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'The music industry is to blame': Chromeo demands mental health resources for musicians

By
Melody Lau

Chromeo was supposed to be in Australia this weekend, but earlier this month the Montreal funk duo announced that it had to cancel those tour dates.

“Unfortunately, the rigours of our touring schedule have caught up with us and we need to prioritize our health and well-being,” they wrote, in a message posted on their social media accounts. “We’re being told that this period would be best served as a time to rest. This was not an easy call to make. We hope you understand.”

But even with those dates scratched off their schedule, Chromeo’s summer is far from over. The band is set to take on the festival circuit in addition to a string of other headlining shows, taking Chromeo all the way into November.

“We haven’t stopped since the beginning of the record, really,” member Patrick Gemayel, a.k.a. P-Thugg, told CBC Music when the band was in Toronto for a two-night stint at the Danforth Music Hall. Dave-1, real name David Macklovitch, assures that touring so far is going well, but adds that it can be “so exhausting.”

The prioritization of their well-being is, in part, linked to another recent post Macklovitch made. On June 8, in response to the deaths of fashion designer Kate Spade and food star Anthony Bourdain (who both died by suicide), Macklovitch opened up for the first time about his own battles with anxiety and depression.

“You might not expect this because I make feel-good music and I prance around onstage smiling all day,” he wrote. The post goes on to detail Macklovitch’s mental health journey, starting from childhood and going all the way up to recent years, when he sought out help in the form of therapy, medication and meditation.

In our conversation, Macklovitch notes that these problems “don’t discriminate” whether he’s on tour or not, and acknowledges that being on the road can exacerbate the problems. “It can also take you away from it because you’re not in your day-to-day,” he continues. “It depends.”

Both members say they don’t drink or do drugs, instead focusing on getting enough sleep and running a tight ship on tour. But these ideas of maintaining one’s mental health stretches beyond personal care. That’s where Macklovitch brings in the music industry.

“I feel like record companies or at least touring agencies and management companies should give artists the access to therapy,” he pleads. “Athletes have a whole infrastructure around them to help them cope with the rigours of what they do. Like you have access to a physical therapist and other kinds of therapy. But let’s say you’re in the modelling industry or the music industry — there’s nothing built in to help you psychologically.”

Macklovitch links this to artists who go on to self-medicate or drink to cope with pressures. Ultimately, he says, “I think the music industry is to blame for that.”

Chromeo isn’t the only act calling for more support and open discussions about mental health in the music industry. Over the years, as the deaths of artists like Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington and Avicii magnify the urgency for these kinds of conversations, some of music’s biggest names have shared their struggles with the public. From Adele, Lady Gaga and Demi Lovato, to Canadian acts like Coeur de pirate, Amelia Curran and Matt Mays, speaking up has been a crucial first step to shifting the societal stigma that surrounds mental health.

But, the next steps are still unclear and Macklovitch’s suggestion for an imperative infrastructure should be considered, if not flat-out put into action by those who operate at the top of the music industry.

“That’s what I want to do when I’m 70 years old or something,” Macklovitch says, vaguely describing a future career in helping fellow musicians access mental health resources in some way.

When asked for advice for upcoming musicians who are coming up in an environment where none of these mental health standards have been worked out just yet, he adds this: “Set realistic expectations for yourself and avoid deception because that’s what can throw you into the abyss. If you stay grateful and you’re still doing what you love for a living, then everything on top is a bonus.”

Related:

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How Coeur de pirate broke the cycle of trauma on her new album

MILCK: a candid Q&A about trauma, silence, activism and the power of sisterhood