“Emotion is at the core of our writing”
At Vent, we like to celebrate any artist that incorporates mental health into their work or helps others through their music.
East London Rock band Cavalcade are one of those artists.
To mark the launch of their new single, ‘Blueness Is A Heavy Stone’, we sat down with Connor Duggan (vocals/rhythm) and Jack Campbell (lead guitar) to talk all about it and the kind of mental health themes it explores.
Let’s chat about Cavalcade first of all. Tell me a bit about the band, how it was formed and why you wanted to get involved with Vent?
Jack: The band essentially formed to record a song that me and Connor wrote in 2017 – we just wanted something that we could put onto a CD and hold onto forever. Fast forward two years and we’ve played huge festivals, signed a record deal and played sold out shows; it’s been mad!
Vent was actually brought to my attention by my girlfriend – but once I looked into the things that Freddie does and wants to achieve through Vent, me and the band were very keen to get involved and voice our own struggles, particularly just after writing ‘Blueness Is A Heavy Stone’.
Usually I feel like we just let the music do the talking; but as Vent aims to break down stigmas and get people actively discussing mental health, we thought we’d use the opportunity to open up ourselves.
Your new single, ‘Blueness Is A Heavy Stone’ is out today, tell us what it’s about and the inspiration behind it?
Connor: I think we all carry our own anxieties and worries around with us every day and sometimes bearing those crosses can be difficult.
When I first started writing the lyrics for this song I was focusing on these day to day struggles – the behaviours and feelings I have seen in both myself and my friends and loved ones.
Ultimately though, the song; both lyrically and musically, is about finding what makes you happy and cherishing the moments in which you are free from the shackles of your mind – it’s a positive message that’s totally inspired by our own experiences as a band.
It’s got a lot of meaning to us personally and that’s why it’s so special. We can’t wait for people to finally hear it!
Mental Health is obviously something you care deeply about with this new single. Have any of you experienced mental health difficulties or live with mental health conditions that provided the basis for some of the lyrics?
C:Certainly as a band we have all come into contact with mental health difficulties at different stages in our lives – I think that young men have struggles with mental health that they don’t necessarily know how to process and I think some of that is reflected in the lyrics.
Jack has been affected by loss and the trauma that comes with that. The lyric “tore a strip off my right side. Would life ever be the same” speaks to that feeling of helplessness.
The fact that this song resonates with all four of us in varying ways I think makes clear the desperate need for us to address men’s mental health in every medium possible.
J:I personally suffer with disassociation and anxiety – it’s not as strong as it once was but it definitely got the better of me over a year ago.
I’d never suffered from mental health issues prior to just over 2 years ago, so when I started feeling ‘different’ it really freaked me out and I was too scared to talk about what was going on.
Opening up has really helped obviously and I’m in a much better position now – you do learn to control it better once you’re aware that it comes and goes as it pleases.
We have our own feature on Vent about the link between mental health and music called ‘More Than A Record’, which is all about how songs or albums can have a powerful effect on one’s mental health. Do you recognise that link?
C: Absolutely. The connection between the way we feel both inside and out and the music we hear is so powerful. I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone that doesn’t use music as a way of immersing themselves in the way they feel. It’s at those times I think you feel a real connection with the lyrics – kind of makes you feel like you’re not alone.
What songs or albums throughout your own lives have shaped you or had a profound impact on your mental health and your life?
C: There is a song called ‘Fluffy‘ by Wolf Alice that really resonated with me during a difficult period.
‘Urban Hymns‘ by The Verve is also a record that sticks with me lyrically as well – I think there’s at least one track on that album that could speak to anyone.
J: My favourite album of all time is probably ‘I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose’ by Bombay Bicycle Club – I promise I didn’t pick that album based on the title!
It’s definitely relevant though! I gravitate most towards ambient, uplifting guitar music with meaningful and nostalgic lyrics; something which Bombay just do in the most perfect way for me. That album is an incredible piece of art and lifts any mood that I’m in.
Considering this single discusses mental health as a subject, did you ever feel any stigma or trepidation before embarking on the journey of putting it out there?
C: We didn’t really hesitate. It’s something we have talked about a lot amongst ourselves – The song is one that hopefully shares a positive message and so we’ve been excited to share it!
What reception do you hope it will get?
C: It’s a massive track. I hope that people can appreciate it for the lyrics but also how musically up-beat it becomes. The track really soars and I think that goes hand-in-hand with the idea of cherishing happiness and recognising the load we have to bear.
J: 100%. I think in the main we’re just hoping that people enjoy the song and feel uplifted by it. Obviously we want people to ‘get the message’ of the tune, and if that makes them talk more openly about their feelings and mental health then that’s fantastic – but music in itself is powerful, we just want people to feel something from our tunes.
What do you hope to achieve with this record both for your career and for the discussion around mental health as well?
C: Emotion is at the core of our writing; our live shows, our sound – everything, so I think going forward we just want to share our experiences in a very real way – the highs and the lows. Our fears and our hopes. Literally everything.
Why do you think it’s been difficult for men and boys to talk about their mental health up to very recently?
C: I’m not sure I can answer that one!
I think we need to recognise that we’re emotionally intelligent. I think it’s down to public figures and educators to keep discussing the issue; ask boys how they feel – empower them to challenge toxic masculinity wherever they see it.
It’s probably ultimately about breaking down the barrier between men and women – we feel what we feel and there is no difference between the two.
Have you found the UK Rock scene today, as a community of bands, a place where you can discuss these issues openly or have you found barriers in places? Traditionally the Rock scene over the decades has been one that some people might say contained elements of toxic masculinity and a tendency for unhealthy and dangerous levels of excess?
C: We share a love of music and a freedom of expression and that is liberating.
Our music is an avenue to discuss these things not only with one another but also with our audiences. That’s really great. I think that there is an element of toxic masculinity that exists for sure, but I can’t say that I have personally encountered much. I reckon that ego and social media are more directly linked – your outward perception is more important than ever.
Social media is our greatest tool but also our greatest enemy. I fucking hate it and the way it makes me feel sometimes but it’s an integral part of how we are forced to operate as a band.
Do you think the industry and the scene has to do more to help bands with their mental health, particularly the effects that touring can have on bands like yourselves?
C: All industries have this responsibility. Ultimately it falls down to enabling men to deal with their emotions in a productive way.
Giving them the tools and the resources they need to look after their mental health.
J: I’ve seen evidence that the industry are definitely speaking about mental health and highlighting its importance which is really great. I also know that there is an incredible support group called Music Minds Matter who do some great work for struggling musicians.
Relating back to your last question, I’ve had conversations with people in bands, record label owners, promoters and general music fans about mental health on several occasions. It is definitely being voiced much more openly and freely.
What’s your plans for the future as a band and what have you got coming up?
C: We’ve got another single on the horizon that will be out before the year is done. We’ve got a load of live dates booked in so look out for those and we’ve been writing new tunes to share with everyone. Oh and I’ve been learning how to weave ornate 16th century grocery baskets as a side hustle!
Finally, if there was one message you’d want people to take away from this record, what would it be?
“Blueness is a heavy stone to carry, though this day my load is light”
You can listen to ‘Blueness Is A Heavy Stone’ on Spotify, YouTube or other streaming platforms.