Consisting of what the band describe as ‘four part harmonies, rolling piano, ambient organs, melodically driven lead guitar, intelligent basslines, thought-provoking lyrics, delicate acoustic guitar, and subtle affecting percussion’, Our Man in Berlin are a fantastic up-and-coming indie-folk group from Perth!

The Music Feedback team had the opportunity to catch up with OMIB to discuss their approach to music and mental health.

MF: Firstly can you describe your music in three words?
Melody focused songwriting (I cheated song writing is two words).

MF: When did you start playing music and what inspired you?
In high school I co-wrote some songs with my best mate Kuba who is the still to this day the best guitarist I know. I would sing and create melodies to match his guitar parts. That was fun for a while but not being able to play an instrument is very limiting so I started learning guitar when I was 20 (I’m 26 currently). Being a very late starter with guitar and a self taught player my first 100 songs were all pretty terrible! But more recently I feel as though the song writing has come along pretty nicely, and having four other great players in my band now has really helped me get closer than I have ever been to realising the sound I hear in my head. In terms of inspiration I guess maybe I’m pretty lucky that I feel inspired quite often. I feed off that feeling when writing. Things that inspire me include: my brother Gareth, my mum, some of my close mates, anyone who achieves their goals against large odds, many other musicians, and many people who show heart and soul in difficult times.

MF: Music feedback is all about connecting music and mental health, what role do you think music plays in shaping the views and attitudes towards mental health?
I think that it plays a significant role in that many musicians have mental demons of their own and a lot of song writing deals with such struggles. This can only serve to show how common mental illness is and how helpful the creative process is in helping individuals explore their own minds.

MF: On a personal level how does playing in Our Man in Berlin help you with your own mental health?
I’ve certainly had some issues with depression and anxiety and I find song writing to be therapeutic. There is a strong history of mental illness in my family and I think that has played a large role in me being so focused on carving a career out of my passion. A few years ago I completed a degree in psychology. A combination of that study and my experiences with family members living with mental illness has made me realise that following my passion of music would be a great way of staying happy and mentally healthy. I’m privileged to be in a band with some great musicians now; Trevor, Justin, Matt, and Andrea and I feel that if we keep working hard at it, and believe in it, that we can really do something great with the music that we are working on.

MF: Is there a particular song that cheers you up whenever you hear it?
I find writing a new song myself to be the best way to cheer up, however sometimes when I’m feeling a little stagnant or lifeless I like to put my headphones in , buy a take away coffee and just walk around listening to music. Sometimes I’ll do this for two or three hours I’ll just walk around the city or wherever and listen to three different albums in their entirety. I like being surrounded by people but still being somewhat isolated because I’m wearing headphones. The music I listen to when doing this is not what most people would define to ‘happy music’. I get enjoyment from music that I can relate to or enjoy the song writing of, so I listen to a lot of Radiohead, Elliot Smith, Fleet Foxes, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Panics, and John Lennon to name a few.

MF: Unfortunately there is still a lot of stigma in the community surrounding ‘mental illness’ what do you think people can do to reduce the stigma?
I think most of all people need to be honest and talk to each other. The fact is there is a huge number of people who either are or will be impacted by mental illness. If more people are prepared to share their experiences of mental illness with others it will soon be apparent how common it is and individuals will be more willing to seek help when feeling overwhelmed. Life is hard and everyone is different, but things can certainly be that little bit easier if everyone is more open and accepting of each other.

MF: What do you want people who listen to your music to get out of it?
I’m not sure I guess it’s up to each individual to take away from it what they want to take away from it. But on a general level we try and create songs with melodies that you can sing along to without being so poppy that they can’t be respected by the aficionados.

MF: Finally, where to now for your music?
We are recording our debut single at Fat Shan Studios in Perth soon. I’m really looking forward to that as we currently have no good recordings at all really. We have been playing live for some time now and have been well received by the people who have come along to watch us, especially at our most recent run of shows in the October just gone. But its hard to spread the word of a the band without good recordings and what I have found most frustrating is that until you have a really good quality recording that people can access on the internet most people will write you off and not come and see you play, which I suppose is fair enough as they have nothing solid to gauge you by. In other exiting news we are doing some pretty cool things with Fat Shan Records and Voice Promotions and Management, people from these two companies are staring a small record label and it looks like we may be getting the support of this label which is really nice and I’m really grateful for. After the single we have around 13 more songs ready to go so you can expect to hear more recordings and lots more gigs next year.