After ‘bottoming out’ with suicide attempt, SM East graduate using music, art as therapy

The Rainbird Saga
Kaevan Tavakolinia is developing “The Rainbird Saga” at Rich Chaos Records in Mission. Photo submitted by Kaevan Tavakolinia

It’s been four years since Kaevan Tavakolinia tried to take his own life.

And while he survived that attempt, suicidal thoughts still linger. So the 2010 Shawnee Mission East graduate is taking the dark times in his life and pouring them into a lifelong project he’s calling the “The Rainbird Saga.”

“After the most recent attempt I had in 2014, that was when I bottomed out,” he said, “and as a consequence of bottoming out, found a lot of creative energy and started to translate what had been happening in my life into this story.”

The project is envisioned as six albums tied to a series of graphic novels he is writing. The saga, told in third person, is based on Tavakolinia’s life experiences. Themes of the project deal with disease, chronic illness, alcoholism, “all the bad things you don’t want to be part of your life.” Last year, his mother was diagnosed with a rare and intense form of ovarian cancer, which “has completely colored and retextured the album,” he said.

“But it’s not a sad-ending, horrible, horrific story,” he said. “It ends pretty darn happy.”

Hopes to ‘destigmatize’ issue of suicidal thoughts, depression

Tavakolinia began conceptualizing “The Rainbird Saga” project from 2010 to 2014, and now he’s writing and producing with Rich Chaos Records, a local record label owned by a fellow SM East graduate and old friend of his.

Cover art for “The Rainbird Saga.”

All the characters are based on himself or people he knows. Some people from his life have served as the model for multiple characters.

“Basically, what I’m trying to do is communicate the same story in a couple of different mediums,” he said. “And right now, although it seems kind of counterintuitive, the easiest way to do that is with music.”

The prologue album, “A Beautiful Life Story,” features several musical instruments played by his favorite local artists, including flutist James McDaniel. Artwork for the project is being created by Tavakolinia’s friend Brendan Byers from New Hampshire.

Ultimately, “The Rainbird Saga” is a way for Tavakolinia to overcome struggles while also distancing himself enough that he can talk about the issues without feeling personally involved.

“It really helped me therapeutically to take the things that were so hard to handle in the tangible realm and turn them into these really hyperbolic, high-fantasy versions of themselves,” he said. “So my depression became known as the flame, and the flame is just this spirit that haunts the characters throughout the whole story.”

Rich Chaos Records released the single version of the prologue two weeks ago. “A Beautiful Life Story” is available on all digital stores including Spotify, Google, iTunes and Amazon. The full-length album for the prologue will be released Oct. 26.

Tavakolinia said he intends to continue developing the project piece by piece over the next decade.

National Suicide Prevention Month may be over, but the conversation isn’t, at least for him. Tavakolinia said he hopes that, as a suicide survivor, he can help destigmatize suicide and bring comfort and healing through “The Rainbird Saga.”

“Just because a person has suicidal thoughts doesn’t mean that they’re defined by an urge to kill themselves. I’m a confident, well-functioning adult, but I still regularly have to fend off thoughts about ending my life,” he said, adding that suicidal thoughts are not based in selfishness. “There may be a misconception that suicide is taking an easy way out or that it’s an act of cowardice, and nothing could be further from the truth.”