by Tim Birkbeck
Since their critically acclaimed 2015 debut record, A Different Space Of Mind, The Winter Passing has done a lot of growing up.
In the two years since that album the band has learnt valuable lessons about being in a band, touring relentlessly and gaining life experiences along the way.
New six track EP Double Exposure is set for release later this week, and it demonstrates a more personal edge. The result is, in their words, a more “well rounded” piece of work.
Vulture Hound’s Tim Birkbeck caught up with guitarist / vocalist Rob Flynn to discuss the new record and how fans reactions means more to the band then any success that might come their way.
Hey Rob, How’s it going?
Yeah good just got off the bus. There was a protest in Dublin today, all the women in Ireland were marching for their rights to appeal an amendment, to make it legal to women to have an abortion in the county. So the city has been absolutely gridlock.
The first new track you released from the new EP was ‘Significance’. It feels a bit of a step away from the material you have previously put out. Was this a decision among the band to take things in a new direction?
Certainly to some extent. Basically when we were recording the debut album it was more of just a collection of songs made up from a whole varied bunch of influences. We were at a stage where we were hit up by a label that wanted to put something out so we thought we better go record an album. At the time we weren’t really sure the type of band that we wanted to be at that precise moment, although we are really proud of how all the songs came out in the end.
But with this new release we thought about it a lot more and we analysed it based on the reaction of A Different Space of Mind. We felt that ‘Daisy’ was one of the strongest songs off that record and we wanted to sort of keep that buzz into the new stuff. So we wanted to make the songs sound more on the pop side of things rather than totally go into this alternative rock world.
As you mentioned there is more of a pop element to this new record – during the writing process was this something that was always in your mind when putting the pieces together?
I guess so. For me and Kate (Flynn), because we are brother and sister when we are writing lyrics we will see things from a different perspective. We both obviously want to put our personal touch to the songs, so for this record we more collaborated on ideas throughout. So musically me and Jamie (guitar) would bounce ideas off each other. Then lyrically me and Kate would come with a bunch of journals and a lot of material and compile the ideas together from that.
Is the rest of the EP going to be following a similar formula to which we have seen with ‘Significance’?
I feel aesthetically this record holds more symmetry and is more of a whole piece of music, which doesn’t really stray into other genres the way that the other record did. It is straight up hook heavy pop record and there is a lot more structure within the band and it shows two years after our debut album, and touring that and travelling to America. It has opened up our minds and ability. This EP is only a six track record, we did originally have a whole bunch of songs written, I think at one point we had something like 20 songs, but we had to work out our timeline that we had in the studio in America and narrowed it down to these six songs. I think we just learnt a lot about music and songwriting in general in the two years since the first record.
Do you feel you needed that time since A Different Space of Mind to grow as a band by touring relentlessly and learning what it is to be a band?
Since we put out our first demo and played our first show almost five years ago now, I have found that we always react or get inspired or get motivated by the other bands and musicians that we are touring with. I think when we put together our album and went to release it back in 2015, since that point that band has musically and aesthetically changed in that time and learnt more in the last two years than we have in the last five.
For this new record you have said that yourself and Kate have put a bit more of a personal touch into what you are singing about, can you give me an overview of what some of the themes this record is going to touch upon are?
With this release a strong vocal point for both of us were mental health issues. When we were writing A Different Space of Mind we actually had it record for almost a year before it was released. Lyrical content for that would have gone down almost a year before that. So a lot has changed in the past four years, wrote and scrapped numerous songs in that time. I felt that mental health and your ability to be OK is very much a centre point theme running throughout this record. Myself and Kate co-ordinated back and forth with similar feelings but for completely different perspectives and met in between. That is essentially where we got the name Double Exposure from, as it is quite appropriate for us. Obviously it refers to photography and two scenes being laid on top of each other, and aesthetically that is what we did with this record. We put a bunch of feelings and emotions, centred around mental health and the ability to be OK, to co-ordinate the whole record.
With the writing process, especially lyrically, do yourself and Kate come to each other with songs and then they are deconstructed or are there songs where the lyrics are completely written by either you or Kate?
It is a mix match of three of us. Because Kate and myself are brother and sister we seem to get a lot of attention for some reason. But Jamie our guitarist is the real powerhouse in this band and I don’t think he gets the credit that he deserves. Myself and Jamie have been writing together for about 10 years now in multiple different bands. From a musical point of view myself or Jamie will come up with an idea, whether that is a whole song or a verse and a chorus. And then Kate will jump in and add in the organ and where she is really creative with her words that’s how we piece things together from that side of things.
But on this record there was a lot of things which were a bit different. Like there is a song on this record where I wrote the whole thing and it was ready to go before I even brought it to practice. There is also a song on the record called ‘Escapism’ which Kate totally brought to us and all we did was accompany it with the guitars.
When it comes to recording, with yourself and Kate splitting the vocals, how do you decide who is going to sing which part?
If I give ‘Significance’ as an example – the songs we write almost always seem to get finished musically first before we put any vocals over them. So with the process of ‘Significance’ Kate literally said “I have a line in my journal, so if you just play the chorus and I’ll sing over it” so we started playing and she sung the line and we all said OK that is definitely the chorus. From there I had so much content which would compliment the chorus, so showed the rest of the guys then we came back to the next practice and just started piecing things together. There isn’t like a straight 50/50 split between what we do, it is just what we feel fits right with each part and who brings what to the table.
It’s always seen as a big deal for a bands from the UK and Ireland to do well in America – what has the reception to you guys been like on the other side of the Atlantic?
From our experience America is absolutely wonderful. We only did the East coast and the fact that we are Irish worked wonders for us. We were blown away. We played a show in Brooklyn, New York and it was one of the best shows I have every played in my life. Thinking back it was just amazing. We played Fest and we didn’t think anyone would come see our set and we were pleasantly surprised by how many people came to see us and knew who we were. We want to do more of it, but it is a much bigger place to crack and it is a whole other world.
What was the reasoning behind wanting to record the new record out in the States?
We had talked about it with the guys at 6131 records, and we spoke about what we would do for the follow up release the first time we were over in America. And I remember saying that we probably wouldn’t want to record in Ireland again, and we mentioned there was a bunch of cool guys in the UK. But one of the biggest things was it was going to roughly cost us the same to record out in America as it would in the UK. Once our label manager Sean said there was a chance that we could record with J.Robbins (Jawbox, Channels) we were sold.
As well as this record coming out on 6131 records it will also be released by Big Scary Monsters, so how did that relationship come about?
Fist In The Air records put out our first record, but we said that next time we recorded we said that we wanted to try get another UK label involved. We met Kev, the owner of BSM at Fest in Gainesville last year and we had just finished at the studio and we just kept running into the BSM guys all weekend, and they kept saying to us “send us that record when it’s done” so they had already mentioned they wanted to work with us before they even heard the record.
Going back to A Different Space of Mind – looking at fan reaction it really resonates with some people, are you surprised with the feedback and reaction it has received?
You think to yourself, while you’re out on tour sleeping on shitty floors not having any clean clothes, having not showered for days and you think to yourself why am I doing this? But then some kid will send you a picture that they got a selfie with you at last nights show or they have spray painted sunflower gang across their wall. And honestly for me that it worth more than any success or fame that we could ever imagine, because it reminds me of the 13 / 14-year-old emo kid that I was and still pretty much am. I think about how much pure ecstasy I used to get from meeting my idols or seeing a band I looked up to. It is cool seeing it come full circle and it is a strong reason and motive for all of us as to why we continue to do this band
What other plans and ambitions are there for the Winter Passing in 2017?
We are always writing, we’ve recently recruited a new drummer so we are busy piecing together a nice new set for our April release shows. Hopefully in the summer we might do some festival appearances, but mainly we just plan on keeping busy. Our focus is going into Double Exposure and we will just have to see where that takes us.
Double Exposure is out on Friday, April 21st via Big Scary Monsters/6131 Records.