INTERVIEW: Kate Flynn of The Winter Passing On Growing, Creating, Mental Health Awareness, and "Double Exposure"



Following the release of Double Exposure, online editor Rosie Accola sat down with The Winter Passing's Kate Flynn to discuss the creative process and transition from the bands 2015 release A Different Space of Mind, collaborative writing, musical inspirations, and more. Check out the Q&A below and also read Rosie's review of Double Exposure here.

Hooligan Mag (H.M.): How has your sound grown between your first and second record? What did you learn while making your first record that has helped you the most as musicians?
Our sound has grown a lot since A Different Space of Mind. We did a lot of touring after we released ADSOM, so from that alone we became a tighter and more confident band live. That helped a lot when the time came to write and record Double Exposure. Also we are a couple of years older with different life experiences and different mindsets so I feel that comes into play in the music we wrote for Double Exposure.

Personally, what's changed for me since recording ADSOM is that I feel more confident about myself as a musician. When we recorded ADSOM, it was my first time in a real recording studio which was a big learning curve for me. I wasn't all that sure of myself as a musician and it all felt very new.  I was more involved during the writing period for our new record and that really helped when it came to recording it. I felt more sure of myself and a little more confident when we were recording Double Exposure. We all got a little bit more wondrous on what we could do with these songs—individually and collaboratively—so we are extremely proud of what we've created with this EP.

H.M.: What’s your favorite part of the music scene in Ireland? How does it differ from other music scenes throughout Europe and the U.S.?
Ireland's music scene has always been really transformative and truly inspiring to the music we write and the people we are. It's a very special scene to be apart of and one I'm very proud to be apart of. There's so many different music scenes active in all the capital cities around Ireland across so many different genres of music. I was introduced to the hardcore punk scene by my brother when I was about 15 years old. My first ever local show was a day show called Life & Death Fest in Dublin. There was about 20 hardcore bands from Ireland and the UK playing in a small and very warm room in a venue called The Tap. I had never been to a DIY/hardcore punk show before so I remember being completely inspired by it. It was the sort of feeling that left me counting down the days in school until my next trip to Dublin to a local show.

I guess how it differs from Europe and the US is that the Irish music scene is small, especially in the DIY spectrum. Everyone knows each other and supports each other. Chances are if you're in a band in the Dublin scene, you're probably in like ten other bands too! In comparison to Europe or American punk scenes, the shows and community in those areas are much bigger, more spread out and divided also into smaller sub genres within punk music. But for the most part, shows still feel like shows to me everywhere I've been so far!

H.M.: What made you want to start playing music? What drives you to create?
Music for me was inherited. I grew up in a musical house, my dad has always loved country music and always encouraged my brother and I to play from a young age. Our parents would send us to music lessons and we would perform music pretty much every day! My real love has been and always will be singing. I've been singing since I was extremely young. My dad brought me home a Britney Spears live in concert video tape and since the first watch of that I've been throwing my voice around.

My drive for creation is really a personal thing, I suppose. I find great satisfaction from performing music and writing music with TWP. It's a personal development sort of thing and that drives me to always surprise myself. I want to see how far I can go and what I can do next. To be honest, I'm laughing as I write this, but music has been the only thing I've ever put my hand to and stuck with. It sort of stuck with me too. We've been fortunate enough to experience some amazing opportunities over the past few years and I guess that also drives me to continue our musical journey! If you told 15 year old me that playing music was going to open doors such as traveling the East Coast of America in a van - that shy kid would have told you that you've probably got the wrong kid.

H.M.: Who are some of your favorite artists (musical or otherwise)?
Musically I've always been really inspired and in awe of artists like The Distillers, Jimmy Eat World, Björk, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Bikini Kill, Patti Smith. Recently it's been artists such as Bleached, Julien Baker, Mitski and Frankie Cosmos and Cende. I also really loving reading. I'm slowly but surely getting through every Stephen King book there is. Reading "IT" is still one of my biggest achievements.

H.M.: The lyrical content of your latest E.P. deals with the daily struggles of living with anxiety, do you have any tips on how to deal with anxiety that you’ve found to be helpful?
Double Exposure is definitely a journey in the daily struggles of anxiety so thank you for getting that. Everyone is different and how I deal with my anxiety may be completely different to how another individual may deal with theirs and that's okay. The most important thing is to find the thing that you feel most comfortable with when dealing with feelings of anxiety.

First off, even though it's not the easiest thing or tip, talk to someone. Anyone! We live in a time where, thankfully, we talk about mental health. The more often we open dialogue about mental health, we break down the taboo and normalise mental health. Sometimes I write to my best friend and just explain this existential anxiety that I get and she just gets that and that's sick to have that communication.

For me, I like to write it out. I always have. I've been writing a journal since I was a kid. When I write something out, I feel like that's part of the journey for me when dealing and processing feelings I may be having. It doesn't mean the feeling goes away or is magically fixed but it starts the process of me dealing with thoughts, worries, etc. I like to take my feelings and make art from them. I used to hate when people said "exercise" when I said I wasn't feeling too great. Sometimes, the motivation to leave the house or exercise is just not there for me but what I will say, from the times I did muster the motivation, it does help. Even if it's a walk with your dog for a couple of minutes, exercise to a YouTube video on your living room floor, dancing to your favourite record or just sitting in fresh air.

H.M.: I read that the writing process for this record was particularly collaborative, can you describe it? Have you tried writing songs with other people before, or is writing more of a solitary practice for you?
The writing process has always been pretty collaborative when it comes to the TWP. Rob and Col work together on guitar music all the time, that's how we get the skeleton of the songs together and then the band come in at rehearsals and we collaborate to make the music come to life!

Lyrically with this EP, Rob and I both brought a lot to the table. We sat down, put lyrics together from each notebook to each song and that's why we called it Double Exposure, in the end. Most of the songs, in some sense, are two stories. I found that a really interesting aspect and concept of this record. That all being said, I have to write my lyrics alone and Rob writes his lyrical content alone also. Writing lyrics is cathartic for me. So I like to write alone before I even think of putting melodies to the words.

H.M.: Do you have a record that has helped you deal with anxiety? What do you think about music and its ability to explain mental health struggles?
I'm not sure if I have a stand out record that has helped me through anxiety because to be honest, a lot of records have and continue to help. I guess I could say Futures (Jimmy Eat World). Now, that's a record I always revisit when I need a helping hand from an old pal. It never gets old and every time I listen to it, it brings me back to a place that I like to go. Or sometimes I need to dance the sadman away, so in those times I put on some Blondie (or Beyoncé when I feel I need to exercise too) and I go wild.

In other cases, I need to cry. I've always really liked sad songs. Sometimes, I need to let the sadness sit with me, long enough for me to make sense of it and there are particular records that I have to listen to when I'm sad. A few being being Manchester Orchestra's Like A Virgin Losing A Child or Owen's No Good for No One Now.

I've always felt a real connection with a song that can make me cry. If a song makes me feel something so much that I cry, it's done it's job.

Whether it's writing music or listening to it, there is no doubt in the fact that music serves us in struggling with mental health and also explaining it. Sometimes it's just listening to a song and being able to resonate with it better than you could explain the anxiety, yourself. That's the thing about mental health struggles. Sometimes it's too hard to actually explain the feelings. Sometimes a song just does it for you and that's amazing. That's how I feel about the new Paramore record, actually. Every lyric had me literally saying "heck, that's literally how I feel”.

I feel like writing and playing music has helped me so much in terms of understanding my own anxiety but also understanding other people's struggles and that's important. When writing a song, it's like putting all your insides out. Playing that song is letting others see that we all look and feel the same. It's the greatest gift that keeps on giving.

Strength in Vulnerability: A Reflection from Kate Flynn of The Winter Passing

Photo by Seanie Cahill

Photo by Seanie Cahill

When I first joined The Winter Passing, I've got to be honest, I didn't know my head from my ass in terms of a lot of things  firstly, what it was like to be in a band. Of course it's something you love, so it should be easy but it's not, it's not easy at all. I had just started my first year of college and it was a crazy time of personal transformation. I was finding out new things about myself and my personality, beliefs and morals. I was away from home every week, and it my was first real time of freedom.

For four years I juggled college, my part time job, and being in a band. It left little room for anything else. This was the same story for the guys too, so I wasn't alone. We put our everything into the band, we still do. We are still juggling our lifestyles to be The Winter Passing. I wouldn't change it for the world. Sometimes, it's tough when I see some of my friends traveling together or going out and I can't because I need to save for the next tour. I need to be around for the show we have that weekend. I need to be around during the week to travel to write new songs.

As a 22 year old, I can tell you, this is hard. It's stressful both mentally and financially. Sometimes I want to scream with frustration but I wouldn't change it for the world. This band and this dreamer head of mine has given me something I don't believe any other path would have. The fact that I get to live out my dream, is all I need. It puts me in a vulnerable position at times, but sometimes when I sit back and think of all we have achieved so far, I need to pinch myself and realise how blessed I am. How great it is that I get to use my voice to make music I'm proud of, with my best friends. I've also realised that being in a band and making music, as a female, has taught me how to be strong. It’s helped me survive situations that could easily tear you down to the point of never trying again.

I believe that all of the situations I've had to deal with that have left me numb have only made me stronger and determined to learn and be a better person than I was the day before.

Admittedly, before I joined the band, the guys had already started the writing process for our first EP, so I didn't have much input. Back then, Im not sure I would have known where to start in terms of songwriting. I have always been musical. Singing is and always will be my true love. I was pretending to be Britney Spears in my mirror at a very young age and still pretend to be Taylor Swift now.

I knew music was always going to be my path, whether it worked or not. I would make crappy songs in my bedroom. I'm sure they weren't that good, but in my head, I was a punk princess singing and composing them on a shitty starter keyboard.

So when it actually came down to the writing process with four other people who had been in bands for years, I felt like I wasn't as skilled at music. I was scared to throw out my opinions, my ideas. This was my first time being in a band. By this point, they had already mostly completed the EP, I just contributed some lyrics towards the end. This feeling of being unable to contribute haunted me all the time. I knew I could do it if I just believed in myself, but sometimes these things are easier said than done.  

After this, and after a lot of weekends of traveling to shows, traveling to practice spaces and living on genuinely nothing, I realised that I didn't want to let my so called "incapability" stop me from participating in the band. When it came to writing the album, I knew I didn't want to take a back seat in any of it, I wanted to know everything. I began to educate myself. I began to let my fear of showing the guys my ideas and work. I showed my brother my idea for the song Penny Chains and I realised in that moment I was the only one who didn't believe in me. I was the only one holding myself back.

I had always been quite self-conscious since I was a child. I was never the one who wanted to be the centre of attention, I'd be quite happy to just be an onlooker. When my birthday comes around each year, I cringe. This whole day is about me and there's not a damn thing I can do about it because my family loves me too much to pretend it doesn't matter. In Ireland, your 21st birthday is a huge thing. You plan a party and invite people, actual people to this thing that's all about you. I can genuinely tell you this was my idea of hell. But after much thought and pressure, I did it. It was fine but I'm glad I don't have to turn 21 again. I’m referencing this because I feel like my self-esteem really inhibited me to be creative at the start of The Winter Passing. I felt small in a scene of truly talented people. Sometimes, I wondered what the hell I was doing. I made a decision to let this feeling go. If I was going to be a part of The Winter Passing and feel comfortable about it, I needed to pull my socks up and stop being so critical about myself. I needed to start loving the person I was and could be. I believe it's through this conflicting time, I gave myself the strength to let go of my fear of being ridiculed, being "wrong" and just doing my thing.

Photo by Seanie Cahill

Photo by Seanie Cahill

I recently bought myself a guitar, and Ive been teaching myself through Youtube videos. I felt like taking the leap in teaching myself an instrument would make me understand the structural side of songwriting more clearer and I could relate and grow even further as a musician with the rest of the guys. Which would in turn, help when it came to writing organ parts. I haven't looked back since. Through my self esteem issues and the vulnerability I felt, I have never been so determined to always surprise myself. Surprise myself with the realisation that, Hey, you're actually really good at this," or "Hey, isn't learning from yourself just fun.”

Now, I write lyrics every day. Mostly because it's what I have found to be the only therapeutic thing for me to do whilst still being productive. In my last two years of college, I began to go through a very strange phase. I didn't want to go out or meet my friends and I would spend hours in my room with the harrowing feeling of anxiety every moment of the day.  Eventually, even leaving the house was a real process. I had to fight with myself to go to college. My friends stopped texting to see if I wanted to do anything because they already knew the answer. I went to see the student councillor a bunch of times, with no luck of feeling any better. At this point, I bought myself a notebook. I wrote the lyrics to Penny Chains and I haven't stopped since then. It's through writing that I feel I have the strength to go on, to get better and be better constantly. In my own experience, I didn't find talking to anyone at the time very helpful so I wrote to myself. I wrote these words to melodies and made songs out of them. I used pain as my way to create, be productive and progress. Most people my age suffer from mental illness at some stage of their early twenties, maybe even before and forever. Sadly, it may continue for their whole life. Whether it be lyrics, stories, or even just what youre thinking - this is why I encourage anyone that tells me that they are struggling, to write. There is something about writing it out and closing the book. Making something of the words I wrote down has been even more of a pleasure for me and makes the anxiety feel very small and allows it to be something I can control. It might be there tomorrow and but at least I've made a step by just writing about it. I've also found that letting go of the stigma of going through a tough time has made me stronger. I very willingly talk about my struggles so hopefully, the person reading may get the strength from their own vulnerable situation to talk about it too, without the stigma attached to it. My motto is that it's completely okay to not feel okay and it's also 100% acceptable to talk about it, seek help, and embrace advice from your friends or professionals. And it's true, you are the only person that can get you out of a rough time. I actually quite like the fact that it has taken my own strength to come out of a struggling and trying time. It just makes me think that if I can do that, I can do anything.

When I first started going to local shows, I was complete awe of the whole thing. I was in awe of how all these people could gather in one room and use their art to convey emotions. I had only ever heard this through earphones to my portable CD player (or my MP3 player that I later got, and thought I was the shit). I had been to a few big concerts (my first concert was Avril Lavigne and it was SICK) so going from a few thousand people to maybe 100 in a small room, watching people perform their songs, was the biggest influence in my life to date.

At this time, I didn't realise that I was a feminist. I didn't realise that I always had been. Females have inspired me my whole life thus far. I've said it before, but even as a kid, if the band had a female in it,  I was all about it. I was besotted with it. But at this time, I wasn't educated in feminism. I wasn't aware of its presence. I was at a show in Dublin and I stood back and counted the females in the room, on one hand. I started to realise then that my gender was outnumbered at these shows. Even in terms of female musicians, most of the shows were only male musicians. It got me thinking how many females are probably killing it at home on their guitars, drums, and vocals, but can't seem to make the next step of forming a band and playing shows. I remember seeing my friends band "Kate's Party" play and thinking look at these girls absolutely killing it. It inspired me so much, that when the opportunity of being in band came, I didn't think twice. I wanted to be up there, hopefully encouraging other females in a crowd that they can do anything they put their minds to. They can sell out a room with their talents. They can shift the norm. I began buying books about females in the music industry and watching documentaries about feminism in all walks of life. I educated myself and the struggles we have faced and are still facing when doing the right thing in a vulnerable situation.

I truly believe, or at least want to believe, that local scenes in my community here have come a long way in creating a safer space. People have become more aware of issues that were making these spaces unsafe. They want to make an effort to not let misogyny, racism, and sexism exist inside of these spaces but it still needs work. These things are being talked about more frequently at shows and the fact it is being talked about more makes me feel like it’s finally not being hidden or hushed, and it's being taken seriously.

My first realisation of sexism when it came to music for me personally was when a sound technician came and plugged in my organ to the DI and arranged my mic. Now if you can imagine, we aren't U2. This was in front of people who had gathered at the front of the stage and watched while we set up. I remember being met with conflicting thoughts of "maybe he is just being nice" and "why is this angering so much?" I didn't see him go plug in Robs guitar and arrange his mic so why was he doing it for me? Recently, while sound checking, I asked the sound technician if it wasn't close to feed backing, could he turn me up. I have a delicate voice, it's quiet when it's quiet but pretty loud when it's loud. He responded by showing me how small my voice was by measuring it with his fingers while smirking. This was the just the start of a bad night for me. Later, someone in the crowd shouted up a pretty grim comment during a break in the set. At this point I genuinely felt pretty degraded - but that night I called that person out on stage. I wasn't going to let anyone make me feel like I shouldn't have been where I was in that moment. I'm not really a person for conflict but I wasn't going to let it go, so I took to social media and shared it. I needed people to know, it needed to be documented, that even if we are making progress, it's not over yet. I got an amazing response from lots of people, male and female. No gender, race or sexual orientation should have to feel victimized at an event of any sort let alone an artistic event that allows people to connect. That's why we go to these shows. So we can all feel the same things under the same roof. I'm aware that there is always going to be that "one person" who just doesn't get it, and maybe they are young and haven't been educated in these issues yet - but I know that I never want to be quiet when I see or hear anything that could be harmful. I don't want another person to be in a vulnerable situation at shows that makes them feel unsafe, with no one to stand by their side. We are past that time in society, there is no need or room for it.

It's only in the past few years that I've realised how strong I can be through vulnerability. I've realised that I can do things that I would have never thought possible for myself because I am good enough. I am capable. I am determined.

Keep up with The Winter Passing, and stream their music on 6131 Records by clicking here. Don't miss them at FEST 15 this year in Gainesville, FL.