Jr Jr Go Beyond ’13 Reasons Why’ to Advocate for Mental Health
When JR JR wrote the song "Same Sad Places," it was meant to share band co-founder Joshua Epstein's experience with anxiety disorder, as well as take away the stigma of looking for help, because everyone goes through own dark moments.
"So this is a song about that. About us being able to discuss (and hopefully help de-stigmatize) these things openly to move forward as a healthy and supportive people," Epstein posted on Facebook.
Soon after that, 13 Reasons Why picked up the song and featured it in one of the Netflix series' episodes. But being featured in the popular yet controversial show wasn't enough. The Detroit indie pop band wanted to do more. So, to honor Mental Health Awareness Month this May, the band is playing a select number of dates where proceeds from tickets go to The JED Foundation, a charity that "helps teens with mental health issues and works on suicide prevention."
We had the chance to chat with Epstein and JR JR co-founder Daniel Zott after their first show of the tour at Baby's All Right in Brooklyn earlier this month to find out more about the tour, their cause, how to help yourself or someone you know who's hurting.
How was tonight's show?
Joshua Epstein: I feel like by about song five we were good. But when you play live, it inevitably turns into a muscle memory kind of thing. It's not uncommon for someone you see live, especially at the end of their tours, where they think about what they're going to eat after the show while they're singing. So there's something stiff about completely being out of the groove.
Daniel Zott: But I think at about song five I feel I could kind of connect with the audience. I took a bit.
Epstein: It took a few songs to get out of the head and be like, "Oh, we're in this room. It's okay!"
This tour is called the Mental Health Awareness tour where a portion of your ticket sales go to charity. How did that all come about?
Epstein: Because 13 Reasons Why featured the song, "Same Dark Places," we felt like it's kind of a responsibility if you're going to introduce subject matter and content that's a little bit scary and possibly dark to young kids. It's kind of part of our responsibility to try and exert energy in raising awareness that there are channels for help and that the treatment works. And if you feel like you need help, it's not weak to ask for help. It's strong to ask for help. Those are things we felt like it was really important to communicate to the same kids who are watching the show that's honestly addressing things that no one's really talked about.
How did you choose JED as the charity to support?
Epstein: Actually it was a conversation we had with 13 Reasons Why...
Zott: It felt like the most appropriate.
Epstein: They already partnered with them because they had the same thought. And our song talks about the same things. I think we've been living in a world where people have been hiding behind irony, and we have to all, as adults, feel comfortable enough with ourselves and our responsibility to younger people to be honest.
In the Facebook post about the song, you talk about a responsibility that artists have to use their voices to talk about these things, yet some still shy away from that...
Zott: Yeah, I understand that. For some artists, it's all about a certain platform. It's more disingenuous to me. But I think if you write something that's true about yourself, it's okay to take responsibility for that and give people an option to connect with it that has some action to it. I thought about that in doing this, trying to be sensitive to the fact, that I never really liked going to shows where someone would spew for a half hour about something. But I think this is very different. It just feels a lot different to me.
What's great about "Some Sad Places" and your music in general is that there's a message amidst the fun melodies. Is that something you tend to stride for?
Zott: I don't know. It does seem to be a trend in something we do, but I think it's part of our charm, I guess. It's what we like to listen to [musically]. If you're talking about a lyric that's heavier and sad and the melody leans that way, it's almost unbearable to listen to. But it's not sugarcoating it, but it's packaging it in a way that makes it more interesting to listen to. If you're reading a novel and every single chapter was heavy, it just would get old.
Epstein: I think there's also been a misconception about the song because we're talking about mental health awareness. But the song is talk about an affirmation if anything. The song is to let anyone who's feeling bad to know that everyone feels that way. There's an uplifting message. I don't necessarily know that the lyrics are at odds. I do think though that we're all complicated people.
We're just trying to marry our own tastes and opinions with the music that we like and the world that we live in. There's complexity everywhere. It's kind of the part of trying to live your life and being self-aware.
Zott: We're doing Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles and Austin. This is the first of the major cities that we do very well in, and we're doing special shows for those cities. So we have that. Then we've been finishing the record. So that's on the horizon as well.
And finally, we wanted to know five tips for people are seeking help or work their way through the idea that's beyond, "I'm just said."
Epstein: Definitely. If you are having suicidal thoughts or having thoughts of harming yourself, call 911. If there's someone you know who you're worried about, be direct with them. You're not alone. There are incredible treatments available. And asking for help is a sign of strength.
The toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The deaf and hard of hearing can contact the line through TTY at 1-800-799-4889.
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