Oxymorrons are a very special band. Making their way through the worlds of alternative music and hip-hop in their own unique way, pushing the boundaries on each side, their journey so far has been an incredible one. Attitude and angst delivered in equally gripping measure, they produce the sort of music that manages to be just as vital as it is vicious. Telling stories of struggles in a way that feels positive and leaving no stone unturned as they approach their next chapter, there is a lot to deal with as well.
This is why idobi are chatting to vocalist Deee all about mental health. As we come to the end of Mental Health Awareness Month, there is a conversation to be had that doesn’t end just because 30 days of visibility ends. Deee works with a series of non-profits, including the Jed Foundation, Hot Topic Foundation, Mental Health America and more, sharing his experiences and knowledge in a way that will encourage others to open up. We touch on expectations, life-changing moments and how it feels to be heading towards the biggest moment in your career and being absolutely terrified.
Here we go…
Where would you say you first came into contact with your mental health and made moves to improve it?
Being vulnerable and candid in these situations, not just with yourself but with others, is so important. I think about it a lot of the time. We aren’t as honest with ourselves because we’re so afraid to face ourselves. My mental health journey really started when my friend Danny took his own life. That was my best friend, and it rocked my world.
I always knew mental health and suicide were there, but it still slaps you in the face and wakes you up when you experience it directly. It’s something that I never thought would happen in my own little ecosystem. When it did, it really changed everything for me. Danny was such a supporter of me musically. In fact, we were on a promo tour when he took his own life. It was the first tour we had ever done as the Oxymorrons, and it was with Gym Class Heroes.
On that tour, I was starting to learn about living out of a bag and the stuff that comes with being away from home in such a way. It was my first time properly understanding that a tour isn’t just a highlight reel. So Danny changed things for me and made me realise that this can happen to anyone. It also took me a couple of years to really bounce back. It was this thing that absolutely threw me. We didn’t make music for a little bit. I beat myself up over it.
Even on that tour, Danny was the one who was talking me through it, which was crazy because he was doing that during his suffering. The fact that he was always there for us no matter what propelled me to become a Jed Foundation speaker. It was because I noticed there was a void where nobody was having the conversations that were needed. I knew that I had a voice, and we were building a platform with our music, so it became my opportunity.
How did that event change you? How has it affected the way that you approach other things in life?
At this point in life, mental health is both an external and internal thing for me. I’ve gone through depressive waves, suffered from anxiety, and bounced back and forth with my therapist about whether it’s time for me to go back on meds. The pressures of music and being a musician it’s not easy. I think social media doesn’t allow you to see the truth of what is happening. What it takes to be able to create what it is that you’re seeing. We’re in the middle of an economic recession, and music has become more expensive. But the way you get paid is still medicinal. Streaming is fantastic for the audience but horrible for the artist. Not being compensated in the right way puts us in a position where we have to make so many sacrifices, ones that people don’t even see.
You fall in love with music, and it helps you at a certain point in your life. You then want to pursue it for yourself. But then the love and joy will also make you feel guilty when there are aspects you seemingly don’t enjoy anymore because it’s difficult to make it through. You want to feel that same way you did when you were younger, but you can’t figure out how…
There’s an understanding that we can’t control things, but other aspects are designed in a very crippling manner for artists. We’re in an era of freedom for music, but how that music reaches the masses is still very much controlled. We’re about to hand in our new album. It’s our first full-length, and it’s an exciting time, but it’s also a scary time. It’s all unchartered waters. You start out as an up-and-coming band, and that becomes your identity. But then what happens when you have attained being an established band? The anxiety from you trying to achieve something is now injected into you, having to show up and sustain it.
How does that translate into what you are doing with Oxymorrons right now?
This new album we are working towards represents so much for us. Everything we do as a band is layered with messages and imagery that conveys who we are. We’re telling you a story, and the music is the soundtrack to that story. Music is a major component, but who we are as people is what we are trying to represent. So, within the topics we are discussing, we’re also trying to build community. It’s so awesome. But we must also operate and manoeuvre through something we cannot hide.
When we walk into a room, we are judged by who we are, and we are candid. To present ourselves and our art in a space, we must do it at a 10x more accurate rate than our counterparts. That can be exhausting and deflating when seen as the race card. Going through that can have such an effect on your mental health as well because you start to judge yourself. You begin to look at these things you love and question them.
We are calling the album Melanin Punk, which I am announcing right here and right now. Everybody who is alive right now has melanin in them. That’s the shared community aspect of it. Punk is the ethos. The rebellious ethos of what we are and what created a band like Oxymorrons. We are trying to explain that and explain why as a community, we aren’t separated. We are the same. All people believe in something, no matter who you are. But even saying that, I have a whole load of anxiety about that and getting that across to people.
It makes you question yourself. It makes you wonder why you have let those trickles of doubt take over once more. It’s a whole different internal battle…
That’s so true, and it’s funny because I was texting Jason Aalon from FEVER 333. I was being candid with him, and there are a lot of things that I am going through that he has direct experience with. So I opened up by asking how is the mental health guy struggling with his mental health and how I felt embarrassed. You know about these things, yet you still let them affect you. He understood, though, and I feel like that starts to creep in when I consider what we are doing as a band.
A lot of the time, we feel like we are on this island, and it’s very lonely. There aren’t a lot of bands like us or representation for what we are doing, so you feel like you are constantly pushing a stone up a mountain. Even when you have achieved something, you look up, and there is still more mountain to go. But then you look at FEVER 333; you look at Ho99o9. These guys are going through the same thing, fighting against what it means to be who we are in this space. It’s liberating.
How does it feel to see that liberation in action? You recently toured overseas with Bad Omens, so what was that like in terms of installing belief in yourselves?
Touring with Bad Omens was incredible. They are our brothers now; we love those dudes. But it was also our first introduction to Europe. They gave us that chance to dive in, but also we were away from home. There are all cultural differences which changed how we viewed things in life. The appreciation from those crowds, the way they listen and vibe to live music is very different. It’s awesome and a little more accepting. America often feels like it has been boxed in, and so much stuff has been fed to people that it’s hard to cut through the fat.
Most people go with the flow rather than having their own musical identities. That’s not the case in the UK and Europe. That is just as liberating and freeing. Being able to see that things were actually building and we were converting people into fans. Seeing it happen before your eyes is unlike anything else.
Every day there is something new to discover, and every day is an opportunity to find joy in life. When you’re battling against yourself, it’s those moments that remind you that you always have the ability to win…
My dad always told me, “You can always learn because nobody died knowing everything”. There is always a teaching moment; there is always a learning moment. To know these things but also not be able to step back away from them and learn more from them. That’s where a song like “Last Call” comes from. We have all struggled with alcohol in one way or another. There are some tours when I have come home and not realised how much of a tolerance I had built up, but now I’m sitting on my couch and halfway through a bottle of Jack Daniels. Then you start to realise you have an issue. That’s what you learn from. We often write about things people are struggling with, and it all comes back to the story we are trying to tell.
Overall though, we are just going to see what happens. We are just letting the chips fall and being okay with it. That sort of thing makes me feel like a whole weight has been lifted off me. There is so much pressure for this upcoming album and this band to go well. But from the beginning, we have always known that our actions are bigger than us. It’s an entire culture and an entire ecosystem of people now. We represent the ability to do this. And as much as we are about the bands that came before us, we are also all about the bands that came after us. Showing people they can do what we have done and giving them the Eureka moment we had. That’s what this is all about, and it always will be.