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ASYLUM by A R I Z O N A: Changing Musical Discussions About Mental Health

On October 11th, New Jersey-based electro-pop group A R I Z O N A released the long-awaited follow up to GALLERY, their 2017 debut album. The trio of friends originally started making music just for fun, but after gaining popularity after the release of early singles, “Ocean’s Away” and “Cross My Mind”, things started to get more serious. Since the release of their first singles, the band has grown to release GALLERY, open for Panic! At the Disco on their world tour, and have sold-out headlining shows all over the US.

GALLERY’s follow up has been widely anticipated by fans and the band. According to the members, A R I Z O N A started working on ASYLUM almost immediately after GALLERY came out. After the release of Avicii’s posthumous album which a song featuring A R I Z O N A, the hype around the band’s second album grew intensely. The band members were all huge fans of Avicii and sent him a demo without much thought; it wasn’t until after Avicii’s untimely passing that A R I Z O N A learned he was working on their song. Avicii really connected with the lyrics about depression and anxiety in “Hold the Line” as his death revealed his struggle. A R I Z O N A has been very outspoken about mental health. The band discusses their own problems with everyday depression and anxiety, and how to live with poor mental health.

The band really focuses on spreading mental health awareness in ASYLUM. Upon first listen, some people may not get this impression. Guitarist, Nate Esquite, and keyboardist, David Labuguen, create an upbeat melody that carries through the entire nine-track album. With a fast-tempo and the use of complimenting harmonies, Esquite and Labuguen play their music that makes you want to dance. But how does dancing spread mental health awareness? Just listen to lead vocalist, Zach Charles, as he belts out lyrics of grief and pain. Onestowatch.com writes about ASYLUM calling the opposite music elements, “a thematic and sonic contrast unlike any other.

The band spoke to Billboard, and said, “the album is basically day-to-day living through uncomfortable situations and not great spaces to be in, but at the end of the day making something fun and good out of it.” Through struggle and frustrating times, A R I Z O N A turned to their music as a way to heal themselves, but also as a way to spread awareness and a message about mental health. The band said making this album was like therapy. Charles wants the album to be, “the starting point for some people to know that they’re not alone and there is a safe space out there when you feel like you’re losing control, then that’s great.” A R I Z O N A is excited for what comes next with touring and their third album. The band has said that they are going to take the time they didn’t have for ASYLUM to work on their next album.

Writing, Literature and Publishing major at Emerson College, 2021
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