Blues-rock group Andy Frasco & the U.N. is departing from its typical party tunes to discuss the group’s struggles with depression and addiction at its upcoming show in Columbus, Ohio, this week.
The band, comprised of Los Angeles native Frasco, guitarist Shawn Eckels, saxophonist Ernie Chang and a rotating lineup of various friends will perform Thursday at Woodlands Tavern. The band will be playing songs off its upcoming, intimate album “Keep On Keepin’ On,” which will be released April 24.
Immersed in the music industry since his early teens, Frasco said he’s starting to open up about the inner demons in his life after years of projecting a perpetually happy party-boy persona.
“I was going through a drug bender. I was doing a bunch of cocaine and having one-night stands every night,” Frasco said. “I was just basically suppressing my loneliness until I had one bad day when I was just contemplating suicide — and I was never a guy who was ever thinking about that stuff — and I realized it was my dopamine level that was so low that I didn’t understand happiness anymore because I was on this path of destruction.”
After seeing a therapist, Frasco said he stopped suppressing his feelings and started pouring them into his music. “Keep on Keepin’ On” delves into the band’s struggles and self-exploration.
Frasco said revealing his personal battles to his fans and the world is nerve-wracking but necessary.
“A lot of my musicians in my scene are killing themselves and overdosing and committing suicide and — this is just my take — I think it’s because they’re misunderstood and they’re afraid to show a dark side of them,” Frasco said.
The project comes after nearly 13 years of playing 250 shows per year, which Frasco said has been his normal ever since he first hit the road as a 19-year-old.
Eckels, who has played with Frasco full time since 2012, said the group’s tour pace requires stamina but is worth it.
“You kind of turn it on, you know,” Eckels said. “It’s never ending, but I mean some days you’re just super, super tired. But you know, if there’s people to play for, I’ve always had the philosophy, it might be the last time you ever get to play music, and if you love playing music, you better give it everything you’ve got.”
Eckels said he had no qualms about joining Frasco in writing from a more vulnerable place, playing a major role in the creation of tracks such as “Field of My Bones,” a song he co-wrote with Frasco about friends they’ve lost to suicide and substance abuse, and “Good Man,” which Eckels wrote about the struggle to live a good life.
“When you bring a song that’s personal to you in front of a bunch of dudes, it’s embarrassing, you know?” Eckels said. “It could suck because you just don’t know how they’re going to take it or what it feels like to finally spit the words out and just hearing it to yourself. But I mean every time that it’s happened for me, writing a song, there’s just so much positivity, and people can connect to it more in a general way or in their own way, instead of even specifically what you mean.”
Even while tackling the heavier subject matter, Frasco said he still wants to take a joyful approach and fight to find happiness, but ultimately, he wants to start a conversation.
“We’re all fighting this,” Frasco said. “And if we can’t have an open communication about it, nothing’s gonna change.”
Andy Frasco & the U.N. and North Carolina alternative rockers Big Something will perform starting at 8 p.m. Thursday at Woodlands Tavern. Tickets cost $15.