ARXX: Starting a Conversation on Mental Health Through Their Music

ARXX are an all-girl alt-rock duo from Brighton who have something to say. With influences of grunge, pop and punk, their eclectic, powerfully written music can’t be neatly placed into a single genre.  They use their music and platform to speak up for what they believe in and support causes close to their hearts.

Hanni and Clara are mental health advocates who use their online platform to start conversations around mental health and suicide, giving their fanbase a space to open up free from judgement or stigma. Their single ‘Call Me Crazy’ delves into Hanni’s own experience with mental health and emphasises the importance of reaching out. ARXX have also fundraised for Grassroots and other mental health charities through their merch sales.

We chatted to ARXX about being a band in a pandemic, mental health and the role music plays in it, and dream first gigs.

Hannah (left) and Clara (right) stand against a pink wall.
Image by Jessie Morgan

How have you been?

Hanni: I’d say this has been the hardest lockdown. It’s difficult motivation-wise, keeping momentum as a band. Being able to plan for the future is very difficult. It’s been a struggle but we’re okay.

Clara: Yeah I think it’s the motivation. This third lockdown feels like “okay, I’m done now.”

Hanni: Also with it being so cold it’s just so isolating. I feel like people are emotionally exhausted with it and that translates to how much you’re able to give to people as well.

You’ve been in the studio over lockdown. How has this time been for you, creatively?

Hanni: We were very lucky last year to get in the studio and do some recording earlier in the year, and then we managed to have a solo space in November which was amazing. Creatively that was a lifeline, but right now it’s very different for us because at the heart of everything we’re a live band. We write by getting in a room, jamming together and seeing what sticks, but we’ve had to do writing sessions over Zoom and through voice notes. I’d say we’re getting used to it now, but it’s taken us like a year to get here. We’ve had to learn a brand new creative process to adapt.

Clara: We’re still learning! There was a point where we were really resistant to do this, but now there’s not really a choice. We don’t normally use Garageband but right now we’ve had to, we’ve got some weird synth sounds going on that we normally probably wouldn’t.

Hanni: Yeah, when you write in different ways you definitely find different sides of your creativity that you wouldn’t have accessed otherwise.

That’s interesting that it’s sort of changed your sound

Clara: The next single that’s coming out has so many different sounds on it that we’re thinking it’ll be quite the challenge to play live. That’s something we’re going to have to figure out – it’s exciting though.

“There’s going to be this mad competition but I think it’s going to be incredible”

How do you think the past year will affect artists and the music that comes out?

Hanni: I feel both excited and daunted. I don’t think we’re going to come out and have a bunch of songs written about being in a pandemic because everybody just wants to move on, but there’s going to be a massive backlog of music and live shows from the past year, so as a music lover it’s exciting that there’s going to be this renaissance of so much art coming out. As a musician, it’s daunting as hell because we’re going to be a part of that, there’s going to be this mad competition but I think it’s going to be incredible.

Clara: We’re thinking live it’s going to be tough because, it’s already difficult to book tours as it is but now everyone’s like “let’s go”.

A screenshot of Hannah and Clara on the video call for the interview.

Your most recent single ‘Call Me Crazy’ is about your own experience with mental health. Could you tell us a bit about the song and how it came about?

Hanni: I’d always had this lyric “call me crazy, I’m sad all the time” flying around, written it in journals but it never really came to anything. I’m quite open about my own mental health and I’m a real advocate for talking therapy, I think everyone should have it. I’ve gotten to a point where I’ve become very familiar with my own mental health and was in a place to be able to talk about my experience with depression and PTSD. It just felt like the right time to write this song, which is a little bit about my experience and also a bit about the stigma attached to it (the ‘Call me crazy, I’m sad all the time.’)

The next line, which I’m sure Grassroots really advocate for, ‘Call me, I’m going out of my mind’ is about reaching out to people. The chorus is about when I’m going through a difficult time and struggling to communicate how I am and what’s going on, and feeling like I’m never making any sense – but I guess I am. I’ve just got to a place where I feel comfortable talking about it, and the more I share my experiences the more I realise that a lot of people have them, and it just takes people being open for others to think that that’s what they can too.

“I was talking with some friends and I said ‘yeah I think about suicide maybe a couple of times a day but that’s normal.’ and they were like ‘is it?’”

I didn’t even know much about mental health a couple of years ago and I was talking with some friends and I said “yeah I think about suicide maybe a couple of times a day but that’s normal.” and they were like “is it?” I never saw myself as an at-risk person when I’d said that, but that’s why there’s so much benefit to having those conversations.

Music is something that’s helped so many people through this difficult time. How has music impacted your mental health?

Clara: We’re quite mellow, awkward people but on stage we get quite fierce and it just all comes out. I feel like that’s my therapy. I find it quite a good energy release and way to get everything out there. Especially since I play drums I just get to hit things really loud which is great – I’d recommend it.

I’m a huge fan of pop songs, last night for example, I was at home and I put on Dua Lipa’s album and the whole mood in the house changed. I love a pop album and I have certain ones that I know will switch my mood. I also love sad stuff but I’ve got to be feeling really good to listen to that.

Hanni: I always say there’s two kinds of people, the people that listen to happy music when they’re feeling down to make them happy, or people that listen to sad music to make them feel more sad.

Clara: That’s not me.

Hanni: I’m one of those people. It’s such an incredible way to access self-soothing, people might not even realise they’re doing it which is why it’s so great. If you just need someone to feel your pain with you and allow you to have those feelings and give space for it – maybe that’s talking to a friend, maybe that’s talking to a professional or maybe that just is listening to your favourite album. I think there’s no stigma in that, I think people see that as a very accessible medium and that’s so positive.

I didn’t realise until this pandemic hit just how interlinked my mental health and physically performing are. I realised I’ve got all this energy – and it’s not always positive energy – that needs to be released, so I’m feeling things so much stronger because I need to mellow out.

Clara: I even caught myself the other day, I was practising drums and there’s a few songs that I just love playing, and by the end I was full on sweating. I didn’t even realise I needed to get that out. I hadn’t done that in so long, we’re so used to performing at least a few times a month and we just haven’t done it in a really long time, so that felt good.

Hannah (left) and Clara (right) sat in a studio with a pink backdrop.
Image by Kaleido Shoots

You have been real advocates for mental health, in November you hosted a Mental Health Day on your Instagram. How was that?

Hanni: It was amazing to hear about the work that you guys do. I’d never really considered how important it is to be familiar with the resources in your area, because the feeling of being powerless or alone comes from lack of knowledge or education about them. Even if we don’t access those resources, knowing that they’re there is really important.

“Having that training or support for those people who are being a better friend, or a better family member, that’s so powerful”

What I really love about Grassroots is that it’s centred around helping people who need it but there’s also a lot of focus on helping people who might think that they need to help someone else. When I’ve been at my lowest points I’ve never felt able to reach out, but I know that the people around me noticed a difference, and I know I’ve been that person for people in my life. Having that training or support for those people who are being a better friend, or a better family member, that’s so powerful. I guess with that Mental Health Day we just wanted to normalise talking about it, allow people to feel less alone but also just familiarise some of the people in our community with what’s out there for them.

Are you thinking of doing any gigs this year?

Hanni: We have our tour hopefully scheduled for August/September. We’re holding it loosely but if that’s possible we’ll be going ahead with touring then.

Clara: We’ll be there banging on the door of the place. I’ve never appreciated gigs as much as I do now, even watching as an audience member. I didn’t realise how much I enjoyed it and want that in my life. Hopefully when venues open up again everyone will realise that too and want to support it more.

Hanni: As I was saying earlier I think there’s going to be a proper renaissance and I don’t think it’s going to go back to how it was. I think for bands with a really strong live set that really emotes to the crowd, it’s going to go even further than how it used to be – it’s gonna be more popular and more in demand, I hope.

What would be your dream first gig to go to post-lockdown?

Clara: We were meant to be seeing HAIM at the o2 and that would be my dream. I really hope that happens and I don’t think it’s going to, but I’ll deal with that when it comes.

Hanni: I think I’d probably choose MUNA because they played in Brighton the year before last and it’s just one of the most euphoric concerts I’ve ever been to, just proper took me somewhere else. I’m super excited to go see HAIM but it’s a difficult venue to feel completely immersed. I think I need to be in a smaller venue, and I need to just fully lose it.

Clara: I mean, if I could see HAIM in Concorde 2 I would be there. If we’re talking dream-dream, I’ll go with that. The worst thing is we were meant to play a socially distanced gig (at Concorde 2) this week actually, which was booked ages ago, and then I had to cross it out and I had to put in that I had a filling at the dentist instead. It was the worst trade-off.

Hanni: We’re so lucky in Brighton that we’ve got so many amazing venues, and I’m definitely not going to take that for granted anymore.

Their new single ‘DEEP’ is out on the 19th of March 2021.

ARXX’s merch store: https://arxxband.bandcamp.com/