THUMPER

5 months ago   |   Words: Natalie Lorimer

The clue is pretty much in the name with THUMPER. Earning a reputation as one of Ireland’s most exciting live acts, the noise-pop quintet unleash a whirlwind of frenzied energy both live and in the studio. Combining the best bits of rock, pop, and grunge to create a sound in which howling feedback and pounding rhythm mix harmoniously with pop hooks, THUMPER are an exercise in unpredictability. We caught up with frontman, Oisin Furlong, to chat about the process of growth, The Blindboy Podcast, and mental health in the Irish music industry. 

What are you working on at the moment?

We just brought out a single called ‘(You’re Bringing Me) Down’ which is part of an EP we’re releasing in November called ‘Out of Body Auto-Message.’ The whole thing was produced by Dan Fox from Girl Band, and it’s a body of work we’re really proud of.

What has been your biggest life challenge so far and what did you do to overcome it?

Severe depression and anxiety hit me in my teens, and reared its head again in my early twenties. The public mental health sector in Ireland at the time was pretty threadbare but I did manage to get professional help and learn to unlearn negative thinking patterns. Overcoming issues with your mental health is more of a process than an event, but continued mindfulness has always been key for me.

What have you learned about yourself over the past five or so years?

When you’re younger, you think that there will come a moment at some point in your twenties when you arrive as a “grown up.” I guess the one thing I’ve learned over the last few years is that we are always in a perpetual state of growth, and that’s the way it’s going to be for a long time! I’m not the same person I was last month, let alone last year.

What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?

Being with friends, creating something just for the sake of it (music, food, conversation), comfort in the familiar, excitement in something new.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

I feel so grateful that I latched on to music as an outlet so early on. It has given endless joy and direction to my life. I also feel truly grateful to have found so many like-minded souls to play music with.

What are you listening to, reading and watching at the moment?

I’m listening to records by Idles, Bodega & Kojaque on a fairly continuous rotation at the moment, and I’m currently switching between reading ‘And The Ass Saw The Angel’ by Nick Cave, and Carrie Brownstein’s autobiography ‘Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl.’

I also just finished the most recent season of Bojack Horseman, which is as hilarious as it is heartbreaking.

Complete this sentence: “Ace mental health for me means…”

Ace mental health doesn’t mean never feeling anxious or low. Ace mental health for me means not being overwhelmed by these feelings, and recognising that life is ups and downs, good times and bad.

What do you eat to stay healthy?

I stopped eating meat about three years ago, which helped a lot as I had to start paying attention to what I was putting in my body. It’s hard to stay healthy when you’re gigging or touring a lot, but when at home I do try to get a decent breakfast and eat plenty of fruit during the day. I have a bad habit of not eating anything all day and then stuffing my face at three in the morning, which I don’t advise.

Do you have a daily routine of exercise or do you make it up as you go along?

Does loading amps in and out of venues count? We were gigging so much during the summer that any semblance of an exercise routine fell apart, but I’ll get back on it for winter – promise!

Here at The Mind Map we remember playing football and ‘tag’ – running around the playground everyday and loving it – can you share a similar memory?

I wasn’t the most athletic kid, but I did win a school-wide basketball tournament when I was about ten. A proud moment for sure. I also remember being very invested in nailing the Cha Cha Slide, though I didn’t pursue dancing in any sort of professional capacity…

What three songs lift your spirits?

Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song – Jeffrey Lewis
All My Friends – LCD Soundsystem
God Only Knows – The Beach Boys

What is your favourite self-help book, or motivational quote?

I’ve never really responded to self-help books, or any kind of universal school of thought when it comes to mental health because I do believe everyone’s journey is unique, but I find it inspiring to hear individual stories of overcoming hard times.

The Blindboy Podcast is a great example of this, because he doesn’t prescribe any method but simply discusses his own journey to wellness, and what worked for him. I guess I empathised with his story because he’s also a performer (with the Rubber Bandits), and someone you would imagine is a massive extrovert, which couldn’t be further from the truth.  

What advice do you offer to friends when they are feeling overwhelmed?

Sometimes life is overwhelming, but making a point of noticing the good things you have is key to a balanced outlook. That said, emotions like grief and anger are sometimes healthy and normal reactions, so letting yourself feel these things and accepting them is sometimes the key to overcoming what life throws at you.

You recently played a show as part of the Hard Working Class Heroes showcase, which also featured a conference discussion on the importance of promoting good mental health within the Irish music industry. Would you like to see this topic more widely discussed by fellow musicians?

Increasingly the discussion on mental health in the music industry is coming to the fore in Ireland, which is great because even five years ago it wasn’t really talked about. It’s bizarre terrain to navigate as a performer because ultimately you have to balance the person you are offstage with the person who exists the rest of the time. Leaving a pound of flesh on stage after every gig can have its consequences if your mental health isn’t up to scratch. 

Greg, Adele and Joel of Bloom

2 weeks ago   |   Words: Phil Bridges   |   Photography: Phil Bridges

As Birkenhead bathes in the low March sun, broken liners await repair in the adjacent Cammell Laird shipyard. These sleeping giants are a fitting symbol of restoration as I near Bloom, the new home to mental health charity The Open Door Centre.

Opened in February, following seven years in Liscard, the charity’s new home is a cocoon of wellbeing. On entering the muralled building, muted dream-pop soundtracks bubbling curry and a wood burner crackles in a communal cafe area. Breakout spaces and therapy sheds are accessible towards the back of the tastefully renovated warehouse space. It’s the antithesis to sterile offices under flyovers and suburban clinics you might normally associate with therapy. It is 11am and the venue has just opened for a day of delivering mental health support to its 15-30 year old members. Gathered on a bench are Adele, Joel and Greg, three amiable 20 somethings, who channel their respective mental health experiences into full time roles at the charity. Over the course of our interview, The Open Door’s mantra of being a charity by young people for young people is clear.

Before we delve into a serious discussion around lived experience, the challenges young people face and therapy, I ask the interviewees to confirm their names. Joel deadpans “Joel Dipple. Nipple with a D” – propelling his colleagues into a collective belly laugh. “I genuinely never made that connection,” Greg chortles. The exchange is emblematic of how The Open Door houses vital conversations in accessible surrounds. It’s a Russian doll of depth – therapy punctuated with humour and warmth. Working on a free membership format, the charity supports young people feeling down, low, stressed or anxious, through its Computerised Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CCBT) tool ‘Bazaar: A Marketplace For The Mind’. Visitors are guided through the eight week training with someone of a similar age and character – providing a perfect blend of human interaction and accessible online intervention.

Adele Iddison, 25, Wirral, centre co-ordinator

PB: What are your own experiences around mental health

AI: It probably all started when I was in my early teens – a bit of anxiety and depression around my brother going to the army. It wasn’t taken seriously though. It was just seen as something to kind of shake off. But it developed into this horrible depression that I tried to ignore at first until I went to uni and it all came to a head. I dropped out of uni and just felt really low with no direction. The pressure of getting work added to it. 

PB: What has helped you?

AI: I think just talking to people about it, because that was my main issue – I just never spoke to anyone about it, I think because of that experience when I was younger and it not being taken seriously. It kind of shut me up as I got older. Once I did speak out about it, how I actually really felt, which was worse than what people thought, that’s when I was taken seriously.

This job keeps me well. Helping other people has really helped me. It’s helped with my confidence as well. Also, just making sure that I’m with people. Making sure that I’m at least doing something that I enjoy at least once a week – having that balance and making sure that I have structure.

PB: What challenges do you think young people face?

AI: I think the main challenge is not being taken seriously, and that worry of “If I do tell people, will I be taken seriously? Will people want to help or will they just think I’m weird?” You know, all the stigma around it as well – I think that’s one of the main challenges. And again, finding that support. There is a lot out there but it’s more about trying to find the right kind of support. It’s very clinical, which can work for some people but a lot of people need that feeling of being able to approach people. I think that’s a challenge for young people as well.

PB: How can The Open Door Centre help young people?

AI: We’re a non-clinical service. We have the volunteer programme, so we allow people to be paired with people that have that relatability factor to them. All the volunteers have had their own experiences too, including staff too. I think that’s a really big factor that comes into it at the centre. The course that we do as well is bespoke – there’s no course out there like it. It’s unique to the centre as well, and the building with the culture side I think is presented in a way that’s accessible and creative.

Greg Edwards, 29, Wirral, operations manager

PB: What are your own experiences around mental health

GE: I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in my early twenties. It’s something I’ve always had but it became worse as I got older. Thankfully, I got treatment and support when I was living in London and my recovery started from there, and it’s been pretty good since.

PB: What has helped you?

GE: In terms of keeping well, I think with a lot of mental health issues it’s about the journey you go through. So, learning a lot about yourself, learning about your own resilience, your own trigger points. I think that’s quite important. Keeping well to me is all about self awareness and sort of trying to nip things in the bud before they become a big problem again or blow out of proportion. Living quite a busy, active life suits me and my personality. I do a lot of endurance sport events and things like that to keep me busy and keep my mind healthy. I also do a lot of music and other creative things outside of work which stops me from having too much time to worry about other things, which seems to work.

PB: What challenges do you think young people face?

GE: I would probably say the digital age has caused problems in the sense people are always able to communicate and not necessarily in a healthy way. We see a lot of issues around things like cyber bullying. You know, in the past, if you were bullied at school and you went home, the bullying stopped. Now, if you’re experiencing bullying, it can continue online, in Whats App groups for example.

There’s a lot more acceptance around mental health issues now, which is a really positive thing but I don’t think the support networks, these statutory services, have caught up with the demand, and I think the expectation of young people being able to access support immediately isn’t there. That’s a real obstacle, and I think it causes quite a lot of tension for young people.

PB: How can The Open Door Centre help young people?

GE: One of our key ambitions, and something we’ve always met, is to have no waiting lists. Offering immediate and effective support in a creative, innovative environment is kind of central to what we do. It doesn’t have to be complicated – it’s not anything secretive. It’s all about having a person-centred approach to working with people where we respond to their individualism and help them through their journey in a way that’s compassionate and supportive. Using clinical tools but in a way that’s engaged with other people. It hasn’t got the same formal approach as in some clinical services.

What we’re trying to do really is offer that choice and that opportunity to people if they want to, or they’re not feeling great. They can just come along, sign up with us, and get involved. We’ve been gradually able to support more people each year. Now, moving to the Bloom Building, we’re able to more than triple our support, which is a great step for the charity but hopefully it will help the local area more and help young people more as we see more people.

Joel Dipple, 24, Stafford, venue co-ordinator

PB: What are your own experiences around mental health?

JD: My mental health deteriorated after the death of my best mate. I don’t think it was anything you could see as long term depression or anxiety, but the grief from that was something I bottled up for probably around six months and it came to a head in a series of panic attacks. I then sought grief counselling – for a little while, which helped. I always found for me personally, the art of conversation helped me get through that stage and helps me to this day in terms of coming to terms with what happened.

What I thought would have been great for me at the time was if there was a space like this where I was, where there was a more welcoming environment than something that was clinical. I probably would have sought help far earlier than I did. Now being able to work in an environment which is so welcoming and supportive of others is something that I am quite proud to be in this environment, hopefully helping folk. Even if it is, for me, just being on the coffee shop side of things and making it a welcoming experience for people. It’s great.

PB: What challenges do you think young people face?

JD: From my own experiences, knowing where and who to talk to. I think as young people, we are far more aware of the conversation of mental health and it is far more open, but there is still always the struggle of not wanting to maybe burden friendship groups or close people with mental health issues and not knowing where a conversation can actually take place around it.

PB: How can The Open Door Centre help young people?

JD: Having a space like this where, as Greg was saying, there’s no waiting list and a conversation can happen with someone who’s trained and relatable is an amazing thing.

bloombuilding.co.uk 

We Love Life – Loreta Okeke

3 months ago   |   Words: Rebecca Durband   |   Photography: Liam Jones

We all have mental health and our different ways of staying well. In We Love Life, we uncover the wellbeing habits of people as they go about their days. Here, 20-year old pharmacy student Loreta tells us about her love of exercising, cooking and of course – trashy TV. 

Hello Loreta, what are you currently studying?

I’m studying pharmacy at Liverpool John Moores!

Are you reading or watching anything we should know about? 

I don’t really have time to read because I have so much revision to do! I read the bible which is always great. I’m watching Big Mouth on Netflix which is really good, I’m also watching Snowfall on BBC1. Oh yeah and also my trash TV; The Only Way is Essex, Absolutely Ascot, Real Housewives of Cheshire, Made in Chelsea, all of the good stuff.

What are you listening to?

I listen to a lot of UK music, Afro beats, grime, hip-hop, drill. I like some Latin and gospel too!

Do you have any aspirations for the future? 

I wish to graduate with amazing results and get a good job, well paid. I just want to be happy really, be content in life. Just have good friends and a healthy family, be healthy etc.

What are you most grateful for in life?

I’m happy with where I live, my friends and family, my course, I’ve got a job and all that sort of thing.

And how do you stay mentally well? 

I stay out of people’s drama, keeping myself to myself, I exercise – exercising is really good. I’m not really much of a runner. I love cooking, cooking is really fun. I like leisurely drinking, not heavy drinking, like with the friends you know, social drinking.

 

Kwassa

4 months ago   |   Words: Natalie Lorimer

Scott Verrill is a musician and creative undergoing constant evolution. With childhood band ‘The Theory of 6 Degrees,’ he became one of the youngest musicians to showcase his talents at Glastonbury. Further projects have followed thick and fast, including two independently released EPs under the name KYKO and the development of DIY fashion label Hundred Club.

Verrill’s latest musical project, kwassa, is a nod to the music of his youth; namely Vampire Weekend and the Congolese rumba melodies displayed on their buoyant track ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.’ Exploring fizzing pop on ‘Moonwalking,’ the first single released as kwassa, Verrill sings of the euphoria that comes from meeting someone who catches you off guard.

We caught up with Scott to chat all things creativity, swimming and childhood high jinks.

What are you working on at the moment? 

I’m just finishing up final versions of tunes for my up-and-coming EP, and trying to put together a fresh live set to take on the road – I want to make it fun.

What has been your biggest life challenge so far and what did you do to overcome it?

I think by the nature of doing music full time, there’s a lot of anxiety and self doubt that comes in the cycle of putting things out into the world, and I definitely put too much pressure on myself in-between. I’ve started a few other non-musical projects and hobbies, all of which stop me being too consumed in myself.

What have you learned about yourself over the past five or so years?

To trust my own instinct more and to be less swayed by what other people do/think.

What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?

I’d be somewhere hot and sunny with close friends/family, swimming, good food, some sort of musical endeavour, and an evening run on the beach. Oh, and some dogs please.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

To be healthy and having a close circle of people I really respect. Also to be doing what I love every day is just the best.

What are you listening to, reading and watching at the moment?

I’m still not over Ariana Grande’s ‘Sweeter’ album, so I’m probably listening to that. I’m reading ‘Call Me By Your Name’ because there’s only so many times you can watch that movie on repeat. I manage to go about my life avoiding Netflix but the number one thing to watch for me is the new Coldplay documentary.

Complete this sentence: “Ace mental health for me means…”

Being comfortable with yourself, acknowledging feelings, and knowing that there’s a way of dealing with everything.

What do you eat to stay healthy?

I love food and am not too strict on what I eat, because I’m definitely happier when I’m not cutting things out. I’m the kind of person that goes to sleep thinking about breakfast. That being said, I hardly eat sugary things, and don’t eat meat these days – and I feel good because of it.

Do you have a daily routine of exercise or do you make it up as you go along?

I try either do a swim or run every day. Swimming is my favourite because there’s no chance of be being near my phone, and being underwater is just the most peaceful place.

Here at The Mind Map we remember playing football and ‘tag’ – running around the playground everyday and loving it – can you share a similar memory?

Someone always brought in a huge pack of cable ties and everyone took some. The aim was just to cable tie the anything in the room to the most stupid place. There were all sorts on the ceiling – shoes, chairs, keys. Probably still a funny game now.

What three songs lift your spirits?

Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard – Paul Simon

Sir Duke – Stevie Wonder

Viva la Vida – Coldplay

What is your favourite self-help book, or motivational quote?

There’s a guy called Austin Kleon who has a series of creative self-help books which I love. There’s one called ‘Show Your Work’ that I read a lot. It’s all about sharing the creative process, and not being too proud to open up to the people that enjoy your work.

What advice do you offer to friends when they are feeling overwhelmed?

To put yourself first and get some headspace. Life’s too short to let anything actually bother you. Sometimes people just need to talk so it’s good to be a listener, whether you can relate or not.

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