Band uses music to focus on mental health

GABRIELLE ZGRAJEWSKI

In any creative industry, issues with mental health, self-esteem, drug and alcohol addiction and financial instability are real and pervasive problems, and the Australian music industry is no exception.

Vesper Green

Brisbane band Vesper Green is tacking big issues such as mental health and self esteem through their music. Photo: Kick Push PR

But musicians such as Brisbane band Vesper Green are trying to tackle these issues through music.

Vesper Green’s newly released grunge rock video tackles the issue of mental health.

The video, which is for their single “What Will I Wear”, was filmed and directed by Will Johnstone in a dim-lit room of Fortitude Valley’s The Foundry.

The clip, which stars Vesper Green, is filmed as a twist on a battle of the bands style competition, with the band depicted as battling against themselves.

A single mannequin is used as a representation of the band members’ true selves.

On one side of the room, the band is shown dressed in street clothes, while on the other side they are depicted dressed in hospital gowns.

Vesper Green front man Nick Ashby said the music video was designed to represent the battle in their heads.

“It’s a song about concentrating yourself on living hard and fast to the point where you are pushing yourself so far that you don’t even realise how close you are to possibly losing your life, hurting yourself and those around you,” Ashby said.

“It visually shows an internal struggle,” he said.

“That’s what the costume changes are for.”

“It shows the battle in your mind, and the different sides of you; the one that you show to the world and the other one is who you don’t show anyone, your internal self,” Ashby said.

In an era where even successful musicians seem to be taking their own lives with greater frequency, including Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington and Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, Ashby said he believed it was important to talk about mental health and other personal issues.

He said as a musician he felt like it was his responsibility to talk about mental health and personal struggles for the sake of his audience and other musicians.

Ashby said the issues were relevant to everyone, as anyone could face mental health issues and daily struggles.

“[Mental health is] a major thing to confront and everyone needs to talk about it, because I think pretty much everyone would go through something,” he said.

“Especially in the last couple of years, there’ve been a lot of musicians especially that have taken their own lives,” he said.

Ashby said he aimed to address other serious issues in future songs.

“Our goal is to cover some more serious topics and have people thinking about things, making people aware of things we should be talking about,” he said.

Frontman of Brisbanebased band Regular Band, Chris Wenner, said mental health issues were real issues for musicians that could not be escaped by ignoring them or trying to drown them out.

“Over the years I have come to realise that you can never escape mental or emotional issues using any substance, person or even creative pursuits,” Wenner said.

“At the end of the day you will feel how you feel and trying to shut down the negative emotions eventually leads to a life with no emotion, not even positive ones,” he said.

“That being said, things that are your passion can often be the only things that keeps you going when everything in your life feels dark and hopeless.”

“That’s how it’s been for me.”

“Being a musician can certainly amplify the effects of [self worth] issues and insecurities a person might already have.”

Wenner said struggling to choose basic necessities over musical needs also played a part in the hardships he faced, which added extra stress and worry onto his shoulders.

“The thing that I have experienced to be the hardest external factor as a musician is the cost of basic musical needs, such as travel, recording time and producing quality recordings that don’t pay themselves back,” he said.

“Often times I have had to choose between food, accommodation and studio time.”

Creating those conversations publicly through their music, musicians have also inspired local punters to be more open with their mental health and check in with their mates, tying in with September’s R U OK? Day.

Local music supporter, band manager and booking agent Zoe Maras said she believed creating a conversation about mental health was important in music because not only might individual musicians or bands be going through difficult times, but fans with troubles of their own might use the music as an escape or a support.

“Music, for as long as I can remember, has been something I’ve turned to to escape,” Maras said.

“Whenever things are good and bad, all the moments are sound tracked by music,” she said.

“I think it’s very important that everyone in the music scene keeps mental health at the forefront of conversation.”

“Creativity and the environment surrounding the creative can at times be isolating due to creative slumps, financial instability and many other variables, so when people are keeping it a forefront then the wider community will therefore be subconsciously more aware of it within themselves and others.”

“Mental health and the severity of it and looking after yourself and others is at the forefront of what I and many of my colleagues do, because it is really important that we look out for one another.”

“I also really appreciate it when bands and professionals of a higher status talk about it because it then means the topic is being reached by another level of people.”

To view Vesper Green’s “What Will I Wear” video, click here.

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