In Conversation: I'm Glad It's You Interviewed

In Conversation: I'm Glad It's You Interviewed

Kelley Bader on dealing with grief while battling with his faith...

I’m Glad It’s You’s Kelley Bader first met Chris Avis in 2014. I’m Glad It’s You was still in its early days, while Avis had built a reputation filming live sets and acoustic sessions for punk bands under the name Cavis Tapes.

The two became friends after Avis asked I’m Glad It’s You to perform an acoustic session for Cavis Tapes, and when the band embarked on their first US tour Avis was eager to document it.

“He started being the mentor for the band after a while,” Bader says. “He became a part of the band, in this really cool coach kinda way. He wasn’t the manager, he didn’t do anything professionally for us; he was just our friend, who was on the road with us.”

In July 2017, Bader was driving the band to their first date of a US tour when a mechanical failure sent their van off the road. Guitarist Evan Dykes sustained moderate injuries; Chris Avis was killed. (The remaining passengers, thankfully, were relatively unharmed).

The band’s new album, ‘Every Sun, Every Moon’, is their first since the accident, and sees Kelley Bader reckoning with its aftermath. Clash spoke with him about the record and his path through grief.

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Was it intimidating when you began to write the album about this huge subject matter?

Yeah, it was really intimidating. I knew before we started writing that the whole album was gonna be about the event, and about Chris, and the aftermath of everything.

After the accident, a lot of well-intended people were telling me, ‘You should write about this, you should try to work through it with your music and pay homage to your friend.’ I recognise that those people were trying to help me, but it put a lot of pressure on me. Whether it was real or not, it was my perception that the people that knew our story and knew Chris were expecting something from me.

And so a lot of times when I was writing it I had to step back and remember, this is supposed to be helpful. It’s supposed to be a way to get this off my chest, and to process this in a meaningful way.

After the accident you played solo for a while. Was there a question of whether the band would continue?

Yeah, there was. I mean, there wasn’t for me. After that summer, I didn’t really have a question of whether or not I would continue - from day one, the paramedics were like, ‘You have to keep going, you have to keep doing this’. But I wasn’t sure if anyone else would want to. I felt like they were gonna try to pick up their lives and move on, which I was totally cool with. I probably wouldn’t want to do it either if I didn’t feel like I needed to.

So I started touring solo - because we couldn’t tour as a band anymore, because we had lost our van. After the first year of solo touring, I told them, ‘I’m gonna write this album about it, do you guys wanna be a part of it?’ And they all said yes, and I was pretty shocked, but really, really grateful.

One thing the record touches on is your faith. How was that a part of your life before Chris’s death, and how has it changed since?

I grew up in a religious household. And in high school, I started running with this Pentecostal church. I was pretty into it, up until my early 20s - that’s when I started having these doubts and fall-outs with my faith. But it wasn’t until the accident that all these questions hit a wall with something that was tangible and really visceral. And that’s when it fell apart, pretty immediately.

So a lot of the record is the next year of my life, sorting through the pieces of my entire life with faith and trying to figure out how or if there’s any of it that I can keep, that will carry on past this. How can I reinterpret the stories of my faith in a more meaningful way? That’s still a very open question, and probably will be for the rest of my life.

But the accident is where I had to see all of these ideas fail me, immediately. When I needed them to not fail me.

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Another theme on the album is mortality - how have your thoughts on that changed?

It seemed so distant when I was a kid, or it seemed so distant in theory. The accident instilled the idea that this isn’t forever, and this isn’t something that you can control either. It made me look at my own mortality and the mortality of my friends and family in a much less secure way. There’s really not a mechanism of control - you can be here and then you can be not here instantly.

I feel like it will be a long time of processing what that means. But it makes me worry a lot less about the future, in almost a relieving way. I’ve gained the ability to settle in, and relax a little bit.

How essential was making this album as a part of the grief process?

I can’t imagine what it would have been like without this. It forced out a lot of things that I would have just let carry on, for maybe years. And it made me square up with a lot of the stuff that I was dealing with, and put it on a path.

Take the thought or feeling, and put it in a perspective that is a little bit more linear, a little bit easier to see. It really helped me navigate this huge mess that I felt like I was in.

And it made me feel like I could do something about it. Even if it wasn’t necessarily getting better, even if it wasn’t gonna make me feel any less guilty about what happened - it was gonna make me feel like I was doing something with my time instead of just letting it fester.

Is there any particular way that you try to carry Chris’s spirit with you as a band?

I think we’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to tell this story. That’s been one of the hardest parts about the last two years - we didn’t have the right way to talk about it, or to carry on the way we felt like we needed to. The album’s a way to open the door. But it’s also a way to keep Chris in our conversation and at our shows. Before this, in between songs I would try to talk about it, but it was really weird to be like, ‘So this thing happened, we miss our friend and we just want to pay our respects’, and then go play some of the old songs that are - not completely irrelevant, but they’re not about that.

The album is our way to share with the world: this is what this person meant to us, this is how bad it hurt when he left, and we wanna keep what he’s doing around.

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'Every Sun, Every Moon' is out now.

Words: Mia Hughes
Photography: McKenzie Melcher

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