Patty Walters of As It Is (UK) talks Okay, forming an identity, and the healing power of music

It’s 10pm in the UK when Patty Walters beamingly greets me on the phone, explaining he’s running on caffeine for a night of press. After cultivating a successful YouTube following by posting covers of emo heavyweights including Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance, Walters formed the pop-punk As It Is in 2012. We chatted to the frontman about how Okay is the band at their most vulnerable, how personal experiences helped shaped their identity, and the curse of constantly being the “deso” driver.

I just had a listen to the album and it was fantastic. There’s a clear indication throughout it that you really stick to the pop-punk mantra of ‘sad lyrics, but cool music!’, especially with songs such as “No Way Out”. Were the brutally honest messages in the album planned right from the start, or did they develop later on?

First of all, thank you! It means a lot and we hope everyone enjoys it when it comes out. It was a very conscious decision to write more personally and more vulnerably on this record. We wanted to push ourselves, and in truth, I guess to really push yourself you have to write these types of songs that are difficult to share. Sharing these topics and experiences with each other as people, and in turn later to the rest of the world…there were experiences in my past that I was kind of afraid to bring up, and experiences that happened when writing this record that otherwise I would have happily kept to myself. We were writing personally and vulnerably, there were a lot of different emotions that we had to write about. And looking back on that, I am so glad we did it.

It’s interesting because writing more personally made it more relatable. But these [songs] are unique to us as an individual group of people and our experiences, so it also feels like it shouldn’t relate to people. But we’ll see how it goes! I really hope people find their own messages and experiences in each song.

As you said, it was kind of a weight off your shoulders to release these personal tracks. Was it like a self-help process to help you form your own identity and an identity as a band?

It really did [help], it definitely did. I mean, half of the emotions and experiences that I had, was because I wasn’t being open. I wasn’t being honest, and I wasn’t sharing what I was doing with anybody. I spent the majority of last year struggling, really painfully and constantly, and keeping it myself. I had this really difficult complex to overcome where you know, as much as I am aware that I’m human and I have bad days, and I was living a life and a dream that I would have never thought would happen and I am so grateful and appreciative for that, but at the same time it was kind of impossible under these circumstances to enjoy it one hundred percent of the time. That was really difficult for me, and instead of kind of dealing with that and overcoming that, I just bottled it up and kept it to myself for a very long time.

You know, that kind of manifesting under the stress and pressure of writing this record, it all became too much and I just kind of broke down, I cried a lot and I went and saw a therapist, and tried to figure myself out and make myself better again. But it took a whole lot, and you can hear all about that in a couple of these songs, so it hugely impacted us as a band. It’s also a way that this method of songwriting could fix me as a person. I guess it really helped me to get better to create these songs.

I also saw the other day you posted an acoustic version of you playing “Okay” all alone, and you said on Twitter it was a ‘frightening and super emotional experience’. What made you want to perform the track in such a raw and stripped back way?

I mean, every time it comes to the point where we feel like we need to bring a message to these songs, and as an acoustic song, we never want to play [them] exactly the way they were. These songs should be reworked in a certain way and when it came to it, I felt like it was appropriate, but everyone else equally thought it was appropriate that the song was just me with an acoustic guitar, and as a singer-songwriter being professional and vulnerable.

It’s interesting because “Okay” influenced a lot of songs on the record, but like you said it’s kind of how we have these upbeat songs with these very pessimistic lyrics and a lot of the time it doesn’t get conveyed because of the nature of these melodies. They sound so up-tempo and so positive that sometimes it’s the messages of these songs that get lost.

I mean, the hurt that was in these lyrics becomes magnified when you perform it so stripped back like that. So because that’s such an honest song, to perform it with nowhere to run…when we perform I tend to throw my body around in all kinds of directions and feed off the crowd, and when you can’t do either it was like I felt when I was able to face my feelings and emotions for the first time. There was nowhere to run, there was nowhere to hide, and it was just dealing with them. I guess it feels like that all over again performing it that way.

Since you worked with producer Mike Green, who has worked with the likes of pop-punk legends such as All Time Low, was there a different approach when making the album compared to your past releases because you were working with a seasoned producer?

Working with Mike was much different this time than working with our previous producers. With the songs that we brought in to Mike, he hugely impacted on not even the songs we wrote in the studio – we wrote three or four songs from scratch with Mike – but even the songs that we didn’t write in the studio with Mike, he had a huge amount of impact on them, and we all feel that made them better as songs. But working with a songwriter and a producer who we respect and admire so much, was a really awesome experience and something we learned a lot from, and it improved the songs more than anything. We really can’t thank him enough for his work on this record.

If we could talk about the album cover itself for a second, it’s very eye-catching and reminiscent of vintage pop-punk covers for Blink-182 and Green Day. Could you tell us a bit about the choice for the cover?

Certainly! I mean what we have always done as a band has been writing positive-sounding songs with lyrics that are very vulnerable, very dark and very painful, and we wanted an image that could represent that better than we have in the past to represent that duality.

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What interests me so much from drawing from 1950’s culture; you know, that as a zeitgeist, it was just so reflective of a few things as well. Superficially, there was all this optimism that was being sold or artificially conveyed, because there was so much underlying fear at the time.

You can kind of see the correlation now in this day age, with the politicians of the world that we have right now, society and the way it is, I think the kind of way social media operates; that we have our ideal versions of ourselves that we put on our Instagram, or our Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook, when really, we are more complicated, more troubled as people than we advertise. That’s kind of how the 1950’s felt, for me it seems, but also it was kind of what the songs represent, how they sound, what they’re like, so that’s why we’ve chosen that image and that artwork.

So very soon you’re about to come back on tour in Australia, with this new album cycle what differences can we see from the last tour?

I mean we’re going to be playing so many of these songs live for the very first time, which is so exciting and we can’t wait to do that. But more so, we had such an amazing time when were there for the first-time last year, and we’re looking forward to it again; to see familiar faces, but also new faces again. We’re hugely looking forward to it, it’s going to be an awesome time for us to perform the album for the very first time. It will be so new for [us], I’ll probably be forgetting the words (Laughs) so we’ll see!

I know you’re good friends with the boys from With Confidence, and Undercast and Between You and Me are about to support you guys on tour. What’s been something you’ve taken away from experiencing the Aussie band scene first-hand?

Yeah! We have a few awesome Australian friends from bands like With Confidence and Trophy Eyes, and I don’t know, it’s just a really lovely mindset. I feel Australians are just so cool with life, everyone is just kind of optimistic and positive, there’s just this over-ruling positive energy when you’re around Australians. I love it, I’m so excited to see everyone again, and some of the Australian bands we’ve met are some of our favourite people in our lives. So yeah, it’s hugely exciting.

If you don’t mind me asking, I know that you’re very open about being straight-edge and have been for a few years. Since the kind of stereotypical tour lifestyle, especially from what we’ve seen on Warped Tour and such, seems to involve a lot of alcohol and drugs, has this impacted on or changed your own touring experience?

Certainly, it’s interesting…I guess I don’t have the experience of drinking and doing drugs to compare it to. It’s not like I ever did them in the past and that stopped or it’s the same, it’s just always been the way I’ve lived my life. As much as I’m kind of in an environment surrounded by that lifestyle, it’s who I am and who I enjoy being. But yeah, with being straight-edge you’re usually the minority, and the majority of people are drinking or doing drugs.

It’s interesting because it takes a lot of finding solace in yourself and being true to yourself. I mean, I didn’t use to have the confidence or the comfort that I do now of just being myself and saying no to things, but there’s really no temptation for me and also not much of a disrespect [from others] for my choices. I’m almost always surrounded by people that respect my decision and we’re able to co-exist…I don’t know, there are many times that I’ve been formed bonds with people that are all straight-edge, but there are bonds I have that with people who aren’t straight edge. I mean, it would be a pretty boring life if I only had three best friends in my life. It’s interesting, but I think the biggest downside of it all is that I get stuck with a lot of the night driving because I’m always the sober one! (Laughs)

In Australia you’d be known as the “deso” driver!

(Laughs) Yeah that sounds right! In America that’s always me. Yeah, I’m the “deso” of the group.

Looking back, obviously you come from having a strong YouTube background to forming this band. What would be something you would say to your past self when you were just about to start forming As It Is?

I think if I could reassure myself that would be it. Otherwise, I think it would be to remain true to myself and ourselves as a band. When you’re a band you’re constantly comparing yourself to the other bands that are growing faster or growing slower than you; sometimes you become so fixated and hyper-aware of all these other bands and other individuals, and their choices of what is working and what isn’t for them. Being true to yourself and kind of allowing us to be who we are and represent who we are, has worked out better than to copy or emulate any other band ever has for us.  So I would just be reassuring myself that kind of being true to yourself and believing in yourself, is the biggest service you can possibly do.

Aside from the release of the album and upcoming tour, what do you have in store for the rest of the year?

We just have a whole lot of touring! We’re putting the record out on January 20th, when we first leave for Japan and come across directly to Australia after that…throughout the year we’re basically perpetually and indefinitely on tour. So we’re as excited as we can be for that, I love being on tour. It’s going to be really fun.

Thankyou so much for your time Patty, best of luck for the album release and can’t wait to see you on tour!

Thank you so much, we’ll see you there!

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Okay is set to be released on January 20th via Fearless Records.

You can catch As It Is on tour early next year:

January 31st – YMCA HQ, Perth AA | TICKETS
February 1st – Rosemount Hotel, Perth 18+ | TICKETS
February 2nd – The Brightside, Brisbane 18+ | TICKETS
February 3rd – The Lab, Brisbane AA | TICKETS
February 4th – The Lair, Sydney 18+ | TICKETS
February 5th – The Lair, Sydney AA | TICKETS
February 7th – Drone, Newcastle AA | TICKETS
February 10th – Evelyn Hotel, Melbourne 18+ | TICKETS
February 11th – Evelyn Hotel, Melbourne AA | TICKETS
February 12th – Fowler’s Live, Adelaide AA | TICKETS