This was a long way from normal. Serena is, despite the anger in Svalbard’s music and her forthrightness when discussing things like misogyny and racism, also someone with an obsessive love of rollercoasters, Japanese anime and the worst European power metal you’ve ever heard. A self-confessed nerd who it’s impossible not to like, she can communicate entirely in Simpsons quotes, loves Skyrim, and once (accurately) described herself in Kerrang! as “The Minnie Mouse of metal”. Her bandmates’ nickname for her, meanwhile, is ‘The Yappy Chihuahua’ (“Small and annoying,” she grins).
But depression is a bully, it is a thief and it is a liar. Whatever the causes or triggers, the effect is the same: it will knock you down and take from you even the simplest of life’s pleasures. It will tell you that your hard-won achievements are nothing, and it will pick on you and tell you nobody cares, until you are left feeling alone in a black and white world in which you feel unable to feel or connect to anything, even those things that you didn’t think could be taken away.
“The only way I can describe it is that you are physically unable to feel anything but pain,” she shares. “Even little things. Like, I love eating – sitting in front of the TV, stuffing my face and watching anime is my favourite pastime – but even that didn’t work anymore.
“There were times when I was worried that this album wasn’t even going to get finished, because the inspiration for me just wasn’t there, because I was so depressed,” she continues. “That joy of playing my guitar, that joy of creating, all of that essence, is an amazing, all-consuming feeling. But I just wasn’t capable of it at all. The thing that I create in music is the thing that I’m most passionate about, and it just couldn’t arise in me anymore. [So] you go through the motions, you pick up your guitar and almost force yourself to do it, because you tell yourself you should and you feel this obligation to be pursuing these things, even when you’re not in the right headspace for it at all.”
The song’s inspiration, and what helped Serena to unpick the knots depression puts in your mind, was speaking to friends about how she was feeling, realising that the minutiae of the experience wasn’t hers alone. This is what’s at the heart of Listen To Someone, and it’s far closer to a way of healing from these things than telling someone, ‘It’s not that bad.’
“Something that really, really helped was speaking to people who would talk about the really minuscule details,” she says. “Like, you become really forgetful. People will tell you things and you’ll feel really rude because you keep forgetting everything. All it would take is to have a conversation with another person who was suffering with depression and they’d say, ‘Yeah, you become really forgetful.’ The power, that resonance, of knowing that someone else is going through these things that aren’t talked about, that side of mental illness, it makes you feel so much less alone in it. There’s comfort.
“There’s nothing more powerful than when someone says something you already think or feel, and you realise they feel it too.”