IAN SWEET Unfolds Roadmap to Recovery on Show Me How You Disappear

Photo Credit: Lucy Sandler

If you were to come across IAN SWEET – a.k.a. Jillian Medford – on the internet, what you would see is a free-spirited, hilarious and talented artist who has recently taken up the hobby of hat-making. This, however, is not the Jillian that we meet on IAN SWEET’s sophomore record, Show Me How You Disappear, released March 5 via Polyvinyl. The record is a sullen but triumphant archive of Medford’s road to recovery after severing ties with an abusive partner and experiencing an all-consuming mental health crisis in 2020.

We hear it all the time, from every angle – 2020 fucking sucked. And the response to that is a resounding and unanimous – yes it did. But outside of a global pandemic, nightmarish election season and countless other tragedies this infamous year contributed to the history of humankind, try adding a massive heartbreak to the list. As you can imagine, this catastrophic cocktail would be too much for anyone to handle, but Medford did – with devastating doses of self-awareness and honesty. In Show Me How You Disappear, Medford creates a meandering but genuine road map to finding herself again, all while letting go of the person that led her off track. 

Medford sets the scene with “My Favorite Cloud,” introducing us to the mindset she was in while writing the record – scattered, dark and disoriented and relying on an external force to keep her afloat. It’s unclear what Medford is referencing when she sings, “Oh at the end of the earth/There’s an endless supply of it/I don’t fuck with this stuff/I don’t even care/What it does for me/How it keeps me living/In suspended bliss without even asking.” But, that’s probably the point. We all have things that keep us going, whether it’s a Xanax prescription or those couple extra glasses of wine after dinner – the habitual coping mechanisms that we find comfort in can shape up to be our enemies when we’re at our lowest, not wanting to exist at all. Medford’s suspended vocals are surrounded by lush, chaotic guitar strums and distant bells and extra-terrestrial synth waves, perhaps suggesting her foot already in the next world. 

But as the album progresses, the fog lifts and we follow Medford on her journey back to herself. In “Get Better,” Medford uses a mantra to will herself into healing, and try to stop falling back into thought patterns that deepen her heartbreak: “I wanna get better, better, better/But in my mind I’m still laying in your bed/I wanna get better, better, better/But I just get you well instead.” We’ve all been there, promising ourselves that today we’ll block our ex on social media, or stop picking up the phone. But if there’s one thing that’s ever-true about heartbreak, it’s that it’s not linear. It’s a lumpy ass sidewalk with cracks and broken glass and wet cement. But Medford is self-aware enough on “Get Better” to know that the only one she’s helping is the one who hurt her when she lets her mind or heart wander back to them. 

The record closes with “I See Everything,” a cleansing ode to mindfulness and recovery. “I know it now I know/What they’re talking about/I’m not afraid anymore/I see it now I see/So much more than before/I see everything.” It’s as if the smoke from the dumpster fire of a relationship has cleared and Medford can finally breathe again – finally take in her surroundings and enjoy them instead of being weighed down by trauma. She leaves any heartbroken or lost listener with the hope that they’ll recover, and a few tools to use along the way. We spoke with Medford about writing the record and the inpatient therapy program that prompted it. Read the interview and listen to Show Me How You Disappear below.

AF: There’s an emphasis on healing in this record — did you take a break from writing music before this record? If yes, what brought you to writing that first song? Did you enter the writing process with a different mentality for this record your previous releases, ? 

JM: I don’t think I’ve ever fully taken a break from writing music – it’s always happening in some capacity but I wasn’t pushing myself to make a full record or compilation of songs at the time. The first song I wrote for this record was “Dumb Driver” and soon after that was “Power.” The writing process for this record was completely different than before because I started writing lyrics first – I would journal for 30 minutes every morning in my outpatient therapy program. 

AF: I read that mantra is a big part of your life/songwriting. When were you first introduced to mantra and is there a certain one that you constantly come back to? 

JM: I’ve never been big on meditation, mantras or mindfulness until I checked myself into an intensive therapy program where I was taught something called “tapping” which is a big mantra-based practice where you simultaneously tap the pressure points on your body as you repeat a mantra of your liking or an intention for the day. This was eye-opening for me and allowed me to find pieces of myself I had not yet been introduced to.

AF: While the record definitely feels self-reflective, I do hear loss and heartbreak in there as well. Was that part of your experience when you were writing? 

JM: Big time heartbreak, heartache and healing.

AF: You handpicked different producers for each song on the album. What was that process like? Do you write an entire song then recruit folks to add the missing pieces or is it a “from the start” situation?

JM: I don’t think I’ve ever done a song from scratch with a producer before. I always bring an outline (guitar, lyrics, drum demo, synth ideas) to the table. It is so fun to see a song transform though through the collaborative process.

AF: If I’m reading the timeline right, a lot of these songs were written during the pandemic in LA – what was that like? Do you think it influenced your sound at all?

JM: Definitely! The pandemic (in a strange way) has allowed me to have space to breathe and make music that is truly representative of what I had been through. At the beginning of the pandemic I was writing like a madman because I had just finished my intensive therapy (that I was in for 2 months) and I was seeing things in a whole new light. I had the time to try to utilize the tools and practices I learned while in the program and see if I could help myself through another dark period.

AF: What’s the story behind the title track?

JM: That track is deep-rooted in an abusive relationship and the vicious cycle of trauma that follows. “Show Me How You Disappear” came from a conversation I had in my head with my abuser – I wanted them gone, I was tired of trying to get rid of the memories myself, it was exhausting… and I wanted them to do the leg work, I wanted them to be the one to remove themselves and their actions from my memory. This song is a plea, almost like a cry out to my abuser to help me in a sense. The least they can do after putting me through such agony would be disappearing from my life so that I could return to the happy, bright, loving person I once was.

IAN SWEET plays Show Me How You Disappear live from Los Angeles’ Lodge Room for an Audiotree STAGED livestream performance on March 26th at 7pm PT/9pm CT. Tickets are $13 adv/$15 DOS and are available here.

Follow IAN SWEET on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

Burgerama Recap & Introducing: IAN


Well, one of the most anticipated weekends this spring for the West Coast garage rock lovers has come and gone. Burgerama 4 last week has certainly exceeded it’s “hype.” Surrounded by a sea of (mostly) Californian sunbathed teens, I, as well as a few thousand others, discovered some great new artists and solidified my obsession for my favorites. As I mentioned a few weeks ago about who I was stoked to see- Burgerama’s lineup this years was a perfect mix between modern-day legends like Roky Erickson, Weezer, and Gang of Four, as well as over a dozen fresh bands like Girl Band, IAN, Palma Violets, Twin Peaks and so so many more. These bands are slowly remolding what it means to be a punk or garage band in 2015. 

One band that seemed to steer away from the “Burger-sounding” theme of the weekend was IAN. This Los Angeles/Boston based band had the relatively tough time slot of 2PM on the smallest of three stages on the first of the festival. Competing against popular acts such as the local-favorited Cosmonauts, and Together PANGEA – impressively, IAN had no issue packing out their room. Front woman, Jillian Medford, definitely knew how to grab the attention of the audience between her sassy stage banter and perfectly tuned yelp-type screech in between her guitar riffs. This past week I’ve had the chance to chat a bit with her,  and get the full scoop where IAN’s sound came from, as well as her opinion on the festival in general. 

AudioFemme: Ok so let’s get some background on IAN- where did ya’ll meet and how did you decide to collaborate?

Jillian: We all met at a house show in Jamaica plain, MA. At Whitehaus. I was playing a show with a different drummer at the time (just me and drums) and Tim, my current drummer came up to me after the show and asked if he could play bass for me! I was totally into it and the day we were all about to get together to play some tunes, my drummer at the time said he couldn’t commit to being in the band and going on tour… So I asked Tim if he would possibly play drums and could tour for two weeks.. Oh and if he had a working van… and he said yes to all of these and it was a match made in heaven. And later sweet Damien was added to the mix!

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]

Disposable of Jillian & Tim backstage at Burgerama
Disposable of Jillian & Tim backstage at Burgerama

AF: Wether it be an era, band or specific person, what would you say influences your sound most? 

JM: I look up to so many people, and feel that I mostly draw influence subconsciously. I very much adore Karen O., both in the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s and solo. My mom is also one of the biggest influences for me, although she doesn’t play an instrument she is such a creative, beautiful, intelligent and encouraging human being. The era I’m feelin’ most would be right now. I am currently and constantly surrounded by such driven people who are always willing to expose new ideas and embrace everyone’s strengths and weaknesses…this keeps me in check and also sometimes unchecked, but that’s probably for the best. You can’t always be a straight line. That would be so boring

AF: I love the raw and organic sound if your self-titled EP on your Bandcamp. Can you tell us a little about that recording process? 

JM: YES! So we recorded this EP in two days in August in a very hot, sticky and stinky Allston apartment with Mark Feede (who will be recording our full length). It was pretty insane thinking back to have recorded in just two days, but we were on a tight timeframe and budget! We just wanted to put something out that we could sell on our upcoming tour. Didn’t really realize it would resonate with people as much as it has on the first go round and that has been very special for us! We love to record live and together. Would hate to have to track instruments separately. it’s so rewarding to look at my boys rockin’. That’s the best part is when we can all face each other and just jump around.

AF: It was your first time playing Burgerama this year. Well… what’d you think? Were you as stoked as your crowd seemed to be?

JM: Burgerama was crayyyyzeeee!! We have played the Constellation Room before (where we played at Burgerama) and it’s definitely one of our top favorite places to play! The crowd is always so responsive and the place ALWAYS fills out completely. It’s shocking! And it’s mostly people who haven’t heard of us before, so it gave us a chance to hopefully win them over. I think the Burgerama show was the best show we’ve ever played. The crowd gives you so much you can’t help but lose your shit a bit. I hopped around so much during out set, the next day I was so sore I made Tim give me piggy back rides everywhere!

AF: Any bands that you had never seen or heard of before that you really enjoyed? 

JM: I hadn’t seen La Luz before and I am a huge fan! they put on a really rad set! Was really inspiring to watch! Also, a moment for Weezer and remembering when I was seven my babysitter would blast “We Are All On Drugs” on the way home from gymnastics practice… It was good to see Weezer, I know all the words thanks to her ha!

AF: Ian rules. Tell us about some future gigs/plans for ya’ll.

JM: We are now back In Boston for a few months after spending some much needed time in LA. We are out here now recording our album & I have to graduate from college in May, and we are also doing a lil tour round the Midwest/south with our buddies Kal Marks in June! We are trying to jam pack tons of fun stuff into our stay out here before we head back to LA to finish up the record there! Then after that….there’s a bunch goin’ on OH MY! So psyched!