What Frank Ocean, Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace, and Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos Have in Common

On Wednesday, Passion Pit announced, for the second time this month, that it was canceling and rescheduling tour dates. The first time, front man Michael Angelakos explained, via a post on the band’s website, that “in order for me to ensure that there will be no further disruptions, I am going to take the time to work on improving my mental health.” This time, in a collective statement, the band says “We’re sorry to let you know that we need to postpone our upcoming weekday shows in Colorado and Salt Lake City in order for Michael to continue to improve his mental health and complete a procedure that week.” In the background for all this is a Pitchfork profile of Angelakos that goes in depth about the mental health issues referenced in the statements. In the piece, Larry Fitzmaurice charts Angelakos’s medical problems, starting off with a 2009 SXSW gig that came right as the band was really starting to take off:

“I started standing on my vintage keyboards and freaking the fuck out. It got to the point where I was just rolling around on the grass, going crazy. When I got off the stage, all the Columbia people there were very excited. I was on the side, and I was crying. I couldn’t control it.” Far from your typical post-show euphoria, Angelakos was experiencing what he refers to as a dissociative psychotic reaction — his stress reached a biological level that induced a breakdown. “Everything was a blur. We were doing promo appearances, and I didn’t even know who I was talking to. No one knew me well enough to say, ‘There’s something wrong.’ They just thought I was drunk.” When SXSW concluded, the frontman went directly from Austin to Houston, where he was admitted to a clinic for issues related to his mental health.

As Angelakos explains, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was 18, and his band’s success and touring life has exacerbated his condition. As he continues to struggle, he’s been in and out of hospitals. At one point in the piece, Fitzmaurice explains that Angelakos “worried about the onset of failure … and made plans to ‘end on a high note’ and jump off of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway at 5 p.m. that day. In the afternoon, though, he tried to acquire a refill of medication from one of his doctors, who noticed something was up and took him to be admitted to a treatment facility immediately.”

It’s heavy stuff. And that’s why it’s so admirable that Angelakos is willing to air it out. Between the statements and the soul bearing he did with Pitchfork, the guy doesn’t seem to be holding much back. Hopefully, it helps Angelakos to talk about it. Certainly, it’s helping kids struggling with similar stuff to hear him talk about it.

And there’s another positive development to be acknowledged here. Angelakos’s disclosure comes on the heels of two wildly different reveals from two of his music industry contemporaries. First, we heard from Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace as she explained her decision to begin living as a woman. Later, we heard from Frank Ocean as he explained, in a beautifully oblique manner, that his first love was a man.

I in no way mean to suggest that the content of the reveals from Angelakos, Ocean, and Grace are similar. But what all three musicians have done, in the process of the conversations they’ve started, is indicate that we may be experiencing a particularly inviting musician-to-fan environment. In the past (and certainly again in the future), the personal information this trio revealed might well have been papered over. As Ocean himself explained to the Guardian, “I knew that my star was rising, and I knew that if I waited I would always have somebody that I respected be able to encourage me to wait longer, to not say it till who knows when.” Whether the pressure is internal or external or just perceived, there’s always a reason to not talk openly about your sensitive, private matters. Certainly, these three individuals have proven themselves exceptionally courageous in revealing the truth. But it’s probably not too much of a stretch to imagine that, as they considered doing so, they were buoyed by an environment that they deemed to be supportive and warm and encouraging. And that’s pretty rad to think about.

Thankfully, that has proven to be the case — both Grace and Ocean have received public support for their actions. What’s more, they’ve proven that taking on the story themselves, rather then being forced to talk by the media or anyone else, has been an excellent way to control the situation.

As Nitsuh Abebe wrote of Frank Ocean, “It’s certainly not what we’re used to, which is watching people far more well-known than Ocean sitting down with a press organ to negotiate the public terms of their identity: how they’ll consent to be defined, which parts of their sexuality are public and which are private, and where lines can be drawn between their personal lives and their work. Ocean’s a writer of songs, though, and many of those songs have to do with love and sex, which means things here can travel in the opposite direction. It’s not so important for anyone to know how he’d categorize himself at the moment; what feels relevant is his actual experience of love, and his thumbnail sketch of one piece of that experience is remarkably potent.” And as Grace told MTV, “being able to do something like the Rolling Stone interview grounded it in reality … being able to hand my next door neighbor a copy of Rolling Stone and being like, ‘this is what I’m going through … If you have any questions I’m happy to answer them.’”

I don’t know if that’s how Michael Angelakos feels about opening up to Pitchfork. But I am glad that, at this moment in the music industry chronology — like Ocean and Grace — he felt comfortable doing so. And I hope that it helped.

Filed Under: Frank Ocean

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Amos Barshad has written for New York magazine, Spin, GQ, XXL, and the Arkansas Times. He is a staff writer for Grantland.

Archive @ AmosBarshad