“I’m not going to let my illness control my life,” says Ali Hirsz, 19, the front-woman of band, Idealistics.
Idealistics are a three-piece alt-rock band from Cambridgeshire, formed by Guitarist George Gillott, drummer Dom Hirsz and her sister, Ali who sings, writes and plays bass. Ali suffers from a rare form of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which has caused to her to be unable to eat and she needs a feeding tube in order to survive, the tube goes into her right arm and feeds nutrients into her heart- but she doesn’t let this get in the way of her music career.
The band struggled to get gigs once Ali’s first feeding tube had been fitted. The first tube went across her face and into her nose, so it was hard to hide. “People reacted really badly,” she said “It was after that, I was like, actually I’m going to make a point of it because this is ridiculous… other bands rock up on stage high or drunk but because I’ve got a feeding tube keeping me alive I’m not allowed on,” she adds angrily, “people are allowed to voluntarily take things to mess up their gigs but I’m not even allowed to have a go at doing my best.”
“The music industry has been really tough on us, saying we’re not going to get anywhere and that we might as well give up now,” Ali explains how the band have faced a lot of discrimination due to her condition. “I was told if you’re playing on stage you can’t be disabled,” and “you’ll never get anywhere in the music industry… you’re going to deter a crowd.”
“Every artist stands for something and this is what I stand for,” says Ali, “I’ve had people with Ehlers–Danlos syndrome and chronic illness, or any disability, coming to me and saying, actually it means so much to have someone like that, in the public eye and actually doing stuff for us because we are expected to keep quiet or not do things or just sit in the corner and be the disabled one.”
In October 2018 the band released single Here Come The Zebras (a title which nods to the medical interpretation of ‘zebra’ as a reference to a rare condition) to raise money for charity Ehlers-Danlos UK. Idealistics then released their debut EP on January 6 2020, title The Rain In Our Eyes. A portion of the earnings from this release will also be donated to the charity.
“There’s not a lot of research done for EDS at all,” says Ali “obviously because it’s not very well known, they don’t have lots of money… all the money that’s raised from it just goes straight to them… if we play a gig a chunk goes to them and with the EP some will go to them to help them out, they’re brilliant”
The new EP is built of 5 tracks, each song outlining some of the issues in the world and those faced personally by the band. From Scandalous, which talks about the sexualisation of young women to Timeless Goodbyes, which was written by Ali during her time in hospital, “the lyrics are a call and response between me and what I think my family would think, what I hope they would think” she laughs. “I wrote it in bits and pieces, then we shaped it when I was much better. I wrote it when I was very sick and there were some words that I had made up because I was in Lala land… the chorus says I never said I was ready to say goodbye.”
“when it came to recording we were in tears,” adds guitarist George “it feels like you shouldn’t be listening to it because it’s too personal.”
Another song which talks about Ali’s experience in hospital is Take Your Words Back. “I was clinically malnourished again because the tube up my nose wasn’t working” explains Ali “I was constantly in testing rooms, each time [my family] came I was getting worse and worse… so I decided to leave” she says, “and I wrote a song about how someone with a more rare [condition] is used as a guinea pig.
Idealistics need to be careful when on tour, taking Ali’s condition into consideration, making it more difficult for them to gain a following, “we can’t plan 4 gigs in a row like most bands can because we have to plan my feed… I feed for 14 hours a day and I have to decide when I want to do that… when I’m on stage, while using lots of energy, I have to feed on stage.” Says Ali, adding “the difference between playing a gig when I’m really not well is, instead of just being tired, I could end up in hospital the next day.”
Idealistics aren’t letting Ali’s illness stop them and they’re hoping that 2020 will see them do a mini-tour around the UK, bringing their music to some new cities and, by the time summer rolls around, music festivals.