Coronavirus and Why Your Fave Band Tee Is Important Right Now

In the midst of a global pandemic, Popscure contributor, Allison Weeks, took the time to share some perspective and grounding advice on how to approach our new reality in a world without live music and entertainment.

Spring has started springing, and music lovers and makers alike have reached the threshold of that long-awaited time of year: festival season. In a moment of divine harmony, chilly temps seemed to be on the outs while sunshine, crop tops, and fantasized lineups (too good to be true) floated into sight—a blissful ménage à trois between industry, spectator, and – well, Mother Nature. That is…until we were met with the unexpected.

COVID-19. Coronavirus. It has been difficult at best to get straightforward answers about the now pandemic and, as more and more cases are confirmed within the US, industries have been scrambling to make immediate safety decisions. Like rampant wildfire, events and institutions are announcing cancellations – including academia, concerts, festivals…the entire NBA season, even. But the music world has encountered these effects at a much more rapid pace.

On March 6th, in a shot heard ’round the world, the city of Austin, Texas, pulled the trigger on cancelling SXSW. Known more fondly on the street as “South By,” the mega festival/conference is a living, breathing point of convergence among film, music, tech, and interactive media, bringing together more than 400,000 attendees and over 2,000 acts spanning the globe. It’s a smorgasbord of art, culture, indie music, film, and ideas – and the damn thing generates over $350 million in roughly a week. The cancellation, a first in the notorious event’s 34 years, represents more than just a missed opportunity to knock back one too many PBRs while jamming to an exclusive Pom Poko set. It exists as an allegory for the financial ripple effect that artists are immediately feeling in the wake of social and economic chaos.

At this point, the numbers of cancelled shows and postponed tours are too large to gather, but if there’s one undeniable takeaway, it’s that this hurts. In the era of free streaming, leaks (read: hackers), and the availability of just about anything via smartphone at our fingertips, the whole “musician as a full-time job” thing is no cakewalk—nor is it much of a money tree for most. That’s why your favorite acts are always all, “Link in bio,” “Buy some merch,” “Get to the gig!” Promo is dough, yo.

Image via music think tank/Jonathan Ostrow

In all seriousness, with no clear end to the corona-madness in sight and more cancellations rolling in by the day, it’s evident that festival and spring touring season are not going to be the midriff-bearing, sunny dreamscapes we had anticipated. Nevertheless, in the recent words of a quarantined Tom Hanks, “There’s no crying in baseball.” That’s right. Now isn’t the time to pity our missed experiences – it’s time to step up and show support in alternative ways to our favorite bands and artists. Cop some merch. Order the limited-edition vinyl. Buy the entire record on Bandcamp. Share their pages on your social media. Venmo where venmo is due (sorry Cash App, shameless personal plug). Also, consider making direct donations to independent labels and venues – they, too, are feeling the heavy weight of this. Seriously, be there for these folks. After all, the sounds they create and share with the world are what get us through difficult times like these.

Once the dust settles and we (hopefully) return to whatever pre-pandemic version of normalcy that existed, it’ll be your continued support that allows artists and venues to reschedule and keep the groove alive.

For more information on how to support artists, view live-streaming events, and stay updated on further cancellations, visit the Virtual Music Events Directory, compiled by Cherie Hu. The featured photo at the top was shot by Tye Truitt via SXSW.


As an added aside, recently featured artists: Shormey, Alfred., LOVELORN, LEYA, and Suburban Living‘s tours have been cut short. In good nature of the article above, directly purchasing any content/items from the artists/bands would be a great way of showing some support.

Unfamiliar with any of these artists? Take some time to get familiar below:

Shormey and Alfred. Announce Spring Tour, SXSW Appearances

Lovelorn Returns With New Sounds, New Tour

LEYA Sheds Light on a Sort of Beauty

Discovering How To Be Human With Suburban Living

Killing Ideas & Wielding Synths with Xeno & Oaklander

Sometimes it’s just better to do things the old fashion way, and that’s what Liz Wendelbo and Sean McBride are all about. As a duo they’re Xeno & Oaklander, touring the world and twirling thousands of knobs along the way. Haunting yet poppy, brooding yet bright, their synth-heavy electronic music goes back to (not so) basics and eliminates any laptops.

Witness their vintage, analog setup in all it’s tangle wired glory tomorrow night at Charlie’s American Cafe. A super-stacked lineup celebrates the debut release from Good Glass Records. The mind behind it all, Andrew Horton (playing his own synthy songs tomorrow as Young Hierophant) was kind enough to send the band a few questions. He gained insight on their new album ‘Hypnos,’ Greek mythology, and eau de toilette inspired by the purest electronica.

 

Many of our readers aren’t necessarily up on the vagaries of music production. Would you kindly describe to the non-anorak spectator how X&O’s approach is different than using a laptop for making electronic music? 

Liz Wendelbo: Think of the immediacy and raw power of an electric guitar – that’s the analog sound, it’s electric and it’s dynamic.

Sean McBride: The difference is akin to playing Grand Turismo on one’s video game console  and actually driving a 60s Aston Martin or Mustang.

On your new album ‘Hypnos,’ one of the first things that jumped out at me was the polyphony – string machines, etc. after years of extremely minimal arrangements. But they don’t overwhelm the skeletal arrangements. How do you balance polyphonic chords with such minimal counterpoint?

SM: Much of the song writing begins sketching out the character and arrangements on the piano. and then it is simply the task of building the scaffolding of the songs with Monophonic bass and arpeggiations.  The chords or polyphonic voicing, at this point, fall perfectly into place.

Speaking of the new record – many of the tiles and lyrics seem rooted in greek mythology, and I’m immediately reminded of your first album as a duo, ‘Sentinelle’ – with the acropolis or Parthenon on the cover. What do the Greek myths mean to you? How do they resonate, thematically, with X&O? 

LW: Greek mythology is fascinating because it speaks the language of our dreams: Hypnos is the god of sleep and the underworld is his universe, a cave-like space. We’ve always loved how imaginative and free Greek mythology is. The mind wanders and you can just create your own stories. We love architecture. The Parthenon is a wondrous edifice – an ancient temple that sits atop a rock in the center of the city of Athens in Greece,  called the Acropolis.

Perfumes are like music, scents are layered like a song.

– Liz Wendelbo

The album cover, which you designed, has an almost lenticular effect. Would you kindly talk about how it came about?

LW: I’ve always been into 3-D and creating that effect in simple ways. For the album artwork for ‘Hypnos’ I used several plastic sheets that I printed stripes on. Think of silk-screen printing techniques, or even analog photography, in the days when people used to project slides. I then super-imposed the printed transparent sheets on top of each other and that created a Moiré pattern. It’s an optical illusion that the surrealists were really into, Salvador Dali loved that effect. It tricks the eye into seeing movement or a pattern. Also the pattern reminds me of the Aegean sea in Greece, that blue. 

What are you reading lately? Do you read on the road?

LW: We like to listen to books on tape while we drive, right now we’re listening to free Yale University lectures on Youtube by Paul Freedman on the Middle Ages, about the fall of Rome – it’s an interesting contrast to the wide open horizon lines and bright blue skies that we see as we drive on our tour of North America.

In addition to all of your other projects – music, film, print, fashion, etc. – you’ve released several scents in the ‘Eau de Xeno’ line. What are your favorite – or least favorite but memorable – scents that you associate with music? What are your favorite base notes and top notes? What interests your nose?

LW: The first one is always the best! Jasmin, Eucalyptus and black pepper. Perfumes are like music, scents are layered like a song. Scents tend to sing best when fragrances keep each other company, so in Eau De Xeno a flower such as a Jasmin flower ascends out of the bottle thanks to the uplifting nature of Eucalyptus and sustains its note thanks to the aggressive quality of black pepper.

What’s your favorite Chris Marker project? What about Agnes Varda? Favorite Scott Walker song?

LW: I like Agnes Varda’s vagrant stories such as ‘Sans Toit Ni Loi’ or ‘The Gleaners and I’ somehow I can identify,  tour life sometimes resembles that vagabond feeling. 

What’s the largest thing you’ve ever killed? Was it on purpose or an accident? [credit to BabySue for this question – I always loved when they’d ask it]

LW: Killing an idea is the closest we’ve come to that.

Maker Extraordinaire Kelsie McNair’s Next Excursion

 What once hung off the nails
What once hung off the nails

by Shannon Jay

When I met Kelsie McNair up at her studio on Fawn Street, it looked like a gentle tornado had blown through. Walls were scattered with vacant nail holes, beautiful stained glass instead stacked on the ground. Old photos flung array, including a wallet-sized portrait of her mother sporting a jeweled choker and sassy red boa. Her table was afflux of boxes and those signature floral phone cases.

After closing her successful vintage shop, With Lavender and Lace, the cases became Kelsie’s main focus. Now, she’s finished up the last of her final batch. “I have to be out of here by Friday,” she said while carefully layering the gel over dried flowers in intricate rows. It was the first of a major to-do list that includes packing, photoshoots, and a show at Toast tomorrow with her project, Pyrrhic Whim. “Social time is over, that’s it,” she said “I’m done with that,” thus the show will serve as her farewell party before she moves to New York. There was no wine opener, so we relocated to her kitsch apartment filled with mismatch rugs and modern furniture that had a very high tech one.

“I’m doing so much sniffing” Kelsie said while putting away a mountain of laundry, deciphering what was clean or dirty. Seemingly no matching socks to her name, she exclaimed “my life is a nightmare.”

 Where Kelsie's head is at
Where Kelsie’s head is at

We try to figure out which meme Kelsie is at the present moment; I suggest she’s the woman with math swirling around her heard, just trying to figure it out. Kelsie suggests it’s the comic of a dog uttering “this is fine” while sitting in a burning house. “That’s where I’m at,” she said “it’s a good fire I guess, just a lot of change really quickly, but I’m really excited.”

She’d planned to go to the Big Apple months ago, but with a new gig at Renegade Craft, her vision has shifted. “It is very much in a different direction than all the plans I was planning on.” Previously with no full-time job ahead, her big move framed around teaching at Urban Glass. “I have 3 weekend workshops,” she said, “One of my favorite parts about my life is working with this school, and that they respect me and want me to teach there.”

First though, she must squeeze in a pitstop to San Francisco for work. “There’s a lot of moving parts that are visual and a lot of editorial stuff,” she said of her position as the traveling market’s Social Media Content Manager. McNair’s snippy copywriting and aesthetic posts cultivate “little experiences that people are experiencing,” a skilled gained by garnering her own following and proving she could curate a brand by building herself up over years. 

“It was easier back then,” she said of starting up over 5 years ago, when the internet was less saturated and more blog-centric. Still, getting over 15,000 followers and plenty of sales means working “really hard at all this stuff I made up here,” she said, “I taught myself how to do a very specific position.” It’s the first time she’s been employed by someone other than herself in about 10 years, previously working at an ice cream shop, then a thrift store. “That’s my life — ice cream an old clothes,” she said, “nothing has changed, they’re still both weekly things.”

Her NYC digs are a reflection of her social media savvy — she’s shacking up in a beautiful house in the Bronx with a couple she met on Instagram years ago. When they were opening up Mottley Kitchen in 2016, Kelsie offered to help in the kitchen, and they’ve been friends since.

 Where to say farewell to Kelsie
Where to say farewell to Kelsie

“I literally look like a giant penis,” Kelsie said after putting on a beanie found in the pile, “this hat is over”

Busy with her social media content manager job, she wants to focus less on writing music, and shift her genre focus. Lyrics are her “love language,” music her mode of communication for complicated feelings, but crafting songs can be emotionally draining. “I love writing music, I just don’t have the energy to always be writing music like that,” she said, “and I don’t really write any other kind.” Pyrrhic Whim is dreamy and dramatic, with beats and drones that are dazing. After listening to a lot of alternative R&B, she wants to strip the bells and whistles of her performance and have fun as a jazz singer.

“Playing someone else’s soulful stuff would be a wonderful space to be in; it’s so sensual and old, I want to be apart of it,” she said, “Just a dark, shadowy room where music fills the whole space, and it’s my job to be another instrument instead of all these trends and sounds.”

Her hopes for the city are new experiences, lacking here but plentiful in her new home. “When i have a good day in New York, it’s never like ‘oh, that was fun’ it’s like ‘shit, I’m gonna remember that experience for the rest of my life.” In the opposite direction, this extreme is equally strong. “New York bites you sometimes, it gets rough,” she said, “Men on the street are rude and aggressive and awful, everything is super expensive, there’s so many things, overstimulating in every way, no one cares about you — it’s the loneliest place there is.”

Lying within this premise is her greatest fear — unhappiness “The worst part about leaving [Norfolk] is there are so many awesome people here, they are the best people, and it takes a long time to find friends when you get older, it’s just harder,” she said, “these are the ones i’m gonna have forever. There’s a couple more spaces in me for that, but it’s starting to close up.”

Nonsense will not be brought to New York for the sake of friends. “I have to be my most genuine self so I don’t have to act like someone else when they do let me in,” she said, “if you’re letting me in, you know who I am so I don’t have to work any harder”

“I think back on myself even a year ago, and I keep getting better but I’m still so dumb, I can’t wait to look back and see all the things i’m making bad decision about right now – I’ll be so wise, but I still won’t be there; none of us ripen all the way.”

Maybe, I offer, we are all avocados that are too hard to eat once opened, stuck in the fridge only to be browned a few days later, but never soft. Kelsie might not be totally happy in New York, but she certainly isn’t here and none of us ever are all the way. “If you’re 100%,” Kelsie responded, “you’re more than likely in a manic episode.”

“I’m overprotective of myself,” Kelsie said, only to ensure she’ll be taken as she is or not at all. “That comes with growing up, that’s the best.”

 Why Kelsie's voice rose two times that day
Why Kelsie’s voice rose two times that day

When snorting like children, our laughs high pitched after sucking helium from leftover birthday balloons floating about, I didn’t feel so grown up. Sprawled on a newfound friend’s bed, feet kicked up, flipping through magazines and chatting about hopes & dreams, I felt like a teenager. With a hole closing up inside her, reserving space for a new place, I felt fortunate to catch a genuine glimpse of Kelsie.

She took a puff of the ballon and contemplated. “It’s not because we’re not good,” she squeaked, “it’s just because there’s so many people, I have to do so much to matter so little.” Her voice and mindset were heightened, possibly just a trait of the always overthinking Pisces. 

Like a high school girl, I read Kelsie her horoscope. We’d classed and sassed up from Seventeen, with problematic glossy pages replaces with empowering matte media. Alongside thick art publications and makers magazines, featuring inspirational artists like Sarah Perez, was Broccoli. Reflective of her latest endeavor, Smirk Supply, the cannabis-friendly magazine is smart but fun, mature but creative.

“Say a prayer to the weed fairy that you’ll be supported in your wildest dreams, and take a puff.” I read aloud dramatically, “You set the tone this season through the faith you show in yourself. If you are clouded by vibrations of doubt, question them. You are a sensitive soul, so use cannabis to tune into your own energy, not the emotions of the people around you.”

“Yeah,” possibly after not totally staying still for several days, she paused and pondered, eventually smirking. “Wow.”