My chat with Vaneet Mehta is due to start at 7pm, but at 6.57 I spill a glass of red wine all over my cream curtains and beige carpet. Panicking, I need to decide what to do: delay the live stream, ignore the mess, or refill my glass. With no time to try to get it out, I selflessly sacrifice my home decor for a Marbles chat with Vaneet, and I’m glad I did.
We chat for a few minutes about his day: his hair dyeing misadventures (some Poser Paste colours from Hayley Williams’ hair dye brand, Good Dye Young, won’t take to his hair), the excitement (or lack thereof) in his job, and Instagram’s fickle ways. But enough small talk, let’s get to the meat of it all.
Vaneet, what is your Happy Thing?
If it wasn’t obvious by this point, my happy thing is Paramore slash Hayley Williams.
Tell us why.
I wrote a blog about why I love Paramore so much. They’ve actually been there for me in a really weird way throughout multiple stages in my life, and it’s just bizarre how they’ve always managed to somehow be there as some level of support.
When I was in high school for example, I felt very ostracised and outcast. I wasn’t out at that point, but because I just didn’t fit in with anyone else, I was excluded. It was all teenage angst.
I actually never thought I was into music, because everything I’d ever heard, I was like, “This is okay, but I’m not in love with it.” The exception was probably Avril Lavigne and Pink, that was about it. ‘Complicated’ is a tune.
When Paramore came into my life, things just clicked. It felt like this was exactly what I’d always wanted. I constantly screened everything through Paramore. But then they managed to be there in bigger ways. For example, in 2013 I lost touch with two of my best friends – we’re better now, but we didn’t speak for about a year – and that was the year they released their new album, Paramore. So I was like, “Okay, I’ve lost all my friends. What am I going to do?” But then this album dropped and it was like, “This will help.” And it did.
And the same thing happened in 2017, which was when I came out. And when I came out, a lot of things in my life went into disarray for a whole bunch of reasons. And I sunk into a massive depression. But in April, actually on my birthday, Paramore released the new track from their new album, announced their new album (After Laughter), and a new tour. And I was like, “This will get me through.”
I find the lyrics really relatable too, especially in After Laughter. The whole band was going through a lot of issues themselves, and Hayley was dealing with severe amounts of depression, and so they just channelled all this out through the lyrics and music. “Cry hard, dance harder” is what they said. There are really upbeat tracks through every single song, but then the lyrics are really dark, and it’s all sadness and depression coming through, but she’s still dancing to it. It’s a really bizarre set-up, but it meant I could sit there and cry to it, but then get up and go, “No, I’m going to dance and have fun, even when I’m sad.”
How old were you when you first got into them?
I first got into them around when their second album, Riot!, came out. I think that was roughly around 2008. Over a decade now, which makes me feel old. I was about 15 or 16. I actually found out about them because of The Sims 2, which is bizarre. When the console version of The Sims is released, bands or artists come in and sing one of their big songs, but sing it in Simlish. I’ve seen recordings of these people, like Katy Perry, doing their big hits, but singing them in this incomprehensible language that doesn’t mean anything. Paramore did that with ‘Pressure’. So when I heard it on The Sims 2, I didn’t realise they were an actual band. I loved the song was going to download the Simlish version, and then that’s when I found out Paramore was a real band, and then fully freaked out. Then I found ‘Misery Business’, which was their big track at that point, and then it was like, “I’m in love with this band now.” That hasn’t really changed.
What is it about them that keeps you coming back to them?
I feel like they have lyrics or a track for any given moment. They are so versatile: they have ballads, they have upbeat, they have angry songs. They channel all their emotions. It’s their diary; they’ve said that themselves. They use their music as a way to get out and process emotions. It feels very real and relatable. They say things really bluntly as well. There’s a song on their most recent album called ‘Hard Times’, and it opens with the line:
‘All I want is to wake up fine
Tell me that I’m alright
And I ain’t gonna die.’
There’s also ‘Caught in the Middle’ which opens with the lyrics,
‘I can’t think of getting old
It only makes me want to die
And I can’t think of who I was
Cos it makes me want to cry.’
I remember listening to the opening two lines and I just burst into tears and had to stop listening. It’s just really raw. I really like the way they go about that kind of thing. They don’t really listen when people go, “Oh, I want to old Paramore,” or, “I want you to sing these kinds of songs.” They find what works for them in the moment and then they move on from it.
Hayley said in an interview once that she was so depressed and her bandmate Taylor just kept sending her these really upbeat tracks. She was like, “I’m depressed, I need something sad!” and he was like, “No, here’s something upbeat!” So she just had to work with it.
I’ve found that people find solace and happiness from meeting people from fandoms. Have you made friends through the Paramore fandom?
One of my best friends and I bonded over our similar music tastes. One of the main parts of our friendship was always the fact that we were big fans of Paramore. Yesterday, there was a thing online called PlayOn Fest. It’s done by Warner Bros and they’re pulling out all of these sets that their bands have done live. I watched that yesterday, and my Twitter feed this morning was just: Paramore Paramore Paramore. People tweeting the video and the images from that live performance, which they did in 2018, but people are still talking about it cos they re-aired it last night. It’s just a really nice way to connect with people and be like, “I miss Paramore, don’t you miss Paramore? I miss live music, don’t you miss live music?”
How are you feeling about not being able to go to gigs right now?
It’s really upsetting. I had one gig which was literally the same week as the lockdown, so that got cancelled, that was for Gabrielle Aplin. I had one which was next month, it hasn’t been cancelled yet, but it probably will. It was for Fall Out Boy, Green Day and Weezer – their Hella Mega Tour. And Hayley Williams has a solo project at the moment, and she was supposed to be in London next month. I didn’t manage to get tickets for it, but I was going to hunt and hunt and hunt until I got them. I’m sure that’s going to be cancelled. There’s so much we were going to enjoy, and it’s just all gone.
How has that and this lockdown been affecting your mental health?
Nobody I’ve spoken to has a good answer to, “How are you?” There’s no way to tell someone how you’re feeling at any given point. It feels like a roller coaster. You’re constantly riding it and you never know when the next drop is going to come. During the first couple of weeks, I was quite upset because I was seeing more of the stuff I was excited for get wiped off the calendar. I had to cancel my birthday party, and my holiday had to be cancelled. After the first couple of weeks, I was dealing with it okay, but my mental health crashed last week. I wasn’t able to do anything, I was dragging myself out of bed just to do work. The second I finished work for the day, I’d turn the laptop off and just lie there for the whole evening doing nothing.
On the one hand, I’m very grateful that I still have my job. I know a lot of people, freelancers especially, have been hit hard. I know a lot of people who’ve been put on furlough. In some cases that’s good because they can focus on their health, but sometimes it’s like, “Man, I have nothing to do and I’m getting paid less.’ So I’m very grateful I still have my full income and I still have stuff to do. But it’s tough.
At this point, I ask Vaneet to do a reading for us. The piece he read – called ‘Dream’ – can be found here.
I’ve never done a reading before. This is going to be interesting. I wrote this piece for Bi Pride UK’s magazine, Unicorn. It was for their second issue. The theme was ‘dream’, and I took this and spun it on its head.
The way being bisexual is seen in society isn’t taken as seriously as other types of coming out. Why do you think that might be?
I think a lot of people think being bisexual is somehow easier, but it never has been for me, and to me that’s never made any sense. I didn’t know the word existed for so long. I knew what gay was from when I was 11, and I was taught that it was a bad thing, but I knew it existed. But my feelings didn’t make sense. I didn’t understand how to reconcile them. There’s a whole conversation we could have about internalised homophobia and why I couldn’t at least explore that side, but yeah, I didn’t feel comfortable doing that, especially where I grew up and the community I existed in. So, it was difficult. And a lot of people say you can still be with women and it’ll be fine, but that’s not the experience of bisexual men, for the most part. Bisexual men often get rejected from women because they think you’re gay but in denial. A lot of people don’t take it seriously. Every statistic shows that bisexual people just categorically do not come out. The coming out rate for bisexual men is 14%, having come out to everyone in their family. Compared to about 60% of gay men. The gap in that is so extreme.
I wanted to talk about the hashtag you started: #bisexualmenexist. That went viral. What was it about that that struck such a chord?
I don’t know! A lot of people don’t know that I actually invented that hashtag last year, around March. I’d connected with a few bisexual people on Twitter who’d really helped me a lot, and one of my bisexual mutuals was experiencing abuse from both ends on apps. He’s married to a woman, but is in an open relationship, and people were saying he was just going to run back to his wife, or that he was treating his wife badly because he’s gay. So, he was getting all kinds of crap, and it was really getting me down. I was like, “I need something positive so desperately.” So I created that hashtag and it didn’t take off that much back then. It got good traction, about a thousand likes, but it didn’t build the kind of traction it is now. I didn’t have much of a follower base in 2019, so maybe that’s why. I have no idea. I think maybe having a bigger follower base meant people were picking it up.
I think there was probably a period where there was a lot of stuff coming out – it was LGBT history month in the UK, and there were quite a few negative stories coming out during that time. People were getting exhausted with it. People just wanted something positive, so when they saw the hashtag, they were just retweeting it. A bunch of big organisations saw it, like GLAAD and Human Rights, who started retweeting it and joining in. I think that built up the traction. I tweeted it, then went to bed, and when I woke up, everyone was like, “Did you know you’re trending?” I wasn’t expecting any of it.
I could talk to you all night, but we need to wrap up. I wanted to ask: is there anything coming up you want to plug? You mentioned on Twitter that you had some news, I’m not sure if you can talk about that yet?
It’s not been confirmed yet, but I am trying to take the hashtag further. Leave it at that. #BisexualMenExist is by no means over, and it’s by no means just going to be a hashtag forever. Fingers crossed. I’ll just make a disclaimer: it may not work out, but fingers crossed.
Before we go, where can people follow you?
I have the very, very professional handle: nintendomad888. You can find me on that pretty much everywhere. If you find that handle on a website, there’s a 99% chance it’s me. Or you can find me on Twitter, Instagram, you can find my blog on Medium, and you can also find the work I do on Twitter. I work with Rainbow Films, Middlesex Pride, and I also have a YouTube channel called The AmBIssadors, with my friend Lo. If you go onto my Twitter, you’ll find links to all of that.