Role Model delivers a heartfelt description of life with bipolar disorder with the tender piano-laden R&B of "Six Speed."

Have you ever ridden a bike on the wrong gear? You're just trying to go to the store to pick up some almond milk and your cranking and sweating, feeling like you're about to have a stroke. It's truly an uphill battle the entire way. Suddenly you realize what's going on and kick things into fifth gear. All of a sudden, your Dale Earnhardt on a Bianchi, as the world flashes and dazzles as it rushes by.

Riding on the wrong gear is an apt metaphor for living with bipolar disorder, which Jimi Hendrix called a "frustrating mess" back when it was still referred to as "manic depression." Frustrating and messy is right, your thoughts and emotions wheel out of control, with fight or flight instincts ramped up to 11, like a sugar glider zapped out on pulverized Pez. Then comes the crash, when you live in a haze, a fog, when the whole world seems half-a-mile away, viewed through fogged glass, like walking through the swamp of sadness in the doldrums.

Role Model's Tucker Pillsbury doesn't pull any punches when detailing the ups and downs of bipolar existence. Over minimal, pensive piano chords, he details the emotional explosions, like breaking down into tears when hanging up with his mom, only to find himself waking up from a threesome in the very next line.

Up episodes can feel like living in fast forward, that there's no time to delve into details, you've just got to keep MOVING. "Six Speed" is similar, always on to the next thing, with slices of life speeding by in your peripheral vision. To his credit, "Six Speed" doesn't sound particularly speedy. It's got a similar pensive mood to Radiohead's "The Pyramid Song." It's like if you were to strip the bombastic away from James Blake, leaving only the sad, tender nerve at the center.



Living with bipolar disorder is life on hard mode. Things that are easy for vast swathes of the population are major struggles, particularly during depressive cycles. Sensitive, thoughtful, artful depictions like "Six Speed" help the wider world have a greater understanding of the struggles of those struggling with mental illness like bipolar disorder. With greater understanding comes increased empathy. Plus, it sounds great! We Are: The Guard declare "Six Speed" a win-win.


J. Simpson occupies the intersection between criticism, creativity, and academia. Based out of Portland, Or., he is the author of Forestpunk, an online journal/brand studying the traces of horror, supernatural, and the occult through music, fashion and culture. He plays in the dreamfolk band Meta-Pinnacle with his partner Lily H. Valentine, with whom he also co-founded Bitstar Productions, a visual arts collective focused on elevating Pop Culture to High Art.