Taking a three year hiatus was the best decision Kyle Nicolaides ever made. It revitalized him, and he has returned with a new song called Bloodlines. With the power of music, Kyle has been able to heal his life even though the tough times he faced made it seem impossible and out of reach. In this raw and emotional interview, Kyle opens up about his struggles with mental health and much more.
How did Beware Of Darkness begin?
Kyle Nicolaides: I was going to USC and got [involved] with the R&B scene in Los Angeles. I was playing with people who [performed] with Stevie Wonder and the caliber of musicians was just extraordinary.
I was doing so many shows at that point and when I decided to put a band together, I wanted it to have that caliber of musicians, and not just go around the Eastside of LA and ask people who could sort of get by on their instruments. So I put an ad out on Craigslist and that’s how I met Tony and Dan. It’s been a long strange journey.
Can you talk a little bit about that journey?
Kyle Nicolaides: I want to start by saying I don’t regret any of it. It’s been the wildest ride of my life and dealing with the natural highs and uncertainty. The highs have been so high— we’ve got to do so many mind-blowing things that I never thought I would be able to do. There’s also been crushing lows and it’s been painful at times, it’s been beautiful at times, it’s been a mess at times, and there’s been times where I feel like a bomb is about to go off every single day and I don’t know what to do about it.
You know, looking back now it’s almost inspiring because all of the heartbreaking music put me on a spiritual path. So all of the pain in music led me to yoga, meditation, and plant-based medicine. It’s been a journey and I wouldn’t take it back for anything.
I saw from the PR package that you were on a three year hiatus. Was this hiatus something that you had to do for your well-being in order to revitalize yourself?
Basically what happened was we went through three drummers in probably four months disband to join another band, and it became me and two random guys. The amount of uncertainty, anxiety, and depression that I had at the time— I didn’t have vocabulary [defined] depression I just knew that it was not possible to do a photoshoot, it’s not possible to put everything together, and it felt like a bomb was about to explode at all times. And I didn’t know what to do with it.
I was so miserable. I think I spent so much time trying to make a band when it was never really a band. In a lot of ways, it was a band and in a lot of ways it wasn’t a band, but I think I just got so burnt out, and we did a tour and it wasn’t extraordinary, but it wasn’t bad. We got off the tour and a couple of things happened with the guys I hired but I was at the point where I was like: “I’m getting absolutely nothing out of it and it’s making me miserable and I don’t know what to do.”
The only thing I knew how to do was heading back to Santa Barbara which is where I grew up and I invested in a recording studio and I just felt like I had to do heart work on myself. I was probably around 26 and I realized that I’d never done anything for myself because I was so invested in the band. There’s so much uncertainty with tours because they are last minute, and you can’t plan much because you have to stay open just in case you are getting something and just in case you are not getting something.
I was always on heightened alert and I am realizing now that I’m a very sensitive person and some things happened with the band that had a profound and traumatic effect on me that I never dealt with. The only thing I knew how to do was just sort of unravel everything, just stop and move back to Santa Barbara. I’m coming out of that phase right now and I was just talking with a friend about this yesterday, but my career professionally took a nosedive.
With spiritual growth and personal growth, I feel like a person now you know? And I’m so thankful for that and I know whatever’s going to come next I’ll be ready for it. It led to me getting sober, taking antidepressants, starting therapy and I had years dedicated to taking care of my mental health. And it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made because looking back at most of the stuff to do with the band I wasn’t able to enjoy it because I was so depressed and so anxious. It’s almost sad and it’s almost heartbreaking but I don’t have a hangup about it.
You know Kyle? You aren’t alone in that. I had to take a hiatus from journalism as I was burnt out as well. I had to discover my faith again in myself and in people. It took some time for me to come out of this and you are the first person I’ve interviewed for 2019!
Kyle Nicolaides: Wow! I love it!
Can you tell me the story behind your new song Bloodlines?
Kyle Nicolaides: Around the same time before I moved back to Santa Barbara we did a session and recorded a version of Bloodlines and it was one of the most awkward, awful sessions I’d been in my entire life, because it felt like no one wanted to be in the studio and you can open the door and feel so much tension within the room. So the song just sat for 2-3 years and it wasn’t until I think last year our A&R [Artists and Repertoire] guy kept hitting me up and I was so depressed that the last thing you want to do is a [recording session.] So I kept saying no and he kept bringing it back up and it wasn’t until this year that I started therapy and antidepressants and started a journey. So finally I just said yes and we booked the session, and we’re rocking.
One of my closest friends Jeff from the Smashing Pumpkins happened to be in town and we got him in the studio. It was so simple, there was no ego, it was so much fun and it was a reminder that recording music should be easy. There should be no drama, there should be no bullshit, there should be no negativity with it. It was just positive.
You know when I first recorded music as a teenager that’s what it was like. There’s just a joy to it.
Do you use your music as a way to heal, comfort and remind others that they aren’t alone? I feel the more we talk about the importance of mental health the less of a stigma it is. It provides a safe space for compassion, kindness, understanding, and the opportunity to emotionally connect as so many people struggle in silence when they don’t have to.
Kyle Nicolaides: I love that question! I’m at the point right now where I don’t have much else to talk about except mental health. I have a small platform online where I open up about mental health and it’s been just immensely humbling to see the response to that, and that people can have a face to it. I think that musicians don’t talk about their process or they don’t talk about how they’re feeling a lot, and with the community that I’m a part of online I can say: “I’ve been suicidal for the past 2-3 years to almost 10 years.”
To answer your question I think my purpose in life is to heal others through songs, whether it’s talking to someone after a live show, whether that’s [writing] lyrics that relate to that, I just feel like I’m of service. And that is what gives me purpose and meaning.
In hindsight, I get messages from my supporters and they’re honest with me [about what they go through] and all of a sudden I’m able to pull the resources that helped me and share it with them. So it’s been beautiful— especially being a male too because men usually don’t express their feelings as they should. It’s bigger than me because in the past couple of weeks I’ve had a lot of people hit me up and say: “Can we sit and talk about my problems?”
I feel there is a real need right now and I don’t know if it’s because of social media— I don’t know what’s going on but people are going out of their minds right now and they don’t know what to do and it’s really hard to be alive. No one teaches you how to be alive. No one teaches you how to be content. No one teaches you how to be happy, or find inner peace or inner stillness. It’s almost like we have to change how we think about life and change how we live, and I think mental health first needed to do that.
It’s important and just even you asking makes me want to work harder at that, and just sharing my heart.
Yeah. And just live your life with a lot of faith because things do get better with time and with a lot of support. My friend said it takes a village because life can be really rough.
Kyle Nicolaides: Yeah. You’re right and it’s sort of heartbreaking. I’m 28 right now and in the past two or three weeks, I found a community in LA where people are vulnerable about what they’re feeling and it’s the embodiment of community, and I’ve never had that before. It’s just mind-blowing because in the past month I was like: “Oh wow. This is what real community is about, and it’s what being there for people is really about.” And there are so many things like that where we just need to teach people because they don’t know! I was never taught that, and everything we do is a practice. So it’s been nice.
In what ways has music healed you?
Kyle Nicolaides: That’s a great question. I think there have always been songs— I don’t know if it’s chord progressions, frequencies, or melodies it could be all of the above but when I listen to it they almost have a drug effect on me. I feel like I get high and I just feel so safe deep my heart and soul. And I have a playlist on Spotify called heart work and it’s all the songs that have done that for me. There’s something so powerful about it. I just don’t know how to explain it. It’s almost spiritual.
I think I’ve always loved sounds ever since I was a little kid and that’s what I’m looking for when I hear music and that’s what I am looking to also give back when I make music. It’s nurturing and it’s healing, makes you feel safe, and it’s almost like your sanctuary. Honestly, I didn’t realize until you asked the question but I started recording music because it was healing to me.
You have a huge love for video games such as Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and Super Mario 64. How did those games have a huge impact on you?
Kyle Nicolaides: It got me into music. What got me into music were those soundtracks. I grew up with Sega Genesis first playing Sonic the Hedgehog 2&3 and I think it’s true that Michael Jackson wrote the soundtrack for Sonic the Hedgehog 3. I remember hearing the soundtrack I think for Marble Garden Zone and it was the first time that music hit me in such a profound way, and the same thing with Ocarina of Time. The soundtrack in that is phenomenal. It’s like a Jimmy Hendrix Greatest Hits record. It’s so good! I think just playing those video games over and over again, falling in love with the art of video games, and also hearing music that makes me emotionally react— there’s something so magical about going to other worlds in video games.
My first piano teacher had a studio and she would let me record music every once in a while, and the first songs that I was recording were from the Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time.
I got The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time for the 3DS back in May. From one gamer to another, what would your advice be to someone like me who is overwhelmed by the open world and diving into a Zelda game for the first time?
Kyle Nicolaides: I would just enjoy it. Just take your time with it and lose yourself in the game because it’s so beautiful. With Majora’s Mask that game scared the shit out of me. I just replayed it on tour a couple of years ago and I had to use a guide the whole time. I would just say take it slow and just bask in it. To me, Ocarina of Time and Breath of The Wild are great art. They are on par with the best novels ever written, you are playing it for the story. Their stories are so beautiful. I think you should just savor it and appreciate it.
Is there a guilty pleasure game that you can always come back to and play over and over again without getting sick of it?
Kyle Nicolaides: Good question! That’s so interesting I haven’t thought about that. Do you know what it is? Probably Sonic Adventure 2 on Dreamcast. [laughs] I fucking love that game! Thank you for reminding me I gotta go and buy that again.
How did you feel when the song “Howl” was featured in the video game soundtracks of Grand Turismo, Saint Rows IV, Need for Speed: Most Wanted, and EA Sports: UFC?
Kyle Nicolaides: Well here’s the thing. When I was 18-19 I thought to myself “I can’t play video games anymore, I have to stop.” Me walking into a Gamestop was like an alcoholic walking into a bar, so I sold everything I owned which I regret now. I just want it to be noted that I am a Nintendo guy, I need dinosaurs all over the place shooting out eggs.
Kyle Nicolaides: [Laughs] Exactly! So when we got all those placements I wasn’t playing video games. I was happy about it and I have memories of playing Grand Theft Auto IV and heard those soundtracks over and over again, and memorizing every single song so I thought it was really neat that something I did was part of that lineage— that there is a kid somewhere that would probably hear my song about four times a day, so I thought that was pretty cool. I didn’t think too much about it because I wasn’t playing video games myself. When I hit 25 I was like: “What are you doing? Just [laughs] enjoy your life!” And I bought a 3DS!
[Laughs] Well you can still enjoy your life and play video games! I’m 30 and my boyfriend is 33 and we still enjoy them! There is no shame in that at all.
Kyle Nicolaides: They’re so magical! I love them so much! I think they are so healthy. I get that they are time-consuming but I think what I have to watch for myself with video games is that I have an addictive personality. I’ll start enjoying it but then I’ll hit a point where I’m just anxious and angry about it, so I have to be mindful about that because it can go from enjoyment to rage real quick. I put the controller down and wonder why I’m so angry.
Is there a video game that you want your music featured in?
Kyle Nicolaides: I would like to score a video game soundtrack! That would be really cool. I don’t play video games anymore that have band songs in them. I am playing Super Mario Odyssey!
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