Are you wracked by a sense of impending danger or doom? Are you absolutely sure something horrific is lurking just out of sight? Do these feelings keep you up at night and interfere with your work and personal relationships?
These are some of the key markers of an anxiety disorder — a clinical diagnosis, which, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, afflicts around 40 million adults in the United States.
But in times like these — with a global pandemic crushing the economy and a great awakening to the specter of deeply entrenched systemic inequity — it’s likely that many more of us are being struck by waves of existential dread and chest pressure.
“You keep saying everything’s going to be OK, but I don’t believe you,” a tortured, manic voice repeats over and over during the chaotic crescendo of Strata’s new single, “Around the Bend,” which is premiering on SF Weekly today, along with an acoustic rendition and commentary.
That’s Eric Victorino, front man for the South Bay-born group of alt rockers — who first led his band mainstream success with their 2007 album, Strata Presents: The End of the World, and the single “Cocaine (We’re All Going to Hell).” He knows a thing or two about anxiety and depression.
Back in 2011, SF Weekly ran a profile of Victorino titled “Tinted Windows: The Limousines’ Eric Victorino is Barely Hanging On,” which opened with the singer and songwriter’s plan to end his own life.
“I don’t even remember doing that interview,” he says of the article — or perhaps he is thinking of another piece that ran in the Huffington Post.
Whichever story he is thinking of, he says he is feeling far better than he was a decade ago, back when he was plagued by crippling depression and suicidal ideations. “Any way I can get the word out to people: I hate the phrase ‘It gets better,’ but it really does.”
He’s now expecting his first child and says that through treatment — both medication and therapy — he feels as if he’s come out the other side.
“I think the main thing was allowing myself to be interested in new things,” he continues. Now, as he prepares to welcome a new member of the family, he also has hobbies beyond his music, visual art, and poetry — including woodworking, hiking, and marksmanship. “Finding a way to open it up saved my life.”
Which isn’t to say that he doesn’t still fight anxiety. “I think right now, if you don’t have a sense of dread in your everyday life, it’s because you’re not paying attention to anything,” he opines. “The world is fucked up. If you’re not anxious about it, you’re not healthy.”
If the infectious drive of “Around the Bend” is any indication, Victorino seems to be onto something. Namely, harnessing his nervous energy to create something new and vital.
Indeed, the band is now sitting on a full-length album’s worth of new music — something Victorino has been talking about delivering for years. “I feel like this is our Chinese Democracy,” he cracks, alluding to how long he and his bandmates have been working on the set of tunes.
“Around the Bend” may not actually herald a new LP, however. Rather, Victorino says, it is the “first single off a forthcoming something.”
Before COVID-19 hit, the band was planning to release a proper studio album, but now he says they are thinking it all may come out in the form of two EPs.
Whatever the case, he is truly excited about the music in the pipeline, and says the band’s on-deck single “moves like a Mars Volta song, but it’s heavy like the MySpace-era Chiodos stuff.”
Metal, bro. Metal.