I fell out of love with music.
I didn’t think it would ever happen, because I’ve always been a passionate lover of music. All music. From pop when I was a kid, to nu-metal as a teen. Punk was what defined me in my twenties, it helped me in ways and broke me in others. But I would live to go to gigs, I loved taking photos trying to capture the atmosphere in front of me. I would spend nearly all my time scouring bandcamp, finding new bands, listening to new bands coming into the Punktastic email inbox. I would live for Festival season, for FEST in October. There was something beautiful in those weekends where I would lose myself in work, but it was all for something I loved. Running around fields with an overly heavy backpack full of camera equipment, barely eating, dancing with new friends, seeing friends I only saw at festivals, seeing new bands that made me lose my senses. Music was the thing that kept me going, and I never expected it to not be a part of my life but then I started therapy and the punk scene began to just be a place that fed my anxieties more than soothed them.
I went a good year, maybe two, barely listening to music. I listened to podcasts on my commutes to fill in the time and to block out the sounds of the blue line. I read book after book and I filled silence in my apartment with TV. YouTube specifically became my constant companion. Videos of people travelling, people eating, people creating. I started to go to the cinema multiple times a week, which replaced the multiple gigs. It’s not like I still didn’t have moments where I’d hear a song or go to a live show and my heart would race and I felt euphoric. I remember Restorations coming through and playing at the Empty Bottle and I drove down to go by myself and it was uplifting and wonderful. I came home and practically danced in joy. I don’t know when the moment of I can’t do this happened with the punk scene, I just know that I felt like I was at the lowest mental health point of my life and had started therapy and in unpacking my trauma I realised what I needed to step away from and it was punk. The place where I made friends that I love more than anything, and that gave me experiences I could only dream of, was also the thing that kept me from healing. I didn’t recognise the person I was anymore, and I realised healing wasn’t becoming the person I was in 2010 again, it was something new. I needed a fresh start.
It wasn’t an easy transition out of punk. I stopped going to shows and I stopped being as social as I had been. I would only go to shows if I really wanted to see the band, and honestly, the show part was a little easy because of my job teaching. Teaching meant that I had to be on point early in the morning to be the best for the kids in my class, so honestly, that meant I couldn’t hang out late at night on weekdays anymore. What I missed was the comfort music brings. Music to me is a means to soundtrack life, to process emotions, and to make sense of things. I had to find new methods of comfort, and I had to learn how to be cool just being alone with myself to sort this out. But I also found solace in music that I listened to as a kid. I began to make playlists of songs that were mine, that had no association with anyone else in my life from the past or present and I’d listen to them again and again in my car. I went on a solo road trip and had a Britpop playlist I blasted in rural Wisconsin and a J-Pop playlist that was playing when I got pulled over in the middle of nowhere in Minnesota. I needed this start over and it helped me in lots of ways. It helped me discover who my friends are, it helped me learn to love myself, it helped me heal from a whole slog of past traumas that I wasn’t healing from, I was just repressing and being self-destructive.
I was talking to a friend about how I look back on Maryam just before that happened and how I was all over the place. Emotionally just a rollercoaster of instability that needed to be grounded but was afraid of what would happen and of starting that process. It’s funny how once I actually started to feel calm, stable and happy I became open to music in the same raw way I used to be. Where it makes my heart skip in my chest, where I legit cry sometimes watching live performances. Okay, yes, it’s a lot of K-Pop now and also a lot of J-Punk/Indie bands but it’s also punk still. I reclaimed music as something for me again, and in doing so I’ve started to listen in a way that I haven’t done in a really long time. Where I google lyrics and learn them off by heart (in so many languages at the moment). I’m curious and hungry for different things, I have playlists that range from new artists in Japan to Hindi Indie to BTS covers done entirely on violin. I love punk, but I search for bands that are mixing sounds. POC bands mixing their culture in with punk and creating something unique and awesome. I also come back to bands from that time where I was at rock bottom, the ones that kept me going. I’m sitting here now listening to Restorations, who are just a solid band on all fronts, from live to on record. I’ve spent the whole day listening to SHINee, this Korean pop band who makes me feel the same rush as Restorations do. It’s music that hits you in your gut and gets your emotions working. I mean Applebee’s Bar by Spraynard just came on and I am finding it hard to sit here and type because I want to jump and sing. I dance in my room constantly. I dance on the train, I dance walking down the street. I’m happy to feel this way about music again.
I would argue that it was music not in English that helped me figure out my love for music again, in its new, good form. I was listening to a lot of J-Pop/Punk/Indie and then BTS arrived in my life and provided me with music that made me really feel again, in the way punk bands had been doing in my twenties. I’ve written before about how much I love BTS, but this grew to so many other K-Pop bands. I love SHINee at the moment, maybe as much as I love BTS and I can’t get enough of ONEUS and their new song. There’s a whole load of K-Indie bands I need to check out. I don’t find language a barrier though, I mean you can google all the songs and read translations. There are always interviews where they talk about songs. Lyrics are what draw me in, but with K-Pop it’s been more just a gut feeling when I hear a song. I look up lyrics very soon after hearing a song and it just enhances that. My J-Bops and K-Bops playlist are on heavy rotation on my communities, but I try and make time every day now in the evening to just put on my headphones and spend some time catching up on other genres as well, including punk. At the end of the day, I love punk as much as I do K-Pop.
Music is important and we should be enthusiastic about it. It helps make life better, because it connects to us on so many levels. It’s a creative outlet, it’s an emotional outlet, it’s fun and fills you with serotonin. I was never narrow minded about my taste in music. Yes, I loved punk but I liked a whole lot more. But now I feel like I’m just open to whatever comes my way. Hyperpop? Yeah, let’s do it. EDM? I’ve never liked it before but maybe you can change my mind. Hell, you could bring me a bunch of nasheeds and I’ll happily give them a go. I feel like I have that drive I did when FEST came around and I would make a spreadsheet of all the bands I’d not heard of with notes and links, but now I’m just doing that for all music. My 2021 playlist already has 3 and half hours of just single songs from albums and EPs I enjoyed or want to check out in more detail and it’s a mess on genres. It’s everything and I think it’s beautiful. I’m excited to go to a punk show whenever they start up again, to see friends and bond over our love of whoever is playing, personally I hope it’s a Great Cynics show. I’ve thought a lot about that band lately. I talk a lot about how I fell out of love with punk specifically but I think I had to step away to just rework my relationship with it. I listen to less punk, but I still keep up with what’s out. I still read The Alternative and see what Jamie Colletta is promoting or who Specialist Subject have signed or what they’ve released. I spent years giving myself to punk, trying to help bands and going to as many shows as I could. I put my all into it and if I’d kept doing so I wouldn’t be typing this now. It was destroying me. But pulling back and getting healthy and coming back to it, now it’s a posi thing for me. I hope Decolonise Fest runs in London again before I have to leave. I hope people listen to the BIPOC voices in the scene who are calling for change and wanting to be seen and heard. There will always be a place in my heart for punk, because if defined a whole era of my life. RVIVR is playing now and I remember that one RVIVR show in London and dancing with my friends down the front, singing very loudly. I know that every time I saw RVIVR it was a great time. I can appreciate these moments now because they aren’t all caught up in my own anxiety.
I just want to talk about all the music I love in caps. From BTS to SHINee to Two Houses to Into It Over It to The Kominas to Lizzo to Necry Talkie. It’s cool to be excited about it all again and to share that whether people care or not! I fell out of love with music, but it was worth it to fall back in love with it again.