Thomas Bleach opens up about heartbreak, sexuality, self love and every track on his ‘Damaged Goods’ EP
On September 20th, 2019, writer, music reviewer, and stand up comedian Thomas Bleach released his very own book. Titled Damaged Goods, it was an autobiographical recount of his experiences growing up with a homophobic family, his journey from realising he was gay to coming out, and the growing pains that come with figuring out who you are and where you belong in the world. It was a brave, funny, witty, insightful and powerful book that not only positioned Bleach as one of Australia’s most exciting writers, but also as someone who was able to understand the changing media landscape and use this to his advantage — releasing a chapter a week with an accompanying Spotify playlist to reflect the themes in each chapter and stage of his life.
He also released an EP titled Damaged Goods: The Soundtrack. Speaking to the strength of Bleach‘s vision in not just his own story but what it could potentially mean to anyone reading it, he was intent on bringing his story to life as much as possible, and released the six track EP of songs written by himself and local artists, each inspired by a different part in the book.
Fast forward a year later, and Bleach continues to assert his stake on the Australian cultural landscape, with a prolific music blog he runs, as well as a steadily growing stand up comedy career under his belt, and a seemingly constant list of achievements he adds to on a near-daily basis. However, looking back on what the day of the release of Damaged Goods meant to him at the time, Thomas Bleach revealed to Purple Sneakers it actually doesn’t hold the joyous and happy feelings one might think. This same day, his boyfriend cheated on him. “It honestly felt like I manifested him cheating on me because I wrote this whole EP about heartbreak, and then the day I released it he broke my heart and had my cycling back to the beginning of the EP,” he said.
“It was so painful to listen to or talk about because I was living in that pain all over again. I didn’t want anyone to know that I was actually going through it again, so it felt easier to ignore it.”
Today on Purple Sneakers, we are thrilled to feature Thomas as he takes us through each and every song on his EP. In his own words, he said, “I’ve decided to take control of my narrative and remind myself that it’s okay to be vulnerable and talk about pain candidly. I also didn’t want him to have any more power of this piece of art I created, so during our break-up I started listening to these songs to remind myself that I’ve been through it before and I will get better, and now I’m ready to celebrate the one year anniversary of the EP.”
Thomas Bleach is a beacon of light for so many not just in the music industry but wherever people might encounter him. His energy is infectious, his passion for music is unrivalled, and his ability to continue to tell people’s stories, champion those he believes in and uplift everyone around him even when he can’t do it himself is one of many I admire about him. He is brave, resilient and a beam of light in the lives of everyone lucky enough to know him, and we are over the moon to be able to help him continue to tell his story. Here, he takes us through Damaged Goods: The Soundtrack. Take a read of the book HERE, listen to the EP below, and dive into the track by track below that.
1. True Love – ZACHARY
‘True Love’ is the oldest song on the EP. I wrote the original version of this song in High School during a science class. The idea came to me because I was internally coming to terms with what my sexuality could possibly be, but I was nowhere near ready to come out and start dating because of my family and how homophobic they were. So I wrote this song as an expression of hope that one day I was going to be able to find love, but it just wasn’t going to be today.
I always had a really soft spot for this song and held onto it because I knew if I ever did anything that it would have a key place apart of it. Fast forward nine years, and I started working on the EP and immediately asked my friend ZACHARY to be involved with the project. Him and I met up with Phil Hancock and chatted about lyrical ideas and sounds. I showed them some different variations and they straight away gravitated towards these lyrics. I explained how my feelings with the lyrics had shifted to also start thinking about all the heartbreak I’ve had in my life, how exhausting dating was, and that while I may not be ready for love right now that one day it would happen.
So we took the original idea and re-wrote it to capture this hopeful romanticism that is masked by some cynicism. Originally I had written it in mind as an acoustic guitar track, but with this new version we were really inspired by everything by Sigrid. We wanted it to grow into this groovy little synth bop that made you want to dance along.
It opens the EP and was chosen as the single because it truly represents the start of my story as you lower your guard to let someone in your life and never know how it’s going to unfold. And whatever you may have gone through in the past, it’s all about that hope that love is still out there for you.
2. Pieces – Phil Hancock
‘Pieces’ is the right in the heart of the beginning of the heartbreak process. It takes place in the moments after my second ex boyfriend walked out of my life and I was left feeling like I was smashed into a billion pieces. It’s a feeling I had only felt once before, and I was completely terrified of it.
I met Phil Hancock through our mutual friend ZACHARY from when we had written ‘True Love’ together, and I knew straight away that I wanted to sit down and make something else with him. So we sat down to write this after I showed him a little chorus idea I had written out. We fleshed it out, and it just all fell together. I wanted to highlight the toxic cycles that lead to the heartbreak.
My favourite part of the song is his hypnotising high notes and the way the production echoes them. He played around with different ways to highlight that, and it turned out so perfect. We kept this song quite minimalistic to allow the emotion and story to really take centre stage.
3. Regret – GVY.
‘Regret’ is apart of the reflection process of the break-up when all the initial sadness starts fading. This idea was actually written about my first relationship and how it abruptly finished because he was closeted and still coming to terms with his sexuality. So this song was a last plea of sorts, as I literally saw the thought of regret tear us apart.
My favourite lyrics in this song are “I promised myself to give you my heart. But you didn’t accept it, yeah you don’t wanna accept it” as it’s so raw and tender. But I love the juxtaposition later in the bridge that we move through the pain and let them know that we are still there for them if they need someone. “I hope that you know I’m always here for you”
I met GVY. for coffee after he reached out on socials about being interested in working together. We immediately clicked and jumped into his home studio to play with some ideas. It felt very natural and easy to work with him, and this song just rolled out. Sonically it was inspired a lot by Khalid’s ‘American Teen’ album and I just loved the contrast of the heavy emotions with the upbeat production.
4. Over – Meeks
‘Over’ is the sassy break-up track that resembles the anger and bitterness that comes in the next stage of the break-up. I saw that after my second ex-boyfriend and I broke up that he quickly started dating someone else and it felt like he was trying to replace me. So I spun all the feelings I was experiencing of not feeling like I was enough into that maybe I wasn’t enough for him because his ego was too inflated, and no one will ever be enough.
It’s super playful, and is one of my favourite songs on this EP because it captures a whole different mood to the other tracks. It’s a little bitter, but there’s nothing wrong with a bitter break-up song!
Meeks is such a talented songwriter, so I reached out to her and we went into a studio while I was in Sydney and wrote an original idea with the working title ‘Enough’. She then reworked it a little bit with her husband Cam Nacson who also produced it into what it is now.
It’s a big fist pump to the air, fuck you moment, to any person that has ever made you feel like you arent enough.
5. Summertime – Lucy Neville
‘Summertime’ is the ultimate climax of learning of letting go. It’s about watching my ex boyfriend move on in the summertime with someone else, when I imagined us together for the summer making memories instead. It’s an emotional song, and I think my favourite lyric would have to be; “in spring my summer got dimmer. In my sadness yours got brighter” as it just captures the heaviness of that moment. But I also personally love ‘You made a soundtrack to your clean break” because it referenced how he always made playlists for his moods, and I saw on Spotify that he made a playlist for his new boy and named it after his Instagram handle, which is how I found out they were dating.
I genuinely became obsessed with Lucy Neville in 2015 when she released her debut EP ‘Lady’. We became really good friends soon after, and when I decided to create this EP I immediately reached out to her and asked if she would be apart of it. She said yes, so I flew down to Sydney to work on a song with her.
I took in a rough lyrical idea to her home studio which became the foundations of ‘Summertime’. We wrote it on her piano in a night. Sonically we were inspired by Ellie Goulding’s cinematic pop ballads, and we gave our references and notes to GVY. and he produced the song up into what it is now.
I remember hearing the drums that lead into the chorus for the first time and getting goosebumps because it felt so cinematic and dramatic, which is everything I wanted this moment to be as it’s the climax to the story.
6. Weeks (Outro) – Thomas Bleach
‘Weeks’ is easily the most vulnerable moment on the EP. It circles back to the very beginning and counts each day since you left someone. It’s about moving on and refinding yourself in the aftermath. It’s not easy but you eventually get there.
I wrote this little song by myself and took it in to show Phil Hancock and asked him to sing it, but he encouraged me to sing it because it was so raw and honest. So he helped me record it and build the sonical foundations around it.
I’m really glad that he pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and record it, because even though I’m not a vocalist, I now couldn’t imagine anyone else singing it because it truly was a piece of my soul in song form.
Damaged Goods is out now.
Introduction by Emma Jones
Image: Zac Montgomery