Meet Openside: Emotionally Driven Pop Punk from New Zealand
Openside is an up and coming collective from New Zealand ready to break out in nothing short of an epic way. The band has opened for the likes of Fall Out Boy and 21 Pilots, and has gained quite a following with their vibrant, emotional driven pop punk entreaties. Featured within the membership of Openside are Possum Plows on lead vocals, PJ Shepherd on guitar and vocals, Harry Carter on bass, and George Powell on drums. Highwire Daze Online recently caught up with Possum on a visit to Los Angeles to discuss their superbly memorable songs, the music scene in Zealand, coming out as gender non-binary, Style, donuts, and a whole lot more! Read on…
Tell me a little bit about the band and how long have you been together?
We’ve been playing together for about three years, but yeah it’s taken a while for us to find our groove and find our sound and figure out what we’re doing. So, we’ve kind of had a good year of just experimenting and playing shows and learning how to not suck. And yeah, we play a lot of all-ages shows mostly in New Zealand because we’re trying to kind of get that scene going again because most of the shows that you get to play where we live are bars and clubs and our fans are mostly younger than that. So yeah, we’re very much a live focused band and we love to play shows for young people.
What brings you out here to Los Angeles, and what do you think of the city?
I’m just here visiting my sister because she moved here. We filmed a music video here last year actually, out in the desert which was awesome, so we did that in the summer last and it was ridiculously hot. We drove out and we visited the Mojave Desert and Joshua Tree and it was really hot and we were wearing these ridiculous rock and roll gears, carrying our instruments out into abandoned water parks. It was quite an experience. We all sort of fell into LA then and we talked a lot about coming and moving here. We just try to come whenever we get a chance and write with whoever we can. It’s such a cultural hub of people from all over the world coming here to be creative, so it’s a very exciting place in that way. I want to spend more time here.
Your newest song is called “No Going Back.” Is there any overall story or concept behind the lyrics to that song?
That song was a really personal one for me. It’s basically about a breakup, but it’s about the moment you realize later on that you’re really done with it, and you’re really ready to move on. Especially, when it’s been a relationship that took up such a huge part of your life. So yeah, that was very much based on me coming to terms with what had happened, really ready to talk about it. Because a lot of the time when you first break up with someone, you first go through something really emotional, you’re not really in any frame of mind to actually understand it and approach it creatively.
I had a lot more perspective in that six months later and wrote that song partly for me just as a way at to acknowledge the relationship and then move forward from it. So it’s been a really cathartic experience just doing the promo for that song. I don’t know if he’s seen the video or heard the song or anything. I’d be scared to know if he’s seen it. [laughs]
Like little things. I was wearing an old t-shirt of his in the music video and the guy who made the video used to live with us. So he’s like a close friend of ours, and knew our relationship intimately, so he had a really close perspective on him and I working together on what to do for the video. It’s definitely very close to home,that song.
In your video for “I Feel Nothing,” you guys are waving a Trans Flag. What kind of reactions have you received worldwide from that particular video?
The first thing I notice is, when you look at the YouTube comments, there’s so many that are acknowledging and excited about seeing the Trans Flag there. I know our fans are younger and younger people tend to be more socially aware and open, and know about all the stuff. Most people would not recognize the Trans Flag. The average person, but looking at the average person in our fan base, they definitely are a lot of queer youth in our fan base. So – yeah, talking about it and putting it in the foreground of our music – so it’s been a little scary for me, but as time goes on and the world gets more progressive, I feel like I can relax into it more. It’s been mostly really positive and supportive. In New Zealand, it’s been good. It’s still a little scary but I can tell – I talk to a lot of our fans and I get messages all the time where they’re grateful and appreciative of us talking about queer stuff and being open and out.
Suddenly it puts you in the position of almost role model…
100% – I get a lot of messages from young people that say I have felt comfortable to come out because I saw how out you were on socials and it made me feel more comfortable. And then it creates an entire community of them, where they come together at shows and they meet other people like them. That’s the main thing that gives you strength and understanding. When you’re coming to terms with sexuality and gender, having a support network and knowing other people you can talk to who are going through similar things. I really like feeling like the Openside fanbase is a community in that way. People that come to shows, they’ll just come to a show by themselves because they know that – waiting in line or hanging out, it’s such a supportive / open and embracing environment, that they’ll make friends. That’s one of my favorite things about doing it.
What advice would you give a teenager who wants to come out as gender non-binary?
The first thing is finding a person that you really trust who will be understanding to talk to and to be open with first. Because sometimes if you go too quickly, or you might open up to your parents or people of another generation and they don’t necessarily know how to react, it can be quite hurtful and throw you off. So finding someone who you can talk to who is a peer, who will give you support. Then when you go through the process of telling other people – if you get some stuff that makes you feel worse, so you have a base to come back to that’s reinforcing. I find that people will even do that online, just with their online friends. But yeah, the main thing is if everyone is more supportive, open minded and understanding with each other and their friends, it just makes it easier for everyone to go through the world and figure out who they are without any preconceptions or judgments. That’s the idea, that everyone can just figure it out for themselves just as long as they’re not hurting anyone else. Just find friends that you trust and be gentle with yourself. It’s a journey and an exploration, and you might change your mind about certain things. The more open minded and kind you can be with yourself the better.
Has Taylor Swift heard or commented on your cover of Style?
I don’t think Taylor Swift has heard it. I really like that cover though. That’s one of my favorite ones we’ve done. That was actually the first song we put out, that Style cover. We put that out before we even put out our first single and that was the thing that got our first radio spot. A pop music radio station in New Zealand had us on and so we’ve been friends with those hosts and they’ve discovered us. They found the cover that put us on the air and they played our new song, so there’s a lot of value in doing those things.
If the music of Openside was a donut, what kind would it be and why?
There’s Donut Friend, I went there and because I didn’t realize it was pop punk donuts, I just thought it was vegan donuts. I’m vegan and I love it, then I was like oh my god – all the names of these donuts. The Strawberry So far, Bacon 182. I think it would have to be something like, an eclectic mix of ingredients because that’s how I feel about the four of us in a band. We’re all so different. We’re always talking about how each one of us is a different Hogwarts house. We’re all four of them. It’d have to be a combination of things you wouldn’t think would go together. Like, something fruit and then something chocolate and then something like candy. It’d be like cotton candy and strawberries and chocolate fudge or something. But you’d have to a bunch of taste tests to make sure it was good. That’d be a fun experiment. Just get in the kitchen and mix up a bunch of random ingredients and try to find a good flavor. It couldn’t be anything that already exists, it’d have to be something totally wacky and new.
(Interview and Candid Photo by Ken Morton)
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