Beautifully and organically, Perth four-piece Black Board Minds have been making their mark on the west coast of Australia for the last five years. Andrew Miller from the band took the time to sit down and chat to Music Feedback about their music and it’s connection to Mental Health.

MF: How would you describe your music in three words?

MF: When did you start playing music and what inspired you?
I started playing music as young as i can remember and have never stopped. Black Board Minds has been going strong now for about 5 years. We are big fans of bands like Led Zepplin, Pink Floyd and The Doors but a lot of out influence and inspiration comes from the local music scene in Perth/Freo, there are so many good bands that you can see locally like Oh You Pretty Things, Pond and The Deep River Collective just to name a few.

MH: Does music and song writing help you express your emotions and the way you feel?
Yes, I find music is the best tool to release those inner demons which sometimes you think are not going to leave your head. Music can speak more than words when your in a tough place and feel stuck, it gives you creative licence to speak your mind. Our songs lyrically explore many mental health issues related to the inner conflicts inside all human brains; work vs. play, good vs. evil, greed vs. love, insanity vs lucidity etc.

MF: What role do you think music plays in shaping views and attitudes towards mental health and mental illness?
A huge role with so much more potential. Just look at how influential music was in stimulating / representing an alternative way of looking at the world around the time of the vietnam war like Creedence Clearwater Revival. A lot of the greatest music legends of all time have battled their own mental health problems like Syd Barrett of pink floyd or peter green of fleetwood mac . It just goes to show that a diagnosis doesn’t mean you cease to have potential.

MF: Have you had fans tell you that your music has helped them with their mental health?
Yes. I have actually had a guy feel comfortable enough after a show to come up to me  and say ‘I have schizophrenia, I like what you guys are doing”. Mental health is an issue the band has supported for many years through the donation of instruments to various mental health facilities around perth and fremantle. We want to increase access to this therapeutic medium especially when the creative potential of too many people with a mental illness is not being harnessed out there. The band won a WAM song of the year award in the mental health category back in 2009 which we were stoked about.  I work as an occupational therapist in a psychiatric hospital and run regular ‘jamming groups’ where I drag out a bunch of instruments with patients and we have a great time and you can see when peoples faces light up that this is the best medication – music. I have no hesitation in saying that some of the best musical talent I have witnessed and been lucky enough to even record has been of people in hospital who do have a what society would call a serious mental illness.

MF: Unfortunately there is still a lot of stigma in the community surrounding ‘mental illness’, what do you think people can do to help reduce the stigma?
Talk about it, sing about it, help someone who’s struggling mentally and stay in contact because you never know one day you might fall into their shoes as it happens to anyone.

MF: Where to now for your music?
We are launching our new double single Hell With Me / Wasting Away and then plan to play as many shows leading up to the release of the album next year!