I have long admired Possum’s honesty when it comes to personal issues and was lucky enough to get an insight into what it means to have an identity that many people still fail to comprehend. They understand that to be ‘famous’ (for lack of a better word) is to influence people and their identity as a non-binary/gender non-conforming person has certainly become somewhat integral to what Openside stands for.
It appears that Possum is inadvertently helping to remove ideals about gender norms as well as de-stigmatising anxiety and other mental health issues. Their identity is by no means a rejection of femininity and that is something that Possum has found to be the way people sometimes take it.
“It’s kind of old fashioned but you do come across some people who see, particularly people who are born female and later identify as trans men – people see it as a rejection of feminist idea. They think you’re saying that women can’t be diverse.”
It is beliefs such as these that will continue to encourage people to gravitate towards Openside because whilst so many will misunderstand what it means to be non-binary, Possum always ensures that their fans know that they do not stand for rejection. They are all embracing. Fans will often come forward in messages or in person and tell Possum how they have been encouraged to speak out as a result of them being true to themself. They recounted a couple of young kids approaching them after a show with their parents, saying that it was Possum that gave them the courage to come out. On hearing this, I was A) full of warm fuzzies and B) hit with the realisation of the importance of having people to look to and, as the one being looked to, the importance of accepting that role and living up to it. It just seems like common sense that if you have a platform to do something good and to help people, then you should use it. That is exactly what Possum is doing.
This doesn’t just come across on a personal level, though. Their music allows the fans to see that everyone struggles with figuring out who they are and with loving whoever that may be. With Letting It Out in particular, lyrics such as the opening line, “My identity, labeled abstractly, I am learning to love the skin I’m in”, show an incredible kindness to fans of their music by allowing themself to be vulnerable so that the fans, too, know it’s okay to feel that way.
“It’s so rare because most things you see in media and music is so polished and perfect.”
And at the end of the day, what does being polished and perfect do for anyone besides set unachievable goals? When thinking back to the soundtrack of their teen years, Possum mentions Fall Out Boy and how Pete Wentz’ lyrics about his bipolar disorder is something that stands out to them when they remember dealing with teenage emotions. It made it feel okay that they were emotional, too.
“Pete’s lyrics about his bipolar, the emotional ups and downs of it and how that translates to the young adult experience because the whole of being a teenager is like, emotional experience”
It’s all about relatability and Possum has clearly learnt from their own adolescence in that sense, striving to provide others with what is scarcely found in today’s industry: genuineness. Social anxiety is something that Possum, like so many others, deals with every day and they aren’t afraid to talk about it. Whether in reference to their friend and counterbalance, Maude, being with them through social situations or when explaining what scares them the most in terms of their art, Possum is always very transparent.
“You always freak out about the thing that you think is the weakest point and you’re like, everyone is waiting for me to screw up so they can go ‘ha! you’re a fraud!’ or whatever but most people aren’t actually malicious people waiting for you to screw up. They want you to do well.”
The understanding that Openside fans have in regards to thoughts such as these is always extremely heartwarming and, again, is a huge part of what Openside is all about. It is evident that whilst Possum believes that “[the fans] are very generous with their praise”, there is this huge personal connection that fans are making between themselves and the band that can’t be manufactured. I would disagree that it’s generosity – more just an undeniable gravitational pull towards someone that understands. Just as Pete Wentz enlightened Possum back in their teenage years, they are now guiding others. This ‘generous praise’ is, in fact, entirely justified.
This connection between fan and artist is one that goes beyond what you might usually expect and Openside are very insistent that a barrier is not put up between them.
As someone who at the beginning of our coffee date took an apologetic minute to post an Instagram of a screenshot of BoJack’s response to their Tweet (never come between another human and their right to freak out over social media acknowledgements), Possum understands what it’s like to be a fan. This only became more clear when we got into talking about Lorde, and Possum confessed to staring at their shoes the entire time they were in the same room as her. My point is that they get it and since joining Twitter this past couple of months, they have realised just how accessible fans are and are never afraid of using social media in order to keep that connection going. They know that by simply liking a tweet or responding to a comment on Facebook – something that takes seconds to do – can make someone’s entire day.
“I wanna do it in a way that treats them like a peer, not fan and artist. That’s always a tricky one.”
We discussed the difficulties faced once an artist gets bigger and the best way to meet fans once that happens. Artists that charge for their meet and greets get a lot of grief since it isolates the fans that have money and can afford it from the ones that can’t. This in itself is something that can reinforce that barrier and turn it into a fan/artist relationship as opposed to a peer relationship because fans begin to see the artist as unattainable. It’s hard to see someone as a peer when you lose all hope at ever being able to have a conversation with them.
“But at the same time it’s impossible to make any money, like you think of Demi [Lovato] who has her skincare range and stuff, there’s no way, no one’s buying anything… You kind of have to overcharge for merch and slightly overcharge for ticket sales and people complain that ticket sales get more expensive but it’s like… you didn’t pay for the album! It’s really rough.”
For now, though, Possum continues to happily follow back fans on Instagram and Twitter and has many of them as friends on Facebook. For now, there is no barrier and I have no doubt that they will strive to keep it organic in that way for as long as is possible.
The EP release will be accompanied by a whole new range of AS Color merchandise, with artwork designed by the same artist that designed the Branches single artwork. Is there going to be a vinyl? I sure hope so. Nothing would make me happier than owning the first ever physical copy of Openside’s music. I hope you all follow suit. Like I said. They’re going to be huge.