Anxiety & Pop-Punk – A Mixtape by The Total Bettys

Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom
Soren Kierkegaard

Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental health disorder in Britain, with 7.8% of the population meeting the criteria for diagnosis. Back in 2013, there were 8.2million cases of anxiety, and the bad news, it is on the rise. So what is it? How does it affect us? And what can we do about it?

Anxiety is a type of fear usually associated with the thought of a threat or something going wrong in the future. It’s also a perfectly natural survival instinct, causing our body to speed up and be prepared to respond to an emergency. The problems here, come when we become unable to distinguish between real danger, think massive scary tiger running at your head, and things we perceive as danger, think work deadlines, exams and unpaid credit card bills. The human body was not designed for living in the fast paced, stressful manner of the modern world, and is still playing catch up with technological and social innovations, as such, in a lot of us, anxiety goes from helpful survival instinct, into overwhelming, socially crippling self-doubt.

Anxiety can present itself in any number of ways, from dizziness to trouble sleeping, from a dry mouth to a short attention span. It affects people in different ways, in different amounts and at different times, and there’s no one root cause. It’s been linked to genetics, upbringing, life experience, and pretty much every type of stimulant, drug and food you can imagine.

There’s a near certain chance at some point in your life you’re going to experience anxiety, and there’s a good chance you’ll be one of those who has problems dealing with it. So what can you do about it? Well, first some very good news, music is a solid place to start! Listening to music has been shown to reduce anxiety in hospital patients before and after surgery, it can slow your heart rate, serve as a distraction from whatever causes anxiety and singing along has been shown to reduce tension. There are of course a number of alternative treatments available, with everything from meditation to exercise, being shown to reduce anxiety. With anxiety it may be a matter of breaking the cycle, and finding your own way to best cope when your anxiety runs out of control.

For more information on anxiety we’d highly recommend the likes of Anxiety UK, CALM and Mind, as excellent sources of information.

The Total Bettys_credit-Nicholas Klein
Photo by Nicholas Klein –

One band who write openly about their battles with anxiety, are excellently named San Franciscan queer-punk quartet, The Total Bettys. The band formed back in 2015, when songwriter Maggie Grabmeier teamed up with guitarist Bri Barret, as the band themselves put it, “they came for the face melting girl-power, but they stayed for the friendship”. Now expanded to a four piece by the addition of drummer Chris Nolasco and bassist Chloé Lee, last week saw the release of the band’s excellent debut album Peach, on Lauren Records.

Peach is a record inspired not so much by the past, but the here and now; The Total Bettys’ sound influenced by their contemporaries in the pop-punk scene, including the likes of Sløtface, Bully and All Dogs. It’s a record that musically calls upon intricate, rapid fire guitar work, the frenzied clatter of drums and melodic, energetic vocals. In Maggie Grabmeier, they have discovered a star of a vocalist; her voice simultaneously capable of delivering stinging barbs like Honeyblood’s Stina Tweedale and swooning emotive melodies like Field Mouse’s Rachel Browne.

As Maggie herself puts it, “the album deals heavily in the fear of messing things up”. There are reflections on difficult relationships, love, and throughout it all friendship and compassion. It’s perhaps lyrically that Peach most strikes a chord, Maggie’s words are at once self-deprecating, angsty, anxious and often outright hilarious. There’s the strong and powerful, You’ll Be Sorry, where she sings, “I’ll get on without you, I’ll find someone new, and you’ll remember me as fondly as you do”. There’s the more self-deprecating and downbeat Light As A Feather, ostensibly a song about self-doubt making you not feel good enough for someone and pushing them away as a result, “you say you want to protect me forever, but I don’t see you lasting that long”. Then there’s Stay Here All Night, a song of jealousy, getting drunk and stumbling home as sad as you started, full of lyrical gems from the amusing “two guys walk into a bar, and I strike out with them both” to the crushing, “I’ve been trying to look normal for the past hour or two, how normal do I have to be so I can go home with you? Haven’t I gone far enough?”

The Total Bettys are already making waves in their native San Francisco, having supported the likes of Hazel English, Skating Polly and Dressy Betty, don’t be surprised if 2017 turns out to be the year San Francisco’s secret becomes the world’s treasure.

Today The Total Bettys have put together a mixtape inspired by both anxiety and pop-punk, as Maggie from the band explains below…

Our two singles, I’ll Fix It and Stay Here All Night are songs about feeling too anxious to leave the house, then leaving the house and feeling anxious at a party, respectively. A lot of the reason why we feel so empowered to write songs about our insecurities, is that we know we aren’t alone! Tons of other incredible bands are boldly upfront about their mental health, and their vulnerability is really inspiring.

1. All Dogs – Sunday Morning

“You can find me on Sunday morning, all in pieces without warning / did the same thing, found nothing, now the falling isn’t stopping”

2.Colleen Green – Grind My Teeth

“Everything is a stressor / grind my teeth through the pressure”

3. Bully – Trying

“I question everything / my focus, my figure, my sexuality / and how much it matters or why it would mean anything / I can’t keep it together / I’ve been better / I’ve been thinking about it every night”

4. Dyke Drama – Thelma & Louise

“I spent the whole day in my fucking bed. / It seems you spent most of your day / walking through my head”

5. Forth Wanderers – Fuck

“You know I was thinking a lot that day, but I should’ve kept my mouth shut / and I never thought I would say anything but I guess I didn’t give a fuck”

6. Tancred – Pens

“I‘m insanely healthy in my head / It‘s crazy how stable I am”

7. Honeyblood – No Spare Key

“Do you ever feel like your brain might be conspiring against you? / It keeps you awake at night”

8. Sports – Reality TV

“And I know that I’m no fun when I get scared of everyone / I like to talk to you, it’s all I want”

Peach is out now – click HERE to download your copy and for more information on The Total Bettys.

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