Following accusations against lead singer Jesse Lacey, tattooist Harriet Heath wants to help people to forget and heal
In amongst the tidal wave of post-Weinstein allegations, it would be easy to miss yet another pop punk musician allegedly soliciting nudes from underage girls – were it not Jesse Lacey of Brand New. Following the surprise release of Science Fiction and a week ahead of a UK tour, a now-deleted post began circulating by guitar technician Brian K. Diaz asking why nobody was talking about Lacey’s indiscretions. In the comments underneath the post, a woman claimed that from the ages of 15 to 24, Lacey solicited nudes from her, masturbated on Skype, and touched her when she turned 19. Another woman has now spoken to Pitchfork about her own experience with Lacey. Following the allegations Lacey posted a statement in which he didn’t actually address the specific accusations (or the fact that the girl was underage) but discussed his “dependent and addictive relationship with sex”, and said that he has sought therapy. The tour is now cancelled.
For the many thousands of people who have idolised both Lacey and Brand New for the last 15 years, the allegations were a shock, if not exactly a surprise. Where other bands of the era have fallen away, Brand New have grown up with their fans; the adoration for them was stronger than ever, which became clear in recent months with the excitement surrounding the release of Science Fiction. While the effect this news has had on fans is nothing to match those of the victims who’ve had to watch Lacey’s status rise, and it would be disrespectful to act as if it was, there is still a grieving process; we throw away t-shirts, take down posters, delete songs. We act as if the music that shaped us never existed at all, and we fill that hole with something less sour. For those who are also victims of sexual assault, that process is more complicated; hearing the music that might have helped you through your own abuses and knowing that it was made by someone who was hurting others is painful. And for some, they have those years of fandom and adoration seared into their skin permanently.
Tattoo artist Harriet Heath understands why that would sting so much. As a gesture of goodwill she is offering cover-ups of Brand New lyric tattoos in exchange for a donation to Rape Crisis England and Wales on December 2 in Manchester. While some coverups won’t be possible and she won’t necessarily be able to fit everyone in on the day, Harriet says that she feels “so much sympathy for those who feel sick to their stomachs having his words on their bodies” and wants to make something positive come out of a horrific situation. Customers who are also assault victims get priority on the day, and they simply need to add #metoo to their email to let Harriet know.
Harriet, who says that Brand New played a big part in forming her music taste, saw them play on her 16th birthday and says that it sickens her to know what was going on at the time. She wants to help people to cover up their tattoos because she understands that “to have a songwriter so close to your heart who you admire so much let you down in such a horrible way shakes you to your core”. She says that “people have contacted me saying that Brand New’s music helped keep them alive and people have gotten their lyrics as a reminder to stay strong after their own abusive pasts”, adding “nobody should ever feel sad, disappointed, hurt, afraid or ashamed of any part of themselves”.
As a now ex-Brand New fan and a survivor, my pain and disappointment doesn’t mean anything compared to that of the women Lacey abused. Still, I feel sick, guilty and betrayed at the time and energy I dedicated to a man who has hurt so many people, but I can cut them out of my life easily. It’s completely understandable why anyone would want to immediately remove the words of Lacey’s that they have permanently under their skin; especially now some of them have taken on an entirely different meaning. Harriet gets that; she says that she likes to do cover-ups as “they’re usually a bit of a challenge and the part of my job that I love the most is being able to take something somebody sees negatively about themselves and make it beautiful” she adds: “I’ve done many cover-ups in my time for people who have impulsively gotten work after tragic times in their life and later want to cover up the reminder of a painful time, or covering names/reminders of abusive exes”.
If you have a Brand New lyric tattoo you want covered, you can email Harriet at email@example.com with a clear photo of your tattoo and a description of what you would like to have over it. If she runs out of space on December 2, she is offering a reduced rate throughout the rest of the month for cover-ups.