The importance of asking “How are you, really?”: Interview with Conor Hyde of Insolace

Being proactive in bettering our own mental health is not easy. It takes time and dedication. Conor Hyde, guitarist for the alternative rock band Insolace, knows this well.

We spoke with Conor about where the band’s passion for mental health stems from, the inspiration behind their latest single Hold On, and why they’re donating this year’s streaming proceeds to Grassroots.

Conor Hyde, Insolace

How are you?

That’s a good question. I suppose the most common lie is “Yeah I’m fine, all is good”. Generally I’m doing much better – but it’s all up and down and I think I’m in a bit of a down at the moment. Low moods are quite a normal thing for me. It’s something I’ve had to live with for some time now.

I’m a recovering alcoholic and addict, and as a band we are very forthcoming and open about everything to do with mental health and mental illness.  Addiction certainly falls under that umbrella of mental illness. But since being in recovery I’m generally doing a whole lot better.  The lows are way, way less frequent. 

It’s just different. I’ve learnt some incredible tools and coping mechanisms, and I’ve got a fellowship of other like-minded people who are also suffering with addiction.  I’ve got two therapists and a whole support network around me, so I feel I can’t really go wrong.  Previously, I didn’t accept any help at all – because your feelings are telling you to isolate, and to throw all help that comes your way back into their faces. Recovery for me has been getting control of those feelings and doing what’s best: getting help. That’s got to be the longest answer possible for how are you doing. 

Our lyricism projects where we are in our personal lives. It’s a lot to do with conveying hope – positive affirmation, but also having that cathartic outlet by touching on darker emotions.”

Can you tell me a little bit about Insolace, how it started and the inspiration behind it?

Insolace is kind of a continuation of my last band, Oceans. Half the band left and others joined. So, we thought we might well as rename it and start a whole new project. It’s funny because we are all so different but so similar at the same time. The thing that bonds us the most is our struggle with mental illness.

We thought ‘Insolace’ was a very fitting name for what we stand for, which is solace. Our experiences with mental illness make it impossible not to include it in our music. Our lyricism projects where we are in our personal lives. It’s a lot to do with conveying hope – positive affirmation, but also having that cathartic outlet by touching on darker emotions.

Hold On, your most recent single, has really powerful and emotive lyrics. Could you tell me a bit about the song and what it means to you writing it?

We wrote Hold On a while ago, and recorded it just as I got out of rehab. At recording, we had a song in mind – but it was melancholic and sort of self-wallowing. I remember we were halfway through a verse and Milly our singer says, “God this song is just so f***ing miserable”. She was saying that it’s all well and good being cathartic. But we don’t want to enable people feeling sh** in any way.

It was about finding that balance. So we brainstormed other songs and Hold On came up. It was a song from the archives that felt perfect for where we were in our own personal lives. The song is a dramatic shift from our previous material. It’s about holding on through thick and thin. It’s really relevant to where I was – coming out of rehab and immersing myself into recovery. Millie was in a similar position. She’s now in a much better, more positive place. So, Hold On perfectly reflected where we are and are as a band.

“When you lose people of that significance in life it’s hard not to feel so passionate about suicide prevention.”

What made you want to support Grassroots?

There was a band member in Oceans, my best friend Tom Hollands. He was also part of Insolace in the very early days, but left due to mental illness. He took his own life on October 22nd 2019, which completely changed me and my world. That started my passion for mental health. My singer then also lost a very close friend to suicide – and that’s what prompted her to do a gig where all the proceeds went to Grassroots.  When you lose people of that significance in life it’s hard not to feel so passionate about suicide prevention.

Tom Hollands

Thank you so much for sharing that.  I appreciate it mustn’t have been easy to talk about. But it’s amazing you’re turning this pain into something positive – and enabling other people to have hope and not feel alone.

The last year and a half has been challenging on everyone, but especially on musicians and the music industry. How has your band been, creatively?

Yeah, what a crazy time to be alive. The pandemic has been a massive detriment.

Some bands were fortunate that they were sitting on some recorded unreleased material, which they could release to maintain momentum. But we didn’t have that, which meant for a year and a half we couldn’t record, we couldn’t perform, we couldn’t do anything. Most of the time we have been a band we have been in lockdown. So, it’s just been awful. 

We did an incredible gig recently at the Hope and Ruin in Brighton – everyone was moshing, the place was rammed, the energy was fantastic. But there’s uncertainty for bands around booking gigs and shows. Who knows how long Covid will have an effect.

Absolutely. I really feel for artists like yourselves because that’s what you do; that’s your world, and performing is such a massive part of that. I’m really happy to hear about the gig, was that your first gig back?

It’s our first standing gig back. Last time we did a seated gig which was cool, but to do a standing gig was truly unbelievable. It was by far one of the best shows we’ve ever done, and one of the best shows I’ve done in my entire life. It was just amazing, really amazing.

“Your music is reaching out to fans all over the world and I feel like it’s good to take advantage of that, which is why we will be a voice of suffers of mental illness.”

How has music helped you personally?

Dealing with the loss of my best friend and band mate during lockdown was awful. Staring at the same four walls with no musical outlet – which was always my solace. Instead I sought solace in drink and drugs. Losing music definitely played a part in me losing control of my drug and alcohol intake. In the UK, addiction has risen 33% since the pandemic.

For me, music is meditative – which can be an important part of recovery. Obviously, the whole idea of meditation is to shut your brain off, just silence and stillness within your mind. But I get that when I play guitar or make music.

I think if you’re in a band you can use you platform to do some good. Your music is reaching out to fans all over the world. I feel like it’s important to use that, which is why we will be flying the flag of being a voice of suffers of mental illness.

We’d like to thank Conor for his honest, thought-provoking answers. It’s amazing to see Insolace use their platform to advocate for mental health, speaking out and getting support. Through their donations, Insolace will ensure that Grassroots can continue teaching powerful suicide intervention skills, breaking dangerous stigma and connecting people with lifesaving services.

If you’d like to join Insolace in the fight against suicide, or just find out more about our work, take a look at the fundraising page on our website.