Like the rest of us, The Hunna’s faced a pretty blunt hault to their 2020 plans, with their upcoming album and touring placed on hold. But it hasn’t all been a downer as the boys say they’ve enjoyed having the time off to kick back and enjoy the simple things “It’s just like the old days playing Playstation” says Dan “Ryan has been teaching me how to play Fifa”.
The group have all been relatively separated during lock down with only Dan and Ryan living together while Junate is down the road and Jack slightly further out of town. It’s definitely a different setup to what they’ve been used to over the past four years, all on their regular tour bus gigging around the world for the majority of the year “Since we started The Hunna it’s been non stop . Last year we had a small gap but once we got through that and we were back into touring. So it’s been non stop.” Touring for the band is just how they like it, on the road and connecting with fans. “That’s just what our lives are. We’re so used to it, so to now spend about a whole year at home is so strange especially when you’ve got new music and would be touring all around the world”
“Touring is what we love to do the most. We had a good couple of months at home before quarantine so It was an extension for us to be at home even longer”
Having previously interviewed the boys 3 years ago at The Boston Rooms in London when they were starting their journey this was a great opportunity to catch up, albeit socially distanced, and reminisce on the years in between and the venues played along the way. The boys have fond memories of the venue, being keen to get back to their roots where it all began, touring. They mention how to go back and do a small circle around venues where they first performed would be a dream. To be able to go back to these smaller venues and to be on a personal level playing intimate gigs is something they’d love to organise following the easing of lockdown. What’s great is the band have had the opportunity to play not only amazing festivals and tours around the world but expressed how much they love intimate gigs where their fans get to feel like a one family.
Although the world is moving towards opening up the band are completely aware of the difficulties the music industry faces post Covid-19. “Obviously we will have to see what unfolds with venues but the idea was that by October there would still be more potential that we could go out and perform.” But for the band it’s still about getting back to being able to connect, “whether social distanced or not. Like we mentioned The Boston music rooms or smaller venues that we can go back to and connect with our fans.”
With their 3rd studio album due to launch in the middle of Covid-19 the boys made the difficult decision hold off for a couple of months alongside their touring schedule. “We were super excited for everyone to hear it and understand it and then for this situation to happen and not being able to go out and be around people you know you want to experience it was tough, so we wanted to take some time, there’s no rush and we’ve got so many songs on the album that we love, so for us it’s kind of fun, as we can release more songs from the album. We’ve also taken on the task of producing songs and videos during quarantine. We are going to start to try release things monthly, so it’s something for fans to look forward to.” I mention to the boys that it must be hard to invest so much emotion in the album, ultimately looking forward to it with it all ready to go then all of your plans change. As individuals no matter the situation even in the grand scheme of things it must feel frustrating and disappointing to have change
everything and the importance that that’s ok.
Mental health can be tricky to manage in an industry where you can find your self travelling all of a sudden for the majority of a year. It’s an industry with rigorous schedules where you can go months without seeing loved ones. Being able to hear how close the boys are, to the extent of growing up with one another, even being born in the same hospital, it’s clear of the bond they all have. They aren’t just a band but first and foremost friends, in fact their relationships could be said to be pretty much family. It’s great, as a company, that focuses on mental health to hear men so openly talk about supporting each other especially with the stigma surrounding men tackling their mental health.
Curious of the how the boys adapted to the changes that came with their new found fame in 2016 and the art of balancing their life on the road it was positive to hear the band took it in their stride. “I feel like we took it quite well. There are always moments where you go up and down but like we said before we are literally a band of friends, we know each other really well and are comfortable with each other to express how we feel.”
“We’ve always said it must be really challenging for solo artists, when you don’t have those people who you rely on to fall back on when you need them. We’ve had our own times when it’s been mentally challenging. For example a lack of sleep, where you don’t know where you are or how far you’re going. It’s definitely a big struggle mentally for sure for lots of different reasons. One good thing we have compared to some other artists is like being family and so comfortable with each other, so if someone is having a really tough day we know about it, so we can either give them space of talk to them and see what’s up.”
“As guys it is hard to break it down and feel comfortable to let your selves be free and open, for us we offload to each other all the time. It has definitely been hard and mental health should be talked about. Especially over the past 2 years with things that have happened to us as a band and personally. At some point you start realising it’s been tough and when you start to come to terms with it you want to be open and to talk about it and not have that or feel that way again.”
“Another thing is our crew. They’re just as equally having a challenging life alongside the artist and the bands they travel with. They have so much pressure on them too. We’ve had crew in the past who have found it tough doing what they do, obviously they love doing what they do but the travel and the time schedules that come with it are often difficult on them. The industry is tough.”
Growing up and over the years I’ve seen how crucial a bands crew is to the whole process whether it be touring or producing. I can’t help sitting and feeling such warmth from the boys as they think of those around them helping make their dream and their sacrifices. It’s a rare moment when interviewing that a band so boldly brings up their crew and how much their crew are at the forefront of their careers, sacrificing so much more than it just simply being their job
“You sacrifice so much, your own families and love ones and being around them. That’s where you make your own on the road family, which we have. Our crew is so funny and have been amazing since the beginning. It’s one of our best and favourite times being out on the road, even in the hard times, it makes the days even better.
The band seem to be evolving with each album moving from pop-rock into harder rock and grunge. Having sold out Brixton twice in a row, playing Reading and Leeds main stage, a huge accomplishment and memory for the boys it ‘s no surprise the band are moving onwards and upwards with post lockdown looking brighter than ever.
Words: Alice Gee
Photography: Betty Martin
Stylist: Sophie Bassett
Campaign: Alice Gee
Shot socially distanced
Suits: Twisted Tailor
Following the much anticipated release of their debut album ‘Deep Down Happy’ it felt essential that the team at Head Above The Clouds got to speak all things music and mental health with Sports Team. My first introduction to the Cambridgeshire based six-piece was their incredibly cool and chaotic set at Truck Festival 2019, and while I may have already been a few months late to the party, I definitely knew I was watching the birth of something amazing and this group would be destined for greatness. But who would have thought then that a year later they would be battling it out with Lady Gaga for the UK Number One Album?
It is an unnerving time for the music industry right now, with the familiar comfort of a sweaty, glorious beer filled mosh pit a distant memory, it has forced musicians to be more creative with their time and how to engage with their fans. Releasing an album during this time couldn’t have been easy and it was the first thing on my mind when I caught them for a chat.
“We are coping pretty well, our time has been split up a bit by studio time to work on the second album but we’re all a bit restless. Exercise has helped a lot, me and Oli have at least been running every day. I’ll be taking the 6 pack in 30 days team to court at some point too.” The restlessness can’t be helped by the fact the group were supposed to be embarking on an extensive festival and touring season to promote their new release. “Last year we did 150 shows and you don’t quite realise how cathartic that is until they’re gone. After shows is usually the time I feel calmest. It’s just trying to replace that feeling with something healthy.” The sudden come to halt of a jam packed schedule has been something a lot of the artists we have spoken to for this issue have raised as being a significant factor in their depreciating mental health, but I imagine being in a group of six has the benefit of a much wider and stronger support group to fall back on.
I was interested in that dynamic of larger than normal group, you must think it’s harder to work together and divvy up their individual roles with so many voices and opinions flying around.
“I think the appeal of our band has always been that it feels a bit like a group you’d recognise amongst your own friends. Everyone is a very different uniquely flawed person so we’re all interested in different aspects. I like putting together the live show, speaking to press, Rob does a lot of writing, playing around with sound, Henry works on our label Holm Front, Al’s been mentoring and writing, Ben and Oli are doing designs for merch today. “
The release of ‘Deep Down Happy’ was hotly anticipated and critically acclaimed, receiving the highest first week sales for a debut album by a British band in four years (thanks to the help of some very inventive merch bundle deals) and just beaten to number one by Lady Gaga in a chart race widely compared to that of Blur and Oasis. But how did the response go down in camp? “It’s a strange one, we’re so proud of the album and taken back by how well it’s gone down with the charts and support. It all feels very abstract when you can’t get out and play it to people though. We still wake up in the same house together, live the same lives. We got a screenshot of our chart position and that was about as real as it got.”
It is no surprise that the media liked to focus on the chart race and the negative “beef” being stirred on twitter from some of the bands and Gaga’s fans rather than the music being produced itself. But Sports Team aren’t a band that have shied away from controversy nor did they try and quell the online spats that were popping up in the trending tab, rather they leaned into it gaining support from other artists such as The Wombats and Lewis Capaldi. I asked them if there has been a shift in the media response following the release of their debut album.
“I think the press have always been really good to us to be honest. The idea that we’re fully formed characters getting everything right on album one always seems odd to me, you’re watching us grow up on stage, and in person. For our fans I’d hope that’s part of why they follow us. You’re right about album two though, it’s a chance to flesh out our sound, ideas and the way we talk about them. It’s constantly reacting to what’s going on around us.”
What is going on around them currently being the pandemic and the inevitable stress, panic and paranoia that it has brought especially to those working industries that have seemingly ground to a halt. Working in the creative arts isn’t easy for your mental health at the best of times, never mind being told your main source of income is now potentially banned until early next year. And while a lot of negative stigma still floats around these topics its something the group have been very open about sharing with their fans.
“For me the hardest bit is the juxtaposition between these ecstatic highs on stage and all the deeply mundane stuff in between. Trying to find a mindset. I’m sure it’s different for everyone though. There’s enough risks though. Lack of structure, certainty, supposedly being a public figure. And then there’s access to all kinds of terrible ways to deal with things. I always think we’re lucky to have each other. We’ve always lived together, toured together, shared everything so you don’t feel like you’re on your own.”
Our mission at Head Above The Clouds is to educate an inform. Yet despite mental illness becoming increasingly normalised in pop culture and more open and honest communication is encouraged across society, we still see evidence of the demonetisation against particular diagnosis’s and their harmful stereotypes. I asked the band what changes they would like to see in the world regarding mental health.
“I’m really pleased to see the strides we’ve made as a country in normalising how we talk about mental health. For me it’ll always be a political as well as a health issue though. You’ve got a rate of suicide in this country, especially amongst young men that’s horrible, and countless people who feel unsatisfied with their lives in between. There’s something about the society we’ve created that fundamentally fails to make people happy. I think it’s about a lack of sources of community, unfair expectations made of people, social media, low wages, exclusion and discrimination, the amount it costs to just live. Mental health isn’t as political as the Tories so often make it out to be.” And speaking of the misinterpretations Alex has faced personally “In general it’s just the expectation that I’d be a well formed and well-adjusted character just because I’m the singer in a band. I’m not. We play for the fans though, we meet them, we know them, and they trust us. It’s always comforting when people treat you like a human.”
It is bitter sweet that their album ‘Deep Down Happy’ has been released during this time. While we haven’t had the joy of being able to experience it live, and probably won’t any time soon, we have been granted the time and space to give the album the attention it deserves. To immerse ourselves in it completely rather than in the background of busy commutes. Sports Team are beautifully bizarre and like a lot of people, their chart success has filled me with hope for the future of British Indie Guitar Music. Without sounding unbelievably cringe..deep down this album makes me very happy.
Words: Bronte Evans
Photography: Lauren Maccabee
From an outsider’s perspective it is baffling how the Americans haven’t embraced socialised health care in the same way the majority of the Western World has. For a country that claims to be greatest in the world the fact they still allow people to die for simply being ‘too poor’ is surely proof to the contrary. But nope, not to them. They force feed the rest of us the idea of their exceptionalism while every day 41 people die from overdoses and 20 Veterans succumb to suicide having been denied any access to Mental Health and Addiction support. The only thing free in the Land of the Free is death.
Biden being sworn in on January 20th will be greeted with a sigh of relief, not just from Democrats and liberal democracies everywhere but for the millions who have suffered since the start of the pandemic due to the Trump administrations lacklustre attempts at a response.
The United States currently leads the world in coronavirus statistics with over 12 million confirmed cases and 254,00 dead (as of November 20th) not to mention the 17 million who have lost their jobs and health insurance due to lockdowns and economic recession. For context that’s the total combined populations of Greater London, Kent and Essex seriously ill, all of Brighton dead and the entire North of England and Wales unemployed.
We can all relate to how lockdowns, social distancing and employment uncertainty has affected our mental health here in the UK. But people in the states have also had to deal with the increasing civil unrest following the heinous murder of George Floyd and the Presidential Election with the panic attacks one can only assume occurs when you see the current President who had COVID throw hats and t-shirts into an unmasked crowd of tens of thousands of people. Reports have shown that in the last 6 months there has been an increase in sales of alcohol, people admitting to having suicidal thoughts and calls into emergency crisis hotlines.
Even before the coronavirus, Americas mental health infrastructure and addiction services were oversubscribed and underfunded, the pandemic will undoubtedly be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. In 2018 20% of American adults dealt with a mental illness ranging from mild anxiety disorders to Bipolar and Schizophrenia, that’s 43 million people and over half of them never seek help. Since 2010 teen depression rates have jumped by 50% and overall suicide is up 20%. President Obama, Trump and Congresses failure to bring Health Insurance providers into line over the past decade has led to a crisis on the brink of full-blown catastrophe.
The charities that provide care for those without insurance are all in danger of closure without a serious influx of tens of billions of dollars, and those with insurance continuously struggle to access care due to crooked insurance companies putting wealth above well-being.
Insurance companies being the bad guy in this situation isn’t shocking, even to a Brit, it’s like saying “Hey have you heard about R Kelly?” We all know he’s a wrongun, yet millions of people still listen to his music.
These major insurance companies regularly break federal law when granting access to mental health services. The 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act forced insurance companies to treat mental illness and addiction the same as every other physical illness, it prevents them from charging customers higher co-pays for treatment or setting a lower limit on mental health appointments than physical ones. And while there is no evidence of them breaking these laws, they’re sneaky buggers you see, they do break the non-quantitative limits.
See if you want to see a therapist in the United States and don’t want to pay hundreds of dollars an hour out of pocket, you call your insurance provider who has to give you a list of qualified therapists that they authorise and cover. These lists however are not all what they seem. One group of researchers called 360 Psychiatrists on one insurance companies list and were only able to make appointments with 93 of them, of the remaining 276 some of those doctors weren’t taking patients, weren’t actively practicing any more, were dead or in one case were a McDonalds. Which is taking the concept of the “Happy Meal’ waaaaaay too literally if you ask me.
Then there is the issue of feasible access. You’ve done the hard part and made your way through that ridiculous list only to find not a single one of those doctors is located anywhere near you. 51% of counties in America don’t have a single physiatrist licenced to practice there and an overwhelming number of patients are regularly having to cross state lines to make their appointment. In one 400-mile radius there was only one doctor serving 1800 patients. Again, for context that’s like driving from London to Edinburgh then standing in line behind a sold-out Roundhouse!
But then you get the care and medication you need right? WRONG. Just because your doctor says you need treatment, and your insurance company does cover it doesn’t mean they will pay out for it. 90% of recommended mental health treatments are denied by insurers claiming they aren’t medically necessary because a private doctor they have on their pay roll, who has never seen or met you deems it so. They get away with this because they claim mental health is ‘subjective’ and no one doctor can completely understand a patient’s mental needs. This policy has led to countless teenagers being denied care after suicide attempts because they haven’t attempted to kill themselves enough times.
This is why Biden’s win is being greeted with such enthusiasm among mental health charities. Previous governments have not worked hard enough to stamp down on this blatant law breaking.
The Former Vice President has committed to protecting and building on the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, that Trump and his cronies have been dismantling for the last four years. The ACA protects people with already diagnosed mental illnesses being dropped by their insurers as conditions like Anxiety, Depression and Bipolar are classed a pre-existing conditions that can justify insurers denying you coverage.
His plans will ensure coverage expansion for millions of Americans and give added protections to prevent mental health services being privatized at the State level. In attempts to ensure easier access to mental health providers, Biden has pledged investments in the training and hiring of more mental health clinicians, substance abuse disorder counsellors and peer support counsellors in under serviced areas as well as increasing training for mental health care for teachers and social workers so young people can access real help in their school and will be less likely to fall through the cracks.
For those people with insurance, he has stated his commitment to bring to heel those insurance companies who have blatantly breached federal parity laws, prioritising enforcing those laws and investigating insurance companies with a history of irregularities. His administration is also expected to set clear federal standards raising the bar for the bare minimum of coverage to include rehabilitative services and other forms of behavioural health care ending the disparity across State level in what they define as ‘essential’ mental health treatments.
His plan is also exceptional in its recognition of the unique mental health needs of different communities proposing expanding and strengthening veterans’ mental health programs both within and outside the Veterans Health Administration, strengthening programs aimed at reducing suicide among LGBTQ teenagers and expanding access to care for mental health and substance use disorders during and after incarceration.
It’s not the Medicare for All that AOC and Bernie Sanders are pushing for, but it is certainly a step in the right direction, one that will make socialised health care a real possibility for the country. And if it can be done it will certainly make it easier for millions of Americans to get the vital care and support, they need. And if you take anything away from this, I hope it’s an increased love for our NHS and a passion to protect it by any means necessary, while its not perfect its undoubtedly better than the alternative.
Words: Jade Poultney