Ducking Punches – ‘We just try and spread the message that it’s okay to suffer… you just have to talk about it.’

Ducking Punches – ‘We just try and spread the message that it’s okay to suffer… you just have to talk about it.’

By Yasmin Brown

Sep 14, 2018 13:03

With their 999th and 1000th shows coming up in London and Norwich respectively, and with mental health being increasingly discussed within the music industry, Ducking Punches are making a name for themselves in our part of the world – and rightfully so. We took the time to chat to front man Dan Allen following their set at Camden Rocks this past June, and gained even more insight into (and respect for) this amazing band.

Rather than stop making music entirely, Dan started writing acoustically after the breakup of his last band, because songwriting and putting his thoughts into lyrics is a part of his identity. He picked up an acoustic guitar and released some music by himself, but soon found he missed being in a band; an issue he quickly rectified. “I got everyone in and just like – it was kind of organic in that I’d moved on from acoustic and it’s the songs that I’d wanted to write, so it’s good”.

It’s these songs that the band will be playing at their upcoming shows, and they are “super proud” of ‘Alamort’ – the latest album that they’ve written together, and a project that is just the next step in Dan’s bid for cathartic release through his music.

Despite the ease with which Dan was able to travel when it was just him and his acoustic guitar, he understandably found touring alone “super lonely, especially when, you know, you go around Europe and you don’t know anyone. That’s just not great.” As such, putting together a new band was a natural progression in his career – and, as well as making touring a lot more fun for Dan, it offers fans a fuller and more complete sound to the music that we already loved.

In terms of growth – something that the band is seeing following the release of ‘Alamort’ – Dan has already had some experience playing to larger crowds, having worked as guitar technician and fill in guitarist for Frank Turner on one of his recent tours. It was a whirlwind opportunity that allowed him only two weeks to master every song, “and then the fifth show was to like 50,000 people. I’d never seen that many people.” Luckily for Dan – who was, by his own admission, absolutely shitting himself – the adrenaline kicked in, allowing him to power through and leaving him feeling somewhat better equipped to handle any future experience thrown his way.

As the conversation about mental health opens up on a wider scale, Ducking Punches make a conscious effort to be a part of this discourse – actively advocating for mental health awareness, with Dan often approaching it in his song writing. It felt weird for a moment, discussing such personal and delicate issues outside Camden’s Underworld in the middle of a festival, and yet after a short a while it felt more poignant than anything – because isn’t the point of mental health advocacy reducing that stigma and normalising the conversation? The ease with which Dan discussed these matters both on the street and during his set, and the way he puts others at ease as he does so, highlights the impact that Ducking Punches are able to have through their music.

For Dan, it comes naturally and it is “therapeutic” writing songs that help him; in turn he finds that “people relate to that and then come up to [him] and are like, ‘Oh, thank you for writing that song, you’ve said what I wanted to but couldn’t’”. It’s these responses that encourage him to continue to be honest with his song writing, not just for his own cathartic release, but so that others can relate and feel less alone, too.

This advocacy extends beyond the band’s music too, and now that he has the support of a band behind him, Dan is planning on taking his already incredible support for mental health charities even further. When on the road, Ducking Punches always take a lot of literature to raise awareness – particularly for the charity PAPYRUS (Prevention of Suicide in Young People) who Dan describes as being “an incredible charity”. They also design charity shirts such as this one, which they use to “spread the message that it’s okay to suffer, it’s alright, you just have to talk about it”, as well as donating all the money made from sales to PAPYRUS.

When asked what he would say to those that are struggling with mental health issues, his response came without hesitation. “It’s integral to talk about it” – and especially with people you don’t know particularly well, it’s always important to ask, “are you okay?” more than once, “because [the] first response is always going to be, ‘Yeah I’m alright’, but like, are you though? And then people open up a bit more.” This approach comes with the hope that discussing our mental health will become as normal as it is to discuss our physical health, and that in turn, the heartbreaking number of suicides we read about in the media will fall dramatically.

As more bands like Ducking Punches come onto the scene, the music industry will, with any luck, become a safer place where we can seek help and feel comfortable being open and honest about our struggles. Dan Allen’s sincerity and determination to make a difference is clear in the matter-of-fact way he speaks about these issues, and the way he only breaks eye contact when taking a second to consider his responses.

With their music improving with every new release, and the personable and empathetic manner with which the band treats their fans, Ducking Punches are only going to grow from here on out – and they’re exactly the kind of band this industry needs.