Next month will see the welcome return of Durham political-punks Onsind, when they release, We Wilt, We Bloom, the band’s first album since 2013’s Anaesthesiology. The band have been busy since then; winning over the indie-pop world with two albums from their other band Martha, and now return to the band Nathan Stephens-Griffin and Daniel Ellis formed over a decade ago. Today, we’re delighted to be sharing their new single, Sectioned.
Musically, Sectioned continues to expand on the band’s previous acoustic experimentation. Electric-guitar riffs buzz with grandiose energy, as driving drum beats propel the song purposefully onwards. Nathan takes lead vocal, combining a hatful of references to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, with a musing on death and coping with mental health problems, before the two perfectly paired voices come together for the repeated chorus line, “misery, misery, misery loves company”.
Like all the best Onsind songs, it’s an open-hearted letter, a song that is unafraid to wear its heart on its sleeve, and to offer a helping hand to anyone going through similarly difficult situations. They might not have all the answers, but they’re a band who always make you feel that things actually can be just a little bit better for us all.
Check out the song below then read on for our Q&A with Nathan from the band, discussing Sectioned, the death-toll of austerity and why Onsind will still be going another decade from now.
FTR:What can you tell us about Sectioned?
‘Sectioned’ is a song about death and about coping with mental illness in the everyday. It’s also about feeling helpless and scared when someone you love is experiencing severe mental distress. It feels pretty meaningless to try and talk about mental illness, without also talking about the political context of austerity, and the appalling, deadly and ideologically motivated cuts to the NHS and other public services we’ve witnessed in recent years.
Another thing to say about the song, is that we’re selling this single as a pay what you want download on our bandcamp page to raise money for ‘Action for Trans Health’, an organisation that seeks to improve trans* people’s access to healthcare.
FTR:Do you think the current political climate has negatively affected the countries mental health?
It’s hard to talk about a country’s psyche as a whole, but there’s a meme that goes around sometimes that says “Depressed? You might be suffering from Capitalism” that I think is at least funny and interesting. There’s obviously an extent to which the environment and context we live in impacts how we happy we feel. But I think health, and in particular mental health are very complex issues and often can be rooted in internal dynamics too. All kinds of people (including some very wealthy, successful people) can and do suffer, and it doesn’t necessarily discriminate. Rather than speculate about definitive cause (which is very hard to prove), I think we should stick to what we can be certain about. We know for a fact that austerity has a death toll. We know that if you are experiencing crisis and can’t access health, then that is harmful, potentially fatally (Oxford University research has suggested that relentless cuts to healthcare and public services led to 30,000 excess deaths in 2015). We know that if you’re choosing between feeding your family or keeping the heating on, that is going to damage your mental health. It’s obvious that cuts to the NHS are impacting people’s ability to access the help they need in crisis, and this is true for people who are already poor, vulnerable or marginalised in other ways. I know from speaking to my friends who work in the NHS that provisions are often at or even past breaking point, and people fall through the cracks every day. Austerity is deadly, and in that sense, the countries mental health is undoubtedly harmed by the political climate.
FTR:Your new album is out next month, what can you tell us about recording it? What did you do differently to previous records?
We recorded at JT Soar in Nottingham with Phil Booth (AKA ‘Bad Phil’), and it was loads of fun. A huge difference between this time and the past, was that we did a majority of the songs as a full band, with Naomi Griffin on bass, Jason Cavalier on Drums, and Claire Swift on Backing Vocals. It meant we approached recording very differently. In the past we’ve started with a rhythm guitar track and then built, but this time, we started with drums, and built. It pushed us in new directions. It was really fun and we think Phil did a great job of making sure it all fits together and ensuring there’s some continuity in the sound.
FTR: How did the Specialist Subject connection come about?
We have known Andrew and Kay for years and years, and we’ve always tried to help each other out. We first put Bangers (Andrews old band) on in Durham in probably about 2007 or 8, and I think the first tour Onsind ever did, Kay screen printed the shirts for us! It’s been a long and (hopefully) mutually beneficial friendship. We’ve worked together before (e.g. Martha/Radiator Hospital split). The run such a good label, and they are so on it, and really quite unique (doing amazing fun stuff like sending out about 1000 ‘never trust a tory’ posters for free during the election period). They rule.
FTR: You’ve been a band for 10 years, has it lived up to expectations? What’s changed?
Oh god, how long do you have? We had very modest expectations when we started. Things like, making an album, and doing a tour, were on our list, but we always focussed mainly on being a band first and foremost. We never would have predicted that we’d get to tour the US twice, tour Germany, tour the UK a million times, release several albums and EPs on several labels. It’s far exceeded our expectations in that sense.
FTR: Do you enjoy playing live?
Playing live as a full band with Naomi, Jay and Claire, is so much fun. We’ve been playing some of these songs for many years, but playing with a band propelling the songs forward really makes them feel new and exciting again. We’re really excited to be playing our launch shows with JUST BLANKETS (Claire’s band). They are so good. Check them out.
FTR: What’s next for Onsind? Will you still be doing this in ten years?
Longevity is something I think a lot about at the moment. I think the bands I love that last the longest are often bands that have made an impact on the mainstream in some way, and can then become sort of ‘legacy’ acts. We don’t fit that category so we’ll have to find another way. By virtue of what we are and how we sound, I think we’re destined to always be a small band I think, and we have never really had ambitions for fame or fortune with this band (thankfully). You don’t see that many DIY bands lasting 10 years, let alone 20, and I don’t know what the secret is. Because, like any relationship, it’s not just about being together for a long time, it’s about being together for a long time and still enjoying it and liking each other. Some DIY bands manage it though, look at Milky Wimpshake! Onsind might go quiet at times but yes I’m almost certain we’ll still be doing it one way or another. We’ve been quiet in terms of writing new material for 4 years, but we have played shows in that time, and even toured. We also released 2 Martha albums and various other bits and bobs in that time, so it’s not like we haven’t been busy. But also as we get older and as the dynamics of the scene change, and people leave Durham/the UK, and bands split up we’re at a point where we’re pretty philosophical about it all. I guess this new album is kind of about that ebb and flow. The wilting and blooming. As two humans, Daniel and I have been through a lot together, and we are still very close friends, trying to do good in the world, support each other, and other people who need support, as well as trying to write good songs. Like cockroaches after the apocalypse, we’ll still be here. Whether anyone will give a fuck or not, is another question.