We here at GGA think The Doubleclicks are aces. Multi-talented siblings Laser Malena-Webber and Aubrey Turner sing beautifully and play multiple instruments. Their songs are fun, vulnerable and unashamedly geeky. More than that, they are truly and deeply relatable.
The band released their latest video today from their new album, The Book was Better. “Happy Birthday, Nobody Hates You” is an “I got you” for the socially anxious. Laser Malena-Webber, one half of the sibling duo, said the idea for the song was brought on because of the intense anxiety and paranoia they feel every year on their birthday. The video is a lyric video and is so awesome that the band printed cards that sing the song! THAT IS SO NEAT! Those cards are available NOW, here!
Super fan and GGA contributor Fallon Marie Gannon and I asked Laser some questions about the new song, their latest tour and we got candid about mental health. Enjoy the video and our interview!
GGA: In a 2014 interview with Geek & Sundry you boldly declared ‘The ukulele is the future of music’, do you still stand by that statement? If so, can you elaborate on that?
Laser: Oh gosh, I don’t remember saying this but I believe that I did. Ukuleles are small, easy to play, and nice. With the Internet, it’s easy to record yourself making a song and put it online. So I guess I agree with past me — a lot of people will give us suggestions of things to write about, and to them I always say – write your own song! Get a ukulele and a YouTube channel and go nuts!
GGA: In your experience what’s one thing people who cover the entertainment industry focus on too much and what’s something they don’t focus on enough?
Laser: I think they cover rumors too much? I am not really interested in hearing a lot about a piece of art before it exists. And I think there is a lot of “original” and “independent” art out there that isn’t getting light shone on it enough because Algorithms are feeding into peoples’ desire to just learn about stuff they already know. Alas.
GGA: How valuable has fan support online and through Kickstarter been?
Laser: It’s everything to us! Our fans don’t just back us on Kickstarter and Patreon (and that’s amazing), but they also tell us where to go on tour and they star in our music videos. We love the community that includes our music and our friends’ music, and we are very very lucky to have all of them.
GGA: Do you have moments of Holy Sh*t! We are making music because of fan love!
Laser: All the damn time! We had to take about a year off from the band, just for our mental health, and we got day jobs and did non-music things. It was fine, but it made us appreciate even more how fortunate we are to be able to make music, and to be able to afford the time to do so. It also gave us a lot of great song ideas.
GGA: You are halfway through your tour right now. What are some memorable moments that you’ve had so far?
Laser: This tour has been amazing already. At one show, right as we were starting our set, a kid handed us a picture they’d drawn of us, and on the back was a really sweet poem about empowering people and bringing joy to the world. That kid is great.
GGA: Your recent music video “I’m Winning” focused on video games and identity. It’s amazing. How did you pull the team together to create such a stunning and meaningful animated video?
Laser: I put out a call for non-binary artists and animators and got something like 60 responses almost immediately. One artist, named S, helped me shape the story, and they storyboarded the whole thing and designed the characters. We then chose an animator for each 15-second piece of the video, and they each did amazing work creating this video that is both unified and a diverse collection of art styles. It was a lot of work, and it was possible because of some incredible donations by a handful of Doubleclicks supporters who helped us pay all the artists.
GGA: How did the positive response to the video make you feel?
Laser: I was so excited when the video got posted on io9 and very relieved that people liked it, cause it was so much work. We screened the video at PAX East in front of a crowd of like 2,000 people and they were so positive, it was amazing.
Laser: It’s no secret you guys LOVE board games but do you ever play video games? If so, as musicians, which video game do you think has the best original music?
Yeah, we play video games! One of our faves is Stardew Valley!
GGA: Okay! Let’s talk about anxiety! We love Happy Birthday, No One Hates You. It really resonates with the socially anxious. Do both of you struggle with anxiety?
Laser: Yeah, we’re both pretty open about anxiety. Social anxiety has been a theme in a lot of our work from the very beginning, but it’s been something we talk about more and more. During that break I talked about, we both got on meds for anxiety and the whole process of touring, recording, and generally being humans is a lot more tolerable now, but of course not everything is fixed. This birthday song is very personal to me. I LOVE my birthday but also I get real paranoid, unfoundedly, when planning events.
GGA: Do you find it cathartic to write about anxiety and other issues that you experience? Or do you find the result a beautiful, complicated mixture of catharsis, more anxiety and accomplishment?
Laser: Our sort of “mission statement” for the Doubleclicks is that we take problems that we face, issues, things that anger us, and we turn them into songs that make us happy. We (ideally) take something enraging and turn it into a chorus that serves as a positive mantra. Nothing to Prove is an example of that — It’s a song about gatekeepers in the nerd community. This is My Jam is another – a song with a similar subject might say “shut up and leave me alone, you are annoying…” but the chorus instead is “this is my jam, this is my song this is my life…” It just feels better to write something positive when you know you’re going to repeat it.
GGA: Fans relate and hold dear your approach to mental health. It’s wonderful to know there are folks out there appreciate that. Does knowing this ever get hard though? How do you practice self care when on the road or at fan events?
Laser: I feel very honored that fans are willing to open up to us about their lives and that we get to share vulnerable experiences, but yeah that can be a bit emotionally draining, there’s emotional labor in hearing about people’s life and trauma. We’re very careful to give each other and ourselves space to recover and recharge in our own way. We don’t put pressure on ourselves to socialize or do activities outside of our shows — it does mean our tours are a little “boring” in terms of road trips… we aren’t seeing all the sights, but we’re also not having breakdowns every day which is nice.
GGA: Despite the slowly improving stigma regarding it, do you think more artists should talk more about mental health? What do you think is the ‘right’ way to do that?
Laser: Honestly I wouldn’t tell any artist what they should do, I think the main responsibility artists have is to not shame people or to (consciously or unconsciously) make someone feel bad about their own identity or experience.
GGA: There’s a lot of fear and anxiety outside our doors right now. It seems a combination of folks talking about it more, the Internet’s need for instant gratification or condemnation, and the leadership in the world. This is super personal and I (Audrey) am talking as someone who suffers from severe anxiety. I have my escapes to deal with the days when it’s super bad. I watch/read science fiction or fantasy. I’m lucky I can talk to my husband. But the hardest part for me, the part that lingers past the anxiety event, is shame. Most of this is the shame I’ve put on myself. Now that I talk publicly about it and now that I see others speaking publicly about it, I feel better more quickly but that shame jerk still gets in my brain. Do you deal with shame as well? How do you take care of yourself when you are deep in it?
Laser: Shame and guilt are big friends for us, hah. I don’t have a perfect answer for it, but my main strategy is to make a plan. I see a problem (whether it’s in my own life or something in the world), and decide what my moves are to fix it, set myself realistic goals, whether that’s speaking out, donating, marching… and then in between doing those realistic, accomplishable things, I can still take time to recover and live, while knowing I have a next step.
GGA: Speaking about mental health can be difficult and I really appreciate your willingness to talk about it and I admire how you put it in your art. Thank you.
Laser: Hey, thank YOU!
GGA: Now, an important question. What’s the story behind the Kitty Keyboard?
Laser: Oh, you mean Max? We’ve written up a big thing about his history but basically — we were sneaking into a convention to play a gig in a hallway, and we knew the cello would be too big. Aubrey had seen this toy while babysitting our cousin, and so we got her one at Target. It’s not a suitable substitute for a cello, but it is pretty dang fun.
GGA: Thanks Doubleclicks!
Laser: Happy to do it!