The pandemic was particularly hard for The Blue Iris. “It left me without a job, afraid to go outside, and generally scared for the future,” they confide. Feeling tremendously “stressed about too many things to name and depressed past anything I had felt in years,” the singer-songwriter grabbed a guitar and wrote the appropriately titled “Stressed and Depressed.” Premiering today, the song detonates with all the anger, loneliness, and anxiety they were feeling. Even their vocal performance is appropriately combustible.
“To me this song feels like a timestamp of those first few months of last year,” they tell Audiofemme. The song also serves as a direct response to the reception of “Body Regardless,” a track that appeared on their Life VS Art LP (released in January 2020). That song depicted “how I felt about coming out as trans and overcoming dysphoria. After its release, I had a lot of wonderful people who came to me and told me how much it meant to them when they heard it,” they explain. “I remember thinking at the time that it was kind of scary to be helping people get through something that I was still struggling with every day.” That’s what inspired the propulsive first line of “Stressed and Depressed”: “How can I write about getting better, when I can’t get better myself?”
“Which of these lines won’t make it off paper? How many songs won’t leave the shelf?” they continue, uncoiling wonderfully graphic imagery. “Spill my guts out as ink on paper/Squeeze dry my heart right on this stage/I’ll clean the blood up later.”
“Most of the time when I’m writing I’ll play a few random chords and start almost free-styling vocals over them until I find something that sounds good,” they explain, and “Stressed and Depressed” was no different. “For [this song], I started with some ‘60s folk guitar progressions. I think some of the best songs can be made using a few simple classic chords. The melody also wasn’t really something that I sat around and thought about; for me, those things usually just kind of vibe out as I’m writing.”
Noticeably, the melody drapes around a more clearly defined punk bravado, rather than folk. The bridge, in which they howl “maybe all that I need is rest,” owes largely to bands like Taking Back Sunday ─ “for showing me that repeating the same thing over and over is the best way to get your point across. Sometimes I just want to play a few chords very quickly and yell about my feelings over the top of them, you know?”
Alongside the single drop, The Blue Iris has announced a brand new lathe cut, double-sided 7” vinyl single with artwork created by Julian Colas and Wren Crain, sold exclusively via the Blue Iris’s Bandcamp. Side A contains “Something’s Wrong,” the first single released late 2020, with “Stressed and Depressed” on Side B. Limited to an edition of 50, 30 will feature standard release art and the remaining 20 will include special-edition b-side artwork.
“The loud electric in your face full band performance of ‘Something’s Wrong’ is met with colorful photos and art,” The Blue Iris notes of the packaging. “At the same time, the mostly acoustic track ‘Stressed and Depressed’ is paired with a colorless dark artwork.”
Originally from Indiana, the multi-instrumentalist first began playing music when they were 12. Bass guitar came first, and then ukulele, acoustic guitar, keys, and harmonica, among a slew of other instruments. To be quite honest, they’re a bit of a musical savant; nothing is off limits, and their creativity knows no bounds. “I think I started writing my own music right away, but I don’t think I really knew what I was doing until I was maybe 16,” they reflect. “It was all about having fun and doing something that felt good with my closest friends.”
“My early writing was not great, and honestly, it’s nothing like what I’m doing now. I think my current writing style really came through when I graduated high school,” they continue. “I was in and out of a few bands throughout my life, but a group/collaborative writing style is a lot different than doing solo music.”
By the time they were 21, they were creating music under the artist name Hollyweed and performed various small shows and festivals in the Midwest. “I feel like I went through a lot of music phases in my life,” they remark. An obsession with ‘90s alternative, ‘70s rock, ‘80s pop, and early-aughts emo all directly feed into their new musical form, flying across melodies with a lion-like pounce.
“If I take a look at the kind of music I feel the most connected to now, there are a few big artists that come to mind,” they offer. Names like Jeff Rosenstock, Ezra Furman, Kind of Like Spitting, Against Me!, and Radiator Hospital rise to the top of the list, alongside a host of others, including Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs Elliott Smith, and Daniel Johnston. “I find them just as impactful as they were when I first heard them. Truthfully, after thinking this over, I find myself taking solace in more artists than I even realized.”
Through the many years writing and recording, the biggest creative shift happened primarily through their “lyrical style and musical ability. The more songs I write, the more ‘me’ they feel. The whole reason I write in the first place is to express my difficult feelings in order to get through them and to share my experiences with others. I don’t think I really figured that out until the last few years.”
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