Over the past four years, Toronto’s Pseudo has been one of the busiest bands in southern Ontario. Touring exhaustively through the United States, Japan and Korea since their teenage years, they seemed like they had the hard work ethic that could get their music heard in all the right places.
However, all that hard work was a way for the band’s driving force, Jonathan Lyte, to distract himself from his own issues.
“I was a trying to sweep admitting something was wrong under the rug and that was how I did it,” Lyte said in speaking about how the band is taking 2019 easy so he can deal with mental health issues he can no longer ignore. “The sweeping was tour booking and all that stuff for me. It was just a distraction.”
Pseudo started doing extended tours of the United States when its members were still in their late teens. Lyte said touring the U.S. was kind of boring at first because it was like Canada. But as they made more friends on the road, it became more interesting and more fun.
And then in September 2017, they made it to Japan.
“Touring Japan and Korea was a completely different experience than the long North American tours,” Lyte said. “That was like a 180. It was shocking for all of us, I think. It was fun. You need to adapt over there. It was pretty easy to exist over there, so when we got there it was a breath of fresh air. It was the touring experience we needed, because we were hitting the U.S. a lot, so I was glad to see something different.”
It was at the beginning of 2017, just a few months after the band released its album Renovations, something started to creep up on Lyte.
“I didn’t know what it was or that anything was creeping up on me,” he said, “It was just kind of happening below the surface.”
He said it built up slowly and then he came home from touring near the end of 2018 and went through a few traumatic triggers.
“It just kind of exploded after a few years of slow buildup – the ball dropped pretty hard,” he said. “What we’ve been doing – it’s a pretty incredible journey and it has had its impact.”
Lyte hopes to pick it up where they left off once he takes some time for himself.
“I’m working on it,” he said. “No real timelines, but I do want to hit it again hard soon … because there are some cool opportunities we’ve had to put on hold. I’m definitely hoping we can bring it back to where it was before.”
His brother, Liam, stopped playing with Pseudo after the last tour, so they are just using fill-in bassists when they do play right now.
Asked if Liam left because of the mental health issues, Lyte said he thinks that was a contributing factor.
“I became pretty difficult to work with – we both agreed it needed to happen,” Lyte said. “The energy — it just wasn’t there anymore. People change their interests, it happens, but I know there was a definite element of it where it was getting in his mind ‘It is really hard to deal with Jonathan in this capacity.’ We want to be brothers at the end of the day, not bandmates.”
Lyte said that Liam’s departure from the band has been a hard pill to swallow, even if the decision was mutual.
“He was a great performer and an integral part of the band, but we get it,” Lyte said. “As long as we’re cool, that’s all that matters to me.”
Panic attacks began for Lyte after Pseudo’s last American tour in summer 2018. Lyte has been diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression. He said his medical support team is exploring other diagnoses as well.
On tour, Lyte retreated into some of the habits associated with the life of a touring musician, drinking and smoking heavily.
“You are in a vulnerable state when you are on tour,” he said. “You don’t have those mechanisms to deal with it or a stable environment. I was over drinking and smoking a lot of cigarettes.”
Before starting to tour, Lyte said he wasn’t a drinker, and he has stopped again.
“I have no desire to go back to those things,” he said.
He has been getting professional help outside the support he gets from his family. He has been seeing two specialists aside from his family doctor.
“A few medications – I don’t even know what the hell they gave me, to be honest,” he said. “I was just like, OK whatever.”
At this point Lyte does not feel much progress has been made by his treatment.
“Sadly, no, everything has been getting worse as the days go by,” he said. “That’s where I’m headed, but talking about it is like a therapy. Other people reach out – talking about it helps in the moment but right now as a whole it’s moving in the opposite direction.”
His family has been supportive as he has dealt with his mental health issues.
“It runs in my family, sadly,” he said. “So, they get it. They’ve been pretty amazing help.”
Lyte knew something was going wrong and he chose to ignore it, to bury it by working in a band that would go on tour for months at a time. His message to others is not to ignore it if you are dealing with similar feelings.
“Don’t ignore it,” he said. “That was the worst call I could have made … I know it’s not that easy but try not to lock it up … I was definitely a victim of stigma. I placed it on myself.”