What started off as a small time band from the UK, fronted by a YouTube star Patty Walters, has now cultivated and manifested into something that is more than the sum of its parts. I’m speaking, of course, about the pop-punk do-gooders, As It Is. The band had their early beginnings in 2012 but flash forward to just under four years later and they now travel the world; playing major festivals, headline huge, successful tours and touching ground in all the continents you can name, except for that really cold one. Their sophomore record, ‘okay.’ will be dropping in the early days of 2017 to delighted fans across the world, a follow-up to 2015’s ‘Never Happy, Ever After’. Armed with a press copy of said new record, my dodgy iPhone 5C and a shitty mocha to keep me alive in the early morning hours, I chatted with Walters over the phone about the expectation and the nerves surrounding this new album, the Nuke-Town aesthetics in their recent music videos, video games, his vocal style, and more.
Hey Patty, how are you going?
I’m doing great! How are you, Matty?
I’m well, man, I’m well. The first question I like to ask, no matter who I’m interviewing, is where abouts in the world are you and what are you up to besides interviews today?
You have caught me in a very rare place actually. I’m in my living room. [Laughs] It’s actually quite a treat, I’m rarely in here. And what I’m doing today besides all these interviews is trying to write songs that don’t suck. Occasionally I succeed!
That’s awesome man! I take it you guys are getting as much down time as you can before you head back into the chaos of another album cycle.
Yeah, we just got back from tour a week or so ago. Now we have a few months off before we tour indefinitely for the rest of our lives. [Laughs] But honestly, I’m excited about that. You know, we’re all excited to come back to Australia. It’s been too long, about a year and a half.
Yeah, and ‘okay.’ is not out to next year! Is the nervousness of releasing this thing just gonna eat away at you for months and just crescendo?
It very possibly will be! You expect the nerves to go away after a while when you’ve been a band for this long, five or so years and you’ve played shows as large as we a have been lucky to play but I still get crippling nervous if the shows too well attended or too many of my friends and family are there. But I think you’re right, the wait is a little too long so the nerves will probably pile up!
Well, there’s always that saying that if you aren’t nervous it means that you don’t care enough.
Yeah, that’s very true. You know, however long we’re on stage for, I just kind of give everything I have, flail my body around into different shapes and what not. I can be tried afterwards but I don’t want to be giving half an effort in the beginning. So I guess you’re right, it’s all about putting everything I have into it because I care.
Certainly. Would you say some of these nerves for the record also stem from the fact, as you’ve said in press releases, that this is your most personal record? That all these feelings and emotions and events are soon going to be let out into the world for everyone to see?
Absolutely! It’s weird in that respect that the nerves really come from being open with you band mates hearing the songs and ideas. Now that the songs are written I’m not as nervous for people to hear them. I was nervous as we were writing them but now that I feel confident that they aren’t terrible, I’m ready for people to hear them and possibly relate to them. If not that, then hopefully just appreciate the stories we’re telling.
On that note of stories, I’ve been spinning the record a bit and was wondering if the Rachel from the song, ‘Hey Rachel’ is the person it’s about’s actual name?
Yes! That is the name of my sister who that song is about! It was pretty strange and difficult to overcome because it’s one thing to write honest and transparent songs about yourself but when you start including family members in on that you start to feel that responsibility in volunteering them I guess to have their stories heard. So it was difficult to overcome, I got her blessing to put the song on there which was great of her because otherwise, we wouldn’t have put the song on the record. It’s just a genuine apology to my sister and it was really cathartic to say all those words I’ve neglected to say over the years.
Wow, that’s really awesome, man! I loved that track – that chorus is so fucking catchy. The kids are gonna love it.
[Laughs] Thank you!
I also really dug it because The Wonder Years are my favourite band, and Soupy name drops like, all his friends and a lot so it had that vibe to it.
Oh, I love that band! And you’re right, I feel that exact vibe when I listen to The Wonder Years or Motion City Soundtrack that mention the names of the people it’s about. You start to picture them in your head like reading a book rather than just experience the songs on a passive level. That’s exactly what we tried to do here on this record; challenge ourselves to create that extra layer to our music. So I’m glad it got received that way, thank you!
No worries! And rest in peace, Motion City Soundtrack. That was a hard loss for me.
Tragic! Tragic! One of my favourite bands of all time. They will be missed, always. I listen to them most days of my life.
Same, they always have a place on my playlist. But hey, at least it leaves room for you guys to grow up and become big and then break up yourselves.
[Laughs] Those are some very big shoes to fill in my opinion but that is the plan, hopefully!
Hey, I’m not being too over confident for you guys. It took Motion City about twenty years to get to where they were. So don’t rush into this thing.
So this morning I finally got around to watching the videos you’ve put out and I gotta say, I love that whole 1950’s, Nuclear Family aesthetic. But I also have to ask…have you bene playing much of the Fallout games lately?
It is so hilarious… it is so hilarious that we when we went with that image and that concept that everyone would say “This is so similar to Fallout. Is this a Fallout themed way of hyping the record?” But I have actually never played a Fallout game in my life.
Yeah, and I’ve only ever owned a Wii.
[Laughs] Yeah, unless there’s Fallout on the Wii with all its crude animations then I have no means of playing that game. However, so many people have made that comparison that I may have to play that game over Christmas. Borrow somebody’s Xbox or Playstation. I’m a total grandpa when it comes to video games. If it’s not Pokemon, I’m not playing it! But I’m still stoked on all that!
Otherwise from that, I’m so excited about this concept. Like you said, it’s the Nuclear Family. The whole 1950’s Americana, suburban lifestyle. It was something we considered and grew to love over the course of writing and recording the record.
Yeah, I really loved it. They stick out from the crowd with every other goddamn band playing their goddamn songs in a goddamn warehouse in terrible lighting.
[Laughs violent] Oh, that tickled me. That’s funny!
I was thinking about what we were discussing before with the nervousness aspect and was wondering if you’re starting to feel like there’s a bit of abnormal pressure on you guys for this record? You had a big following before your debut so that had a lot more pressure than usual for a band’s debut. Then that came out and everybody seemingly loved the shit out that record so that must be putting on pressure for you guys that other bands just don’t get?
I would love to say that there was or is no pressure. I’m sure that would make me sound really cool. But there was all kinds of crippling pressure and fear and doubt in writing this record. That’s just one of the consequences of aspiring to write something great. You want to push yourself. None of us are writing a record to feel adequate. To say: “That’s good enough.” We want to make something special and that comes with a lot of blood sweat and tears. You’re always comparing it to everything else and everybody’s preconceptions of this record is. I’m sure everybody who enjoyed ‘Never Happy…’ is anticipating this record and I just hope that they feel it is as good as that. But I also hope it does something differently and they react differently. We’re all at least very proud of it. There was that doubt that the songs wouldn’t be good enough, that people won’t like it but hey, it’s done and we can’t take it back now.
One of my closing questions is in regards to your voice. You have a very distinct vocal style so I was wondering if there were any special warmups you did to maintain and take care of that?
Absolutely! Ben [guitar/backup vocals] and I both took a few lessons from this amazing vocal coach, her name is Stevie Van Lang. We did six lessons with her both before ‘Never Happy…’ and ‘okay.’ And she has a CD, you can find it on Bandcamp, of warmups that we do before every show. And it’s been amazing because for so long I didn’t know how to actually sing, like, how to properly use my boy and my voice and warm up and not wreck my voice every night. So that’s been invaluable. She’s helped both of us over the years, I cannot recommend her enough. Stevie Van Lang – check her out!
That’s awesome, man! I think we’ll wrap things up here so we don’t go over time. Thanks so much for your time, Patty. It’s been a fun chat, and I wish you the best of luck for these next few months and I hope you have a great day.
No worries, and thanks so much for your time as well, Matty. It really was.
‘okay.’ will be out in the rather short timeframe of January 20th, 2017 via Caroline Australia & Fearless Records. Pre-order it here. Trust me. It’s good. Like. Really, really good. As It Is are also touring Australia in January/February. Tickets and info here.