Dan Croll Wants His Fans To Be Less Lonely


Try calling his “Dial Dan” hotline

From the outside, Dan Croll seemed to be on the fast rise to success following his breakout record Sweet Disarray. He wrote with Paul McCartney and even traveled to South Africa to record with Ladysmith Black Mambazo. But behind the scenes, Croll was dealing with crushing depression and anxiety. He ended up losing himself, being fearful of letting people down that he was working with; his label abandoned him. Croll wasn’t sure how he’d move forward, but he felt the pressure to keep his career going. He ended up crafting his sophomore LP, Emerging Adulthood, on his own, even recording every instrument alone. Influenced by everything from Brian Wilson and ABBA to Tame Impala and Foals, Emerging Adulthood is a culmination of everything from the classics to indie psych-pop.

But more than that, Croll used Emerging Adulthood to foster a campaign normalizing anxiety and depression. So, he started a “Dial Dan,” a hotline using a burner phone where fans could call him if they felt lonely—which was something he felt, too.

Following the album’s release, we caught up with Croll to talk about isolation and anxiety, helping his fans, and his “Dial Dan” experiences.

How was this record different than your first?
The first album had a very DIY approach, even though we didn’t intend for it to be. I just finished uni and was begging and borrowing equipment. We recorded it in an old primary school gym. It was fun, but it took a while. We had 10 songs that were written four years prior to that moment, so there were old songs on there. Those songs have been recorded so many times and been written for so long. Whereas this second album, I wanted to be tougher on myself, and I set out with some clear reins. Like, I’m going to write this album in five to six months, I’m going to record it outside of the U.K., and I’m gonna play all the instruments on it. In a way, it’s the polar opposite.

How did having anxiety affect you making this record?
My feelings with anxiety happened prior to the record. That’s what the songs were really about. There was a common thread of what was happening on the album because of what was going on at the time. Some songs are more expressive than others. Even when I was recording the record, it wasn’t so much the anxiety but the isolation that was tough. I put the pressure on myself to record and write it all and be alone through most of the process. That had a big impact on my mental health. I wanted to put a positive spin on the album, as much as the topics can be a bit down.

Were you self-isolating?
I was in a weird relationship with a previous manager, and it got quite messy, so I just wanted to isolate myself away from the industry. So that whole writing period was very solitary. I was in this room with no windows. I didn’t want to burden my friends with what I was going through. So, I guess it was self-isolation. It was five or six months of isolation. Then, with the album, there were more people around me who helped pick me up out of a lull. I probably wouldn’t go that direction with an album again. 

How did your anxiety manifest itself?
My anxiety stems from embarrassing myself in public or potentially spoiling something for someone else. A lot of the time it was linked to public transport, going places or flying. This sounds daft, but I had this fear of being sick in public. I wondered how it would affect people around me and the consequences of embarrassing myself and doing something wrong. I was quite scared of collaborating because I was anxious about wasting anyone’s time and letting any team member down. 

What songs speak to your anxiety?
Different elements are in tracks. “One of Us” shows the paranoia side of anxiety and the paranoia that comes with not conforming to the music industry and pop world. Songs like “Away From Today” are about being your own worst enemy and trying to escape from yourself. “January” is about the loneliness of spending the whole year working in solitary, touring, and doing promo. You spend the whole year not being able to have a relationship, see friends or family. You get to December, and you have that time off, but then it’s January again, and you have that anxiety, paranoia, and loneliness again.

How did you come up with the “Dial Dan”? 
It came with my struggle with social media. You’re told you need to connect with your fans on social media when you have a single coming. I spent a lot of time just replying to tweets, Instagram messages, and posting things on Facebook. It really took it out of me; it was a bit depressing. It was burning me out quite a bit. I was finding it tough to leave the house. I told my manager and label that I needed to do something different because I didn’t feel like I was connecting. We went for a beer and joked about the idea of giving [my fans] a number. They were like, “Why don’t we do that?” A week later, we bought a burner phone, a SIM card, and gave it out to everyone. The first week, I took 248 phone calls. It felt special, and it felt like I actually engaged with people. We talked about everything. If people had struggles, we talked about them. It feels rewarding to me.

What’s the most poignant story someone has told you?
The stuff that people are sharing with you is so personal, but I guess some topics [have to do with] younger fans who are realizing things about their true identity or sexuality. They want to just get a lot of stuff off their chests because they can’t talk to their family. There are a lot of cultural differences, too. There was a girl who was secretly doing music in Saudi Arabia. She said that in Saudi Arabia, it’s looked down upon for women to play music and be in that scene, so I was learning a lot about that other culture. 

Has your anxiety subsided now that your album has come to fruition?
In a way. I think [fear of] embarrassing myself in public and transportation has subsided, but I want to please everyone. I guess I’m still kind of nervous about the reception of the album. If it does well, I get to tour. Then if I get to tour, I get to bring my band friends. If I bring my band, I have to pay their wages and therefore their lives are good. If their lives are good and the shows are good, then the people who manage me and look after me at the label are happy. I still feel very responsible for quite a lot of people. I think for the rest of the year, I’ll still have that feeling of being nervous, but it’s subsided a little bit. 

Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images

Sounds fake, but okay

In a new interview for Australian Vogue, Kendall Jenner makes the claim that being associated with the Kardashian name was a setback in her modeling career. Hmmm, that's funny, because power and influence usually works in their holder's favor.

In the interview, Jenner addresses skeptics who doubted that she would make it as a professional model. "A lot of people assumed that because I came from a 'name' that it was a lot easier for me to get to where I got, but actually it's the completely opposite," she says.

"I've always been the person to prove [critics] wrong, even when I was younger," she says. "I've always been a hard worker: that's in my blood. My parents raised me and my little sister to be that way and the rest of my sisters, too." In the profile, it's revealed that Jenner used to attend castings "simply as 'K' or 'Kendall' to distinguish herself from her famous family."

But keeping her name off her portfolio wasn't going to fool anyone, really. Her face has been on television for years, and it seems unlikely that a casting agent wouldn't know who she was even if Kendall didn't come out and say it. Perhaps Jenner was more closely examined and more readily criticized by people who doubted her, but I'm not sure I believe that she had a harder time gaining a modeling platform or booking big jobs, even if she didn't use her last name.

After all, Jenner was likely able to get into those big casting rooms right away because of her family's connections, and she was able to devote her time to pursuing that career because of the wealth they have. She would've had a much harder time making a name for herself if she didn't come from an influential family. She probably wouldn't get to be so selective about which shows she walks, and she definitely wouldn't be the highest paid model in the world.

Screenshot via Hulu

Introspection is not a bad thing

In Look Back at It, we revisit pop culture gems of the past and see if they're still relevant and worthy of their designated icon status in our now wildly different world.

"It just seems like you agree to have a certain personality or something, for no reason. Just to make things easier for everyone. But when you think about it, I mean, how do you know it's even you?"

Iconic '90s show My So-Called Life is filled with existential questions and observations like this, with many, if not all of them, voiced by high school sophomore Angela Chase (Claire Danes). They're delivered with a familiarly annoyed tone, as if Angela can't believe things are the way they are, and that they're unlikely to change.

Angela lives with her parents and sister in a comfortable home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and spends her time navigating the social scene of Liberty High School. She's undergoing a big change, having switched friend groups and fallen in with a cooler crew, namely Rayanne Graff (A.J. Langer) and Rickie Vasquez (Wilson Cruz). Thanks to them, Angela dyed her hair from blonde to a "Crimson Glow," and is encouraged to indulge in her obsession with Jordan Catalano (a pre-Gucci Jared Leto), the kind of guy who's constantly applying Visine and has a limited chance of actively graduating.

From the first moment of the first episode, Angela's voice is pure, unadulterated teen angst. The melodrama can, when watching as an adult, feel like it's too much. And then there's other times, like when Angela talks about the agony of Sunday evenings, that it feels unnerving to relate so much to a 15-year-old:

"There's something about Sunday night that really makes you want to kill yourself, especially if you've just been totally made a fool of by the only person you'll ever love, and you have a geometry midterm on Monday, which you still haven't studied for because you can't, because Brian Krakow has your textbook, and you're too embarrassed to even deal with it. And your little sister's completely finished with her homework, which is just, like, so simple and mindless a child could do it. And that creepy 60 Minutes watch that sounds like your whole life ticking away."

Angela is nothing if not an over-thinker, preoccupied with very teenage problems like zits and gossip and who to talk to at parties; her thoughts on the most simple of relationships are extreme, like when she thinks about how she felt before she became friends with Rayanne and Rickie: "it seemed like if I didn't, I would die or something."

Sometimes, her melodrama feels suffocating—particularly when related to Jordan Catalano (it's imperative to say both his names). Angela wonders: "Huge events take place on this earth every day. Earthquakes, hurricanes... even glaciers move. So why couldn't he just look at me?"

As an adult, it's easy to think that, of course, Jordan should look at her: She's smart, witty, open-hearted, pretty, has good taste in music. But then, there's no way to make sense of how crushes work. As a sophomore in high school, I also pined after guys who I felt were out of my league, and after the only girls who were out... but who were dating each other. My thoughts probably (definitely) sounded a lot like Angela's, and I was similarly dissatisfied with my life.

At the time, that dissatisfaction felt oppressive—and I wouldn't want to relive it entirely. But that introspection was also what saved me. By questioning what was around me and interrogating how I really felt, I was able to reject the trappings of my conservative town, figure out my own politics, and accept my own queerness. My teenage dissatisfaction with the way things actually are made me grow as a person, and it shaped me into who I am. Thinking about Angela now, and how her angst fueled her, reminds me that I should also let myself indulge in some teen angst—even as an adult.

In one of the show's final episodes, Angela pauses to reflect on the value of her overthinking. She's ringing in the New Year with her friends and decides her resolution could be "to stop getting so caught up in my own thoughts, because I'm like way too introspective… I think." But she decides against that idea, because "what if not thinking turns me into this really shallow person?" Same, Angela. Same.

Courtesy of HBO

Thanks, I hate it

In an interview today with The Cut, Vanderpump Rules star Stassi Schroeder blessed readers with some of her thoughts on HBO's Game of Thrones, and since we can't get enough GoT talk, we were excited to see what Schroeder had to say.

And, in case you're wondering if Schroeder is a fan of GoT, don't: She's actually such a massive fan that she refers to her fans Khaleesis, and they call her Khaleesi right back. So!

Anyway, after the wide range of responses to Daenerys' fiery mayhem in the show's penultimate episode, The Cut wanted to check in to see how Schroeder was faring, and ask what she thought of it all. While Schroeder's opinion on Dany is mixed (she found the Dragon Queen's "crazy" actions to be relatable, but she didn't think it followed Dany's character arc), it wasn't, like, a bad opinion, just a bit muddled, if not so different than those of the majority of viewers.

Schroeder's real hot take, though—what we feel comfortable calling the worst GoT opinion we've heard—is about another character altogether: Arya Stark. Here's what Schroeder had to say about our favorite blacksmith-banging, Night King-killing, proposal-denying assassin in all the Seven Kingdoms: "Arya, I feel like she probably should have just married whats-his-name [Ed. note: Gendry! His name is Gendry!!]. What's wrong with being a lady and a badass at the same time? You don't have to choose just one."

And, like, sure, you don't have to choose just one, but Arya would never choose to be a lady. That's not her! So, if we're still talking about characters behaving inconsistently, Arya saying yes to a proposal (a rushed one at that) would have been absolutely bonkers. Arya's not about to change her entire personality just because some dude drops down on one knee and proposes, and to want her to do so would be like wanting Dany to act like a sheep, instead of a dragon.

All to say, you know nothing, Stassi Schroeder.

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hoto by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for Civic Entertainment Group

Our favorite grouchy girl died today

Today is a sad day, because it is the day Grumpy Cat died. Also known as my personal favorite feline celebrity, Grumpy Cat died from complications following a urinary tract infection. The super relatable cat—real name, Tardar Sauce—was only seven years old.

Grumpy Cat was first introduced to the world in 2011, back when LOLcats were everywhere. Grumpy Cat's downturned face (the result of feline dwarfism, according to her owners) was the subject of a huge amount of memes—she was even the 2013 Meme of the Year at the Webby Awards—and was the subject of her own Lifetime movie, in which she was voiced by the Grumpy Cat of actresses, Aubrey Plaza. But, though we loved her for the memes, we loved her even more because we related to her mood.

Grumpy Cat was so relatable because, like us, she was completely over everyone's bullshit. Unlike us, Grumpy Cat didn't hide her feelings with a smile. And while that was because Grumpy Cat literally couldn't do that, we like to think that she also just didn't want to do the emotional labor. Which is why, in honor of Grumpy Cat, have the courage to roll your eyes at someone today, instead of forcing a fake grin. And just think about how Grumpy Cat's probably frowning at us from some sort of kitty afterlife, utterly annoyed that everyone is mourning her death.

Screenshot via YouTube

And I need to see the rest ASAP

As excited as we already are for Olivia Wilde's directorial debut, Booksmart, to hit theaters next week, we just got even more desperate to see it. Why? Well, the first six minutes of the film were just released, and every minute is incredible.

The film opens on Molly (Beanie Feldstein) meditating and listening to a motivational tape telling her she's better than everyone else, and to "fuck those losers." Her room is decorated with pictures of Michelle Obama and RBG, so we know her head is in the right place. We learn she's the class president when she arrives at school with her best friend, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever).

It's there that we get a glimpse of the social hierarchy in which Molly and Amy exist—but somewhere down near the bottom, way below the popular kids, the theater nerds, the stoners, and even the annoying class clown.

The film officially hits theaters on May 23, but Annapurna Pictures is holding advanced screenings across the country today, May 17—we're actually holding two of them! So, if you're in L.A. or New York, check them out.

But also, you can watch the first six minutes of the film, below, and prepare yourself to watch the whole movie in a week.

BOOKSMART | Uncut First 6 Minutes