In November of 2016, smiley pop-punk vocalist of Real Friends Dan Lambton reached a breaking point. After self-medicating, Lambton admitted mental health issues by sharing a statement on social media, detailing his recent struggles of manic states. “Personally, I need help and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I don’t have to get better for anyone other than myself, and I am finding the self worth to admit that. I may have a problem that is out of my control at this point in time, but now I have the ability and strength to recognize that I can continue taking steps to eventually have control over it.” In March 2018, Lambton announced the cancellation of their tour dates overseas to allow Lambton to continue focusing on his diagnosis: bipolar disorder.
By definition, bipolar is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as “manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.” Lambton recently spoke with Psychology Today about his journey with mental health and the disorder, revealing that their newest and long-awaited record Composure was written while he was in a manic state. Citing both the positive and negative outcomes of this, Lambton described the manic state as “feeling invincible” and disclosed that it placed him in an over-productive headspace. While an incredible album was birthed from this, it did not come without downfalls, which are transparently narrated throughout Composure. After listening to the album’s second single release “From The Outside”, fans everywhere knew this record was going to be different; a monument of the bravery Lambton and the band displayed in the face of mental illness.
Mental illness is a monster that does not see fame or success. It strikes both your next door neighbor and your idol. Its kryptonite is looking it in the face with bravery as you tremble. Listening to Real Friends’ Composure is like hearing an echo of the past, present and future, as Lambton and the band stare down mental illness with determination and honesty. Lambton often addresses his lack of self-worth that comes with bipolar disorder and anxiety, a theme that appears in the first track “Me First”. As though he is speaking to himself, Lambton shouts “why don’t you put me first for once? we might need to slow down”. The second track “Stand Steady” boldly expresses how it felt for Lambton to be open and honest about what was going on with the band followed by single “From The Outside”, about faking happiness with medication when you’re fighting a battle on the inside. The title track “Composure” is the sparkling gold light at the end of a dreary tunnel as the chorus triumphantly rings “I’m reclaiming my composure” and I imagine Dan Lambton throwing a fist in the air Breakfast Club-style. As the first single from Composure, “Get By” seems to offer a glimpse into the crucial conversation the band had with Lambton as they realized something was off, shifting Lambton’s perception and eventually leading him to therapy.
“I think there were a lot of interventions,” he describes. “Especially with the band sitting me down and being like, ‘You are out of control right now.…You’ve been off the rails lately. What the hell is going on?’” – Dan Lambton in Psychology Today
Ending with “Take A Hint”, Real Friends writes “I’m learning to take a hint, stay convinced we’ll see the other side” and it feels like a cathartic confrontation of the constant battle mental illness presents to its victims, demanding determination and perseverance. A line from “Take A Hint” deserves to be written in the minds of any and all who have suffered from any mental doubts: “if you don’t like the format you set the music to, you can change the rhythm you choose to feel it through”. Besides its lyrical candor and seamless and thoughtful production from Mike Green, Real Friends’ third studio album Composure conquers the uncertainty that is attached to America’s perception of mental illness by bringing their story to life as it unfolds in real time. Fans have received the album with open and thankful arms. This is the album we all needed.
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