InstituteReel Feelings is a new series from Abbey Road Studios, exploring mental health and wellbeing whilst in lockdown, and asking our artist friends, how are they feeling, really? First up was Australian-born, London-based singer-songwriter Cloves, which we then followed with Kate Cudbertson, Manager for FKJ and The Sundrop Garden, and in our third instalment we heard from English singer/songwriter, musician, producer, and label owner Jane Weaver.
Next up we hear from Fontaines D.C.'s Tom Coll. Drummer for the Mercury Prize nominated post-punk band, Tom spoke to us on how he's been adjusting to life since touring has stopped, his inspirational hotspots in Dublin and the importance of surrounding yourself with caring and compassionate people.
Fontaines D.C. Tom Coll's Reel Feelings
How have you been feeling, really?I’m doing ok. Neither amazingly or awfully really. The world has been pretty crazy over the last few months as I’m sure everyone is aware and things have been pretty up and down for me. With all our gigs cancelled for the year that’s really shifted my purpose and it has definitely taken a bit of getting used to. I suppose when bands are so used to having their year planned out in front of them and then that suddenly gets taken away and you're left with a whole lot of nothing for the foreseeable it’s quite a shock. I’ve been enjoying having lots of free time but I feel like I’m the kind of person that needs a day-to-day focus to keep me going and that’s been challenging.
The isolation during lockdown was, and still is, pretty tough at times but I took the leap back into therapy a few weeks ago and I’m really glad I did. I’ve suffered with a stammer since I was young and the global pandemic hitting at the same time as I was going through a bit of a mentally rough patch didn’t help my speech. I’ve really been confronted by how important speaking is, which seems like a silly statement, but you only notice how the whole world relies on words and how they form your outward personality until you’re having trouble with them. Taking the action to do something about it has been something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time though and that’s been a real positive. So yeah, up and down!
How are you adjusting, how did your life change, and how did you change?So I moved back into my family home for two months with my mam and my brother at the start of the lockdown. I was naive thinking that I’d be there for two weeks and then things would return to normal but that obviously didn’t happen. It was a really nice change of pace in that I got to spend time with my mam which I never really get to do and I got to hang out with my brother loads which I feel like we have never properly done. He’s 20 and I’m 25 so we’re kind of levelling out age wise and it was really nice. That’s one of the really positive things from this year, that I got to hang out with him as a friend as well as my brother and I’m really thankful for that.
When I was home I was living a really simple life in that I got up and had my porridge and went for a run or did the shopping and then watched the news at 6 o'clock and played some drums in the evening. It was the first time I’ve felt like I had a routine since I was in school.
Then I came back to Dublin a few weeks ago and the change of pace was crazy. It definitely took me a while to get used to social interactions again. I’m living by myself now too which definitely has a huge effect on your head when you’re not used to it. I’d shared a flat with people for years and then being on your own for some long evenings has been a huge mental change and challenge at times.
I guess it’s made me try and come out of myself more and really force myself to socialise. It’s such a different buzz when you’re sharing a house with people, there’s always movement and something happening, or when you’re on tour your whole life revolves around hanging out with people so I suppose making the conscious effort now has been the big change for me as I feel like that’s not my natural state.
Where is your ‘inspiration hotspot’ i.e. where do you have the space to think and be creative? What inspires you creatively now (is it different to your usual sources of inspiration)?
My living room is where I’m mostly doing that now. I bought myself a little drum machine and synth a few weeks ago and have been throwing myself into that. It’s great to have something in the house that’s a completely new instrument that I know nothing about. I’m getting really excited learning new things and it’s been really nice. It’s like chasing that feeling I had when I was a kid learning a musical instrument for the first time. It’s been so refreshing as opposed to trying to get better at something you already know. I’ve also been trying to learn some traditional Irish tunes on the Banjo which has been funny. One of my best friends made me a book of tunes as a Christmas present so I’ve been trying to get through them.
In terms of places to go and think I’ve been going to this park close to my house that not many people seem to know about and it’s become a sort of ritual. Just go and have a coffee in the sun and it lets me escape the city a bit.
My creative inspiration hasn’t really changed that much to be honest. It’s still pretty much solely listening to music and finding records that I love and just enjoying that process and taking what I can from it. I’ve listened to so much more music because I’m not touring and I’m spending loads of time at home so that has been amazing.
What do you wish you had known before lockdown?Changing your plans is not that big of a deal. When our whole year of touring was cancelled I was pretty upset and fairly knocked from it but it makes you just accept that sometimes plans change and you can replan those same things again. I didn’t think at the start of the year that I would have moved back to the West of Ireland for a few months or had no gigs lined up whatsoever but that’s the way it went and it was fine. I feel like people, especially in their 20s or 30s, are overly conditioned into having big plans and goals and boxes to tick and then when all those things aren’t possible, you realise that the complete opposite life to that, just existing in one place with nothing to do, is totally fine too.
What three things would you advise to anyone who is struggling right now?Don’t be afraid to get help with something that you’re struggling with.
Sometimes admitting to yourself that you might need help is the hardest thing to do and once you actually do that the problem is so much more manageable. Also just knowing that whatever it is you’re struggling with, there is somebody that can help you with it. I’m going to CBT coupled with stammering therapy which is pretty fucking niche but it shows that there is always someone able to help with any issue, no matter how big or small.
Surround yourself with people who help.
Being open about something you’re having a hard time with makes it a lot easier in my experience and surrounding yourself with people who actively try and help is so important. I’m very lucky that the lads in the band and my close friends and family are some of the most supportive people in the world and I’ve never felt like I couldn’t talk to them about anything that was bothering me. If you surround yourself with caring and compassionate people and are open about what’s up, that halves the problem. People’s empathy and ability and want to listen is such a powerful thing.
Don’t be hard on yourself.
It’s easy to turn a problem or a struggle inward and start chipping away at yourself rather than the actual problem itself. It’s ok to have a period where things are a bit shit and you’re having a rough time of it. Literally everyone has them. It’s just important to not beat yourself up about it and try and focus on making positive changes and be as kind to yourself as you would be to anyone else.Thank you to Tom for taking the time out to speak to us.
Fontaines D.C.'s sophomore album A Hero's Death is set for release on 31 July. Mastered and cut-to-vinyl at Abbey Road Studios by Christian Wright.