Words: James Frostick
Artist image: Laura Hannan
Hydra Fashion Week has just released a brand-new track composed in the midst of Naarm/Melbourne’s lockdown. ‘SICK (day #132)’ is a song steeped in a thick layer of melancholy, one that conveys the boredom, frustration and dispirited nature of being cut off from the world at large and the support systems we depend on.
I readily acknowledge that as a Meanjin/Brisbane-based writer, I am privileged to have been spared lockdowns as severe as those currently in place in Victoria. Although I’m aware of the realities of those living in lockdown, it can be hard to grasp the full extent of their impact when we only experience fragments of that existence through social media feeds or daily news updates. It takes a bit of conscious action to really get a decent sense of the situation at hand, which is why music helps. The newest track from Hydra Fashion Week has been crafted solo by bandleader Charlie Teitelbaum (a result of lockdowns preventing the usual band gatherings) and is, perhaps, the song that has driven home the realities of lockdown the hardest. It’s a song that is essentially a diary of collected thoughts that have sprouted throughout recent weeks and months – a stream-of-consciousness outpouring on things Charlie misses and wishes. Crafted in their garage, Charlie has fashioned ‘SICK (day #132)’ out of a sparse palette of instruments. Showing a sharp resourcefulness, they have managed to convey a surprising amount of depth for what is, on the surface, a threadbare sonic aesthetic. While the acoustic strum forms the core instrumental pillar supporting the track, Charlie adds subtle touches that help convey the isolated mood. For example: an echoing skitter that reverberates in an out communicates the skin-crawling madness that comes with staring at the same four walls. It’s a great display of doing more with less – a bedroom-born offering that utilises its setting as a core element.
Although ‘SICK (day #132)’ is informed and inspired by the lived experience of lockdown and the draining effects it has on the psyche, many of the lyrical passages hint at issues that extend outside of the current circumstances. While Charlie laments about the enmity they have fostered for their mask and bedroom and the loneliness of not being able to share their bed, over several re-listens I get a greater sense of Charlie’s predicament. It seems that isolation is taking a toll on their mental health, exacerbating detrimental thought patterns that were most likely present before stay-at-home orders were put in place. Body image and self-esteem issues, mood swings, motivation, emotional distancing – such symptoms of mental illness can be extraordinarily hard to manage without the crushing weight of a pandemic on top of it. Lyrics like “I’m sick of my thoughts … I don’t even speak to my friends anymore … I’m sick of my body and how I want someone else’s” put plainly the thoughts knocking around Charlie’s brain – the things that are hard to ignore when positive distractions and influences aren’t readily available. Despite this, I also sense another feeling underpinning Charlie’s fatigued croon – a palpable desire to break out of this situation, as well as a discernible want for things to improve (mentally and socially) once the situation allows. If there’s one thing to be taken away from lockdown, it’s how important mental self care is and the crucial role we all play in supporting those suffering in silence.
I’m certain Charlie would agree with me, but if you wanted to hear directly from the artist, here are some thoughts shared by Charlie themselves:
“‘SICK (day #132) is an iso anthem for all those struggling.
Like most people, when the pandemic hit we were forced to pause all our plans, re-adjust and re-assess. Sometimes painfully. So we made a hard pivot. Written and recorded in my garage with just a single microphone and guitar, I wanted to write something that spoke to all the feelings people close to me were having coping with the immediate and flow-on effects of the pandemic. Specifically those still in lockdown. Though the restrictions are necessary, it’s ok to be frustrated and pissed off. Especially if you let it all out in a neat little song.
Furthermore; after dealing with a chronic illness most of my adult life the idea of being “sick” and trying to get over that feeling each day connects with me on a personal and political level.
Also, in this song I acknowledge that maybe things weren’t so good before, and even after something as challenging as this it feels like we should end up somewhere different.
Do the right thing and stay safe.”
Listen to ‘SICK (day #132)’ here: