortunately she really loves the track, and is okay with me sharing her story in my words. Music has always made me feel less alone, so maybe these songs can play the same role for other people.”
Powerful words would only go so far without an equally striking soundtrack, however, and in that respect ‘okay.’ is doubly impressive. While debut album ‘Never Happy, Ever After’ wasn’t short of huge songs, it was a touch one-dimensional at times. That’s not something you can say about this follow-up.
“This time, we banned the phrase, ‘This doesn’t sound like As It Is’,” chuckles the frontman. “As much as we’ve found a sound that others and we ourselves enjoy, we don’t want to be confined to it. Writing this record, it felt like we shed our skin with every new song, became a new version of the band, and everyone got to leave their mark. ‘No Way Out’, for example, is probably the heaviest thing we’ve ever written – but ‘Pretty Little Distance’ might be the poppiest. We’ve taken our more polished side and our darker aspects, and added to them both.
“Working with [producer] Mike Green (All Time Low, Paramore) played a role in that,” he continues. “Mike was hugely involved in not only shaping the songs we brought into the studio, but also helping us write new ones from scratch. We pushed ourselves beyond our comfort zone in every way, and I think it’s made us much stronger.”
It couldn’t have come at a better time. The Brighton-based lads have already carved a name for themselves in both Britain, the U.S. and beyond, but it feels like 2017 could see them capturing the imagination of the masses. That’s certainly the plan, anyhow.
“The response to the songs we’ve released so far has been way better than we could have hoped,” enthuses Patty. “The first record did a whole lot for our band, and we’ve obviously set our expectations, goals and aspirations pretty high with this one. We’re going to play the hell out of this record, see where it gets us, and by the end of the cycle, we’ll be onto even bigger and more exciting things. The idea is to be as successful as we can, without ever abandoning our ideals.”
It helps that, unlike some of the (many, many) pop-punk bands springing up right now, As It Is can be hard to get a handle on. That’s even truer now than it was when they first started, back in 2012. Combine that fact with the sheer, cathartic impact of their new songs, and you’ve got a very exciting prospect indeed.
“We’ve never really fit in, and still to this day we don’t really belong,” notes the vocalist. “That’s given us fuel to define ourselves, to strive for something different and unique. There’s very little conforming to do when you don’t belong in the first place! In a weird way, it feels like if we don’t belong somewhere, that’s exactly where we should be!”
Outsiders by choice, pursuing their own path at their own pace; it may sound like a familiar narrative, but in this lot’s case, there’s nothing contrived about it. And this could be the year their honesty and patience pay off.
“We’re incredibly proud of this record,” beams Patty, “no matter what happens. But if we can make people feel something with these songs, and our fans enjoy them, then that’s all that I could hope for.”
'okay' is out now via Fearless.
As It Is will tour the UK soon, supported by WSTR, Like Pacific and Grayscale. Those dates are:
09 - NOTTINGHAM Rescue Rooms
10 - MANCHESTER Academy II
11 - GLASGOW Garage
13 - BIRMINGHAM Institute II
15 - CARDIFF Globe
16 - LONDON Koko