“The best way for me to clear my head is to turn my phone off and empty my mental cache.”
Having built a reputation as one of Scotland’s most exciting live bands, The LaFontaines are about to embark on a UK tour supporting Don Broco, following sold out headline shows at Glasgow’s Barrowlands and other performances at London’s KOKO and the main stage at T In The Park. We chatted to frontman Kerr Okan about their latest album Common Problem, political turmoil and staying grounded…
Hey The LaFontaines, what are you up to at the moment?
Hiya, I’m currently sitting on a train to London trying to book Travelodges across the UK/Eire and Europe. We’re off on tour next week and as usual, booking accommodation has been left till the last minute. Whoever said being in a band was right good fun has clearly never done this part!
The title track of your album ‘Common Problem’ seems to address issues such as sometimes feeling like you’re not as good as other people and wanting to put your phone away and disconnect from social media – what inspired the lyrics for this song? What were you feeling when you wrote it?
Social media can be a pretty toxic and unforgiving place at times, even when reading or viewing something that isn’t directed at you. We live in a society where we have this constant need for approval. ‘LIKE this’, ‘SHARE that’, ‘RT me’ – it’s exhausting. Sometimes the best way for me to clear my head is just to turn my phone off and empty my mental cache. Either that or have an interaction with an actual real-life human being.
Your track ‘Asleep’ has subtle political undertones, do you find that everything happening in the news lately takes a toll on your mental health? If it makes you angry, how do you process that anger?
At this point, as a writer, it’s important for me to have some depth behind the words I’m saying on a record. My writing takes on a form of social commentary at times, so I can’t help but have an emotional reaction to what’s happening round about me or on the news. On Common Problem, with ‘Explosion’ and ‘Asleep’, I opened and ended a political conversation with myself. I feel that’s the best way for me to process any anger or frustration I have. I get to vent (NEVER PREACH) on songs we create and that becomes my therapy.
In ‘King’, you sing “Easily influenced, peer pressure got the best of me” – were you easily influenced when you were younger and are you still like that? What were your school years like?
Like a lot of young lads around my area, I was easily led into a whole host of bad situations. When you’re younger, all you really want is to be accepted by your peers and to fit in with the crowd. That usually leads to a lot of things that your better judgement would strongly advise not to do. As you mature, you hopefully realise people respect individuals more than followers.
What has been your biggest life challenge and what did you do to overcome it?
Like everybody I’ve had various challenges in my life, some big, some small, but the thing I’m probably most proud of is how I have managed to develop my craft as a musician. They say if you dedicate 10,000 hours to something you’ll eventually become a master at it. Whether I’m that level is up for debate, but what I can guarantee you is that I’m very experienced at riding the tide. Challenges are like waves. When you are up on the wave, everything’s amazing, and you ride it until it comes crashing down. The challenge is trying to keep yourself afloat long enough to catch the next one. That is what I have become a master at.
How important has music been to your mental health?
Sometimes the contrast between the highs of a successful show and the anti-climactic low that often follows can be hard to adjust to. It goes back to what I mentioned earlier, about riding the wave. Over years of experience, I’ve become pretty well versed at balancing my mental state, but for someone less experienced I think it can be a pretty dangerous place to be. The fate of your career in the hands of a booking agent, a label head, hoping that a tour support comes off, that your single works at radio, that fans like your music – all of this is pretty toxic for your mental health. I wouldn’t say music has been good for my mental health at all, I’d just say I’ve become a more grounded person as a result.
What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?
Warm weather, a beach by the ocean and a couple of cold beers. As simple as that really.
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
So far I’ve been given a pretty good bill of health (physical and mental) so right off the bat, that wins hands down. I mention this in the first song on our new album: “Don’t cry for my sins or myself/ I should be happy in health”.
Apart from that, I have some pretty class people in my life. When you’re not forced to cross the Mediterranean on a rubber dinghy with 200 other folk, you know you have it good!
Complete this sentence: “Ace mental health for me means…”
Totally focusing on the moment. Being completely at one with what I’m doing. Never worrying about the past or future – only being present in the now.
Who was your best friend at school? What was the funniest thing they did?
My best friend at school is still my best mate. Honestly it wouldn’t be appropriate for this interview…
What three songs lift your spirits?
Octavian – Hands
Elayna Boynton – Freedom
Anderson. Paak – Til It’s Over
What do you eat to stay healthy?
I eat the same things pretty much each day.
Breakfast = Eggs poached or scrambled + porridge.
Lunch = Sweet potato and tuna.
Dinner = Chicken, fish or steak.
Do you have a daily routine of exercise or do you make it up as you go along?
I train 3 or 4 times a week, split routines lifting weights. Plus a bit of Jiu-Jitsu whenever I can.