Chrissy Costanza came to terms with self-sabotage on ATC’s “weapon”
Writing the track during lockdown and in a time of darkness for the singer, “weapon” sees Costanza exploring how we are “simultaneously the protagonist and antagonist of our own story” and how she’s “spent so much time being my own worst enemy, as the weapon that destroys relationships I care about.” A fiery, upbeat song reminiscent of early aughts emo punk, the video accompaniment involves opening doors, keys wrapped in symbolism and extinguishing flames that can block one from redemption and healing, all of which is a theme that’s here to stay.
Though addressing mental health isn’t a new theme for Costanza, addressing it in such a personal manner musically has helped her understand her mental health struggles better and connect with her fans on a deeper level. Giving a message of hope alongside the dark lyrics, “weapon” accomplishes what Costanza sets out to do with her music—acknowledge the realities of living with mental illness while giving people light and something to dance to. Returning to their rock roots, “weapon” is a follow-up to their previous single “that won’t save us," released last fall, and the first of new music since 2018’s sophomore effort Past Lives. Gearing up for the release of their third album and their acoustic version of “weapon," Against The Current are ready to make a fiery and fierce comeback.
The rocker sat down with Alternative Press to discuss the single, the band’s highly anticipated third album, how she’s healing from her inner battles and more.
“weapon” is the first new music since 2018’s Past Lives. How did writing it come about?
When we went to actually write “weapon,” it was the first time we started writing since the lockdown started happening, so this was back in mid-March of 2020. We had been in the studio with our producer Matt [Squire] and had gotten “that won’t save us” on the table and a couple of other demos. Then the lockdown started happening, and we couldn’t go back to the studio, so Matt said to me, “Hey, do you wanna try getting on Zoom and writing a little bit? To keep it fresh?”
We didn’t know how long it’d be until we got back to the studio. We thought maybe a month, two months, whatever. We didn’t know it would be what it became, and that first day when we got on, it was actually that first two weeks of lockdown where it was just incessant news about COVID-19, constant death counts, hospital and ICU rates, there’s no beds, there’s no vaccine or cure, the vaccine won’t be [available] for however long. Everything was so dark and grim, so the last thing we wanna write about is anything that has to do with COVID, isolation, nothing with the word quarantine or anything like that because that’s obviously what’s on everybody’s mind. Music is what we use to escape and to heal, and we need to escape right now.
“weapon” is about the invisible wars waged within ourselves and mental health, subjects that you’ve touched a bit in the past. What made you want to be so honest about your own inner war?
For “weapon,” I think this is a topic that's run through all of our music since at least “Gravity.” I know a lot of fans drew a comparison to “Paralyzed” with those inner wars that we wage. So, for me, it was just the next progression of the self-awareness element. I think a lot of the times when I’ve spoken about this feeling before, it’s a lot of “This is happening to me.” If it was “Voices,” it was the voices, and the demons in “Paralyzed” is that same thing. It’s something else is infiltrating my space, whereas “weapon” flips it around for a second, and I think it’s just part of growing up. It’s that self-awareness, where a lot of what was happening I’m doing to myself. It was that looking in the mirror moment, realizing all I am is a weapon. I’m the one destroying things. Even though I’m hurting myself, I’m the one actually doing it. It’s my finger on the trigger at the end of the day, and we really wanted to capture that chaotic feeling. It’s very manic. Because that’s how I feel in that moment where it’s just heightened, it’s more raw, it’s more manic. It’s not always well said. It’s not always super eloquent. It’s not always the most thought out or perfectly spoken. It’s just a little bit frantic. In the bridge, there’s that moment of hope as well because there’s that rallying moment where once you realize you’re your own problem, you can rally against yourself and realize you can overcome that.
In the music video for “weapon,” you’re seen picking up a key and going through a door with flames all around you. Will this theme of extinguishing what burns you be the theme of the new album?
Our creative director, Jade [Ehlers], and I have worked really closely, and this is the first time that we’ve had one person that’s creative directing an entire era for us. In the past, it’s been like, “Here’s this director for this video.” I think that’s made such a massive difference because I can sit down with Jade, and sometimes I have a hard time. I’m a musician, [so] sometimes I have a hard time verbalizing what it is I’m feeling or seeing. We can sit there and go through photos, words, emotions, sounds and images, whatever it is, and create that feeling, a visual manifestation of what I feel in the song.
And for “weapon,” it was a natural progression of “that won’t save us,” where you have the burning door, that first moment of letting go of something, like you’re burning a path. I think doors symbolize a path, a room, somewhere to go. When one door closes another door opens. This one is burnt, so we don’t wanna go back there. That door comes back in “weapon,” and then once you’ve burned that door, you have to find the next one, and that’s where the key comes in looking for the next. “Where’s this key going to open? What comes next?” And I think that key really symbolizes to me self-realization, realizing that you are the weapon, and obviously the fire is like, “I’m the one that burnt things. I am the one that has burnt bridges, that has burnt friendships, that has burnt relationships, that has hurt my family. It’s me. That’s why the fire’s coming out of my hands and it’s not happening to me anymore. It’s coming from me.” And that key is that self-realization, and once you have that, it’s like, “What can you open now that you have this key that you haven’t opened before?” I think a lot of those motifs will continue to come back, the mirrors because it’s showing that reflection, recognizing yourself, seeing yourself as a monster. So a lot of those things will continue to come back and develop as we go through.
We want the videos, the visual accompaniments to our next few songs, to really create a linear storyline for a change, which is really fun for me because we’ve never done something like this where all the videos interconnect and flow from one to another.
Is creating a linear storyline something that you’d want to continue with, or is it just for this era?
Yeah, I love it. I think it really depends on the music. I think everything has to come from the music. In the past there wasn’t one thread that connected everything, whereas in this moment, these songs are very closely related, and they’re very much different moments on the same journey. They’re a natural progression from one to another, so it really lends itself to this visualization. It really depends in the future how the music plays out. If there’s a natural way to tie all the videos together, I would love that. I would love creating that larger universe, but it’s also not something I would force, either. I think it’s great, and it keeps everything in that same world, which is really dope.
I know you’re working on an acoustic version of “weapon.” When is the debut, and what will that look like?
I don’t know what the date is, I know it’s soon. We just finished it, and I’m gonna be filming in a couple of days for the video. We had so much fun doing the acoustic version of “that won’t save us.” Especially because these are heavier songs, they’re very uptempo. Even though they’re heavy and there’s a lot of anger and a lot of mania, these chaotic feelings in both songs. There’s underlying emotions that don’t necessarily shine as much. So I think the acoustic versions really lend a hand to helping those kinds of undertones come out and be the main character for a moment.
In “weapon,” there’s some sadness [and] there’s a somberness because recognizing that you're the weapon means recognizing what you’ve done and realizing that it came from your own hands. For the acoustic version, it really lets that moment shine instead of the chaotic feelings and the anger and the rawness. This is raw in a different way. It’s raw in a somber, sadder way.
What is your advice to fans who feel like they are the “weapon” in their own lives?
First of all, if you’re there recognizing that it’s coming from you, you have to give yourself a moment of credit first because that in and of itself is an incredible feat to recognize yourself as your own problem. A lot of people will deflect. A lot of people, and I did this for a really long time, see everything as it’s happening to you. Especially with mental health, a lot of times we can’t help it. It’s not my fault my brain was operating. I remember talking to a psychiatrist the first time and going through my past and everything like that, and I remember her telling me, “Yeah, it’s not drama. You got a couple things that aren’t lining up the right way.” And being really angry about that and feeling like, “Wait, what am I supposed to do?” and using that for a moment to not take responsibility for what I was doing to the people around me and what I was even doing to myself. I wasn’t being fair to myself. I think it’s really incredibly difficult to recognize yourself as your own worst enemy and take that responsibility on, especially when there are things that are out of your control. You can’t control the fact that there wasn’t enough serotonin in your head. That’s fucked up, and it’s not your fault. So taking that responsibility is so massive. It’s so huge, and I think people don’t give themselves enough credit.
Making “weapon” seems like it was so healing for you. How has writing the song changed how you view your own mental health?
I don't even think when we went into writing “weapon” that I even knew what we were gonna be writing, and then that line came out very early on “All I am is a weapon.” And it shot me through the heart. There’s been moments of listening to a song, and there’s that one line, and you’re like, “Oh shit.” They did it so perfectly that it zaps you for a second. You feel like you’ve been struck by lightning. I don’t remember if it was Matt or me or someone, when we came to that conclusion, “All I am is a weapon.” It had that moment for me when it was like pure clarity, [and] the clouds cleared away. It helped me write the rest of the song because everything was so clear in that moment. It was definitely super healing and cathartic and helped me understand a lot about myself.