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A Draineress’s Introspective

May 5, 2022

I remember the first time I listened to a Bladee song. It was October of 2020, mid-way through our first completely online semester. A few of the new people in KANM frequently talking about Drain Gang and would post every time they were "draining." I decided I had to hear this guy- how many groups have a verb for listening to their music? My first impression: amusement. I started with Be Nice 2 Me, a DG classic. It sounded like something someone I knew vaguely in high school would post on their snapchat story with a caption begging people to stream their new track. I can’t say that I liked it right off the bat; as all drainers must admit at some point in their life, Drain Gang does not make the most appealing music to the uninitiated.

I think that’s part of the appeal that has led to the group's almost completely sold-out world tour. Their music feels intimate; you have the opportunity to hear these artists grow into their own throughout their discography. The DG community is often described as "gatekeep-y" and a little bizarre from the outside, opinions which are not at all unfounded. Bladee, Ecco2k, Thaiboy Digital, and Whiteamor serve as sort of an underdog for fans to root for, some of their own that are making it big in the music industry. I can't claim that I've been there since the start, but I definitely joined the ranks cheering them on as they drop album after album.

He's just like me FR!

Personally, their appeal is the emotional nature of their music. They have always been very expressive of their struggles within their music, and it's very clear that some of their older music was born out of a desire to express their mental struggles and desperation to be heard by others. Many people relate to their struggles and find solace in their music, myself included. Many of my favorite Bladee songs are about his struggles within himself and with the world around him, expressed in a fairly straight-forward manner. I believe another big reason for the fanaticism within the drainer community is that the members of Drain Gang struggle with many of the same issues that we do. While they are older than the majority of their fans, we grew up in a very similar global context. Their lyrics reflect the same thought patterns and fears shared by the younger generation. I can and have reached for other music to wallow in my sorrow; I am an avid fan of old folk and country, genres that are ripe with songs to be miserable to. I can and have been miserable to these songs, but Bonnie Raitt and Nick Drake were not shaped by the same experiences I was. Their sorrow reflects the mood of the culture they grew up in- one I can sympathize with, but never fully relate to. DG is different- I feel like they know exactly how I'm feeling. An old song wouldn't encapsulate the misery of dwelling in a world where you can be connected to anyone online and still feel isolation. They can't relate to the changing culture regarding our global conflicts and the feeling of helplessness that seems to have settled over the world's youth. This is what makes me personally hold onto their music so tightly: they get it. Bladee understands my struggle to stay sober when it feels like nothing else can help you. Ecco2k understands what its like to be isolated in a place you feel you don’t truly belong. They can also be goofy, hopeful, and self-assertive. This wide range makes them feel more real to me; they also think adding a boing sound effect and sampling obscure sounds from videogames is entertaining. To use a wise and widespread sentiment, he just like me fr!

I recently was part of a conversation where someone posed the question- "Do you prefer their old or newer sound?" It made me think a little more about my own attachment to the group. I've listened to plenty of their old music, and I enjoy it! However, I can say without hesitation that I prefer their more recent sound. This made me feel a little bit insecure in my self-assigned role as a drainer; what kind of hardcore fan prefers new music over the classics? I am nowhere near as dedicated as some DG fans, but I have listened to my fair share of their early music. It’s very charming; some of their verses are clunky and a bit corny, but still very enjoyable. I think what has truly changed is the tone of their lyrics and music. Their more recent discography, Bladee's specifically, has become markedly more upbeat. In his latest albums, he talks of taking control of his life in an optimistic way. The tracks are faster and brighter, and the verses are more uplifting.

This is why I've become particularly attached to their recent music lately. I'm working on getting out of one of my worst depressive episodes, and the thing that keeps me going is the hope that I will come out happy on the other side. DG has served as affirmation for me throughout this time. They were just once as miserable as I am, but they now talk explicitly about healing from past issues and having excitement and faith in the future. I feel this is kind of a rare theme in music. Usually if an artist has a selection of indisputably miserable songs, they are either making music about being miserable or about something unrelated in the context of a normally functioning mind. DG makes music about healing from past wounds, and how hard it is to escape cycles of mental illness. But they're doing it! I've recently been playing The Flag is Raised multiple times a day. The song is so happy, and the message is to hold on to the good times and look forward to greater ones. The line "It's just beginning, we're winning," gives me the strength to continue on even when I can't imagine that future myself. It's out there somewhere- Bladee worked to find it, and I will someday too.

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