Ezra Furman really seems to speak to depressed people.
As you all learned last year, my mom died in the summer of 2014. I was fine…for a while. The loss wasn’t sudden — it didn’t put me in bed for months on end or convince me to stop eating. It just left me feeling kinda “…What now?”
So I filled my time with a bunch of temporary distractions: going to shows, buying out my ModCloth wishlist, even taking a 10-day jaunt to Europe with some of the money my mom left me. But I still felt…wrong.
It started as physical symptoms: A flurry of sharp, stinging feelings all over my body, accompanied by an all-encompassing exhaustion that would strike without warning. This came and went for a while, but eventually invited itself into my daily life. I cycled through a laundry list of issues, from the vaguely annoying to the really fucking scary: muscle cramps, crushing headaches, nausea, confusion, grogginess, sleeplessness caused by mild hallucinations.
Seeing how a neurological disease is what took my mom, I went to the doctor. Unsure of what to do with my unspecific complaints, she referred me to a neurologist who ordered me up an MRI that basically cost me my rent. The results came back, and he officially declared me…
Fine. I was totally fine.
But my head still really fucking hurt.
In the middle of this madness, I inherited a house — a fact that was exciting to everyone but me. I get it: When you’re a member of a generation experts say will be renting for the rest of your life, having a house fall in your lap must look like nothing short of a miracle to others. Instead, it made me panic: after four years of being shackled to San Jose and to my parent’s house, all I wanted was to get the fuck out; to make up for the 20s I didn’t get to have. Instead, I was putting down even firmer roots because, if I didn’t take that house, I wouldn’t be able to afford to live in my beloved Bay Area anymore.
I was financially stable. I worked from home on an extremely flexible schedule. I was a 28-year-old homeowner. I was healthy.
So why did I feel so shitty?
The psychological side of it started to creep up right before I left for Europe, culminating in what I realize now was a near panic attack in the Seattle airport. It slowly morphed from a constant keyed-up feeling to a general malaise. I got up in the morning, I got my work done, but as time went on, I’d sometimes find myself feeling like…I don’t know.
Like nothing, I guess.
It’s hard to describe, but I call it the “blank” feeling (Ezra Furman calls it feeling like “an astronaut cut from the ship”). A nothing feeling, occasionally interrupted by “God, my whole body hurts.”
“I just don’t want to feel like this anymore. I don’t care how.”
The funny thing was, I was in London when I heard that Ezra Furman had returned. I was checking my email on my phone before a day of cheesy tourist activities when I saw his name in a subject line. I had last seen his name a year and a half before, in writing up a quick show preview. In doing so, I fell instantly in love with his stuff. I committed his name to memory, but when I didn’t hear it six months later, I assumed he had, you know, fled the Bay Area’s inhospitable rents and gone to LA or something.
I peeked at his tour schedule when I got home, and was surprised at the number of dates he was spending overseas — specifically, in the UK. My story sense tingled. I looked into it, and I ended up writing a thing on him and his sudden, localized fame in the United Kingdom. While his latest record, this year’s Perpetual Motion People, barely registered outside of circles of committed music geeks in the US, it debuted at 23 in the UK.
When I asked my two interviewees — Guardian editor Michael Hann and DJ Marc Riley, who both had a distinct hand in bringing him to the British public — why he was taking hold in the UK right now, I expected a more involved answer than “He’s SOOO good!” (which is about the best I could come up with, too). Given time to think about it, my current theory is that the English have a much higher tolerance for drama in their pop music — I mean, hell, look at Morrissey. Look at the tumbling, tidal choruses of Oasis. The pageantry of Florence & the Machine. Freddie Mercury, the patron saint of stadium shows. Bowie. Bolan. Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake. Despite the stiff-upper-lip stereotype, evidence suggests they take their rock stars a hell of a lot less seriously than we do. Though Perpetual Motion People is an honest and aching roll through Furman’s oft-troubled brain, the confessions are filtered through wacky, almost Monty Python-style non sequitirs: Zany horns and shouted doo-wop nonsense words interrupt somber sentiments. I could be completely wrong, but I think Furman inadvertently hooked onto the nation’s music-hall heritage.
It’s also an album that some have cited as a mirror of their mental health, most notably Hann. I’m not sure if I’m one of those people. Perpetual Motion People didn’t cure me — sorry, but rock ‘n’ roll didn’t save my life or any other inspirational shit like that. But I can’t deny that I’m yet another person whom Ezra revealed himself to at precisely the right time in their life.
Four months after getting that email, I got a diagnosis (from my gynecologist, of all people): depression and anxiety. I’m taking pills. I feel normal again.
Six months after getting that email, I was back in London, this time for his Shepherd’s Bush gig — his biggest venue to date. I forked over the plane fare and cashed in my free night from Hotels.com. Because why the hell not? Like I learned this last year, playing it safe is all well and good, but it gets you nowhere. In fact, sometimes it only gets you exactly where you don’t want to be.