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Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Book Review: They Don't Need to Understand by Andy Biersack, Ryan J. Downey

They Don't Need to Understand: Stories of Hope, Fear, Family, Life, and Never Giving–Hardcover
by Andy Biersack, Ryan J. Downey
December 15, 2020
280 pages
Genre: Rock Music, Rock Band Biographies, Actor & Entertainer Biographies
ISBN-10: 1644281945
ISBN-13: 978-1644281949
Publisher: Rare Bird Books
Before he was the charismatic singer of Black Veil Brides and an accomplished solo artist under the Andy Black moniker, he was Andrew Dennis Biersack, an imaginative and creative kid in Cincinnati, Ohio, struggling with anxiety, fear, loneliness, and the impossible task of fitting in. With his trademark charm, clever wit, and insightful analysis, Biersack tells the story of his childhood and adolescence. The discovery of the artistic passions that would shape his life, and his decision to move to Hollywood after his 18th birthday to make his dreams come true, even when it meant living in his car to make it all a reality. It’s the origin story of one of modern rock’s most exciting young superheroes, from building miniature concerts with KISS action figures in his bedroom to making the RIAA gold-certified single “In the End” and connecting with passionate fans worldwide.

To preference this review, I would like to say I have been a fan of Andy Biersack and his band Black Veil Brides since 2009. However, They Don’t Need to Understand is a book that has wide appeal for both fans, casual listeners, and even those who are strangers to the band. The writing style is intimate. Biersack’s personality shines through not only in word choice but side notes to the reader as well. It has the feel of a one-on-one interview instead of a typical autobiography. 

Far from being salacious or scandalous, this is not the tell-all of the life of a rock star. Biersack has a more meaningful message to send as he walks the reader through his childhood, teenage years, and young adulthood. The reader gets a good glimpse into his formative years and his early inspirations. It’s hard not to root for him as he details his decision to leave his parents and Ohio behind for the chance of making it in Hollywood. Biersack doesn’t hold any punches about the reality of being a starving artist (i.e. "The Compound"). There is a surprising level of honesty in the stories he tells, especially as it relates to the temptations of Hollywood and fame. Biersack is candid about his experimentation with the "rock star" life, and also his pitfalls.

Biersack touches on some very important subjects such as death, mental illness, addiction, and body image. His brushes with mortality not only of strangers but of loved ones and even his own are found throughout the book. He is open and honest about his struggles with self-doubt, anxiety, and OCD. Which anyone suffering from these conditions can easily relate to, and perhaps even feel better knowing they’re not alone. He details his struggles with alcohol and how insidious addiction can be as it creeps into someone’s life. As well as how beauty standards and body image issues affect not only women but men too. Not so much explicit topics in the book, they are woven within the chapters as reoccurring themes much as they are in life.

As a long-time fan, I learned things that I did not know and also enjoyed a sense of ah I know where this leads that kept me flipping the pages. The book reads fast, due largely to the conversational style of writing but there is a lot packed into it. Even if you haven’t kept up with Biersack over the last decade of his career, fret not, he’ll get you up to speed. The chapters are short but plentiful, each staying true to their respective topic and each serving its purpose in the larger picture.

The personal stories in They Don’t Need to Understand and the messages they contain are both vague enough to be applicable to those outside of the music industry but detailed enough that long-time fans of Biersack can relive pivotal moments through his perspective. While most people will never experience the life of a touring musician, Biersack’s story is relatable across many walks of life. Anyone who has had a passion from a young age and worked hard to make it a reality can relate, especially with the often harsh realization that achieving your dreams is not all sunshine and rainbows. Anyone who’s ever been labeled the "weird" one or "‘different" will appreciate the book’s main message. At its heart, They Don’t Need to Understand is a book about growing up. It’s about falling down and picking yourself back up; brushing the dirt off your knees and becoming the person you were meant to be. It’s about overcoming struggles both external and internal and finding yourself; and if someone else doesn’t get you, Andy Biersack can tell them where to stick it.

P.S. If you are a fan of Andy or Black Veil Brides and ever wondered just what WAS going through his head that night at Hollywood and Highlands or the infamous Golden God’s speech, there’s a couple of chapters just for you.

4.5/5 Sheep

Guest Reviewer: Ren Stogner

About the Authors:
Andy Biersack is the singer of Black Veil Brides and performs as a solo artist under the name Andy Black. He’s acted in both film and television, conceived the graphic novel The Ghost of Ohio, and co-created The Andy Show podcast. Andy has appeared on the covers of tastemaker rock music publications like Kerrang!, Alternative Press, Rock Sound, and Revolver and shares content with millions of followers across social media. He was the host and head writer of the 2017 Journeys Alternative Press Music Awards. He lives in Southern California with his wife, singer Juliet Simms, and their three pets.
Ryan J. Downey
 worked as writer, producer, reporter, host, and editor for a number of media brands, including MTV News, Billboard, The Hollywood Reporter, Marvel, IFC, Lionsgate, Hearst Media, and MSNBC. He is the founder of Superhero Artist Management, representing rock bands and producers, and PopCurse, in Southern California.

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