By Mark Glenister
For the music fan, the Pandemic and lockdown are a double-edged sword. You have more time to listen to the bands you love and discover new bands via the wonders of streaming services.
The downside, and in my case a huge downside, is that you can’t see these bands play live at the moment, you can’t go to gigs, meet your friends, dance around in a sweaty venue and have ringing in your ears the few hours after the gig.
If, as fans this is how we feel, then how are our favourite bands feeling at the moment. Well, we at New Music Social HQ decided to ask that very question. We have spoken to a few of the bands we love, at a socially safe distance, and asked them about how they are dealing with lockdown, how it’s impacted the bands plans, and what the are planning once life returns to ‘normal’.
Over the next week or so we shall be posting the interviews on a regular basis, read, enjoy, and realise you are not alone in any of this, and that the bands you love, care about their fans just as much.
First up, I spoke with John Newton of John (Times Two)
Firstly, how are you? How are the rest of the band as well?
We’re coping thanks, but a little out of routine like most of the world. I'm (John Newton - Drums / Vocals JOHN) writing this from my parents place, away from our native South London (a few days visiting has turned into a month or so). My fellow John is in lockdown in Crystal Palace, and he's been keeping himself busy volunteering in the local community.
Do you have a daily routine, are you learning anything new as everyone else seems to be?
Exercise has been key to a sense of routine, and I've been making sure I run every day in order to keep my sanity. It always helped my mental health a lot pre-pandemic so it's be a good way of keeping some kind of structure. I'm also very lucky that it's a picturesque part of the world, so I'm often bumping to wildlife along the way: barn owls, grass snakes, deer, the list goes on. I suppose the mention of mental health also links to the subject of productivity and learning new things. It's all a bit of a capitalist hangover, we've become hardwired to feel like we have to better ourselves all the time, which shouldn't be the case.
Are you seeing this lockdown as a time to be creative? And has it changed the way you view the industry?
I've been using the limitations of the situation to work on some small pieces of music. It's been interesting to see how I can go about making songs without usual or expected methods or instruments. I've been taking these short pieces of music with me on evening runs and beginning to write lyrics over the top. I have no idea if they'll become anything more public, but it's been nice to keep the cogs turning.
Photo by Paul Grace
As a band are you doing anything for the fans? A lot of online gigs and Q&As seem to be the norm for a lot of bands, how easy or difficult is that for you as a group?
As a band that relies so heavily on the energy of a live performance, I think we both agree that we'd struggle to do the songs justice with the equipment at our disposal. We did, however, takeover the excellent Club Ifor Bach (Cardiff venue) Instagram for a day, concluding it with a live 'Ask Us Anything' Session. We both felt that worked pretty well, so we'll see what else we dream up.
With the lockdown being extended, does that effect plans for tours, singles, albums?
We're really sad that so many shows have been cancelled, but thankfully a lot have been rescheduled. Hopefully this means that the financial repercussions aren't too paralysing for venues, bands and festivals alike. The welfare of the vulnerable is obviously a much higher priority right now.
We were also busy writing before isolation, and we are still managing to send bits and bobs over to each other online. It obviously changes the dynamic when not writing energetically in a room, but I think there's still a value in bouncing things and arranging it on a laptop before we return back into the warm shoebox together. I recently recorded a bunch of rough vocals on my phone with my head under a duvet, who needs the big record advance eh?
As a fan I know how much I miss going to gigs, for the music and for the social aspect, is this something that you miss as well?
We love playing live, and we were going to be doing it a lot this year - more than any other year previous in fact. It's just really gutting, but I'm trying to stay present and just reassure myself that it's a pause and we'll be able to get back out there and do it again.
How important are your fans at this time, I know and I speak from experience, a lot of merch is being purchased to help bands, and I know you have a great connection with fans generally so are they an important aspect of getting through this?
We were blown away to the response to the recent run of t-shirts we released, and it was nice to read supportive messages from people who ordered. As a mostly DIY outfit (through our label Pets Care), we're doing our best to keep the records and merchandise running, so we can, in turn, continue supporting the small business that we work with. As ever, it's great to see such an international spread of orders, I'm still amazed to see our records travelling to countries that we've never visited.
Despite horrors of this pandemic, the lockdown seems to have a created a lot of really positive community action, and for once social media is being used mainly I a positive manner – Do you want life to return to normal once this is over, or would you like people to be using this time to evaluate their lives and start be part of communities and positive social change?
I hope the shock to previous routines can help inspire more widespread permanent change post-lockdown. It really has been a great leveller in displaying the flaws in our current systems. You can, however, still see wide-eyed capitalists rubbing their hands and plotting to benefit from these lifestyle changes, but I live in hope that people will move from a culture of convenience to realise the value of being community-minded.
Our next Bands in Lockdown interview with James Cox of Crows will be published on Monday