I’ve been listening to The Winter Passing for a couple of years now, ever since they played We Shall Overcome night in 2015. Their hardcore pop tunes have hooks, tunes and resilience. Imagine if your friends were in a band and when you went to see them it was a gathering of your tribe. That’s what it feels like being at a Winter Passing gig. They released an EP this year and have a gig coming up in November in the Hut before they tour the UK. I sent Rob off a few questions and got the following comprehensive replies back.
1) You grew up in rural Ireland, how important was music to you growing up? At what stage did you say yep I can be in one of these bands? What gave you the spark to be in a band?
Yes, I grew up in a small town in Tipperary called Roscrea. Music for me was always very important, even from an early age. I come from a very music orientated background. My Dad is a musician and his brothers are too! I was about 7 or 8 years old when a pop band called Hanson started to blow up around the world, their videos were always on TV and the songs were on the radio. There was something very intriguing about that band for me at the time. They played instruments, they dressed really cool and weren’t much older than me which was all very influencing on me. I remember my Mother bought me a Hanson ‘Live in Concert’ VHS when I finished the school year one summer and I would watch it literally every single day of the week for months on end, I was really interested in the drums so my parents bought me my first drum set that Christmas and I began to learn an instrument for the first time. I spent years of my early childhood playing drums in the spare room of our home in Tipperary.
I hold my interest and obsession in that band as the spark I needed to fuel a life in music.
2) Had you left home before starting the band? Is it a lot more difficult for a band coming from rural Ireland than a big city?
So through finding my love of playing drums, it stemmed my musical growth for a few more years, I was always interested in sub culture without even knowing what sub culture was at the time. Around the time I was 10 years old I would visit my local record store in Roscrea and see Iron Maiden CD’s on the shelf and wanted to buy them purely based on how the CD covers looked! I also became interested in Skateboarding & pro Wrestling at that time so it led me to believe the type of music I enjoyed the most was Rock music, I would hear songs on Tony Hawk Pro Skate games on my Playstation & hear songs while watching Wrestling shows which expanded my knowledge of bands and then fuelled my interest in learning the guitar so I began doing that around 11 years old. I started doing shitty cover bands with my friends & younger sister Kate around the time I was 12. When I was in first year on Secondary school, I met a bunch of new friends who also had interest in similar musical backgrounds to me and we would form bands and rehearse in a shed that my parents built me in the back yard of our home. It became a thing for many of my friends, we use to book a local community hall and put on shows there with 4 or 5 local Roscrea cover ‘Rock’ bands, sometimes I played Drums in the band & sometimes I played guitar or bass. That was my first experience of being in a band. So I’ve been in bands since the beginning of my teenage life.
3) How important is community to the band? Do you feel part of a music community?
It is so important, it is the main fundamental to what makes a band progress I feel. If I didn’t grow up in the community I did, my life may have turned out much different to how it is now. Without knowing it, I had surrounded myself with very creative & artistic people at the beginning of secondary school. I gained a lot of new music & artistic direction from my friends back home before it was ever time to move away for College. A big turning point for me was witnessing a Hardcore Punk show in Dublin City for the first time at 17 years old, I was totally intrigued by it all, it reminded me of videos I’d watched online of punk shows in America and such. Since the first time I attended one of those shows in the capital, I always knew I wanted to be involved and that I wanted to be more than just a punter attending the gigs. I guess I do feel part of a music community now yeah and it’s a humbling feeling for me. I always take heavy influence from those around me in the community.
4) Do you feel like you’re a punk band? Does punk rock mean anything to you?
Yeah I feel like we are a punk band. Not necessarily from the sound of our music but more from the ethical point of view. We write slightly more indie rock driven tunes but have operated the band since day one as any classic punk rock band would. In the beginning nobody gave a shit about us, we just wanted to be the band ourselves. So we would record all our tunes ourselves, book our own tours and promote our band from the DIY ethos. Nowadays we have slightly more help from the team we work with in promoting and extending the longevity of the band which is nice also. Punk Rock means so much to me, its shaped & educated me into the human I am today currently!
5) Your songs at times are a coming of age, I’ve seen it written that it is a catahrtic experience writing them? Is it painful to keep going back over them at gigs or in rehearsals?
Sometimes yeah, haha. I’m sure many other musicians think the same about their earliest material unless you’re Metallica or something!!!
There’s definitely one or two of the old songs I still love and some are really fun to play, but like all musicians and song writers, you progress with each release. Some of the songs we’ve written at this point are almost outdated to us now as artists and our feelings on certain topics have changed. The dynamic of the band has changed also in recent years. We’re more focused on writing new music now and changing our sound sonically into the type of sound we always envisioned it would be, we’re not there yet but we’re working on it!
6) How come the connection with 6131 records? How did that come about?
We had been approached first by a UK label called FITA, they said they wanted to release an album for us. Once that became a thing we could do, we began working on an album with our friend Aiden in Tullamore. We were on the verge of releasing the first single for the album when we got an email from 6131, they said they liked the record a lot and wanted to release it but didn’t like the original artwork or the track listings!! We consider the people at 6131 very close friends to us at this point but when it first came up I remember freaking out over how cool the whole thing was because 6131 are a label that have put out some of my favorite bands and I was nothing but humbled & honored to be part of it along with the rest of the gang!
7) The last album was recorded in Tullamore and the last EP with J Robbins in Baltimore. How different were the 2 experiences?
Very different actually, our debut album was recorded over a 6 month period of time on a part time basis. We would go to the studio whenever we could afford to do a day really. We weren’t all the best/most confident musicians at the time too, we were lucky enough to have our friend Aiden involved with recording the piece for us, he thought us a lot about music during that time. We were also very broke during that time as some of the band were still at university and we always wondered if we’d ever actually finish the bloody thing! Recording the EP was a big contrast from everything in the past really, we went into the studio for a week straight after a weekend of pre production. It was a total dream come through to be totally honest and a wonderful experience. There was a lot of history in the studio we were at, J. Robbins is a legend himself and we also had some American friends play the rhythm section of the record with us. We lived tracked all the music on the record which was a method we had never experimented with before but for us was the most organic way to make the record. It was a major learning curve for us all. I remember listening to the first mix on our way out of Baltimore back to Richmond, Virginia a week later and feeling more proud of myself than ever before in my life. I guess that’s the type of shit that its really about!!
8) You do a fair few gigs around Ireland and elsewhere, how hard is it to balance having a job and trying to play in a band? The thoughts of going to the UK for a week is pretty exciting but the reality is still that bills and accommodation need to be paid for while you’re away, does that prove a struggle?
I’m always down to tour and play shows, being on tour for me is a very safe place to be. I think a lot easier whilst on tour and stress about little so the idea of tour is always good for me but it is hard to make everything work though. Like this year specifically we’ve had to turn down more tours/shows than we’ve played because we couldn’t make it work. I guess we’ve matured a lot with this band over the years and its helped shape our personal lives also, so everyone is doing cool stuff in their personal lives too and we had to take some time away from constant touring to leave ourselves in better financial situations and to also focus on the sound of The Winter Passing. We’re always busy, even when you don’t hear much from TWP, we’re still busy. It is hard to manage band life & real life but we do our best to make it all work. The support and encouragement from people makes you feel like you have to do it all!!
9) You made it to Florida to play at the Fest, how was that? How did you get on it?
Yeah we did, Fest is amazing. This is the first year in 3 years that I wont be at The Fest which sucks but that’s life. They basically take over the town of Gainesville in North Florida for the weekend and punks from every corner of the world come to it. I’ve made some many friends exclusively at Fest, I’ve seen bands I never thought I’d see live play. Dillinger Four did a reunion at it last year, wild!! For me, the big highlight of Fest every year is going to Volta Coffee in downtown Gainesville multiple times daily for coffee. I’ve been there so much that I arrived back last year, walked through the doors and the girl goes ‘’no way, it’s Rob Flynn from Ireland, Soya Iced latte?” haha!
10) You’ve been given the chance to get few bands together to play the fest and bring it to Ireland. Who would you have on the bill and why?
That’s a deadly question! I’m gonna compile a mixture of older bands & more current bands for Fest Ireland, just so all the OG punks can come out and the hipster youth punks will come too. I’d most definitely have Jawbreaker be the weekend closing headliner! I’d also love to have Ceremony, Dinosaur JR & Brand New as main attractions, it was in Ireland surely we could get My Bloody Valentine to dust off the cobweb??!! And then some party bands like The Menzingers, Pup, Fidlar, Craft Spells, Yuck, Cloud Nothings, Joyce Manor, The Story So Far, Skegss & more!! Wouldn’t mind playing that line up myself!