Interview: Patty Walters of As It Is
“I guess, writing this record, we just wanted to be ourselves,” expresses Patty Walters, vocalist for Brighton’s As It Is in regards to their upcoming album. “We wanted to be an uncensored and liberated version of ourselves, musically and lyrically, so that we didn’t restrain ourselves from writing music that didn’t sound like us; writing lyrics that in the past, we may not have written. We were openly and unapologetically ourselves when we were writing this record, and we’re hoping that means something to people, and they enjoy listening to it. We’ve already achieved so much more as a band than we thought we could, and if this is the most we ever achieve and this is the furthest we get, then I’ll still be satisfied.”
Okay, which is due for release on January 20, is as much a statement as it is a work of art, with Walters admitting that there is a message behind the overall feel.
“We worked on it very hard, so hopefully it doesn’t suck,” he laughs. “There is an important message and meaning to be taken from it, being that it’s okay to not be okay. That’s a representation of our music. We as a band have always written music that, on the surface, is quite upbeat, quite positive and uplifting, but lyrically we’ve always written about topics that are quite sinister and quite dark and personal. We wanted a way of representing that, so we drew from the 1950s – a time where it seems everybody on the surface was trying to remain cheery, optimistic and positive, when really, it was a time of deep underlying fear and insecurities. That’s very much how it felt with our music – not only on this record, but throughout both of them. These are our honest experiences: our vulnerabilities behind the music that at times doesn’t seem to reflect the content.”
“We were openly and unapologetically ourselves when we were writing this record, and we’re hoping that means something to people.”
In tying with the theme of uncertainty and a blasé approach to the world and its surroundings, the cover and accompanying artwork for Okay tie deeply into those feelings. This helps to set the scene visually, as well as sonically.
“The artist who designed the artwork and the entire inlay of the lyric book is awesome,” Walters gushes. “He’s an incredible artist, but it’s all representing that duality where you have these seemingly innocent images with all of these dark twists. There’s this girl riding her bicycle down a suburban street with an atom bomb in her basket, and there’s a father and son playing catch with a hand grenade. There’s all these situations and depictions of that concept that tie into what we’re trying to get across lyrically.”
After catching the music world by surprise with their debut, Never Happy, Ever After in 2015, As It Is were thrust into the limelight almost unexpectedly. Walters admits that the band found it difficult at times, not only coping with the extra attention, but also developing a follow up that would hold weight against its predecessor.
“When we wrote that first record, we had very limited touring experience,” he recalls. “The year we wrote that record, we played, I think, forty shows in total. The year we toured that record, we played 175 shows, so we went from playing shows very infrequently to playing shows almost daily. It was a different experience. Playing shows that often improved us as musicians, and brought us closer together as bandmates, so that’s obviously going to effect the songs we’ve written. That’s the biggest difference we’ve noted between these records. Moreso, I think we’re more confident in being who we are now. If we were ever writing like we had something to prove, that’s kind of gone out the window. We’re just being ourselves now, and saying what we wanna say – being who we wanna be.”
“In saying that, we certainly felt extra pressure with Okay,” he continues. “There wasn’t so much a preconception with the first record, because the majority of the people that have come to know this band hadn’t discovered us yet. So, when writing this record, there were a lot more eyes on us and a lot more people to please – but I think we had ourselves to please more. We had set a standard for what we wanted to achieve. It was a minefield at times. There was a lot of stress and pressure, and a lot of uncertainty, but looking back on it now that it’s written and recorded, I’m so proud of it all.”
“When your job is something that you care so much about, there’s a huge amount of pressure to get everything right, and to be the most successful version of yourself.”
As It Is are more than just darlings of the pop-punk world – they’re a pioneering act in the genre for a couple of notable labels, Walters not hiding the fact that the band felt like they were swimming in unchartered waters at times.
“We were in the right place at the right time,” he admitts. “We as a band were so lucky with our timing, being a UK-based pop-punk band. We had so many eyes on us when we started. There had never been a UK band to sign with Fearless or Hopeless, so there was pressure there as well. After that, I think another eight were signed, but that alone says a lot about the expectations we were under. We would never have expected to be signed to a label like that because it had never been done before.”
As well as the pressures of translating a new genre successfully to a major label, As It Is were also nominated for a slew of awards, and received critical acclaim that exceeded even their expectations. “There was an award that we were nominated for against artists like Parkway Drive and Babymetal,” he remembers, “bands that sell out arenas. And there’s our little band trying our best over here [laughs].” It put us in a category with bands that are significantly bigger than we are, and trying to fill these enormous shoes and proving ourselves as a band… It’s cool to be considered for an award amongst bands of that magnitude, but it does put a huge amount of pressure on you.”
With so much to take in and a large corridor of uncertainly opening before them, Walters says the focus does turn to maintaining and improving that stronghold while you can, especially with so many new young bands waiting to steal their spot.
“It’s interesting because it’s a lot less glamorous than it looks on the outside,” he says. “I remember going to shows and looking at bands that are not only achieving what we have, but sometimes even less, and thinking that they’ve made it. The fact that they were touring the world in a band as a full time job was awesome, but in reality, it’s exhausting. It’s super inconsistent, but it’s a big challenge as well. When your job is something that you care so much about, there’s a huge amount of pressure to get everything right, and to be the most successful version of yourself. It’s difficult. It’s hugely enjoyable and hugely fulfilling, but it’s also a very difficult process.”