Interview With Heads Above The Waves

full-logoHere at Soundscape Magazine we are not just about bringing you all the latest music and bands, we are also into creativity in its many different forms, especially if it’s helping people along the way.

It gives me great pleasure to feature Heads Above The Waves, an organisation that is tackling a subject very close to my heart, we spoke to Si Martin, who was kind enough to answer all our questions.

Please introduce yourself to our readers?  Hi! My name is Si (hence my oh so original Twitter handle – @himynameisSi), and I run Heads Above The Waves, alongside 2 of my closest friends. We’re a not-for-profit organisation, raising awareness about self-harm and depression, and promoting hope through creativity. We want people to know that it’s okay to not be okay, and that music and art are great ways of dealing with what you’re going through.

How did Heads Above The Waves come about?  Self-harm was something I struggled with as a teenager, and one thing I found was that there was a real lack of help/information that was on my level. For me, it was throwing myself into music, and writing music, that helped me through that crappy time. HATW came about by wanting to help people help themselves, in a way that wasn’t cold & clinical, or childish & condescending.

It all started with wanting to make t-shirts for my band, Set Aside, that said “Pop punk saved my life” with the profits from the shirts going to Samaritans. But then the idea developed into actually starting our own organisation to let people know they’re not alone, and share stories/experiences to find new ways of keeping your head above whatever waves life’s throwing your way.

What have you got going on at the moment?  Right now is the most exciting, and scary, time we’ve had so far. We’ve been running for a little over a year, and we’ve made a good start. But now, we’re looking to partner up with other charities to actually provide first hand support for people. It’s one thing to tell someone that music is a good way to stay positive, the next step is to actually LET people try making music. We’re also about to drop our new line of Merch with a Message, and we’re looking to put on some shows and tours. All while working full time jobs too, to actually pay our rent with.

You have a very hands on and personal touch, putting in handwritten notes etc with every order. How important is that to you?  It’s hugely important. Personally, I LOVE it when I order stuff online and it comes with lil extras like that. A bonus always makes people smile. We hand make all of our swing tags etc too, it’s a real labour of love, but I think that’s a key part of what we’re doing. We all pour a lot of time into what we’re doing, because it’s something we believe in so ardently. It’s also important to remember that however big a company or organisation is, it’s still people, with hopes and struggles, who actually work there and are delivering the service to you.


What’s your main vision for Heads Above The Waves?  As an organisation, it’s to make self-harm, depression, and in fact all elements of mental health, something that people aren’t afraid to talk about. We want people to look for help, and find it. We read a shocking statistic that by 2020 there’s going to be 100,000 hospital admissions in the UK alone as a result of self-harm, so really, we want to see that figure dropping. What’s awesome though, is that the message that we’re sharing has influenced people who aren’t self-harming. So while our VISION is to help reduce self-harm, a side effect is promoting hope to everyone.

Personally, I went in saying that if we help just one person, then we’ve done it right. And I’ve already had several people let me know how much it’s helped, feeling able to talk about what they’re going through, or have been through, so that’s literally the best thing ever for me.

What do you think is the most important thing to you in running Heads Above The Waves?  I’d say that it’s the 3 of us who run it. We’ve all had some experience of self-harm, whether that’s personally going through it, or supporting someone else who is. Hearing “It’s okay to be bummed out. But trust me, it gets better.” from someone who’s been there means so much more than hearing it from some big faceless corporation.

People keep telling me I need to have more faith in myself, and I think I’m starting to get there. Helping other people almost makes it seem like all the crap I went through as a teenager was for a reason, y’know?

What advice would you give someone who was thinking about starting up a clothing line?  I guess it would be to just go for it. 18 months ago, I would never have believed you if you told me that I’d be doing all the stuff I’m doing now, with HATW. But it was just from throwing myself in at the deep end that things have started happening. Don’t let anything stop you. I remember when I applied for some funding to get HATW off the ground, I told them “whether you give us this money or not, I’m going to do it.”, it was ballsy, but it paid off.

And get a great team around you too. I, and in fact, Heads Above The Waves, would be nothing if it wasn’t for Gruff & Hannah being so involved in it.

What’s the hardest thing about running HATW?  There’s a couple things really. The first is a logistical thing: it just doesn’t pay the bills. The 3 of us are doing everything whilst working around full time jobs, so that we can actually afford to live, and keep doing what we’re doing. There really aren’t enough hours in the day!

For me, personally, I’m a really empathetic person. If I hear someone’s story about what a crappy time they’ve had, I can’t help but feel a bit bummed out too, on their behalf. But that’s a good thing, really. I’d much rather care too much than not at all.

Nape print

What is your inspiration for the artwork and the artists you use?  We’ve been really lucky with the artists we’ve worked with so far. We’re surrounded by some insanely talented people. The first round of t-shirts we did were by our friends who are designers/illustrators. The next set of merch we’re creating has been from people who’ve liked what we’re doing so far, and wanted to get involved, offering their skills.

We’ve got a whole bunch of inspirational quotes/lyrics that inspire us, and we pass on to all of the artists we work with, but for the most part, we let our artists do their own interpretation of what it is to keep your head above the waves.

Do you have any famous fans?  Well, I’m not too sure about that. Whenever we’ve interviewed bands, they seem to like the idea, and actually the fact that our interviews are more than just “hows the new album going down?” “how’s tour?” tend to get them going a bit more. Real Friends were really into what we do. As a huge fan, that means an incredible about. Soupy from The Wonder Years wore one of our shirts on stage, and I got stupidly excited about that. A whole bunch of the guys on the South Wales music scene have expressed their support for us too, which is awesome. There are some big things happening right now in South Wales.

What’s your favourite music?  The 3 of us have fairly different tastes in music, but the one thing that we all agree on is pop-punk. Personally, pop-punk has had a huge influence on my life. Because I love the whole ‘stay posi’ vibe that comes along with the music. Blink-182 have to be one of my all time favourite bands, but recently, it’s The Wonder Years. In fact, Heads Above The Waves’ mission statement is really driven by the chorus of ‘Local Man Ruins Everything’ – “It’s not about forcing happiness; it’s about not letting sadness win”. That’s so true with everything.

Do you think music and fashion go hand in hand?  I do. Right now, making money from making a record, and in fact, even touring, as a band is getting harder and harder, and bands are looking to merch as a way of bringing in an income. I’m also a firm believer in the “tribe” mentality that comes along with music. So, if I see someone in a Wonder Years t-shirt, I’ll straight away assume that we get on, because of the shirt they’re wearing. That’s what we’re trying to tap into with HATW.

How important is music to the HATW philosophy?  Quite simply, if it weren’t for music, I wouldn’t be here. It’s as simple as that. Heads Above The Waves wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for me finding music when I did, and using it as a cathartic thing to deal with high school. And we’re all firm believers in there being a soundtrack for everything you go through, no matter who you are. Actually knowing that someone through a speaker is going through the same thing as you, even when it seems like no-one else is, is such a powerful thing.

But the other thing is, like our t-shirts say, one size doesn’t fit all. And music isn’t going to be the thing that helps everyone. So we want to help people find and use art, or exercise, or even just having a cup of tea, as a way of staying positive. It’s about finding what works for you, to keep your head above the waves.

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About Paul Esp 188 Articles

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