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Suicidal Tendencies

Battling depression with the RJA.

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Red Jumpsuit Apparatus: Reluctantly changing the world.
  • Red Jumpsuit Apparatus: Reluctantly changing the world.
The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus didn't start out as a band that wanted to change the world -- and, hey, maybe it isn't one, but the band is certainly doing its best to make it look that way. The Florida quintet -- who, like many of their peers, mix punk, pop, metal, and screamo for chart success -- are currently headlining the Take Action! Tour, which encourages the young to fight depression and suicide through local organizations.

In January, lead singer Ronnie Winter appeared before an audience on Capitol Hill, pleading for greater intervention for the third leading cause of death in people 15 to 24 -- what Representative Patrick Kennedy called "one of the greatest health epidemics of our time." Winter's participation makes perfect sense; RJA's debut Don't You Fake It is an over-earnest ode to the traumas, anxieties, and painful fears of youth.

Scene: What motivated you to write "Face Down," which deals with domestic violence?

Ronnie Winter: "Face Down," as well as the rest of the songs on our album, are basically true stories, either about me or other members of the band -- things we've seen or people we know. Particularly, it's about my past. But that's not just what that song's about. It's about hope and understanding.

Do you feel like a man when you push her around?/ Do you feel better now as she falls to the ground?" -- How does it feel singing those lyrics every night, reliving your childhood?

It's probably therapeutic more than anything. Especially when an audience is responding, and you know that you're helping people.

You've said it's the autobiographical nature of your songs that kids can relate to the most. For you, what have young fans come to represent?

I look out at the crowd at a Red Jumpsuit Apparatus show every night, and I see me all over the place. I see me everywhere. It's amazing, because it helps you remember where you were when you wrote these things, when you were thinking about them.

The RJA are headlining the Take Action! Tour, which encourages the young to engage with local organizations to combat depression and suicide. Why was this issue so important to you?

Actually, Take Action! brought this particular issue up to us . . . Like a lot of people in the country, we actually were unaware of the actual numbers. I had never really thought it was that widespread, but it is.

Would you say the band has a special interest in becoming an activist band?

We aren't necessarily trying to be the political band. These opportunities are presenting themselves to us. We feel like we would be doing the wrong thing if we turned them down, because they're good causes. We want to do as much of that as we can while we're doing our own jobs. Because that way, you give back to the country, your community, while also funding your own business.

Do you think punk has reclaimed the social activism that vanished from it for about a decade?

I just try to remind people what they felt like -- when you just started figuring out that things weren't always how you were told they were. Why is this happening? Why is this country out of control? Why are there children starving to death? When it first hits you, all these things, that's a pretty intense experience. That is what punk rock is about. The Take Action! Tour: The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, with Emery, Scary Kids Scaring Kids, A Static Lullaby, and Kaddisfly, 6 p.m., Thursday, March 15, at the House of Blues, 308 Euclid Avenue, $16.00-$18.00, 216-523-2583.

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