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'Listen To Someone': Svalbard tackle depression & mental illness on new song

18 August 2020 | 2:34 pm | Alex Sievers
Originally Appeared In

'Listen To Someone' is woven with care around heavy themes of mental health, addressing how we start these difficult conversations.

Svalbard's 'Listen To Someone' is woven with care & love around mental health, honing in on how we start those kinds of difficult conversations.

Mixing ethereal layers, shoegaze vibes, reverb and delay-drenched guitars, pulsating rhythms, melodic hardcore energy and an excellent back-and-forth between soft singing and seared screaming, 'Listen To Someone' sees Svalbard's next record shaping up incredibly well. It's very on-brand for the U.K. band, no doubt, but it is delivered in such a stirring manner that I don't at all mind the familiarity of it.

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Following previous single, 'Open Wound,' which addressed abusers and those that survive them, 'Listen To Someone' is wrought with just as much emotion, settling its gaze on a different topic: mental illness. 'Listen To Someone' is the anti-thesis to the catch-all answer people suffering from depression, anxiety or other mental health issues are often met with: "just talk to someone." Because that doesn't fix or properly address the problem, instead placing the onus on the mentally unwell individual to go somewhere else for assistance. Even though  good intentions may be there from the other party, perhaps hoping to steer those struggling towards a professional, merely offering an invitation to listen to another person with no judgements and zero patronising tone - as this Svalbard songs' lyrics outright suggest - is a much more caring, thoughtful route to take. One that may even save someone's life.

Vocalist and guitarist, Serena Cherry, summed this all up perfectly upon the song's release, sharing that:

"There's a lot of well-meaning discussions about mental illness online, and whilst I appreciate that talking about mental illness helps reduce the stigma that depression is a weakness, I do take issue with this catchphrase: 'Speak to someone,'" says Cherry. "It's a common sentiment expressed in mental health discourse — people want to make it known that sufferers can speak to them if they're feeling down, which is a clearly a kind and caring act. However, I would much rather the emphasis was placed on listening to someone. 'If you want to talk about the most difficult, darkest aspects of your mental health, I will listen without judgement.' Something like that is an improvement. You can feel the shift in sentiment.

As someone who has struggled with depression, someone offering to listen to me is far more reassuring than someone instructing me to talk to them. When a person urges someone with depression to speak about it, it places the onus on the mentally ill to reach out, which is actually a really difficult thing for a depressed or anxious person to do. Also, if someone does choose to confide about the darkest depths of their depression to you, you need to be truly prepared to listen. This means: not getting impatient or frustrated with the person for being unable to be 'cheered up,' not wincing at the topic of suicide, not alienating mentally ill people with dramatic reactions to their words. It's all very well and good to encourage people to speak to someone, but people also need to be prepared to listen to the mentally ill without making judgement."

I've been on both sides of that before, as I'm sure many reading this have as well: both wanting somebody, anybody, just to listen to me, as well as other times feeling inadequately equipped to aid friends coming forward when all they needed was an ear to validate them. Svalbard's newest single is all about shifting the paradigm around how we phrase those sentiments in order to do better by others who are really hurting. And I think that's a simple yet thoughtful and wholesome idea to be put forward in such a moving, powerfully melodic track such as 'Listen To Someone,' one that shoots straight with it's direct lyricism and in not mincing words.

Svalbard's 'When I Die, Will I Get Better?' is out September 25th.