‘I Do Want To Remind People They’re Not Alone’

This article discusses eating disorders and depression. If you or anyone you know is struggling with these mental health issues, contact +1 (800) 931-2237 for the National Eating Disorders Helpline and +1 (800) 273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Ominous, haunting and emotionally heavy sounds are the style of music that SWARM is renowned for. The deejay and producer, legally known as Brandon Carroll, transfixes audiences with his sounds, even scaring them at times. His productions are so dark that they can be considered Vantablack. His hard-hitting, skull-shattering and bass-inspired style takes listeners on a trip into another dimension. Carroll has gone on his own voyage, but one through fighting mental health.

The Florida-based artist was formerly in a Christian metalcore group that was beginning to take off. During this time, Carroll started struggling with depression, and he thought he could control it through his weight and how he looked. He consequently formed an eating disorder, and this led to him withdrawing socially—even from the band. His isolation lasted for almost a decade. Caroll’s grandmother then died, leading him to hit “rock bottom.”

His eating disorder caused him to weigh 83 pounds at his 5’10” stature. His organs began to fail. This was the turning point for Carroll.

“I was a shell of a human,” he says.

His best friend’s dad encouraging him to see a therapist also propelled Carroll into pursuing help. This juncture caused him to realize that he wanted to go into making music professionally. Skrillex’s “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites,” along with Excision’s production, inspired him to delve into the world of bass music once he was healed, although his sound doesn’t stop there as he also explores the realms of symphonic metalcore, industrial and hard dance.

“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the bout I had with an eating disorder, [which I] still do,” he says. “I don’t think I would’ve had confidence in myself…if it weren’t for that really awful time in my life where I learned more about myself than, honestly, I would care to ever know.”

Carroll adds that while it was a difficult period in his life, he says everyone has “deep, deep-rooted” issues that they are forced to deal with. He notes that in his experience, getting past these challenges is done by winning small victories because it’s impossible to beat the overarching issue. Finding healthy coping mechanisms and ways to “keep yourself sane,” he says, helps him with finding happiness even though the issue will always be there.

Carroll even incorporates mental health advocacy into his music by speaking out about it during his live shows. It was a last-minute decision the first time he decided to do this. He says he picked up the microphone and began speaking on it before his last song. While he didn’t know what he would say, he began talking, even pointing out that he never thought he would be performing at that particular music festival because he so dearly wanted to perform there. The artist began crying. Now, he continues to speak out at shows but never plans what he will say. His goal is to “tell people that they’re loved no matter what life throws their way.”

“I don’t claim to know the answers at all,” Carroll says, “but I do want to remind people they’re not alone because I know that hearing that 10 years ago or seven or eight years ago would’ve had a huge impact on me. You do tend to forget that you’re not alone in feeling this way. There are always going to be thousands or unbelievable amounts of people that feel exactly like you do, even if your brain tells you that you’re the only one that does.”

In terms of how the dance music industry can become more supportive of mental health, Carroll says artists can be more authentic about having mental health issues, which shows fans that they are not alone. He notes that To Write Love on Her Arms—a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide—is an important organization within rock music. The organization is well-respected, with artists such as Joaquin Phoenix, Miley Cyrus, OneRepublic and members of Paramore, A Day to Remember, Panic! at the Disco and Evanescence endorsing it. Carroll says that an organization like this in dance music would be helpful. While spreading awareness for mental health is important, he says artists sharing their mental health struggles makes the biggest impact on fans since producers are typically shown having perfect lives and selling out shows.

He adds that social media and the pressure to put out new music constantly are some of the key factors as to why artists struggle with mental health issues. Touring has been noted as another reason why artists may face these battles. Management groups are beginning to support artists’ mental health, but more should incorporate this into their business. Therapy, he says, is one core thing artists and all people should participate in.

“[Therapy] is an incredibly scary thought to do,” Caroll says. “Finally, when my friend’s dad convinced me, I told him, ‘I want to change. I need to get out of this. I have a long way to go, but I need to start now.’ That therapist changed my life, and it is a terrifying thing to tell all your deepest, darkest secrets to somebody you just met, but [being comfortable doing] that comes with time. [Therapy] is the number one thing you can do for yourself right now….It’s a game-changer. Even if the thought is terrifying, that’s the most important thing I think anybody can do.”

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