Words by:
Photography: Nick Helderman

I’m turning 50 soon. The last time we recorded something as Les Savy Fav, I was about 40.

Around that time, I had a serious mental health crisis – I got diagnosed with bipolar and had been manic for a long time, then went very depressed. Getting out of that took a couple of years and was really dramatic for me and my family. I’ve always identified with a Peter Pan type universe, so I was trying to figure out how to square the person you see on stage, which is core to who I am, with the person that wants to be able to afford pants.

It was a lot of work, but I came out the other side of that in a place where I couldn’t connect with my authority as an artist – despite working in creative direction in advertising. In terms of the band and my punk upbringing, I felt like I lost that sense of power. Who am I to celebrate disorder when most of my time is spent trying to keep the boat afloat? How do I have creative vision when I’m also focused on pedestrian things?

I then got laid off from my job and that was super stressful. Turns out I hated that job. I hadn’t really thought about it, but all of a sudden I realised I had spent so much energy annoyed by this thing, that when it went away, it was like clarity. I was writing music, I was writing lyrics, and it wasn’t just because I had more free time. It was about mental space and realising how much energy it takes to grind an axe. I think that’s where so many people get stuck.

Suddenly, I wanted to celebrate that art can happen in complete parallel with what felt like an ‘older person’ sensibility. This isn’t catharsis – it’s the ability to love the horrifyingly boring parts of my life as well as the liberating wild ones. I’ve finally figured out a way to feel like I’m still that creative person on stage but also stable enough to live in the actual world, and that they don’t diminish each other. For so many creative people, including myself, nihilism is so romanticised. But we can still have that spirit without being a trainwreck.

Les Savy Fav play Simple Things Festival in Bristol on 24 February