Emo rapper Bobby O’Brien blended everything he’s ever loved to create Dying In Designer. From the Warped Tour pop-punk bounce of Blink 182 and A Day To Remember through to his own history as a vocalist in hardcore bands and the Chicago drill scene of his hometown, his debut album as Dying In Designer, ‘Nobody’s Happy.’, features a little bit of everything. Signed to Hopeless Records, O’Brien’s already worked with the producer of Juice WRLD’s hit single ‘Lucid Dreams’ and written with scene glitterati Mark Hoppus and Alex Gaskarth. His music is already causing a big reaction and, like Lil Peep, he’s a crossover star in the making.
Speaking to NME ahead of his first ever UK headline show at London’s 229 Club last week, it feels like Dying In Designer is only at the beginning of something special.
NME: You perform as Dying In Designer and your album’s called ‘Nobody’s Happy’. Was this project always going to tackle the darker side of things?
Bobby O’Brien: “When I started the project I was in the most toxic relationship, I was dealing with depression, I was drinking way too much, I was broke and working a job I hated. It was a horrible mix. It felt like I was stuck in quicksand and you’re trying to get out, but you can’t. Some days it felt like the only way out was suicide. It was fucking dark for sure. Music was the only outlet I had. It gave me a reason to go on.”
Your songs are often very personal and vulnerable. What made you want to share them?
“Making this album ended up being super therapeutic for me. A lot of people don’t have an outlet like music, so it was important for me to get it down and out to the people who are going through similar things. Rather than sit and cry about things, I’d rather help other people through it.”
What’s the reaction been like?
“People have been telling me how it’s helped them and it’s honestly the best feeling in the world. I’m glad I can be a prophet for people going through this rough shit.”
10 years ago, emo was dominated by angsty rock bands. Why do you think Emo Rap is having a moment?
“People like me, Lil Peep, Nothing, Nowhere — we grew up listening to that stuff. We’re students of the game and when we got old enough, we were able to put that influence alongside other things we liked, like hip-hop and trap. It just feels like second nature because we were raised on it.”
And it feels like it’s being welcomed by that world.
“Yeah, it’s cool. I want the scene to be as strong as it can be. I want it to be at its full potential because at the end of the day, if this type of music is around, think about how many lives can be saved. People don’t realise how important music is. When I was a kid and I was stressed out or pissed off that I got bullied at school, I’d put on Linkin Park to deal with it.”
How do you think Lil Peep changed things for the scene?
“Lil Peep was fucking super special, and it’s so unfortunate what happened to him because he was one of a kind. He’s exactly what this scene needed and it’s unfortunate we don’t have him here anymore. But that doesn’t mean the scene can’t grow without him, because he’ll forever be a legend and a foundation of it.”
Why do you think your music is connecting to young men in particular?
“It’s because they can relate to me, and I can relate to them. There are a lot of sad boys in the world. To be a male and to talk about your feelings, you get called a pussy or a bitch. Women generally talk to each other about their problems. Men don’t really do that because they’re afraid.”
But they’ll see you doing it, and hopefully feel less afraid?
“That’s the thing, but it took me my whole life to get there. I’m still self-conscious and I have insecurities, but when it came to my mental health I was so fucked up and broken — but I wasn’t telling anyone. I realised if I didn’t do something about it, I was going to do something really bad. I’m lucky I had music.”
What do you want your music to mean to people?
“I want it to be therapeutic. Some people are too nervous to talk to people about their problems so I want this music to give them hope and a reason. I want my music to change lives. I want to put out nothing but good, positive, beautiful energy. I want to let people know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m living proof, because I was so fucking close to calling it quits.”
Do you think what you’re doing is important?
“Absolutely. Some people say, ‘Oh this is stupid, this is just emo rap’ and try to drag me down, but they’re the people that don’t get it and that’s fine. Some people need this. It’s about being the best version of yourself and seeking help if you need it. I hope I can influence these kids to stay on this earth.”
For help and advice on mental health:
- ‘Am I depressed?’ – Help and advice on mental health and what to do next
- Help Musicians UK – Around the clock mental health support and advice for musicians
- Music Support Org – Help and support for musicians struggling with alcoholism, addiction, or mental health issues
- YOUNG MINDS – The voice for young people’s health and wellbeing
- CALM – The Campaign Against Living Miserably for young men
- Time To Change – Let’s end mental health discrimination
- The Samaritans – Confidential support 24 hours a day