UK quintet As It Is has certainly had a successful two years. For one, they got picked up by Fearless Records and came out of the gate kicking with their debut album Never Happy Ever After (which spawned the majestically wonderful earworm “Dial Tones”). In addition, they’ve used their time to build a versatile fanbase that will keep them as strong contenders in the ever competitive pop-punk world. They landed themselves on three major U.S. tours in 2015 (Van’s Warped Tour, Glamour Kills Spring Break and The AP Tour) and opened for well-known names like Sleeping With Sirens and Sum 41 in 2016 apart from their own UK headlining tour in support of Never Happy Ever After. But with constant touring and a rising career comes stress, anxiety, and even depression, and frontman Patty Walters opens up about his mental health issues in the band’s sophomore album Okay.
During promotion of Okay., it was stated that the main theme of the album is “the idea that it’s okay to not be okay.” The re-occurring them of “faking a smile” is prominent throughout the album and was clear throughout its lead single “Pretty Little Distance” and its title track. While both have similarities to tracks from their debut (“Okay” and “Dial Tones”, “Pretty Little Distance” and “Cheap Shots and Setbacks”), they introduce their listener to to the album’s theme in a subtle, yet influential way. These tracks target the group of people who have utter chaos going on inside of them, but putting on a show for those around them to make it seem like they’ve got themselves put together. Both play into the ‘there’s always a lot more going on under the surface when you get closer look’ notion that we read Pinterest quotes about but in a more meaningful and personal (from Patty) way.
Two tracks in particular play off each other in perfect harmony, “No Way Out” and “Until I Return”. The former perfectly embodies how living with anxiety can get the best of us despite trying our hardest to keep it at bay. The latter is an ode to the people who are willing to stick around through those moments of weakness. “No Way Out” describes how anxiety ridden individuals feel when everything starts to feel like it’s too much to handle (“Inside as the rain came pouring down / I’m losing touch with the only soul I’ve found”), but Walters’ monologue of a bridge oozes the raw, almost heartbreaking self-realization that can easily be compared to that of Good Charlotte‘s “Predictable”. “Until I Return” becomes the ultimate ‘thank you’ for all of the times that we say “I promise I’ll fight but I can’t promise that I’ll be fine”, because we all know that it’s hard to find people that will put up with us for the long run. These two theme tracks truly get to the point of what Okay. is trying to achieve in a realistically emotional way.
In classic emo-esque fashion, Okay. also gives us a look into dysfunctional family life, breakups, and, of course, hometown nostalgia (“The Coast Is Where The Home Is”). Okay. ‘s breakup tracks have a very ‘7 stages of grief feel to them’ in terms of lyrical and instrumental tone. Specifically, the three ending stages anger (stage 5), initial acceptance (stage 6) and redirected hope (stage 7) are represented. “Soap” clearly presents itself at stage 5 in a very punk, almost accusatory or bitter way, while ending ballad “Still Remembering” indicates a calming tone of improvement. Peppy “Patchwork Love” is the ending of the entire grief process and presents a understanding that sometimes letting each other go is for the best — even though the first stages suck ass.
Patty gets pretty personal with his musical apology to his sister (“Hey Rachel”) and delve into the child’s point of view in the divorce process (“Curtains Close”). However, “Austen” takes a turn for the gut-wrenching as he describes the pain that is felt when watching someone (in this case his grandfather) battle for their life and not wanting to let them go. Having artists open up about their family is an important milestone in their career, and these three tracks beautifully tell the stories of traumatizing scenarios that affect everyday lives.
The word okay doesn’t begin to describe the amount of heart and honesty that has been put into this album because it’s so much more. As It Is wasn’t afraid to go there with a clean, peppy bubblegum pop-punk sound. Their lyrics add to that, covering heavier topics like depression, anxiety, divorce, loss, and heartbreak in hopes of reaching out to the listeners that need that type of song in their life. Okay.‘s overall theme is that “it’s okay to not be okay” and it gets this point across in a fun, yet cohesively deep way. It’s a perfect edition to anyone’s shelf who uses music to escape from the world. Congrats As It Is on looking the sophomore slump in the face and telling it to f— off.