We caught up with the lovely Jordan White AKA Phaedra’s Love to chat about mental health, DIY and his new EP Let Me Think This Way.
Mental health is a large theme of Let Me Think This Way and you also included a zine on mental health with the EP, why do you think it’s important to talk about your own mental health (and mental health problems in general) as part of your music?
I think whatever art you create it needs to serve a kind of purpose (and if it intentionally aims not to then that still has an artistic philosophy behind it). For myself, mental health has been something I’ve struggled with for a long time but as detailed in the zine it wasn’t until I went to university and started to live independently that I really started to suffer from it. What I wanted to convey with the zine was that self-help and generally looking after yourself can be the biggest help. At a time when public services can’t offer all the help people need I guess it comes down to what we can do from home. My suggestions and what helped me, turned out to be little things such as eating better and greener, getting some exercise in and going to bed early. As well as feeling productive it’s also just plain science that to quote Legally Blonde “exercise releases endorphins, endorphins make you happy… happy people don’t kill their husbands.” The songs themselves are a cathartic way for me to express myself as I find it difficult to talk to people about how I feel – actually in particular those closest to me, it makes me uncomfortable for some reason. In my lyrics about things such as alarm clocks being the worst enemy, etc. I try to convey something familiar for people. That’s not to trigger any bad reactions, but mainly to demonstrate that so many people suffer in similar ways and that no one is alone or weird in this world for feeling that way. It’s all a way of removing stigma.
People are starting to fight against the stigma on talking about mental health recently with more people becoming more open about their own problems, why do you think this is?
I’d actually argue that it’s easy to say that stigma is disappearing from our viewpoint from within a punk community. However, when we look at larger society and particularly elder generations, many just don’t understand it. It came to the point for me personally that I still carry stigma with me – like I even doubt myself. I end up creating this farce in my head that I don’t have a mental illness and maybe I’m just acting shit for attention? My own stigma extends to the fact that I feel uncomfortable talking about my mental health and I struggle to console others as well which is reflected in the song “Dear Ornery, I’ll Move”. I won’t be naive and claim that things haven’t got better, because they definitely have. There’s more public support and mainstream media acknowledgement of it as a problem. I’ve started to hear the silence around mental health been described as a pot boiling with the lid on and finally it can’t be contained anymore because we have a serious problem in our societies that is affecting so many different people.
Before Phaedra’s Love became your focus you fronted the recently split up punk band Splitsville, how have you found the transition from performing and touring in a full band to doing it as a solo act?
Starting Phaedra’s Love was very different than starting Splitsville. There had to be a point when it stopped being just a bedroom project and a real thing, which was hard when I had no quality control with no one else involved to reassure me like with band members. On top of that, the music itself became a lot more personal as it was literally my account of things – which I’ve greatly enjoyed working on. The other difficulty is keeping myself in check, particularly in terms of practice. Before we could have a weekly band rehearsal and book out a room but without this I guess I get a bit lazy and leave it to the last minute before a gig to go over my songs. It was definitely easier to start playing shows and touring though because of all the friends and promoters etc. that I had met because of Splitsville. The thing I miss the most though is companionship when travelling, someone to lift you up when you’re low and tired – wandering around cities alone can get a little boring and lonely. Thankfully I keep meeting wonderful people at shows who are happy to hang out with me and let me stay at their places.
You are based in Exeter that seems to have a thriving scene at the moment, can you tell us a bit about the scene and how it benefits you as a musician that is part of it?
Exeter is wonderful in general and its scene is very special but can be taxing. It’s small and close-knit which makes for a great community but means that if those people are doing anything then not it can turn out that not a lot happens. This means that we get lots of really hard working people who are promoters, play in multiple bands and often are multi-instrumentalists. The Cavern has been super great for me in that it’s given me a job and a way in to start putting on shows and bringing bands that I love to Exeter – all this just helping me grow musically. I’m a big believer in the idea that the more music and diverse music you see/listen to, then the more interesting your music becomes. So I like to hope that the Cavern has influenced me in that way. Just researching its history is really cool.
You remain very DIY, going as far as personally colouring in the cover of every ‘Let Me Think This Way’ tape and handwriting each zine that came with it, why do you think it’s important to keep things DIY within music?
Whenever I get referred to as DIY I cringe because I once on stage referred to some tapes Splitsville had (that I had almost zero involvement with) as “super DIY.” I got roasted by the band about that until the end and still do to this day. I do like the idea of creating something yourself and putting the effort in though, personally I find it great for my mental health – I feel mentally active and productive, kind of gives me a rush. Shame I’m not so good at arts and crafts though. When I get something from someone that’s DIY I save it and keep it with loads of other cool things and look over them from time to time. I think in a time when everything is so commodified and people have so much clutter of possessions, we tend to treasure individual items that have had time, thought and effort put in. I’d like my EP and zine to be something more cared about than chucked in a storage box and/or lost.
What are the plans for Phaedra’s Love for the rest of the year?
I have lots more shows and tours coming up and to be announced which I’m really looking forward to. That’s always goal number 1, to play live in front of loads of different people, travel, make new friends and hang out with the old ones. I’d especially like to just get the new EP out there and have lots of folks hear it because I am genuinely proud of it and I hope that doesn’t make me sound arrogant. I’ve started to think about new music but at the moment that’s all they are, just thoughts. I’d like to play around more with instrumentation, like pedals, other instruments and effects. In the live set I’m touring at the moment I’m doing a couple of very short a cappella bits that were from songs that didn’t make it onto the EP so I’d like to play around with that a bit!
Let Me Think This Way by Phaedra’s Love is available now on Circle House Records.