Seven Fans Explain How Their Favorite Bands Saved Their Lives
We speak to the fans whose love for a particular artist pushed them back from the brink.
Illustration by Owain Anderson.
This article was originally published on Noisey UK.
There have been enough sincere pieces written about how music can almost stand in for a loved one in your life, so I'll say this: it's common, but not a total cliche, for a fan to say a band has "saved their life." Sometimes it takes on a literal form—one person told me of a time when Kiran Leonard's keyboard player legit caught him as he fell headfirst out of a tree—but other times that life-saving quality is harder to quantify. In the interest of getting a little mushy and #emotional towards the end of Fandom Week, I spoke to a range of music obsessives to find out how just how their own lives were saved by the artists and groups in stereos and on stages. Read 'em and weep.
GARBAGE – ROSALIE, 25, LONDON
It took a few seconds of watching the angry stompy woman sing "Why Do You Love Me" on MTV2 to basically make Garbage my favorite band. I was 13. Their album Bleed Like Me helped me through some of my hardest times. Sure, when you're 14 tiny issues appear magnified. But take having very few friends, add knowing you're gay but have no idea what to do about it and mix in a depression diagnosis that nobody takes seriously and life become overwhelming in a way that now, even having been through it, I struggle to describe or put into words.
I found a sanctuary in Garbage, and with it someone who took depression and anxiety and times as dark as the ones I was living in and made something beautiful out of them. I remember very vividly putting Bleed Like Me's title track on one day, and feeling like I was hearing it for the first time—suddenly feeling like I got it. I'd love to say it was a simple moment, where my pain was taken away and I didn't want to die anymore, but obviously it wasn't. It was more a moment where I listened to the song, to Shirley's voice, and realized that her band's work came from place of understanding that you can only get to by pulling through it.
I saw in that moment that this was song was about seeing pain from the outside, something I couldn't do yet but would maybe be able to do soon. It felt worth trying. I do still listen to Garbage a ton. They're still my favorite band without question and since they finally reformed I've seen them live a heap of times. I struggle to listen to that song, though. No matter how beautiful it is, it still makes me break down into tears every time.
TITUS ANDRONICUS – WILL, 29, LONDON
Late in 2010, I got to live the dream: a "proper job" in London. Over the next 18 months I slowly realized I hated the job, and was no good at it. By the end, I was a quivering wreck, horrifically anxious every day, working 65-hour weeks, trying to live in London on £16k a year, and drinking myself stupid to get through it. At one point I puked hungover on the platform at Marble Arch station on my way to work—somehow I threw up a Celebrations Bounty wrapper. That was a wake up call.
I remember May 2012 as a month where I basically only listened to The Monitor by Titus Andronicus. I screamed the lyrics internally to get through the day, embracing both the album's nihilism and the sense of rallying against everything that's gone wrong. As singer Patrick Stickles puts it in "Four Score And Seven," he made me realize that "I wasn't born to die like a dog, I was born to die just like a man." If I was going to be broke and miserable I could at least do it without the stress, crying in the toilets, panic attacks, and try to take back control of my life. I quit the job.
I listen to Titus a lot still. I've seen them six times, in England and Spain, since that period—each time I've both thrown myself around a venue and been reduced to tears. Now, I can go back to those songs and feel the same power they gave me for those months.
THE STREETS – DYLAN*, 26, LONDON
I still vividly remember hearing "Has It Come To This?" on the radio after school one day when I was about 11 or 12. That piano, beat and "woah oh oh oh" refrain was unlike anything I'd ever heard before; not to mention Skinner's cadence or delivery and, most importantly, familiar accent. It wasn't until a few years later, when I started going out and that, that I started listening to him more and more, and the songs became more and more relatable to me and my mates' lives.
During my early and mid-twenties I had a bad time with my mental health. However, like many men struggling with anxiety and depression, I didn't speak to anyone about it. I didn't know what to do so I just kept my head down, probably drank too much, and tried to figure it out. Then I read Skinner's autobiography, in which he openly discussed troubles he'd faced after his third album, and how getting cognitive behavioral therapy really helped him. He spoke so frankly about it that it took away a lot of the fear and mystique around seeking support that I had initially had. 'Fuck it,' I thought, 'why not?' So I got in touch with my GP and ended up getting CBT for quite a while. It completely changed my life—not just at that bad time, but it's had a long-lasting influence on me in the years since then, too.
Skinner wrote songs for every occasion. Happy songs, sad songs, party songs, reflective songs, there's always a song for whatever mood you're in. I just want to thank him—for everything, really. For all the songs, his book, for providing me with so many memories and for being a really important part of my life. Can I tell him I love him? Fuck it. I love you, Mike. Oh, and please tour Darker the Shadow soon.
MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE – KINGA, 22, LONDON
My Chemical Romance's lyrics were able to describe what I felt without me even speaking a word. Even during the hardest times, it would give me some sort of hope. It made me feel less isolated, because right there, in my headphones, on my iPod, blasted out words, emotions and music I could relate to.
For someone who was bullied all the way through high school for liking rock and metal music, being able to see these musicians in real life—seeing them as living and breathing, not just an image on a screen or a printed face on a bedroom poster—made that passion even more real. So outside of gigs, whenever everything feels hopeless and dull (as cliche as it may sound), I put my headphones on, turn the volume up full, and get lost in the rhythm of a guitar and bass or a cracking, screaming Gerard Way vocals. Bands and their music aren't the cure, but make things so much easier to deal with.
CONVERGE – OLLIE, 29, KINGSTON-UPON-THAMES
2008 was a bit a shit. I'd been through a bad breakup and I'd dropped out of university. Prospects looked pretty bleak, and in the days of the "credit crunch", I accepted whichever shitty job would take me. We weren't as "woke" back then to depression and because I didn't identify my feelings as such, my lack of coping mechanisms led to me lashing out at my friends and alienating anyone close.
In the end I felt as though there wasn't much of a future for me, so I decided to end my life. I'll spare you the graphic details, but I thought I'd have Jane Doe playing while I died. But as the music was playing and I was writing my note, the music wormed its way into my dark headspace. By the time of the finale title track, a 12-minute emotional masterpiece, I decided that if Jacob Bannon can work through the emotional wreckage that was his life when he wrote that album, I could work through everything going wrong in mine. I decided that music, and the power that it had, was worth living for.
I think if I ever met Jacob Bannon I would turn into an actual puddle, but I might manage to eke out "Cheers for being the absolute best, and for sharing yourself with the world".
FOALS – GEORGIA, 17, AYLESBURY
I first really got into Foals when Holy Fire was released. From there I listened to Antidotes and Total Life Forever. I also started collecting records around this time, so Foals first three releases were some of the first albums I ever bought. I've met Foals twice since then but have never managed to pluck up the courage to tell them quite what they mean to me.
My mental health has been poor since the age of 11, and still is now. It took me four years of suffering to seek proper help and, in September 2015, it all got too much. I stuck my favorite record, Holy Fire, on in my room and sat listening to it from the bathroom where I was about to do something to end it all. As the song "Bad Habit" played, the last line "I feel quite okay" struck a chord and made me think twice about my decision. To honor this I want to get a tattoo when I'm 18 of that line, and I really want Yannis to write the words out for me.
To this day "Bad Habit" is the most important song to me ever, and Foals will forever be my favorite band. I'm so grateful for this moment as it gave me a chance to battle through the tough times and continue to live my life, which has led to so many amazing experiences. It would mean the world to me if they knew how much they have helped me and what they mean to me. I'd want them to know how much they have positively affected me throughout the years and just to say thank you for it all. I'd also like to ask Yannis to write out those lyrics for me and for them to put "Bad Habit" back on the setlist. Shout out Foals: you are the best band in the world.
BEACH HOUSE – DANIELLE, 20, LONDON
I got into Beach House when I started uni last September. It was a pretty weird time. I'd moved to London by myself and was having to acclimatize to the different surroundings and types of people. A new mate played Beach House's Depression Cherry album on a rainy Sunday afternoon in October, describing them as "the perfect comedown music." From then onwards, I was hooked.
A few months later I was in the middle of a dissociative nightmare; failing uni work and experiencing a rough break-up. My life had pretty much reached its lowest point, and weeks of intrusive, pessimistic, nihilistic thoughts were beginning to pile up on top of me. I had planned how I was going to kill myself. I decided to put on an album, and Beach House normally acted as my thinking music due to their dream-like quality.
Listening to Thank Your Lucky Stars on shuffle, "Elegy to the Void" was probably the third or fourth track to play. I'd listened to it multiple times before, but never properly focused on the lyrics. The fourth verse begins with "Black clock looming distant" and, listening closely, I began to compare my life to that distant black clock, which many insignificant parts of my life revolved around. I came to the conclusion that we all ultimately live and die; we are everything yet we are nothing. The concept of mortality is normal, and you shouldn't live your life projecting about the future. I've been diagnosed with bipolar, so will obviously still struggle with depressive episodes, but it's nice to try to remember this in the midst of everything.
Talking about feelings is unmarked territory to me: I don't know how to do it. However "Elegy to the Void" somehow musically, vocally, and lyrically captured my internal monologue at the lowest moment of my life thus far and pretty much concluded: "Hey, it's fine to feel shit sometimes. It's fine to feel nothing; it's fine to feel everything. You are you, and I am me, and we're all coexisting in this bizarre, fucked up world."
*Names have been changed for privacy.
Read the rest of our Fandom Week stories right here.