Thursday, December 1, 2016

Copeland career-spanning NOW/THEN rebirth tour hits Boston

Florida natives, Copeland, have been sharing their brand of soothing piano rock for nearly two decades. While the band recently came off of an extensive hiatus and released their latest album, Ixora, in 2014, there hasn’t been much in the way of touring for the band. Until now.

On December 5, the band makes its headlining return to Boston to play the Middle East upstairs. The tour is called the NOW/THEN tour, and shows the band accompanied by a three-piece string section, performing 27 songs from its five-album, and 15-year career.

“This is the most ambitious set we’ve ever done,” said guitarist, Bryan Laurenson, “also probably the longest we’ve ever done.” Laurenson explained that the drive to make a return to touring came out of the process of working on Ixora, when the band had a bit of a reawakening.

Copeland spent the majority of its career signed to Tooth & Nail Records, but when its contract was due to expire, the band decided to call it a day and break up. For Laurenson, this was the end of the band.

“When we broke up, it was a real break up,” Laurenson said. “It was amicable, but we had no plans to do anything together again.”

Laurenson explains that after his new project, States, found great success with a crowdfunding effort in 2013, he realized there might be interest in a new Copeland album. So Laurenson approached the rest of the band, which consists of Aaron Marsh on vocals and piano, his brother, Stephen Laurenson, on guitars, Bobby Walker on bass, and Jonathan Bucklew on drums.

Arguably, the trademark of Copeland’s sound is Aaron Marsh’s calming and beautiful vocals. Marsh always finds a way to meet the chaos and corruption of the world with his unique sense of positivity and repose. This came through perfectly on Ixora, which was Copeland’s first album in six years. The album was also announced on April Fool’s Day in 2014, much to the bewilderment of many fans, but fans who were simply excited to heat their favorite band had reformed.

“It may be the coolest thing about being in a band—knowing that something we create is making an emotional connection with its listeners,” Laurenson said. “Aaron is a man of hope, so that’s a major constant in our music.”

Ixora is a flower found in some Asian cultures and Marsh, who took to horticulture a great deal during the band’s hiatus, became enamored with the flower and it soon became the genesis for the band’s rebirth.

“Coming back from the dead, there were no expectations,” Laurenson said, “we just wanted to make the music we wanted to make.” Laurenson explained how the band took two months to write and record Ixora, and then took two weeks to make a companion piece called, Twin.

Twin, when played alongside Ixora creates a quadrophonic listening experience for the album. The two listens are possible independently, yet, this dual experience makes for one of the most dynamic ways to experience Copeland.

“It was liberating,” Laurenson said of the marathon-like experience of creating both Ixora and Twin. “It was the smoothest record we ever made, no restrictions, and lots of freedom—it changed our mindset on how to make a record.”

But even with the record, the band had no other plans beyond self-releasing Ixora.

“We weren’t going to be a band,” Laurenson said, “we were just going to make an album. But we were slowly thinking of shows, and then Anberlin asked us to their last two shows. So we did them and it was a lot of fun.”

Copeland was back—to a degree.

And then the band received an offer that was too good to turn down—open for Paramore’s 2015 spring tour. Laurenson explained that Paramore’s first-ever gig was opening for Copeland back in 2003 at a dive bar in Florida, while Haley Williams was still only 13 years old. This tour was a way for Copeland to reach a different audience and to play more seated venues, which perfectly fits their vibe.

“Slowly we realized that this was snowballing into something we weren’t anticipating,” Laurenson said, as the band eventually had to have the relationship talk of ‘so, what is this?’ Copeland has already started the writing process for a new album, and Laurenson assured that the band plans on moving forward together as a creative unit.

“We’ve talked about 2017 being more intentional and having more of a game plan, having goals, forecasting the future more than just rolling down a hill.”

For the NOW/THEN tour, Copeland has chosen a number of tracks from their entire catalog, which includes 2003’s Beneath Medicine Tree, 2005’s In Motion, 2006’s Eat, Sleep, Repeat, 2008’s You are my Sunshine, and 2014’s Ixora.

“This is as nostalgic as we’ll get,” Laurenson said, “it’s a tip of the hat to our history as a band. We wanted to celebrate each record as a whole and do a tour that was more progressive and expansive.”
“We didn’t want to do a money-grab and just play an old record.”

Laurenson gave the caveat that this might be the last time for many fans to hear some songs because the band plans on retiring a number of the older tracks as the band moves into the future.

Make sure to check out Copeland on Monday, December 5 at The Middle East. Tickets are $20 in advance and at the door. And check out Ixora, as well as the rest of the band’s catalog on Spotify, and through the band’s website,

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Healthy Dose, 009: Eat well and cheap!

Eating well is hard. Eating well while on a budget is perhaps much harder.
However, it doesn’t need to be this way.

During my college years, I found ways to eat well and save money at the same time. Some of this took a lot of discipline, but most of it took finding what types of foods I preferred when I listened to my body and realized that some foods weren’t good for me.

And let’s face it, a lot of the foods we prefer aren’t always the best for us. BUT tastes can be acquired and change over time. So I hope sharing some of my suggestions for eating better will help you all.

Let’s start with the eating well side of this article.

Some easy snacks
The following is a list of quick and easy snacks that can give you energy throughout your day.
- Rice cakes
- KIND bars
- Clif Bars
- Baby carrots
- Bananas
- Granola and yogurt
- Bagels
- Grapes
- Mixed nuts
- Watermelon
- Apples

Prioritize fruits and veggies
Yes, I’m a health and wellness specialist. So yes, I’m supposed to say this to you. But also yes, I live this aspect of my advice. I love fruits and I love veggies. I eat them every day. They truly are very good for you. They’re also very accessible as snacks! So load up a baggy of baby carrots, an apple, some grapes, some celery sticks, and hummus to dip them in, and you have some easy snacks for your day.

Stay away from Top Ramen packets
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know. It’s cheap, it’s accessible, and it’s pretty tasty. BUT those packets are loaded with sodium. So if you aren’t exercising regularly, you run the risk of doing some damage to your heart by prioritizing ramen in your diet. Instead, buy a bag of potatoes and make some baked potatoes, or homemade mashed potatoes. Much healthier, less sodium, still cost-effective.

Now, for the cheap side of this article.

Food stamps
If you are a working college student, apply for food stamps. These are also known as SNAP benefits, and a quick online search will get you on your way to receiving them.

I was on food stamps two times during college and they helped me out tremendously when I needed them. All I can suggest is at least applying for them. The minimum requirements often request that you work at least 20 hours per week, confirm your employment, and be enrolled in college full-time. You will need

With food stamps, you can get up to $200 per month, depending on your situation (i.e. family, children, roommates), to put towards the food and beverages that you

Pro-tip: when applying, make sure to make it clear that you do not share food with your roommates, but instead that you buy your own food for yourself. This is important. Also, if you even try to alcohol with food stamps, they can get revoked.

Pack your lunch/snacks
You will be able to save much more money in the long run if you make the effort to pack your food/snacks for the day ahead of time. Even if it’s something you will need to microwave once you get to campus, you can find microwaves in most of the dining centers on campus.

I pack my fruits, rice cakes, granola bars, and an occasional sandwich every morning and it helps me refrain from spending money that I don’t need to spend on campus. The best part about fruits and veggies as snacks is that they’re cheap. Instead of paying $2 for a candy bar, you’re paying $2 for a two-pound bag of baby carrots that can last you a week! It’s like magic.

There you go! I wish you the best of luck in taking this step into eating better and saving money along the way!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Healthy Dose, 008: Get Better Sleep

In which I give some tips on how to achieve some better sleep during college

I’ve been lucky to meet a lot of students since starting my job in February—many of which have a common response when I ask, “how are you doing?” They, “I’m tired.” Or, “I didn’t sleep well last night.” Or, “it’s too early—please stop talking to me.”

That last one is a personal favorite of mine.

At many of my campus talks, I ask every student in attendance how much sleep they get in an average night—the recommended amount is of course 7-8 hours per night. Yet, not many students claim coming close to that amount—which is very understandable, given the workload many students have.

However, it’s no secret that I’m a morning person. But I did not used to be this way. It took lots of effort to recognize that I function much better first thing in the morning, well-rested, and eager for the day—instead of exhausted from the day, and pushing myself to stay awake even though I was ready for bed hours ago.

When I made the switch to being a morning person, I knew I had to make some other changes in my life as well. These changes transformed the way I eat, function, and thrive throughout the day. Granted, many of these changes are gradual and cannot be done all at once. So I suggest seeing what can work for you.

Put the coffee down:
At least as the day drags on, begin lessening your caffeine intake. If you can limit yourself to one cup in the morning, or early afternoon—that should be enough. Believe it or not, the energy boost you can get is from fresh fruits and water. Caffeine has a 6-hour half-life, so if you’re drinking it later in the evening, it can stay in your system and disrupt any chance of sleep you might have had. Transition to tea in the midday, or focus solely on water to make this transition possible.

Exercise during the day:
I suggest starting your day with some form of exercise—biking, walking, running, lifting weights. Something that will get your body moving. This will kick-start your endorphins and give you some solid energy for your day, and slowly you will need less and less caffeine, and you’ll come home ready for rest after a long day.

Turn off your screens:
Many students I talk with claim that the last thing they do before bed has something to do with looking at some sort of screen—TV, phone, iPad, etc. Again, understandable. Netflix is a hot commodity these days—even though I remember the days when it wasn’t a streaming platform. Yet, many studies have shown that looking at screens before bed is greatly decreasing the quality of good REM sleep—so it’s important to supplement something else if you need stimulation before bed.

I suggest either reading a book (traditional Kindle readers are okay for this since many have dimmed displays), listening to music, or, if you’re feeling frisky, even having sex before bed is a pretty good way to ensure some comfortable rest. Sex often reduces stress because it also releases endorphins, which are comforting for the brain. The Berman Center in Michigan found that sex before bed can often lead to less chances for insomnia and offers deeper sleep.

Early to bed, early to rise:
Creating a routine of getting to be before midnight is a good way to transition yourself into becoming a morning person. And then work to 11pm, or even 10pm if you feel the need to do so. And start waking up earlier—7am, or 6:30am, or 5:30am. When you train your body in these ways, your resetting your internal clock, which allows you to function better in those early morning hours instead of having to stay up late cramming for a test. Or, having to stay up late writing—with a tired brain that may not be creating your best work.

None of this stuff is easy—but I can strongly suggest that if better sleep is a priority for you, please take these lifestyle changes into consideration and give it a shot! Making some of these changes will take finding out what works for you, your body, and your schedule. But it’s all totally doable.

I’m always available to chat about how to initiate these changes into your life in a comfortable and desirable manner, so let me know if you need a little extra support! 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Healthy Dose 007: Creating a Mental Health Support Network

In which I discuss a major aspect of social wellness and mental health on college campuses.

Note: This article originally appeared in the Mass Media at UMass Boston.

Stress is a natural aspect of college. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but there are many ways to balance your stress to make sure you take care of everything on your plate.

However, our mental health is one aspect of our lives that often gets ignored when we get stressed. And to me, there is no excuse for not taking care of your mental health—no matter how busy you get, this should be a major priority for you.

Making your mental health a priority is important because if you let it slip for even a few weeks, you may find yourself in an irreversible struggle to reclaim control.

While discussing mental health is pretty taboo in some cultures—and still pretty stigmatized here in America—I argue that we must be willing to discuss what is going on with our brains in order to find some form of relief from the grief our brains can cause us.

Stress tends to complicate our mental health when we aren’t taking the best care of ourselves. So getting busy means we often leave the things that are important to us behind for the sake of simply trying to complete an assignment, a paper, or to study for an exam.

It’s okay to ask for help if you are struggling with depression, anxiety, and/or stress. And I’m going to explain some simple ways to create a mental health support network.

The easiest way to ask for help is to reach out to your friends—those closest to you. Your friend group is the best way to create your own support network. Be willing to say, “Hey, I just need to talk with someone right now. I’m not feeling great about myself right now.” If your friend is a good friend, they will listen.

Now, if you’re a friend who is being confided in, please listen.

Listen to the needs of your friends. Do not write off their struggles or desire for support as an annoyance or prying into your life. Do not make your friend seem like an inconvenience. Sure, mental health issues do tend to arise at inconvenient times, but that’s no reason to treat your friends—those who trust you—as if they are an inconvenience to you.

If you know any of the coping strategies of your friend in need, suggest those things! Offer to make your friend some tea, or dinner, or simply watch some Netflix. Try anything that will help a friend relax during periods when their depression or stress might be acting up.

If many of your friends are in another state or country, utilize social media! Skype with friends and family and maintain those relationships that bring you joy. These little moments of connection can mean the world to folks who live a stressful life. I know it helps me to Skype with my best friends back in Oregon, or those who have moved all over the country. It’s always nice to escape my reality for a moment and relax with a familiar face or voice.

If you are a writer, use a blog, Twitter, or Facebook, and share your struggles. This is something I do regularly just so that I can lend a face to what it looks like when people live with depression and anxiety. I’m a pretty enthusiastic and fun-loving dude, but sometimes my brain likes to trick me into thinking otherwise.

So I share these moments.

I do this so that others know they aren’t alone if they struggle with these issues as well. And it opens the door for folks to reach out to me if they need someone to talk with about what’s going on in their lives.

Being willing to open up about what’s going on in your life can help you tremendously and it can help those in your life to know that none of us are alone in this struggle with mental health.

Reach out to your friends when you need a break from studying or writing a paper. Do something creative together, go to a concert, or find an exercise buddy! Or just talk it out.

Don’t have any available friends? Well, this is where I come in! I’m available to chat with you anytime you need some support or a bit of affirmation amid your chaotic days. My office is in the third floor of the Campus Center, suite 3407.

Feel free to drop in any time if you just want to talk.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Keep You - Tattoosday Memorial

This post originally appeared on the Art of Survival.

My dad died one year ago today.

Exactly one year ago yesterday, I was in Portland, Oregon, digging through records at Everyday Music and Music Millennium because that morning, my father, Wayne Bidiman, told me to go have some fun on my last day in Oregon.

See, I had just flown out to Oregon from Boston a week earlier because my mom told me that dad's health had taken a turn for the worst. I was unemployed, depressed, and struggling to find work. So I didn't have the money to drop on a cross country plane ticket to get home. Luckily, I have some amazing friends and family members who fronted the money for me.

The trip was weird. I hadn’t been home in 10 months, so to go home with the purpose of saying goodbye to my father felt odd. I showed up, he seemed fine, and we laughed a lot.

He still felt immortal to me.

For those who don’t know my father, he was a train of a man. Wayne the Train—that’s what me and some of my friends call him. He survived lung cancer two times before this, 4 heart attacks, a stroke (or two?), diastolic heart failure, deep vein thrombosis in his legs, sleep apnea, diabetes, and whatever else was thrown his way.

I actually have no real memories of my father being healthy.

But the dude never complained. Not that I ever heard.

I would ask him, “how you doing today, Wayne?”
He’d often respond, “I’m surviving.”

So that’s how I respond to people when they ask me how I’m doing.
It’s something that has stuck with me over the years.

He never complained but we could tell he was in pain.

As the days went by, I watched him slowly deteriorate. I would spend chunks of the day asking him about mortality, and what it felt like to be on the way out. And he was very honest with me. Then again, that was never anything new. He was a quiet man, but when he spoke, we listened.

He told me, "don't worry about death, sweetheart. Worry about living a good life." Dude lived a good life—he was on the cusp of his 74th birthday, and had no regrets.

We tried to keep him comfortable, but as a large man with weak legs, it was hard for him to get around those final days. He kept telling me I didn’t need to worry about him—which was ridiculous. But I always listened to my father, so I tried my best not to worry.

But those final days were definitely filled with doubt about how long he’d truly be around.

Music has always been present in my family—granted, it wasn’t necessarily the punk, hardcore, post-rock, etc. that I listen to today. BUT I was exposed to a lot of Beach Boys, Elvis, Conway Twitty, and my dad’s favorite, Marty Robbins.

Dad used to spin his old records when I was growing up, but that’d before I really cared about vinyl or really knew what they meant. Yet, for the last three years or so, I’ve become quite the vinyl collector. One of my dad’s favorite records is Gunfight Ballads, by Marty Robbins. It’s an old one—somewhat uncommon in the used shops, where most of the Marty Robbins pieces are those missing his crowning accomplishment, “El Paso.” But Gunfighter Ballads is full of songs that I remember because dad always played the album for me and used to tell me the stories behind all of the songs.

I grew up listening to Marty Robbins. He was a storyteller in his music. And I am also a storyteller in my music. Strange how that works!

So, back my last day in Oregon during that final week with my dad when he told me to go have some fun with my friends. So I went up to Portland and had brunch with a few friends and went record shopping at Music Millennium and Everyday Music. In a stroke of brilliant serendipity, I came across a used copy of Gunfighter Ballads for $1. I was stoked! I knew this would put a smile on dad’s face on my last day with him.

I also came across the album, Destrier, by Agent Fresco—which was one of my favorite albums of last year, and it is actually album about losing someone—so stumbling upon it was pretty cool, and it’s still the ONLY TIME I have ever seen it in the wild. So I bought it as well.

And as I left Music Millennium, where I apparently had no cell phone reception, I was flooded with text messages and missed calls from my siblings.

I knew what they were going to say without even checking them.
So I immediately drove back to Salem to be with the family.

When I got back home, I walked in with the records in my hand and showed the Marty Robbins piece to my dad—he was pretty lethargic at this point, but when he saw the cover, he immediately knew what it was. I saw a smile form on his mouth and he told me it was “a good one.” Always one to downplay how he really felt.

After that, he didn’t say much for the rest of the night. Just a few nods. Some creaky smiles. And eventually, he quietly, and without complaint, passed away.

Now, to the tattoo—I got this specific picture of my dad tattooed (in neo-traditional style) on my calf because it is an image of my father that was always on our wall when I was growing up.

The image is of my father’s 1959 Army enlistment photo. It’s old. Dude was old.

It’s one of those images that has been cemented in my brain since childhood. So I wanted to immortalize this on my skin. I got the tattoo while in Massachusetts almost a year before he died, so he was able to see it the couple times I flew home before he died.

He said it was his favorite tattoo of mine. I have many of them. And clearly he was biased!

The banner reads, “KEEP YOU,” which is an homage to the Pianos Become the Teeth album of the same name. The album is the third in a trilogy of the band’s lead singer processing the loss of his own father. Keep You is the absolution from the loss. A light at the end of the grief experience.

This album features a track titled, “Repine” (video above). And in the song, there is a line that repeats, “Your wick won’t burn away, your wick won’t burn away.” This line has stuck with me ever since I first heard it. And at this point, my partner has even gotten sick of me singing it.

But the line is so important to me. It’s the idea that the memory of my father’s life will never fade away. No matter how much I grow up now that he’s gone, he will always live on with me and I will continue to burn on in his memory.

Check out the original version of the song, "Farewell, My Father,"
by clicking this image of my first album, Into the Fire.

Music has always given me a release. I'm a pretty outgoing and fun-loving guy, but my music is where things get a little more serious, real, and sad. But I need that release.

Six years ago, I wrote a song for my dad. It is called, “Farewell, My Father.” It’s an instrumental song. For someone that loves words and uses LOTS of them, I had no words for this song. I wrote it shortly after dad’s lung cancer appeared the second time and I had no idea what to write. So I kept it void of words. Ever since writing the song, it became one of my favorites to start off my live sets.

The song structure mirrors the progression of my emotions regarding the news of my dad’s condition. Give it a listen above!

I titled it, “Farewell, My Father” all those years ago because it felt like my farewell to him—even though he was still there with me. But over all the years he struggled with his health, I felt like I was slowly losing him and this song was there with me to keep me somewhat comforted in those fleeting times.

It wasn’t until that final week with my dad that I finally had to say farewell to my father.

The album art for my new EP, Farewell.
Photo: Katy Weaver. Art direction: Nevan Doyle

So, I’ve written an EP for my father.
It is called, Farewell.

Farewell was successfully crowdfunded by over 150 people and we raised over $6,000 to make sure that we could press this album on vinyl, which has sort of been a dream of mine.

The overwhelming support has made me feel pretty great about releasing this new project as an homage to his memory. This will be another form of creating a permanent fixture of my memory of my father. The music will live on even after I’ve died. Weird to think about, but valid and somewhat enlivening.

Farewell will feature five tracks.

It will include the first song I was able to write about my father that actually contained words. This song is called, "Active Ghosts," (you can see a live video of me performing it above), and it focuses on my regrets with my relationship with my father. It also centers on his strength as a man who never gave up, and what I learned from being around that strength.

There is also a pretty personal spoken word piece that focuses on a number of aspects of my relationship with my father. I wrote it rather quickly, but made some edits along the way, and it serves to connect all of the other songs together.

Another song encompasses my struggles with depression and suicidality, explicitly through the lens of dealing with the loss of my father. This song serves as an interlude for the EP, in which I ask the listener to be proud of your survival in life. A lyric in this song is represented on the shirt you can snag!

The final track on the album will be a remake of “Farewell, My Father,” which I’m simply retitling, “Farewell,” for this release. I always had the vision that this song would be bigger and more expansive. But I never had the abilities or wherewithal until now. Adding multiple elements to the song has made it completely come alive to me. And I am so glad that we decided to end the EP with it.

The Farewell EP actually features a spoken word cover of “Enamor Me,” by Pianos Become the Teeth. I am covering this track because it is the track on the Keep You album that most reminds me of my relationship with my father. It's full of minor details that fill up memories, many that I try to reflect in my own writing. It also carries a weight of reflection that feels both jovial and tragic.

The repetition of the line, “I don’t feel any closer to you here,” stands out to me so much because it’s a tragic line—it’s a line that reminds me that even though I continue to live with the memories of my father, I will never be any closer to him. I may be able to feel his existence in my life, but I will never see him again.

Losing someone is never easy and it feels even harder when it's someone that has given you a home and a family and brought you into the world. Granted, I am adopted, but my father never treated me like anything less than his own son and for that, I am eternally grateful.

All in all, music has been an integral part of how I process grief, and tattoos are how I mark that grief into permanence. Tattoos are essential to my identity. They tell my story, and I love sharing these stories with people because why else would I put them into my skin? If you aren’t willing to share your ink stories, then why do you have them?

At least, that’s my perspective. I know some people are much more reserved than me when it comes to sharing personal information, but I figure if I’m willing to share, perhaps more people will be willing to do so in the future.

I’m in a much different place than I was a year ago when my dad was deteriorating. I am no longer unemployed. My depression still comes and goes, but it’s incredibly manageable—especially because of the artistic ventures I’ve been busy with lately. The music helps, the painting helps. Work helps. It’s helped me pass the time.

While I haven’t been back home since dad died, there are moments when I deeply miss him. And I’m genuinely unsure what it will be like when I go home for the first time. But I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. Chances are, I will struggle with the true reality of him being gone. But through this tattoo, and through my music, I can keep him as close to me as possible.

Thanks for reading, friends.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Someone You Love is Gone

a Review of Touché Amoré’s new album, “Stage Four”

Over the last decade, the realm of punk and post-hardcore has been carried on the shoulders of the scene’s champions of spastic riffs and drilling blast beats.

The band is fresh off a multi-year hiatus after touring the release of their previous 2013 triumph, the atmospheric and vibrant, …Is Survived By.

In chatting with one of the band’s guitarists, Clayton Stevens, he explained how the time off was exactly what the band needed.

“Personally, it was a really good thing to do,” Stevens said, “We grew up on the road together so it was nice to settle down a little bit and grow a little bit.”

There was a time where the band was seemingly touring nonstop, so it was clear that group made a point to take some time off before hitting the studio again.

“It was nice to establish a home life and grow as people,” Stevens said, “so making music again was incredibly refreshing and fun—the time flew by and we were just excited to be together doing it again.”

Stevens explained how early on in the band’s career, being on the road was their inspiration, but life got very real during the band’s brief hiatus.

Lead singer and scene-god, Jeremy Bolm, lost his mother to cancer on the night of Halloween in 2014. Bolm has a penchant for being confessional in his lyrics—so the only expectation for the new album, Stage Four, was that the vulnerability would turn up to 11.

The opening track, “Flowers and You,” starts the album with a wash of clean guitars reminiscent of “Ripple Water Shine” on Pianos Become the Teeth’s Keep You album, which is also about the loss of a parent. But quickly thereafter, the distortion and comforting chaos of guitarists, Stevens and Nick Steinhardt, welcome us to another vibrant Touché Amoré record.

This is an important first track because it sets the stage for how Bolm presents the processing of his grief—lines like, “I am heartsick and well-rehearsed—highly decorated with a badge that reads, ‘it could be worse,’” “I am homesick and living in the past,” and “I took inventory of what I took for granted and I ended up with more than I imagined.”

Bolm doesn’t relent in terms of his unbridled honesty, which is a common thread throughout Stage Four—not only lyrically, but also musically, as the band presents an evolved sound ripe with experimentation and maturation.

Those familiar with Touché were accustomed to a band that released 20-minute albums, and rarely approached the 3-minute mark for a song. Until …Is Survived By, the band had only hit the 3-minute mark once. Stage Four is over 35-minutes in length and features six of eleven songs that are well-over 3 minutes—so this is truly a remarkable exploration for the band.

This is a new Touché Amoré—a well-rested Touché Amoré. And beyond all expectations, it is a more restrained Touché Amoré.

“I really do feel [this album] is a natural evolution,” Stevens said, “not a lot of it was a conscious thing—our main goal was just to make a dynamic record.” Stevens went on to explain how the members of the band listen to very different kinds of music. He said this makes their creative process more interesting because a lot of their writing is created in the moment—so experimenting with a riff or structure is fun for them.

“New Halloween” starts with the powerful line, “somehow it’s already been a year,” a line that resonates with me specifically because exactly a year ago, I lost my father to cancer—so this album was certainly released at a serendipitous time. But that’s the reality of losing a loved one—life does have to continue, and often time passes faster than you realize.

One vibrant moment on the album is something that often goes hand in hand with any music lover who experiences trauma—the act of skipping songs because they’re too hard to hear.

On “New Halloween,” Bolm references “What Sarah Said,” by Death Cab for Cutie, and “I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love,” by Sun Kil Moon—two tracks about losing a loved one that are understandably hard for anyone having lived that sort of loss. But most understandably so for Bolm. This is the sort of detail that makes this album so necessary for those in grief.

Losing a loved one makes you think of the littlest things—flashbacks to the moments you took for granted, immortalizing the things you could’ve said, or simply appreciating the idiosyncrasies of the person you love.

These details make an album live forever. Stage Four is full of these details.

You can order the deluxe vinyl package of "Stage Four,"
complete with a 36-page booklet and 4 kiss-cut sticker sheets
to create your own album art. The deluxe also comes with a
blue 7" of the "Palm Dreams" single with the b-side,
"Gather." It's an incredible deal.

You can order the deluxe vinyl package of "Stage Four," complete with a 36-page booklet and 4 kiss-cut sticker sheets to create your own album art. The deluxe also comes with a blue 7" of the "Palm Dreams" single with the b-side, "Gather." It's an incredible deal.

The band erupts into “Rapture,” which carries perhaps the bands catchiest chorus to date—one that carries the remorse of feeling selfish for the comfort we can feel when things are going well in our lives amid the struggles of our loved ones.

Yet, the beckoning of the lines, “Like a wave, like the rapture—something you love is gone, someone you love is gone and leaves you fractured.” This was the first moment in the album where I welled up a few tears. It’s this sort of brutal honesty that makes Bolm such an important voice in music today. The reality of loss is universal and yet, we live so much in our heads that we don’t think to share the struggle of such a loss.

But Bolm brandishes vulnerability as his weapon of choice in a battle that may never end.

“Displacement” presents another aspect of the album that finds Bolm’s lyrical approach to the album was to take a deep look at his relationship with his mother’s Christian faith—something he often undercuts with lines like, “You died at 69 with a body full of cancer. I asked your god, ‘how could you?’ But never got an answer.”

Bolm then soon follows up with contemplation on how his mother looking out for him is perhaps her plea for him to keep his faith in something higher—if it even truly exists, something he later quips.

But on “Benediction,” we hear Bolm reckoning with the faith that was clearly very important to his mother. The chorus of the song is an actual benediction, “May the Lord mighty God bless and keep you forever—grant you peace, perfect peace, courage in every endeavor.”

“Benediction" also marks the first moment we hear a Bolm sing in his lower register—a post punk vibe with a hint of Matt Berninger of the National.

Stevens explains that Bolm made the decision to sing on a number of tracks on the album because he simply didn’t feel like yelling over certain parts. Again, this is the sort of detail that shows the band has made many creative strides over the years.

“We’re gonna keep trying to experiment with these sounds,” Stevens said, “doing the same old thing can get boring.”

The most “traditional” Touché track on the album is “Eight Seconds,” which logs in at merely 92 seconds long, and feels as if it would fit comfortably on Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me. The song tells the story of Bolm getting the phone call that his mother had died—it happened while he was performing on stage. This track is perhaps the most heart-breaking for long-time listeners of the band, who know that Bolm lives for the stage, but to realize that he was amid losing his mother at such a powerful moment in his life makes this yet another detail that makes this album so essential.

Touché Amoré is (L to R): Jeremy Bolm (vocals), Clayton Stevens (guitar),
Elliot Babin (drums), Tyler Kirby (bass), Nick Steinhardt (guitar).
Photo: Christian Cordon.
“The band exists as a family together, so we are very involved with each other’s lives,” Stevens said in response to the loss of Bolm’s mother, “so we knew that this was going to be a central topic for this album, and we all wanted to put our best foot forward for how he wants to grieve.”

Since the album centered on the loss of Bolm’s mother, there was a clear concerted effort to support him throughout the process.

“We were doing it all together,” Stevens said, “and [Bolm] was being honest with what he wanted to get out of it.” It is obvious that the process of writing and creating Stage Four was incredibly cathartic for everyone in the band.

“We just approached the album being completely honest with ourselves in the moment.”

This honesty is blatant throughout “Palm Dreams,” which was the lead single from Stage Four, which focuses on Bolm digging through the things in his mother’s home—which, for those of us who follow Bolm on Instagram, he was very open throughout the process of cleaning through his mother’s home—sharing pictures, trinkets, and stories with his followers. It was powerful and eye opening to watch the grieving process in what felt like real time.

The next two tracks, “Softer Spoken” and “Posing Holy” are reminiscent of that traditional relentless hardcore sound of which the band gained its acclaim. “Softer Spoken” finds Bolm searching for some form of peace or absolution from a feeling of being broken. While “Posing Holy” rips through Bolm’s frustrations of faith once again—and trying to reason with the inevitability of loss and despair.

Both of these tracks are pivotal to dictating the emotions that truly connect with loyal listeners of the band. It’s refreshing to hear someone the people we admire validate our struggles and experiences with multiple forms of depression, anxiety and insecurity. It humanizes them and us. It makes us all feel a little less alone in our discomfort. And in that common ground, we are able to find comfort.

We find Bolm’s post-punk croon once again in “Water Damage,” which is a dark horse for my personal favorite track—one that replays a frightful memory of a night when Bolm’s mother took the wrong dose of medication. Having been around a dying parent who has done something similar, it is terrifying to see someone you love in such a disoriented state. The track is gloomy, tragic, and absolutely beautiful and perfect for this album.

The finale of the album is “Skyscraper,” a track that features the fast-rising acclaimed singer songwriter, Julien Baker. “Skyscraper” in its minimalist lyrical approach recounts Bolm’s mother’s dream of visiting New York City one day—something he was able to make happen for her. He wheeled her around the city (something the band re-enacted for the above video). The lines, “you live there—under the lights” echo throughout the track, creating this silo effect of noise and elegance, a phenomenon made possible with the airy teeming of Baker’s vocals with Bolm’s guttural exploit.

Stevens, a fan of Baker’s music, said that the band was virtually determined to find a place for her on the album.

“We were hoping there was a spot for her to be on the album and there was,” Stevens said of the collaboration.

The album is a true triumph of post-hardcore, furthering the genre beyond the landscape that once existed. Stage Four is the banner album for loss, discomfort, anger, frustration, and absolution. The band blends atmospheric and chaotic noise for a well-balanced listen that trumps any of the band’s previous works—an unexpected, but very welcome feat.

Note: Having lost my father exactly a year ago, this album came into my life at what could be considered the perfect time. Much of the commentary of surviving loss and grief is connected to my struggles with losing my own father. He fought lung cancer for 12 years and there were moments—much like those Jeremy references on this album—where we thought we were in the clear in terms of his health. But he never truly recovered. Watching a parent deteriorate is one of the hardest things a person can experience. With this, I hope Jeremy knows he isn't alone in his grieving process. And I thank him for this incredibly important and emotional album.

Touché Amoré is about to hit the road with their old friends in Culture Abuse—a band that released a great new album this year called, Peach, on 6131 records. Peach is an album about resistance and living a chill life in the face of a society that is anything but chill. Culture Abuse embodies the counter culture in their brand of lively punk tunes. Their inclusion on the tour is incredibly apt and will certainly recruit a number of new fans.

The spastic and lively math-rock trio, Tiny Moving Parts, which released its outstanding new album, Celebrate, in May on Triple Crown Records, will also support the tour. Celebrate is certainly an album of the year contender from these Minnesotan party-boys, as it combines mathy grooves with pop punk energy. Tiny Moving Parts puts on one helluva show and sandwiched between Culture Abuse and Touché, this will be a tour full of nonstop action and amazing tunes.

“I am really looking forward to this tour,” Stevens said, “I’m excited to play some new songs out there. Making an album takes so long that by the time an album is completed we are ready to get out there and play some shows.”

Get your tickets fast because you will not want to miss this tour.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Healthy Dose 006: SEX ARCADE!!

In which I preview an exciting new project that I'm working on with my colleagues at UMass Boston!

Welcome back to another school year, friends!

I’m excited to share a very cool initiative that myself and my colleagues at both Wayside Youth Coalition and Harbor Health, as well as the College of Nursing and a grant from the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration have been working on all summer—we’re calling it Sex Arcade.

You read that correctly—Sex. Arcade.

We are gamifying the way you learn about, talk about, and interact with conversation about sex and sexual health. We are expansively including mental health in this game as well, but the name Sex Arcade is just too perfect to pass up.

The point of the Sex Arcade is, like in any arcade, to earn points!

You earn points by simply attending events that we have listed on our awesome website, These events are all related to either sexual health, sexuality, or mental health. Many of them are conversations, but there are also health fairs, guest speakers, performances, and random Q&A sex question tabling events that we will hold all semester.

UMB Sex Talk is the larger umbrella initiative for the Sex Arcade, so whenever you see a poster, banner, or social media post with our UMB Sex Talk logo on it, you know will know that’s us!

The points you earn go toward prizes of which you can redeem your points. The first prize plateau is merely 100 points. These 100 points go toward a raffle ticket that you can reserve for the semester-end event, Sex in the Dark on November 30. At Sex in the Dark, there will be raffles for sex toy vouchers, coupons, gift cards, and the grand prize, an iPad!

We know that some people might not be able to attend Sex in the Dark, which is why, starting at 3,000 points, you will be able to redeem your points for Amazon gift cards, with the top redemption being 7,000 for a $50 gift card! So you’ll have to put some time in, but you will have learned so much about sex and sexual health that it will all be worth!

But to get those points, you’ll have to attend some events—each week you can get 300 points just for attending a sex or mental health talk that will be led by me and one of my colleagues. These talks are on Wednesday afternoons at 1pm in the Point Lounge on the third floor of the Campus Center. These are open-air conversations in hopes of truly destigmatizing the conversations around sex and mental health.

You get 500 points by just registering on our website, And then you can get 10 points each day you log-in thereafter. Just for logging in! And you’ll get 500 points for attending any of our major events like You Gave Me What? on Sept 28, and Sex in the Dark.

You can also earn 300 points by attending any of the five health fairs will be putting on this semester! When we have our Sex Q&A table set up in the Campus Center, you’ll be to earn 100 points for each question you get correct!

You also get 100 points just for following @UMBSexTalk on Instagram or Twitter. And another 100 points for each meaningful post you send out with us tagged in it!

But that’s not all!

The absolutely biggest and best way to earn points is to get tested to STIs and HIV. You get 1,000 points JUST for getting tested. And you get an extra 1,000 points for simply taking a selfie with one of our “I Got Tested” stickers right after you get tested—thus, helping shatter the stigma of getting tested.

We have many testing dates this semester and you are welcome to check out those dates on our website as well!

So, you might be asking why is sexual health so important?

Well, that’s a good question. We feel it’s important to engage college students in conversations about sexual health because studies have proven that when young adults are properly educated about sex, that both pregnancy rates and rates of infections drop dramatically. And when people know their HIV/STI testing status, it is much safer and freeing than engaging in sexual activity without any knowledge of that information.

We also find that there is a lot of misinformation about sex and sexual health in our society, so we want to smash any of those myths and stigma with open, sex-positive conversations that are meant to educate and empower you sexually.

I hope you all will check out the Sex Arcade. We’ve already had a few events and folks are already earning points, so make sure to catch up by attending some events and by getting tested! Sex arcade!

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Rebellion of Loving Yourself - The Art of Survival

This is my first personal entry for my own nonprofit movement.

Last month I tried to write about my struggles with living with an addictive personality, but the piece got away from me after about 2,000 words. So I gave up. I might revisit that in the future—but for now, here we are.

I wanted my first piece to be something pretty personal.

So I wanted to share about the concept of self-love as someone who lives with depression and suicidality.

This month, we have shared so many powerful new stories, and some from previous months, that all focus on the struggles and triumphs of living with self-harming tendencies and suicidality.

One trope is common—living with these issues is very hard. It’s hard because our brains are at constant war with our body. In spite of that, I am here to shed light on something that which took me YEARS to become comfortable.

Historically, the conversation on self-harm has been centered on the idea that those who harm are selfish, simply looking for attention, or acting out. And that’s ridiculous.

Many individuals use self-harm as a way to get the release they need from their own anxieties, and I would never think to accuse a self-harming person of being selfish. Because living with an inclination to self-harm is not a joyous circumstance. People don’t wake up with the desire to just hurt themselves. It is brought on by any number of environmental, physical, mental, and psychological aspects.

None of which, in my opinion, are selfish.

I live with suicidality. [Note: I've written about this before, here.]

I have a history of cutting, drowning, bulimia, and starvation in order to harm myself. My self-harm stems from a number of things—depression, anxiety, body image issues, being an alienating ADHD kid growing up/also as an adult, and from being queer.

It’s not an easy life whatsoever. But it is my life.

I often felt like an outcast among my friends growing up and even though they were nice to me, I never truly felt like I was accepted by any of them. My depression as a teen led me to attempting to take my own life, and I survived. Obviously.

I now have a tattoo covering the scars from the first attempt.

My second attempt came after a rough breakup during my third year of college.

My attempts did not make feel any better about my circumstances, if anything I felt worse. And if I was trying to get attention, it didn’t work because I still felt sad and alone.

However, I found myself able to push through the darkness to continue through my days and surely I would feel better and better. But even on my best days, the darkness creeps in and I break down. I have no idea how many plans I’ve had to cancel because my depression or anxiety was acting up.

Living with suicidality means confronting the darkness every day. I have to constantly repress the feelings of sadness and the inclination to hurt myself in various ways.

One of the best ways I’ve found to do this is through practicing self-love.

Now, there is no Self Love Awareness Day, but I would argue that every day SHOULD be Self-Love Awareness Day.

Finding ways to promote self-love in your daily life is an important goal in which to strive. LifeHack has a wonderful piece on 30 ways to practice self-love and be good to yourself, in which the author writes, “Practicing self-love can be challenging for many of us, especially in times when we face serious challenges. It’s not about being self-absorbed or narcissistic, it’s about getting in touch with ourselves, our well-being and our happiness.”

Again, this is not about selfishness, it’s about literally taking care of yourself. Taking care of your happiness and wellbeing. To me, that’s the most important aspect of alleviating feelings of self-harm. Self-love is as simple as leaving yourself positive messages in your lunch box, or removing yourself from toxic mindsets of comparison and/or competition with others.

Much self-harm resonates from places of comparison and it is imperative for your health to focus on being the best you instead of trying to compare to anyone around you.

Our society often fuels these comparisons—you aren’t sexy enough (so buy this makeup, or get this surgery, or lose that weight), smart or motivated enough (so put yourself in debt with college, or buy a house), or cool enough (so buy these Beats headphones, or this BMW), or man enough (so get jacked, or takes these supplements)!

In a world constantly telling us that we aren’t enough, being proud of ourselves is revolutionary. Truly, self-love is an act of rebellion. To embrace our imperfections and inconsistencies as beauty is courageous and vulnerable. And vulnerability is a strength, never let anyone tell you otherwise.

I have had the hardest time with comparison and jealousy throughout my life—constantly comparing my life to the lives of my friends, never feeling like I truly fit in or fit anywhere. I was constantly lost, searching for some sort of answer to why I hurt so much inside, even as I would mask this hurt with seemingly unceasing happiness and exuberance.

But that’s exactly what it was—a mask.
The mask is now off and I rebel against my feelings of self-harm by loving myself.

In removing this mask, I have learned many things that are central to how I take care of myself and promote self-love in my every day life—

As much as I say “yes!” to life in many regards, I have learned to say, “no” more often. I have learned that taking time for myself is important. Saying, “no” is so empowering—try it!

I have prioritized eating tasty and healthy foods that don’t bog my down every day. I stay away from sugar and caffeine, and focus more on fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

That doesn’t mean I’m perfect by any means, because my issues with food are long-standing and even a current struggle today. But I try to maintain an optimistic outlook on my diet, even when I’m not completely happy with how I look and feel everyday. I’m forever a work in progress.

I paint and make music, which are two ways that I am able to exercise my brain instead of constantly thinking of self-harm. Art has been so impactful for my mental health that I don’t believe I’d still be alive if it weren’t for my art. I get out a lot of my frustration and anger in my music, and it’s very therapeutic.

I make time to appreciate myself. Looking in the mirror is hard for me. But sometimes I do it just to give myself a pep talk. Like, “hey Craig—I know you’re not particularly happy with your appearance today, but you’re here. You’re alive. And you’re a fucking badass.”

And then, I can take a step back and think, “You’re right, I am a fucking badass.”

Only you can take care of you, but sometimes it is important to reach out for support. Which is why I also suggest making time to be present and vulnerable with your friends and loved ones. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it—chances are that you’ll find more love than rejection if you are honest about your situation.

You are enough. I am enough. We’re all in this together.


You can read the story behind the art that my partner, Katy Hamm, made for me, by clicking here!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Take a Breath

a Review of The Album Leaf’s new LP, "Between Waves"

It’s been four years since we last heard from Jimmy LaValle and his crew of atmospheric wunderkinds. For those unaware, The Album Leaf is LaValle’s nearly two-decades old mostly-instrumental brainchild, and Between Waves is the group’s latest offering of tunes.

Between Waves is a tight eight tracks with virtually no wasted space and absolutely no filler. The album is incredibly intentional with its approach to combining multitudes of layers of string arrangements, piano and synth leads, and both digital and acoustic drums patterns. This is a level of care that LaValle is known for throughout his years of manufacturing elaborate, yet chill and calming music.

The album starts with a lovely digital “False Dawn” provides an immediate comfort for the seasoned Album Leaf fan—as those familiar with the band are quite accustomed to the airy tones that LaValle tends to employ. Xylophones tease the listener’s ears as the song builds and builds into a multi-layered and satisfying post-rock blend of atmospheric ear candy.

Between Waves continues its build up with the energetic digital presentation, “Glimmering Lights,” which demonstrates how the group has made some upgrades in terms of its production and experimental detail. The track is complex, yet light, and upbeat, yet eccentric.

We finally hear LaValle’s gentle voice when “New Soul” lands at track three. This track was released nearly a year ago, as a teaser, and eventually as a 7" single a few months ago.

Something so rewarding about "New Soul" and The Album Leaf is how LaValle shows much restraint from overusing his vocals. When it appears, LaValle makes sure that his voice is not distracting from the overall presentation of the few songs he lends it to on each album. Yet, his voice, the instrument, is merely an accent to already sufficient songs. When in reality, LaValle could easily release an album full of tracks with vocals and it would be instantly accessible—but that’s not his game. This is expert-level understanding of one’s craft.

For those who have never listened to The Album Leaf, selecting “Back to the Start” as a first option would be a good choice—especially when studying or trying to focus. The track hearkens back to much of the calming elements that have made them so successful. And the subtle use of muted trumpet throughout makes this such an enjoyable listen.

“Wandering Still” is a lavish throwback to the sounds of the band’s decade-old, Into the Blue Again LP. It’s a lively, groovy exploration of all things the band has experimented with throughout the years. To me, it feels the most involved and intricate track on the album—constantly reaffirming why this group has commanded such attention in the post-rock instrumental scene for years.

“Never Far” has the feel of “On Your Way,” from the 2004 LP, In A Safe Place, which is the band’s most acclaimed album. Both are incredibly accessible tunes, and “Never Far” is certainly the most accessible track on Between Waves, but doesn’t shy away from the instrumentation feeling like it comes from Radiohead’s In Rainbows era—which is incredibly rewarding to hear from the group.

The penultimate track, “Lost in the Fog,” weaves an elegant and upbeat digital tapestry reminiscent of Tycho—with a salsa rhythm that brings a danceable feel to an album that carries nothing but good vibes.

The finale/title track, “Between Waves,” drones for over a minute until LaValle’s voice serenades with the ominous lines, “Moonlight fades from my sight/sunshine blinds my eyes / Nightmares run through my mind/sunlight—I’m still here.”

This is an incredible closing track, not only for it truly giving the sense of finality for the album, but because the lyrical structures. It’s important to go back to the earlier point about LaValle’s vocal restraint. This final track is incredibly important because for only the third time on the album, we are hearing LaValle speak and it isn’t until this final track that we are finally hearing the fullness of the group’s intent with the album.

The repeated lines, “Between waves, I take my breath,” echo a sense of drowning, and having to fight for your life—but the lines are expertly juxtaposed with LaValle seemingly calm and dry delivery because the urgency of the lines are not met with urgency in his voice. Yet, the lines are met with the triumphant sound of trumpets, which comes off reassuring instead of exasperating. And if there’s one reason to listen to The Album Leaf, it’s for some reassurance, comfort, and escape from the trivial nature of life.

Deluxe vinyl edition of "Between Waves," courtesy of Relapse Records

There is a deluxe vinyl edition of the album, which contains four bonus tracks and 5 remixes from the likes of Daedelus, Dntel, and Lorna Dune. This deluxe edition is available for streaming on Spotify. It is also available on CD and on vinyl with an alternate red album cover and a beautiful blue and silver merge pressing via Relapse Records. So if you feel like you enjoyed these eight tracks, know that there is much more to this wonderful return to form for The Album Leaf.

And if you have the hankering to check out this gloriousness live, check out Jimmy and the gang this Sunday, September 17, at the Sinclair in Cambridge. I'll be there hanging out!

Follow me on Instagram and Twitter at @CrigBididman!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

[GUEST PODCAST]: Discussing Art Therapy on the Student Affairs Collective Podcast!

I chatted with Dustin Ramsdell of the Student Affairs Collective about art therapy, music, my recent Kickstarter success, and the Art of Survival!

Hey friends!

I haven't been around too much lately, been prepping lots of things at work. But I was able to sit down and chat with the man, Dustin Ramsdell, and be a guest on his Student Affairs podcast!

This is the second time that Dustin has asked me to appear on his podcast, you can check out the first time by CLICKING HERE!

The topic of this new episode, among other things, was catching up with me since my job search ended in January. Since the last we spoke, I was just beginning my job search.

The majority of the conversation focuses on my devotion to art, music, art therapy, and our new nonprofit organization, the Art of Survival, which is now into it's FIFTH MONTH of existence and we've shared 82 stories as of today! It's been an incredible learning process so far and we are excited to keep it going.

We also discussed a recent Kickstarter campaign that I launched in July in order to fund the creation of my new EP, "Farewell," which is dedicated to the memory of my father who died in October. Through MUCH fundraising efforts and exhaustion, I fully funded thanks to the support of over 150 people and over $6,000! You can check out the details of the Kickstarter by CLICKING HERE!

That's all I'm gonna say!
Make sure to check out the entire podcast by clicking HERE!

Hope you are all well!

I'll be back soon!


Friday, May 6, 2016

The Healthy Dose 005: Bystander Intervention

I discuss a topic that needs far more than 800 words to cover

Note: this piece originally appeared in the Mass Media.

April just ended, which means it’s almost summer!

I know that excites many of you—as it should.

The end of April also means that Sexual Assault Awareness Month has come to an end. That doesn’t mean the education around sexual assault needs to end, either. Since summer is coming up, I feel it’s important to discuss the topic of bystander intervention now more than ever.

The Department of Justice reports that cases of sexual assault increase dramatically during the summer months—which is contributed to people wearing less clothing, being outdoors for longer hours at night, and the increase in alcohol consumption during the summer as well.

I find this information troubling, and I want to be able to prepare you in case you need to intervene in an instance of potential sexual assault.

I came to the University of Massachusetts Boston from UMass Amherst, where I did work with the UMatter at UMass campaign, which stresses bystander intervention as a strategy to combat sexual violence. There are a few programs that focus on bystander intervention training—with Green Dot being the most prevalent—so I am going to borrow from Green Dot, which stresses three D’s of bystander intervention. These three D’s were also the focal point of UMatter at UMass.

The three D’s are Direct, Distract, and Delegate—they are meant to be modes of intervening. You don’t necessarily need to do all three, but perhaps a combination of two, or even just one of these modes can remedy a situation.

Being direct is as simple as stepping into the situation and interrupting by pointing out the problem and engaging participants in conversation about better alternatives.

I often use direct as my mode of intervention by asking, “Is this person bothering you?” or “Is everything okay here?” Or if something is especially distressing, I will say, “That’s not cool!” and then explain to them why.

Being direct is also as easy as standing next to someone so they know they are not alone. Never join in or laugh along. And if a person is mistreated, tell them it wasn’t okay and you’re sorry it happened. And make sure to ask if you can help them in any other way—offering to go for a walk with them is generally a good idea.


Now, some of you might not be completely comfortable calling out problematic behavior, so instead, you can interrupt a risky situation by distracting and redirecting the people involved. This is where some creativity can come in handy, because the goal with a distraction is changing the subject so the potential harm can be diverted.

Distracting someone in a potential harmful situation is as simple as asking an unrelated question about school, a sports game, or to show you where the bathroom is located.

Or, what I like to do is say something positive (like, “Hey, I like your shirt!”) to anyone involved. Distraction is very useful in party situations or on the train.


The importance of the delegate mode is that there must be multiple people around when a potentially harmful situation occurs, like at parties, clubs, and/or concerts.
Essentially, if you can’t intervene alone, get other folks involved. There truly is power in numbers. If you see that anyone else nearby is concerned for the situation at hand, get them involved and call attention to the situation so others will feel more inclined to speak up.

When you have people joining you, actively delegate things for others to do—which is where the other two D’s come in handy, have a couple people direct and some folks distract. You can really make a world of difference by using all three when you have multiple people to support you.

If you are somewhere where there are employees, get someone who works there, explain the situation, and take them to the incident. And if you are on campus, contact public safety, or find bystanders on campus to support you as well.


Bystander intervention does take a great deal of courage and it can be scary to jump into a potentially dangerous situation, but these modes of intervention are meant to be used in situations when violence has not or does not seem to be occurring.

Now, I know that in some situations it might be more difficult to intervene, so always feel comfortable calling 911 or public safety to respond to the incident.

Also, note that bystander intervention isn’t limited to sexual assault or deviancy. It can come in handy whenever you see anyone in harm. Be willing to speak up when you see someone in potential harm.

And if you have any questions about anything related to bystander intervention, sexual assault prevention, or anything else that I’ve covered here, please feel free to reach out to me at, or visit my office in Campus Center 3407.

Be well and take care of each other out there.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Sad Songs Make Julien Baker Feel Better

I cover one of today's brightest young voices and minds, Julien Baker

Note: this piece originally appeared in The Mass Media.

Julien Baker. Photo by Jose Enciso.

Showing up early to any show can be a little awkward, but last Sunday was not the case. Folks were chatty, enthusiastic, and eager. Perhaps it was the tease of springtime weather hitting Boston.

Perhaps the good vibes in the Sinclair were from the fact we were about to watch one of today’s newest and most vulnerable songwriters perform.

When 20-year-old, Julien Baker, released her debut LP, Sprained Ankle, on 6131 Records last year, it flew relatively under the radar. I only came across it because I follow 6131 on Instagram.

So I checked it out.

By the end of the first song on the album, “Blacktop,” I knew this was a special album. I have now memorized the nine tracks on the album and recommend it to anyone and everyone with ears and the ability to hear.

It wasn’t until Baker was featured on NPR’s Tiny Desk (above) that she really took off and she started selling out rooms across the country. Albeit, my favorite performance came from her Audiotree Live in-studio performance (below), in which she really expanded on her expectations and intentions with music and life—revealing a 20-year-old human being with more maturity and understanding of the human condition than I could ever imagine when I was 20.

I mean, hell, The New York Times just did a big write-up of her as well. At the SAME show we attended, even! (Note: I had my headline chosen before NYT published its story. But check it out!)

Like many others in the crowd, this was my first time seeing the Memphis-native perform her brand of minimalist tunes.

And for this tour, Baker brought along her friend, the equally minimalistic/acoustic, Phoebe Bridgers.
Bridgers is signed to Pax American Records—which is Ryan Adams’ label—as a solo artist, but has played in a punk band called, Sloppy Jane.

Phoebe Bridgers. Photo by Jose Enciso.
What I admired about Bridgers is the unapologetic approach to being a confessional singer-songwriter. I’ve often felt like too many mainstream artists who use songwriters to create their tunes are very disingenuous about their style. But Bridgers wears it like a badge of honor.

Her music is simultaneously beautiful and haunting, which I personally love when an artist can achieve that balance.

“This song is also about being sad and drunk,” Bridgers said to the crowd in a dry voice, signaling for her touring drummer to join her on-stage, to laughs from the crowd. "And despite the drums, this next song is actually sadder.”

Bridgers was a wonderful warmup for the headliner, Baker, who is being touted as a leading voice in the emo revival these days.

Phoebe Bridgers. Photo by Jose Enciso.
"Julien simultaneously inspires me and makes me want to quit music altogether,” Bridgers said before finishing her set.

And then Baker took the stage—the guitar over her shoulder looked larger than her tiny frame, a frame which conceals a monster voice and massive guitar chops.

Baker is very self-aware of her style. Before playing her song, “Brittle Boned,” Baker said, “this next song is optimistic, and I know you don't believe me, but it's true,” to laughs.

There was silence during both sets that night—which to a concert-going veteran, is such a rare experience.

Julien Baker. Photo by Jose Enciso.
No one dare speak as Baker bares her soul with the room.

I saw dudes clutching their chests from the feels they got following each of Baker’s songs, and I just nodded because I felt those feels too.

The biggest moment of the night came during my personal favorite track, “Everybody Does,” when Baker screams, “I know myself better than anybody else.” This was the first moment the crowd took over the show—as there was a resounding sing-along moment. To which, Baker backed away from the mic, laughing and getting visibly stoked on life.

"I’m incredibly self-conscious about my songs,” Baker said following the song. “But you're all here; you didn't run,” a direct reference to the lyrics in “Everybody Does.”

Baker played her entire debut LP and threw in a new tune, “Funeral Pyre,” as well as a cover of Elliott Smith’s “Ballad of Big Nothing,” in which Bridgers joined her in duet. Bridgers had covered “Whatever,” by Smith earlier in the night.

I’m ashamed for not having made the Elliott Smith connection to Baker’s style before that night. But it is a solid representation of her style. Confessional, simplistic, powerful, and polarizing for the listen.

Julien Baker. Photo by Jose Enciso.
After all, Baker performed many shows on this tour while wearing a shirt that read, “Sad songs make me feel better,” which is a perfect homage to what she represents as an artist—and how I personally prefer listening to music.

Finally, followers of Baker’s social media will know that she has an allegiance to Dunkin Donuts, even having a tattoo for the brand. So performing in the land of Dunks was a big moment for her. And it was a big moment for all of us in the crowd, for we bear witness to one of the most authentic and grateful human beings in music today.

PS: Big thanks to Jose Enciso for being an incredible photographer. I'm excited to work more shows with him! Check out his stuff! And if you're in the New England area, I know he is down for photo shoots!