Photo by Brennan Schnell
TW: I will discuss sexual abuse throughout the following
Last Saturday morning I found myself following the same routine I’d slipped into every weekend since Brand New put out their new album. I slept in, made myself a coffee and put on Science Fiction straight away. I’d waste time on twitter, r/brandnew, attempt to learn something off the album but get frustrated with too many ultimate guitar tabs open at once. Brand New had always been a massive source of comfort for me and so many other people. So reading that Jesse Lacey, one of my biggest idols, had been accused of grooming and soliciting nudes from a minor, was nothing less than confronting.
Anyone that knows me could tell you all about my undying love for Brand New and that I could ramble on about both them and also feminism and how I want to make films to give a voice to victims of sexual assault that are so often silenced. These allegations against Jesse Lacey (which have since been proven true) hit so close to home as an enthused Brand New fan, a feminist, and a victim of sexual assault myself. I immediately felt like I was going to throw up. Anxiety manifesting itself in the physical form kept for the darkest of feelings usually repressed deep down resurfacing. Ask anyone affected by sexual assault and they’ll tell you how difficult this past month has been to simply get through with the flood of sexual harassment/abuse/rape claims that have come to light involving so many people we’ve all looked up to.
The man whose art I had held so close all those years, whose words I had permanently inked into my skin, whose records and merchandise I was patiently waiting to receive in the mail via three different orders just this month, had betrayed my trust just like the countless men in my own life. Just this August I text my best friend and fellow Brand New fan that I found myself wishing for the long awaited 5th Brand New LP to be released so that I had new music to cling on to, and then maybe the rest of this year wouldn’t be so hard to get through. The next week Science Fiction was released and I cried and cried and found such immense comfort in the words of someone who I felt like I connected with on such an authentic, emotional level. Science Fiction came at the perfect time for me and I don’t think I listened to a single piece of music that hadn’t been made in part by Jesse Lacey the entire month that followed. I could talk about how much I loved Brand New endlessly and I did. So many people have come to know me as the girl that loves Brand New, and I realize how dramatic all of this sounds but they were, up until 5 days ago such a huge part of my identity.
So hearing the news about Jesse was a big shock. I had no idea how to react and I felt a lot of confusion and anxiety. The girl had been just 14 and Jesse 23 when the relationship began. I started thinking about myself at 14 and how impressionable and naive I was. I started drawing parallels between the first relationship I had with a man and Nicole ‘s story. I had once found myself at the ripe old age of 14 seeking validation from a 19 year old man. The age gap wasn’t quite as significant as that between Nicole and Jesse, and some might try to argue that a 14 year old and a 19 year old engaging in a relationship of a sexual manor is fine. At the time, I was consenting, or at least I thought I was. I realize now that a 14 year old can’t give consent regardless of what they think. I’d always been smart for my age and I thought that I knew what I was doing. I felt special and grown up and wanted and important because an older man was interested in me. But there was a reason that I felt so uncomfortable and that’s simply because I was only 14 years old. I’d barely gotten my period and was still trying to figure out Algebra. No matter what I told myself or anybody else, I was not ready to be exposed to a relationship of such a sexual nature at such a young age. It’s that simple. I was being manipulated, emotionally abused, and harassed. Just like Nicole, just like so many of my own friends those years ago, and just like the 14 year old girls that idolize these older man with a position of power over them now in 2017.
In the chaos that’s followed the news about Jesse Lacey, there’s been a flood of debate about separating art from the artist. I can understand both points of view but when it hits so close to home, it becomes harder to distance creator from their content. When Jesse sings about having desperate desires and unadmirable plans, it now takes me right back to being used and taken advantage of. It surfaces every emotion normally resting deep in the depths of my memories. Suddenly I’m 14 years old, being forced to send nude photographs of myself to a man who’d finished high school before I’d even started. I’m 16 years old, being led into the bushes at a party after being fed too many drinks to handle. I’m 19 years old, giving in to drunken ‘sex’ when my boyfriend won’t take no for an answer. Today, I’m almost 21 years old and I have to break up with Brand New for good. It took some time to wrap my head around and I’m still processing but I can’t see myself ever enjoying the music that’s been there for me all these years in the same way again. I’m not condemning anyone for still wanting to scream the lyrics to Seventy Times 7 or hold their deja entendu first pressings tight, because if this didn’t hit so close to home I’d probably still want to do the same as well. But understand why so many of us choose not to support artists like Jesse Lacey who have betrayed our trust. I just don’t think I’ll ever be able to look down at my ‘fight off your demons’ tattoo and not think about how I thought me and Jesse were on the same side when really we were fighting such different demons.
In the time that it took me to finish writing this a number of other musicians/artists/people in positions of power particularly in the Australian music scene, have been outed for sexual assault, misconduct, and rape. It’s been coming increasingly more difficult to open up any social media app with the last few weeks being incredibly difficult for so many of us being forced to relive our worst memories. We need to stand in solidarity with any victim that has the courage to come forward with their experiences regardless of if that person is in a position of power or is your biggest idol or your best friend. It’s time we stand up against sexual abuse and hold people accountable for their actions. My heart goes out to anyone that’s been reliving trauma this past month, anyone that’s been manipulated and taken advantage of by someone they look up to. I feel your pain and I’m here to show you as much love and support as humanely possible. Tell your friends you love them and if they open up to you, listen to them.