Mental health awareness message lasts long after KAABOO’s finale

Artists like Imagine Dragons and Stealing Oceans left impact on fans on hand for Del Mar festival.


Stealing Oceans was one of the bands that came to KAABOO with positive messages. Photo by Brian Mohler

Brian Mohler, Arts and Entertainment Editor

KAABOO Del Mar artists Imagine Dragons and Stealing Oceans focused on positive messages to raise awareness about mental health issues. These messages were prevalent not only in their lyrics, but also in direct messages to fans between songs.

Imagine Dragons singer Dan Reynolds held up a fan-made flag during his performance on Saturday, Sept. 15 that read: “DESTIGMATIZE MENTAL HEALTH #BREAKTHESTIGMA.”

“Therapy really helped me at a point in my life and shouldn’t be stigmatized,” said Reynolds as he shared his own struggles with anxiety and depression with the KAABOO fans.

Stealing Oceans is a new band based out of Nashville, but the group is made up of transplants from all over.

They’ve been touring, but KAABOO was their first major festival appearance. Frontman Brian Thompson, who grew up north of Boston, took the time to interact with fans after the Sept. 16 show. One fan cried after explaining to Thompson how much a song meant him.

Thompson took the time to speak with City Times.

City Times: How did you get into music?
Brian Thompson: I got in a lot of trouble when I was younger with drugs and alcohol. It stemmed from the fact that I didn’t know how to release any of the pain-anger that I had inside. My brother taught me how to play guitar. I started writing and it became my release to get everything I had built up inside out.

City Times: Stealing Oceans has a different sound. How would you describe it?
Brian Thompson: We’re still trying to figure out how to describe our style because it’s a smorgasbord. We don’t like to put ourselves in a box. We’ve recently been called Dave Matthews Band with a hip-hop twist.

City Times: What kind of hip hop influenced you?
Brian Thompson: I grew up on underground hip hop like Atmosphere, Brother Ali, Aesop Rock, the Rhyme Sayers, all that stuff. Obviously, Eminem is the best rapper in the world. I love his stuff, but I don’t agree with how he uses certain language, how he still uses the word b—-. I think it’s a bad influence for kids growing up who are listening to him, but his flow, delivery, storytelling, his word poetry is out of this world.

City Times: What do you think of the rap battle Eminem has been involved in lately?
Brian Thompson: It’s fun to watch, but I don’t think it’s good to promote people being so negative to each other. Some of the language they’ve been using is a bad message for kids. We’re going through a lot right now in our country, and in the world, in terms of the influence that artists and people on a platform have on kids. I think being on a stage is important, there’s a lot of people who look up to us, and listen to us, and it’s our job to leave the world better than how we found it. What we say, our message, our strength, has to come across in a positive way or we’re not leaving the world a better place.

City Times: Are there any KAABOO performances that impressed you?
Brian Thompson: I grew up listening to Stone Temple Pilots. It was amazing seeing them and meeting them. It felt like I had one of those geeked-out boy band experiences. I saw Dean (DeLeo) and I freaked out.

Dylan Kubina, a KAABOO attendee and musician for Velvet Grapes, makes music for fun and creative expression.

“It’s really good for your health, if you’re depressed or have anxiety,” Kubina said. “That’s why I like to make music. It helps me feel happy.”

Lizzy Hale of Halestorm recently shared the same message on the “I’m Listening” radio broadcast for National Suicide Prevention Week.

“Find your therapy, find that thing, you know, that makes you you, that makes you feel better, and do that,” Hale said. “Let’s make sure that whoever is struggling knows that they are not alone.”

According to MusiCares, which provides support and community services to musicians in need of medical, personal and financial assistance, “the Center for Disease Control recently released revealing data showing that nearly every U.S. state saw an increase in suicide rates from 1999–2016 … more than half of people who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition.”

Music makes people happy. It has the power to heal. It gets people through rough periods. Sometimes a DJ really can save a life.

Imagine Dragons, Stealing Oceans and other KAABOO artists are available on Spotify.

Suicide Lifeline: If you or someone you know may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) any time of day or night, text COURAGE to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or chat online.