AdHoc checked in with five artists who have released albums during the coronavirus crisis to see how they’re handling our new normal.
While some artists like Charli XCX are devoting their time indoors to making new albums, others are reeling from having their album releases overshadowed by the pandemic. It can be a really uncertain time to release a new project, especially at a time when album sales have dropped and people are streaming less music than usual. For bands like Porridge Radio and Talk Show, they’ve released their debut projects on their labels at the onset of a series of tour cancellations, stay-at-home orders, and rising panic over the pandemic. AdHoc decided to check-in with five artists who have had their album cycle interrupted by the pandemic and see how they were adjusting to life under quarantine.
Although life under the pandemic has put many on edge, both Joe Stevens of Peel Dream Magazine and Neil Smith from Peach Pit have said that working from home has actually helped take the stress out of sharing new music, allowing them to write and record new music without any barriers. Dana Margolin from Porridge Radio has been “manically doing everything,” turning to live-streaming to engage with fans—something that Dave Benton from Trace Mountains was at first hesitant to do, but eventually warmed up to. Social media has allowed bands to continue to promote their albums in the absence of touring, with Talk Show’s Harrison Swan saying that “the internet has saved our release.”
Check out the full interviews to read about what these artists have been up to while self-isolating at home, what they are looking forward to the most post-quarantine, and how you can help support them during this crisis.
Bandcamp has announced that they will be waving their share of revenue for the first Friday of the next three months starting at midnight PST on May 1, June 5, and July 3. A number of labels—including Lame-O Records, which Trace Mountains have released their latest album with—are waiving their cut as well so that 100% of digital sales go to the artists.
Neil Smith: [The pandemic] didn’t affect [our album] other than the fact that our tour got canceled. We got to put the album out the way that we wanted to, minus a little hiccup at the end but overall everything was released on time which was really sweet. We were supposed to go on tour on April 23, so that’s kind of a huge bummer but I’m just glad we got to put the album out. It’s actually a huge relief because it’s very terrifying releasing music. People are like the “sophomore album curve,” there’s a lot of build-up before it, so I’m just glad that it’s out and I don’t have to think about it anymore.
I think we’ve actually been more productive this pandemic than we ever have before. We’ve been trying to organize live-streaming when we were putting out the album, and we’ve been making guitar tutorials for some of our songs—which we’ve been actually meaning to do for a super long time. I know that when I was younger trying to learn how to play songs from bands that I like, I always wished they would show me exactly how they do it, so that’s been kind of fun.
I live by myself, so I haven’t even seen any of [the band] in a month which has been a bummer. I’ve been watching a buttload of Youtube. I’ve been watching this series called TigerBelly, which is the comedian Bobby Lee. I don’t know why but I got super addicted to it [during] quarantine. I press play on their Youtube videos and it feels like I have roommates in the apartment and I’m not alone. I’ve been riding my bike a lot on some trails and finding some space away from everyone.
I actually really luckily just got a laptop given to me, some old Macbook, and I haven’t had a computer in five years. I downloaded Garageband, I got a microphone, and I’ve been recording demos and new songs that I’ve been writing which has been really fun because I’ve never done that before. I’ve been very bored so just sitting down and spending a few hours recording a demo or something, watching a movie, and playing guitar on my couch.
I’ve been trying to write a COVID pandemic-themed song but I haven’t managed to yet. I feel like the pandemic happening actually puts things into perspective for me. I’ve been pretty anxious about releasing music and really thinking about it a lot, and then once the pandemic happened there were way bigger things at stake for the world. I was kind of like, “I don’t need to be so worried about this, it’s not that big of a deal.” Write songs the way you want to write songs, release albums, and if people like or they don’t whatever. It actually helped me a little bit.
I haven’t been able to spend time with my parents since all this started because my grandma lives with them and it’s just not worth the risk. So I really can’t wait to go over there for dinner because my parents are great cooks and I’ve been eating way too much junk recently.
If you can afford to, order t-shirts from a band’s merch website or buy tickets for a concert that is going to happen at the end of the year or just give musicians a helping hand where you might not have otherwise. I feel like we’re doing okay right now, but there are lots of musicians right now who had tours coming up that were imperative for them to make money and now they can’t.
You And Your Friends is out now via Columbia Records.
Harrison Swan: The release of our debut EP was planned for the first or second week of lockdown. Right before it had started, we decided we had to change our entire campaign, within about 2 days. We’ve had 2 headline tours, and a ridiculous amount of festivals canceled, which were gonna be a huge part of the EP promo. The roll-out has been completely reliant on social media. I never thought I’d say it, but the internet has saved our release. If people weren’t able to buy it or online or stream it, we’d have no chance. As a band, we’ve always been vocal about gigging and doing things the ‘old fashioned way’, but weirdly it’s flipped everything.
It’s been so reassuring to see how vocal people have been with their support. It’s really helped us to keep going and we are very thankful for it. Before quarantine, we’ve always tried to make sure our presence online never comes across as a sales pitch. To stay engaged with fans, we decided to start tongue-in-cheek Sunday classes, as a bit of fun. We aren’t NHS/hospital staff or key essential workers, there are some more important things going on right now, so a big sales pitch without any degree of context or awareness—in my opinion—is a bit tactless.
I think that’s my one piece of advice for musicians and music-fans right now, go and post about your favorite band. DM them, tag them in a post, whatever it is just reach out. Obviously buying merch and vinyl is helpful, but even a tweet going “yes this f***ing bangs” makes our day and really helps.
Personally, I’ve been writing a lot in this isolation. I forced myself early on to be productive and get into a good routine of working. I’ve been making a music video as original plans inevitably fell flat. A bit of home exercise and running has also massively helped as well. Getting out of the box that you live in and legging it around the corner, really helps keep you sane and motivated.
The lockdown has become a bit of a zeitgeist so, in my eyes, every writer is going to have been influenced by it—whether it’s explicit or not. In my own writing, there are no “lockdown lines” whatsoever, I’ve been conscious to avoid it. I have, however, been writing in my bedroom staring at a wall, recording vocals in a cupboard. My housemates are all working so I can’t properly project and sing all day long. Therefore it’s had this knock-on effect where it’s affected my delivery the most as I try to not disturb anyone, yet still want to exert frustrations and emotions.
I’ve already planned to book a rehearsal space as soon as lockdown finishes, to just go and make as much noise as humanly possible with a guitar amp. Thrash it out for an hour, and release a load of endorphins. Can’t wait to get recording our new material and play a live gig. The first gig outside of lockdown is also gonna be pretty special.
Talk Show’s debut EP These People is out now on Council Records.
Dana Margolin: Lockdown started in the UK pretty much immediately after we released our album, so it has really just affected all of our plans for the coming year. Technically it’s our second full band album, but our first on a big label. We had a big tour planned in March and a first trip to the US to play shows that we had to cancel, so it was very weird. It felt strange not to be able to play the songs to everyone when we actually had the songs out.
I’ve been doing a lot of live streams and have been able to be online more and engage with people, and it’s been really cool being able to talk to people and hear that people are really loving the album. The response has been really good so far, and I feel lucky to be able to still engage with people even though we can’t meet everyone and play shows in person.
Up until about last week I was manically doing everything, live-streams and interviews and loads of demoing, I even made a zine with all the chords to the album in it. But now I’m letting myself crash a bit and trying to rest and enjoy the down-time. I’m looking forward to seeing my friends again, and being able to play music with my band.
Buying our album and buying merch are the best ways to support us, but if people can’t afford to spend money right now, streaming and sharing our music is really helpful.
Every Bad is out now via Secretly Canadian.
Dave Benton: Releasing Lost in the Country during the Coronavirus pandemic was at first frustrating because we had all these great things planned to promote the record and perform the music live, but obviously everything had to be canceled. I spent a week or two being grumpy about live streaming, but once I came around to it I had a lot of fun connecting with people that way. The record release has given me lots of things to do while I’ve been stuck at home and I’m grateful for that.
It’s also been really cool to provide some distractions for people & to share the music we worked so hard on with folks who need it right now. I’m lucky in some respect that I don’t rely on the band for my income, because I probably would feel much differently about all this if I did. Times are tight and I’m definitely concerned about what the landscape will look like after this is all over, but trying to take it day by day & do things that feel good right now.
I’m looking forward to going into the city and rehearsing with my band. Also looking forward to working with them on new music.
Lost In The Country is out now via Lame-O Records.
Joe Stevens: I think a couple of things have been affected, the biggest one being that we weren’t able to tour around it coming out. We have to keep canceling those things as we move along, which is kind of a bummer. The other thing that I am not totally sure about, but have the suspicion, is that a lot of music journals have cut down their staff. So I think there’s just less music journalism going on in general, especially for smaller bands.
I think the reception to our album was actually really positive, and way bigger than our first album which occurred in a non-pandemic atmosphere. I’ve not spent too much time feeling bitter about it. It’s exciting to put out an album, it doesn’t matter if it’s not necessarily the ideal scenario. It’s just exciting to get it out there and get on with your life. I got to do all of that.
I did a live-stream on the COVID-19 Instagram as a solo thing, and I’d never done any solo Peel Dream magazine stuff before. Recently, I did something with a curator called New Colossus on their Facebook. It’s cool, it’s kind of like playing a show. I’m hoping to do more. I’ve been digesting a lot more new music, more so than in my everyday life. I’ve been listening to a lot of The High Llamas, this ambient EP by someone named Greenhouse [and] I’ve been listening to a lot of Colin Blunstone, he’s the lead singer of the Zombies.
For the first two weeks, I kind of sulked about the fact that I’d lost my job. I was just trying to figure out things to do like cooking a lot, reading, and watching movies. But in the past few weeks, I’ve actually started writing again and using this as an opportunity. When else am I going to be stuck in my apartment with instruments, my computer, and no obligation to do anything else? Having a day job and living in New York City takes up so much psychic space, so it’s nice to not have that. I’ve been working on lyrics that are [about] very static, existential, and introverted subjects.
A lot of [musicians] are probably having a huge existential crisis about their life. You’re already kind of these liminal figures barely operating in New York City and then this happens. I think it takes on a humorous dimension like, “What the fuck am I doing?” But that doesn’t have any bearing on the fact that it’s still what you want to do.
I have had just a lot of joy working on new music and playing songs for Agitprop Alterna. It’s just been a lot of the fun stuff, and none of the bullshit—none of the lugging shit to a show where no one’s going to come. I do like [live shows] a lot but it’s a pretty punishing thing to do in New York City because if you’re a small band the scene is just not what it once was at all. There’s kind of a calm that takes over during this time period because you don’t have to worry about that kind of shit.
I think [fans can support] by just listening and playing the record or ordering an album. I think as long as people are listening and buying something at some point, I’m happy.
Agitprop Alterna is out now via Slumberland Records.