The Wants – Going Through The Emotions

The Wants are the new art-punk project from Bodega guitarist Madison Velding-VanDam and bassist Heather Elle. The project pairs both new wave sensibilities and off-kilter hooks, with minimal techno. We caught up with the band to chat grief, growth and greens. What has been your biggest life challenge so far and what did you do […]

The Wants – Going Through The Emotions

By Ellis Toner

The Wants are the new art-punk project from Bodega guitarist Madison Velding-VanDam and bassist Heather Elle. The project pairs both new wave sensibilities and off-kilter hooks, with minimal techno. We caught up with the band to chat grief, growth and greens.

What has been your biggest life challenge so far and what did you do to overcome it?

Jason Gates: I’ve been around quite a bit of death. I think staying busy has been pretty good to me.

Heather Elle: Figuring out how to healthfully deal with grief and honor those who I’ve lost. Grief evolves; one doesn’t overcome it. Instead it requires constant maintenance and patience with oneself.

Madison Velding-VanDam: I’ve been lucky to have limited experiences of loss, unlike my bandmates, at this point. I feel my struggles pale in comparison.

My struggle has been to believe in myself as an artist and it’s ongoing.

I think it’s important to ask myself all the time why I want this lifestyle.

What do you think affects your mental health positively?

HE: The secret to surviving New York City is regularly leaving it, but if you can’t afford that luxury, you should still constantly seek novelty. I’m happiest when I take new routes, visit far away neighborhoods, try foreign cuisines, mingle with a different crowd, see a stimulating art exhibit or performance of a music genre other than my own. Your brain benefits greatly from building these new neural pathways and broadening your perception of the world.

JG: Focusing on things that inspire me. Practicing and playing/working on music with the band. Exercise.

MVV: I survive tour and stay productive at home by staying generally sober and getting enough sleep. And I take these things seriously! Doing so has changed my life for the better. I can make room for special occasion to have a drink with friends, but as soon as that becomes a pattern, it quickly becomes exponentially harder for me to do what I love: make records and perform.

And negatively?

HE: Being screen zombies is against our nature. Over the last year, I’ve started to turn my phone off, hide it, or leave it at home more frequently, especially when I write or want to spend quality time with someone. Studies have shown that even when your phone is turned off, its nearby presence will still distract you.

JG: Eating shitty food and not playing music.

MVV: Drinking, doing drugs, and not getting enough sleep. These may seem like obvious dampers on mental health, but many people I know are struggling with this.

What role does creativity play in your wellbeing?

HE: If I don’t write, create, or work on something every day —even if it’s terrible— I feel incredibly disconnected from myself and the world. I need to constantly remind myself to silence my inner critic and experiment regularly, whatever the medium may be. Branching out into other art forms to balance your main one is also incredibly important, like how Bob Dylan welds big iron gates when he isn’t focusing on music. I’ll usually turn to painting or cooking a new recipe.

JG: It’s huge.

MVV: Before I was able to focus on music full time, creativity was the itch I was always looking to scratch. This past year, I’ve been able to open up my schedule to more routine creativity and now I’m spoiled. I crave the time and space to be productive.

What are you reading, watching and listening to at the moment?

HE: I’m in the middle of the book ‘Sapiens’ by Yuval Noah Harari which is an absolutely mind-boggling and humbling read. I’ve had the American ambient classical composer Harold Budd on repeat, specifically his 1978 album ‘The Pavilion of Dreams’. I’m currently looking for documentaries and films about memory and nostalgia. The other night I watched the 90’s doc ‘Without Memory’ which is a tragic story about a husband and father of two who fell victim to medical malpractice and can no longer form new memories.

JG: I’m just starting “The Extended Phenotype” by Richard Dawkins.

MVV: I just finished Yuval Noah Harari’s ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’ and I’m on to his second of the series ‘Homo Deus’. I’m also chipping away at ‘The Autobiography of Malcom X’, his life and telling of it is so rich that I’m taking my time with that. I’m listening to Hildur Guðnadóttir’s ‘Chernobyl’ soundtrack and I’m gearing up to binge the series.

What’s your go to music if you need a boost?

HE: Sweet Valley’s 2012 album ‘Eternal Champ’

JG: To get amped up? Usually darker techno like Dasha Rush, Karenn, Perc, or Surgeon.

MVV: Floating Points is my current jumpstart.

What are your favourite foods?

HE: Sweat-inducing ones, especially authentic Indian and Thai curries. My partner and I bought a mini-fridge just for hot sauces —capsaicin is the best high.

JG: Leafy greens and sushi.

MVV: I love cooking and I’m lucky enough to have a quality fruits and vegetables market near my house. With my instant pot I can make a mean potato stew, adding whatever is available, yams, tomatoes, jalapeños, onions, and garlic. This lasts me for days. When I’m the UK, I eat nothing but sourdough and salt and vinegar crisps (or “chips” we call them in the states)—our tour manager/FOH Nick and I are connoisseurs of the crisps.

Do you like to exercise or meditate at all?

HE: I enjoy sitting and sweating for hours in the East Village Russian Turkish Baths where Frank Sinatra, John Belushi, and J-Lo were once regulars.

JG: Exercise perpetually. Lots of drumming, cardio exercises, pull-ups (something so symbolic about being able to pull yourself up.) Jump rope! I’ve got the whole band on jump rope! Madison is a bit of a natural & I think Heather is like a state champ or some sort of medalist. I meditate a bit. Should probably do more but I think I run a little differently than most. I feel good and clear when I’m pushing. I’m pretty high energy.

MVV: I’ve learned some key stretching and yoga techniques to keep myself in balance while I’m doing such asymmetrical activity (guitar playing).

What is the best advice you’ve ever received in regards to your mental wellbeing?

HE: Listen to your body and never be afraid to reach out for help.

JG: “I’m not here, This isn’t happening”

MVV: “Eat your vegetables kid.”

How have you changed since 15, and what advice would you give to that person?

HE: I’ve lived what feels like ten lives since I was fifteen. Big cities can give you that opportunity. I’d probably say two things to my younger self: first, let the city smack you around a few times and then we’ll talk. second, drinking huge glasses of skim milk for stronger bones is a f*cking lie.

MVV: I think my 15 year old self would be pleasantly surprised that I’m still making music. I’d offer the advice “pursue your curiosity with ferocity and don’t look back!”

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