“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, more unashamed conversation about illnesses that affect not only individuals, but their families as well.” – Glenn Close.
Despite this modern age’s ability to unabashedly talk openly about a variety of subjects, we still find an alarmingly resilient silence surrounding mental health. At the very approach of the topic, we shut down, close out, and wave off the conversation with pejorative statements that never fail to end with “you should lighten up.” We change the subject over and over again, laughing off obvious signs of crying for help with sometimes even sicker jokes or falling on the deaf ears of the blatantly ignorant. Hell, insurance companies won’t even cover the costs of taking care of mental health. We treat the subject of mental health as if it’s the monster hiding in the closet and that by chaining our acknowledgment and words, we’re somehow chaining it in.
I never thought that I’d really see the day where a pop-rock band would tackle such a subject that pertains to me and millions of others with such heartfelt ambition and catchy riffs, but here I stand before you with Texas’s very own Nominee, a band that’s fearlessly kicking open the doors of our conversational wards through candid verses and sunny, punctual instrumentation.
The pop-rock quartet’s formation peculiarly begins in 2014 at the epicenter of post-hardcore and metalcore revival: Texas. Former I Call Fives member Chris Mclelland partnered up with Andrew Exchavarria (formerly of Thieves), Cameron Kisel, and Stephen Flynn to collectively pour their blood, sweat, and tears into their writing, drawing influences from their own personal tribulations, trials, and triumphs.
But hard work doesn’t produce results overnight, as the band has spent nearly 3 years and an innumerable amount of hours slaving away at their work, writing fresh poppy vibes and gritty, beat-up alternative instrumentations that culminate into their shining, pristine, and state-of-the-art release Drag Me Out, which Mclelland describes as a collaborative effort in a record about “admitting that you’re not okay and trusting someone enough to tell them.”
“The record is about admitting that you’re not okay and trusting someone enough to tell them. We collaborate on all of our songs. Usually one of us will bring an idea to the table to get the wheels turning and we’ll go from there. Musically, ‘Drag Me Out’ is a reflection of who we are as a band.“
Drag Me Out, which releases in 20 days, chronicles different individual segments and snapshots within a greater all-American story of personal challenges within mental health, beginning with “Stay,” a track that recounts a still-frame moment in the life-long motion picture of Mclelland’s battles with Bipolar Disorder.
“When I was 17 I was diagnosed with Bi Polar disorder. As a naïve teenager, all I knew was that I was given a bunch of medications that made me feel like a zombie and that they scared the hell out of me. At the time, I didn’t really get the disorder or how the mind had so much control over the body. So, after months of questioning it, I stopped taking the medications and spent the next 13 years burying it, pretending that I was fine. Embarrassed, I continued to hide it, ruining friendships, bands and several dead end jobs while ignoring the real problem. This song is about trusting someone enough to tell them everything, knowing they’ll stay.”
And if there’s one thing that Nominee so brilliantly conveys in their music, it’s the raw realities from which these songs stem from- dazzling, fist-pounding, air-punching riffs and rhythmics only sink their messages in deeper and deeper into the depths and folds within your brain as you helpessly shout and jam along.
But Nominee doesn’t just stop at bringing the broader spectrum of mental health to the proverbial table, they also actively practice community involvement. The band partnered up for their latest release, “Retrospect,” with Hope For the Day, an organization that achieves proactive suicide prevention by providing outreach and mental health education through self-expression platforms (including but not limited to music). In the music video for “Retrospect” individuals begin throwing away items into a fire pit relieving them of something of their past. The track is about revolting in to a new you and rediscovering one’s self after overcoming hardship. But “Retrospect,” does more than take an introspective look at Mclelland’s internal struggles, it’s also a reflective & reflexive track with a message for those who continue to struggle:
“You’ve got to have some perspective to appreciate the good in your life. Retrospect is about looking at your life from a distance and finding a silver lining; sometimes that’s what you need to let go.“
And if learning to let go involves such gorgeous, jangly melodic hooks, then consider me signed up for life.
It should be no surprise to you as to why we’ve selected Nominee as our Rookie Of the Week: powerful messages that begat powerful musicality that begat powerful community outreach and forward movement. Sure, there are plenty of artists that wondrously entangle their ideologies within their musical genius, but there aren’t many out there that do it as well as Nominee. Their penchant for punctual and pervasive musicality is just one way to describe the soaring melodies, infectious hooks, and upbeat dragged-and-worn mentality and aural explosions. Their artistry lies in their inate ability to create profoundly new music through the eyes of very old souls. In a world where things seem to be on a backwards-oriented sliding scale, Nominee continues to make graceful strives in pushing forward, and it’s this committment that makes us proud to call them our Rookie Of the Week.