Booty Shaking Through Gentrification & Mental Stress; A Conversation with Jank
‘Awkward Pop Songs,’ from self-proclaimedmed weed-pop band, JANK, is thirty-three minutes of booty shaking, expertly crafted, straight up silly songs. The band is based in Philadelphia, where a booming music scene, rising rent, and gentrification puts mental stress on the people who are fighting to sustain the DIY community. While JANK is aware of the issues their community is dealing with, they also understand the importance of taking a step back and enjoying the reason we all started coming to DIY shows — to dance, yell, and enjoy each other’s artistic endeavors.
The members of JANK love to have fun, they’re constantly making jokes with each other and their audiences. Their genuine drive for having a good time is portrayed in their lighthearted lyrics, like those on the track Hat Store. Their persistent antics often leads to them being labeled a joke band, which is something that JANK has never gone out of their way to deny. They’re here to have fun, but it’s important to note that this joke band is acutely aware of controversial issues in society.
Matt’s lyrics balance introspective lines with grounding jests. In their track, Caitlyn, Matt sings, “you’re not real, but you’re something.” It’s a vague statement that is sung with deep emotion that connects each audience member with that one topic, person, or issue that causes personal strife. Then Matt reminds the audience, “you’re an imaginary dog,” and that’s it – it’s just a dog, we can party again.
“There’s a lot of things that need to be changed and fixed,” says Matt Diamond, guitarist, and vocalist of JANK, “We want to give you a break to chill and dance and be happy. When you go back to that shitty stuff you can think, well at least I had fun at that show.”
Bassist of JANK, Ruben Polo has lived in Philadelphia for the last seven years and booked DIY shows for the last five years. He has seen first hand how gentrification has affected the Philadelphia music scene. Each of the members has experienced the mental stress that comes with sharing their creations, whether individual or as a band, with a community that may be supportive and accepting or critical and isolating.
While hosting house shows to larger audiences comes as a response to issues of gentrification and reduced music venues, Ruben states,“We as a DIY community don’t help gentrification.” Matt’s house has had a broken bathroom door for over a year, a downside of hosting a successful house show. Landlords, who now have to pay for renovations, are pushed to rent to wealthier tenants that can pay higher rents. “Two years ago, at any given moment there were 25 houses, right now I can name maybe 8-10,” adds Ruben.
The DIY community may be a factor in the demise of housing available to host shows, but it is not the only cause. According to the latest Pew research on Philadelphia’s changing neighborhoods, released in May, some neighborhoods such as Pennsport saw an 84 percent average income increase among tenants. Passyunk crossing saw a 54 percent increase, and middle income housing areas, such as Marconi plaza still saw a 15 percent increase in average income of its tenants.
Those who are still in a position to help the DIY community, do what they can, i.e. respond to the growing music community by booking more and more bands at their rented homes – but it comes at a price.
“I had one show where I accidentally booked six bands, with three touring bands,” said Matt.
Matt describes a chaotic night, running between collecting donations for touring acts and managing equipment, set up, and crowd control. Essentially they, as one individual, had the same stress and responsibility that a booker, door-man, sound technician, and bartender may have at a club. They are not unique in putting themselves through this type of mental stress. The DIY community is sustained by kids across the country running house shows like Matt’s show. Hosts must question if they have enough attendees so the band can make enough money to continue their too or if they have too many attendees that may damage the house.
Help Musicians, a non-profit organization in the United Kingdom, surveyed more than five hundred musicians last summer. Of those, 60 percent claimed to suffer from mental health issues. Two of the three most frequent complaints in that survey stem from anxieties about work insecurity and performance. Traveling problems and poor nutrition round out the top ten highest problems.
Austin Therapist, Gilbert Ramos, added that in his ten years of consulting with exclusively Austin musicians, one of the driving factors of mental illness among musicians was financial insecurity. “If they can’t afford even to get rent, they can’t afford to get mental care,” added Ramos.
Where does the burden of health care fall?
In Austin, Texas, musicians have mental health resources like SIMS, an organization that connects therapists like Ramos with Austin musicians to assist depression, anxiety, addiction, and other mental health issues. However, SIMS is able to sustain itself because it receives funding from the city of Austin as well as from benefit concerts hosted by local musicians. Even still, it can only afford to assist musicians in Travis and it’s the contiguous counties. Cities that aren’t built on tourism driven by live music, like Philadelphia, aren’t in that position to help it’s musicians.
While JANK often gets labeled as a joke band because of their silly lyrics and pop rhythms, In a society without established outlets for relieving mental health, fun bands like JANK are exactly what the community needs to reset and recharge.
“We aren’t the band that reminds you that it’s there. It’s kind of like the escape,” says Sam Becht, drummer of JANK.
“DIY is definitely something that you’re going to need to prepare yourself for if you’re going to be a part of it. Booking is stressful, playing is stressful, working with labels is stressful, but we love playing music enough that we tolerate it,” adds Matt.
JANK’s passion for music and community resonates with their audience. At their album release show on May 13th, they sold out Everybody Hits, batting cages by day and music venue by night. The crowd, composed of anyone from high school kids to those well beyond college, yelled the lyrics to every track of Awkward Pop Songs. Throughout the chaos, Matt reminded the crowd to have a good time, while respecting the other audience members. The end result was a successful night of cooperation and community respect.
To speak to a licensed SIMS counselor call (512) 494-1007