From YouTube to Warped Tour to Reading and Leeds, Patty Walters from the American-British pop punk band As It Is has tackled quite a bit as a musician and a songwriter. He and his band have toured the world, set (unofficial) records, and released three stellar albums over the course of their just about seven-year career. A bit of an introvert, as he told me during our lively conversation, Walters doesn’t fail to put his own personal experiences and emotions into his perspective of the world and the lyrics he helps write. His band is one that is conscious of the world they live in, their community, their fans, and the people around them, making them one of the most kind-hearted bands in the industry. They work with nonprofit organizations, touch upon important topics both in and outside of their music, and they are “okay” with making a statement — if it’s something they believe strongly in. As I told Walters in his interview, just when I thought a band I already love couldn’t get any better, they do…and they do it well.
I have to say, talking to you on the second birthday of your sophomore album, okay., is pretty cool for me to be doing, being as that was the album that truly solidified my love for this band.
Oh, very cool!
So, on that note, I read on the band Twitter account earlier today that okay. really “paved the way” for you and your sound. Why do you think that was? What did okay. have that really stood out to you guys, even now?
okay. was absolutely us just starting to experiment as a band. We very carefully calculated our sound and our influences on our first record, but with okay. We really started to push the boat out and experiment with both heavier and poppy influences and you can hear those on “Pretty Little Distance,” “Still Remembering,” and “Austen” and “No Way Out,” so the darker three really paved the way for what would really become our new sound that we really honed in on with The Great Depression.
Also, hugely influenced and shaped our subject matter and our lyricism, as well as how we tried to communicate; not just our feelings and our self-expression, but something a little more existential and universal instead of being — I don’t want to say selfish in our lyrics, because that probably isn’t entirely accurate — but to really just talk about more than just ourselves, even though we are writing from the perspective of ourselves and our feelings and our struggles and our experiences. okay. was absolutely the record where we started to experiment and I think it was met with such a warm welcome, especially because you see it all too often when bands are kind of rejected for being too different or too similar in their releases. I think we’re extremely fortunate that people are a bit forgiving, but are also extremely accepting that we try to experiment as a band and really want to try to write outside of our comfort zone and our listener’s comfort zones, as well.
Absolutely! When it comes to creating these lyrics that are both about yourself and the world around you, how do you get to that creative place? How do you find the inspiration to create these songs that not only ask important questions, but also are very relatable in personal feeling and experience to listeners?
You always hope — you never expect, but you always hope — that songs are going to translate and resonate with people, but it’s never at the forefront of your mind; or at least, it shouldn’t be, because, I at least, believe that the second you start to pander and write using somebody else’s voice and their perspective, that’s when you lose the authenticity and you lose the integrity. We always write what is important to us, but more importantly, true to us. I firmly believe from our process that the more true something is to yourself, no matter how personal and unique, people will have similar experiences. Not identical experiences, but similar.
With okay. we wrote songs about our immediate families: our sisters, our grandparents. Those are some of the songs that have really resonated with people, and not because they’ve had the exact same experiences with people within the exact same dynamic, but because there is this kind of universal truth within familial relationships and dynamics that everyone has been through in some kind of similar fashion. No matter how personal it seems, even if you’re talking about those people you are related to by name, it still seems to translate. Sometimes I believe that even the more personal you make a song, the more unique to yourself you make the song, the more… I don’t know…relatable it becomes in a way.
Right! Because you’re telling a story that you personally know very well, but it’s a story that someone else might have experienced or can understand through the relationships and circumstances in their own life.
Speaking on the topic of your process, your latest record, The Great Depression, is quite possibly your most aggressive and most ambitious to date. It not only is technically phenomenal, but it tackles themes that are both creative and personal, as you said. Did you go into the writing and recording process knowing it would become something so in-depth and so powerful?
No. We knew it was going to be our most ambitious record from the start, but we didn’t intend to write a concept album — at least, not in those exact words, which it is. It was more of a thematic album in the sense that we wanted to really reignite a conversation surrounding whether we as a society and a scene glorify, romanticize, and at times fetishize depression, anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicide. All the songs are going to have a common theme and a common subject matter and talk about the “ifs.” It was our guitarist and our vocalists and lyrics its — or I should say other lyricists — Ben’s idea to make the album a concept album and make it more symbolic and metaphorical.
I think that was the most important decisions that was made, that it is still from the perspective of the protagonist. It’s not from our perspective, but it’s a character that is not us, but is very closely based off ourselves from our feelings and our experiences. I think we were in some dangerous territory that the record wasn’t going to translate as personally as our previous releases, because it wouldn’t have been from first person and present tense and be really anchored to personal feelings and struggles. We didn’t really intend to write a concept record, but it became one for the better. It was hugely challenging, but also so rewarding during the process.
As a fan, I definitely see how you guys have grown, but I have also seen how your music and your platform have helped the push for an end to these gender expectations and stigmas in society, both in toxic masculinity and femininity and anxiety and depression. I mean, one of your latest and greatest songs — in my opinion — is aptly titled “The Stigma “[Boys Don’t Cry].” What does this mean to you in this day and age? Why do you think a song like this one is important now?
That’s a great question…and I guess I don’t entirely know why it’s important. I have ideas, but like I said, it came from a place of my personal truth and my own self-expression, so I guess there is a zeitgeist happening right now in the late 2010s kind of political climate and social climate. It was just incredibly important to me. It was also probably one of the first songs that was written following okay. and it sounded vastly different [Laughs].
The demo was very, very different. I went to our producer of okay., Mike Green, to co-write this song and it sounded very different when we wrote it and it was actually one of the few songs that actually had to be rewritten for The Great Depression, because the subject matter fit so aptly. If I were to guess, I think it is a very important song because mental health is a particularly prevalent conversation right now, and equally, gender identity is a particularly prevalent conversation right now. I think the two go hand-in-hand with the conversation and the two are kind of seamless in that song. I don’t know, but I do know that it’s a really great question, and I think you can tell that I don’t think a whole lot about how it becomes incredibly personal to other people. It’s just personal to us and we just wrote it for that, I guess.
Like you said, it’s all about the experience and what people and each listener can take away from it. I feel like people take away quite a bit from it because of their own experience and knowledge of living in this social and political climate at this moment.
So, kind of switching up a bit to a lighter subject, I know that As It Is is going into its seventh year as a band, so how do you think your dynamic or approach to making music has changed — if at all — since you started?
I think it’s changed in various ways and various big ways. I think the biggest way is the fact that we are far more confident within ourselves as musicians and songwriters. When we formed this band and when we wrote our first and even second record, we were still trying to find ourselves and just still find the confidence. We had our producers holding our hands a lot of the time, which I think was something we really needed. On The Great Depression we worked with an incredible producer who did push us to get the best out of us and he did hugely shape the record, but we were the most confidence we had ever been as writers and musicians. It was the most confident I had ever been as a vocalist, like in the vocal booth I didn’t have to hide behind studio tricks and pitch correct or whatever. I think that made a really huge difference, whether you know it’s there or not.
Also, it is the most optimistic time that there may have ever has been to be in this band. We have recently had our best friend Ronnie [Ish] join the band and he’s been playing with us since Warped Tour of last year. He’s officially joined the band this very week and I don’t know, he has really elevated the mood and the dynamic of this band. I think part of what made The Great Depression so ambitious is that there was a very real possibility that it was going to be our last record, so we kind of embraced every risk, because we almost had nothing to lose in a sense. It’s something that even though the dynamic of this band is incredibly healthy and optimistic, I think we are going to remember that taking every risk that presents itself to us is something that we should embrace instead of shy away from.
Oh, for sure! Change, even in the smallest of aspects, can be very challenging, but also very rewarding — especially within a creative outlet.
That’s so exciting, though, and you’re going to embark on this big tour and write new music in the future, and you’ll be doing that having lived through a time that was a bit uncertain, but also exciting.
Speaking of touring,on this tour, what are you most excited to bring to the table? Maybe a specific track or two off The Great Depression or the stage setup or just the general excitement of putting on these amazing live shows?
It’s a combination of multiple things. I think my favorite thing about this tour thus far, and what I was most excited about, was in the UK we have really solidified ourselves as what I would view as a confident live band and our most recent London show was to…I don’t even know how many people! Like 1,600 people or something, I think. Back here in the States, we are playing to significantly smaller crowds and smaller rooms, but I am incredibly proud of the fact that we are bringing the exact same sets to these shows in these rooms as we are in the UK. No matter what, every night it feels like we are playing to thousands of people and we are still giving it the same — if not more — energy to kind of compensate for the fewer bodies in the room. It has just been incredibly fun. It feels like we are playing to theaters like we are used to in the UK. It’s also a set that we worked incredibly hard on like months before our European and UK headline tour. So to be playing the exact same set over here feels incredible.
We feel incredibly proud and confident in our performance every night, but we also knew Sharptooth the main support band on this tour. We met them on tour and I was just such a fan of that band even before Warped Tour and we became really close friends, so having the ability to hang out with them again is exciting and we are looking forward to the weeks with them. We are also looking forward to getting know the other opening bands, Point North and Hold Close. We had never met previously, but we were fans of the bands and hand selected them and are slowly opening up to each other. I’m particularly introverted, so it’s taking me a little bit longer, but they seem really lovely and I think it’s going to be a great tour.
That sounds phenomenal, both musically and personally. I actually think I remember reading last month that a show of yours in London set the unofficial world record for the most crowd surfers during one set?
I don’t know whether or not that’s accurate, but I think that is just a testament to how insane your live shows are and how you keep the energy and fun going throughout an entire performance.
Yeah, it was what the venue said to me personally. Like you said, it’s unofficial, but it came from them and not from us, so that was pretty cool. We’re pretty proud to have set that unofficial record for sure.
Of course! That is something that not a lot of band’s can set, especially not a band that is — I don’t want to say young — but is still kind of a small child in the sense of age.
Now going off of your fans and people who go to these awesome live shows, they all seem to completely adore you guys and the music you make…and rightfully so. How do you continue to draw listeners and fans in and connect with them? How important is that relationship to you?
I would much rather it be a small but devoted fanbase rather than some kind of colossal but passive fanbase, if that makes any sense. I would much rather have fewer, but passionate fans. I think that is what we have now, though, even though as you said, we are a band that is still in a way in its infancy. I just believe that we have a very close bond with our fans. That is through the lyrics, but also through the conversations that we have with our fans before and after our performances and on social media. I think there is just a real — I don’t want to say cult, because that sounds creepy and ominous — but we definitely just have a very close relationship with the people who support this band. I think it’s something very special and very rare and something that we are very fortunate to have.
I truly believe that the fans that you have will stick with you. As someone who has already been a fan for two-plus years, I don’t see myself leaving your music scene at all. You’re music is so personal and so vulnerable, but also so upbeat at times that there really is a song of yours for any mood or any situation. I know that I, myself, as well as other really appreciate that.
Thank you, I love that. I think as the band has kind of progressed, our fan base has gotten increasingly older. When we really started as a band, we had very young fans. What really excited me about that was that a lot of my favorite bands that I discovered, like Blink 182 and Green Day and Sum 41, I discovered when I was probably 10 years old and those are probably the bands that I still listen to more than any other. I think when you discover a band so early in your childhood and teenage years that that sticks with you for a long, long time. I also think that there are a lot of bands that kind of reject that sort of demographic, but we really embrace.
I believe that when you discover a band or an artist or damn near anything when you’re that young, you tend to just stick to that thing like glue because it meant so much to you then. It was larger than life and I love that we have fans that are discovering us and young as they are, because that is probably when music meant the most to me. It still means so very much, but it was still very special and a part of a very new and exciting world at that time.
I completely understand that. While music is always impactful to so many, there is definitely an age where I think it shapes who you are the most.
The Great Depression Tour: Act II is in partnership with the amazing non-profit that I keep hearing so many great things about: A Voice for the Innocent. Can you tell our readers a bit more about them, why you wanted to include them, and what they do on this tour and alongside your work?
Absolutely! So, we came to know A Voice for the Innocent through last year’s final, cross country Warped Tour. We got acquainted them as people and their amazing cause and their work within our community and our scene. We had already been partnering with and pairing with a few other nonprofits over in North America and Europe. It was a very important mission statement to work alongside even more nonprofits throughout this album cycle, because with okay. And rightfully so, so we encouraged people to understand that it is ok to not be ok, and to speak out if they are struggling.
With the passing of Chester Bennington — to name one out of countless others — just became abundantly clear that when someone really is crying out for help, resources need to be there and we need to listen without judgement and stigma to somebody who is in a dark place in a dark time. We’ve worked with MIND and Believe Out Loud, and Hope for the Day and, most recently, A Voice for the Innocent who are tackling sexual violence within especially our scene, but society in general.
We believe that they are doing incredible stuff and Sharptooth had worked very closely with them on Warped Tour, too, so it seemed very fitting as well for this tour. It doesn’t even need to be said that sexual violence and mental health go hand in hand, so of course it is a very important topic for our band. It’s what we talk about in our music. If we are encouraging people to speak out and be unafraid, we really need to be there to listen…or in the very least, providing resources for those people, so that is what we sought out to do for this tour. We have resources available every single night of this tour thanks to their amazing volunteers and representatives.
Catch As It Is performing live at Voltage Lounge in Philadelphia on Feb. 7, in Amityville, NY at Revolution Bar and Music Hall on Feb. 8, and in Asbury Park at House of Independents on Feb. 9.