Band Together – York musicians under Lockdown

“What better than music to distract us in these strange and complicated times?”

Bastille’s Dan Smith is not alone in this sentiment. Over the last month, we’ve seen artists take to live streams across the world. Together at Home, Distraction Tactics, Royal Albert Home – everyone from Radiohead to Bruce Springsteen have been on screens in an attempt to fill the void created by the impossibility of live shows. Barriers have been broken down as they come face to face with audience comments and communicate with fans as to how their role as performers can be best used to alleviate the claustrophobic tension of this lockdown.

But while these international names can afford to lose out on promotional tours and are greeted by worldwide crowds each time they step online, for our less established performers we see the effect of this instability as they are forced to find alternative routes.

BandSoc, when contacted for comment, described this mood eloquently, showing how they have adapted to survive under unique pressures.

“Since the lockdown has suddenly halted a lot of our plans for a busy term which included some big audiences in the annual UoY Summer Ball and live events in town, a lot of members and student musicians have felt a bit lost and disappointed.

However, I’ve seen that some have taken advantage of social media and extra time to write or record, also with many doing live shows on Instagram or Facebook!

We’ve helped promote all of those we can within BandSoc, and considering the severity and speed this situation has had on everyone, it’s refreshing to see the number of creatives doing increasing amounts online and I’m proud of their drive to still do so.”

Tom Gulliver, Chair of BandSoc

I am ashamed to say that I had very little knowledge of York’s music scene before this time – apart from brief mentions eavesdropping in cooler course mates’ conversations I might have only been aware from stumbling through their feedback on the road past the Fulford arms.

However, with a frankly haunting acoustic cover of Kokomo from Trueman’s live stream, and the launch of Poundlad front man Alex Thompson’s 33RPM, I’ve found myself being sucked into a world of incredible talent – Everything After Midnight, Hollywood (UK), Cider in a Wine Glass. All groups making an amazing effort to bring their talent out from the their lockdown incarceration.

So I set about to see how these groups had fared under “these strange and complicated times” – how they have adapted, survived and soared above all expectations.

Everything After Midnight entered the lockdown on a high – having won BandSoc’s Battle of the Bands, and, recently releasing their debut single ‘Again’, they were preparing to set off on their first tour. We caught up with them as they faced putting an indefinite pause on this rapid advance through York’s music scene.

How do you feel that not being able to go on tour has affected being able to promote your band? Are you intending to postpone it until restrictions lift?

Obviously, this is the main way that we have been affected as a band. We had put a lot of time and effort into sorting something that we thought would be properly special. We had a brilliant set of support bands lined up, a set list that we had rehearsed to death and lots of new surprises that we wanted to bring to our fans. It would’ve been massive for promoting the band, and would’ve hopefully meant that we could reinvest some money into future endeavours! At the moment, we are trying to consider alternative ideas surrounding the tour as the premise was to promote upcoming releases, one of which has similarly been postponed. We want to stress that we are going to do the tour dates, we may just have to adapt the message of the tour.

Before the lockdown, you were playing packed out gigs and had won Battle of the Bands. Do you feel you have lost this momentum? How have you dealt with moving your brand on to social media and releasing tracks / covers without being able to promote them live?

I think we are all just grateful for the overwhelmingly positive experience that the last few months were for us! The final week before the lockdown saw us play two of our favourite gigs so far as a band. It also meant that we were able to give our debut single ‘Again’ all of the credit it deserved, playing it live for an audience on its release date. I think between that gig, the single release and the win at the Battle of The Bands we have just been encouraged to do more and look forward to what comes when everything is back to (some form of) normal. The plans which we had for the next few months, both within and outside of the university would’ve really elevated us to one of the new and promising bands to come out of York. This included the Uni of York Summer Ball, our headline tour and some big support slots. I don’t think that the band has lost any momentum, we are very proud of everything we have done to date and are looking forward to what’s to come, but we have been dealt a blow to the band because of the lockdown.

We’d like to think that we have a fairly prominent social media presence, keeping our fans up to date with what we are doing. Needless to say, this is a very challenging period for all bands, and something that each one has got to adjust to in their own way. It seems though that the novelty factor for bands has now worn off and simply a little Instagram Live video isn’t going to cut it for most people sat at home. We’ve spent the last few weeks trying to work out how we can keep things interesting for the people who have been to see our recent gigs and make it interesting for those who don’t know as much about us. We definitely have lots to come and we are excited by the new ideas that have already come out of the lockdown period.

We see ourselves as predominantly a live band, we really enjoy putting on a show for the people who come to see us and not being able to do this has sent us all a bit stir-crazy. It’s frustrating because for the first time as a band, we’re not getting the chance to ‘road-test’ songs and see what people think of them before recording them in some way. We bounce off each other (and the crowd) really well when we play, so the separation was initially quite difficult (especially now that we are scattered all over the country), we’re just getting used to how we can move forward with it now. Ultimately though, it gives us more time to write our original music, which is what we enjoy doing, and what we enjoy playing live.

Do you feel like you are more or less connected with your audience having moved onto social media?

We definitely feel like we have taken a hit in this respect, though social media is great for engaging with fans of your music, it does feel somewhat impersonal. Still though, we are using this as an opportunity to get as many people to hear our music as possible. In addition to this, in recent weeks the solidarity and unity shown between bands (particularly those in the York area) has been fantastic. The music scene in York is something that we are indeed proud to be a part of. We look forward to not only playing our own gigs when we get back but going to support all of the  bands from the city that we have got to know in the past year as a band.

Everything After Midnight

Cider in a Wineglass have similarly suffered under the unwashed hands of COVID-19. Unable to release their new single ‘Cessation’ live or collate their material in person, the band have taken alternative measures both in creating and sharing their music.

It’s a massive bummer launching a song in quarantine (we also actually released our latest song instead of a couple of gigs we were meant to be doing) – we released the single ‘Cessation’ on 9 April at midnight with a Facebook event for a single launch party then to get people listening straight away, and we’ve been really happy with the response so far- as a band we’re trying to adapt to conditions and listening habits, so there’ll be plenty more videos and content on the Cider in a Wine Glass channel, as well as more solo projects within the band.

We just launched the ‘Last Orders’ umbrella for solo/more miscellaneous output within the band and for musicians outside it, a bit like Apple studios for the Beatles. It’s way harder for bands but I think for solo artists the quarantine period could be great. 

I think our audience is kinda limited to friends/family and social media following/networking at the moment as it’s more online, as we can’t build an audience through gigs as much but we’re still plugging our music hard; hopefully we’ll get the occasional follower via Spotify/algorithm streaming as well- yeah as for the Last Orders programme it’s so young it’s hard to tell (we launched it via Instagram [on April 16]) but we anticipate it to hopefully be more of a success, with a wide range of artists – we’re gonna be dropping one piece of a music every Thursday, with hopefully a YouTube account to come very soon, so we hope it can be successful!

Ben Ffrench, Cider in a Wineglass Lead Singer

First year singer-songwriter Hollywood (UK) has taken the situation further – alongside the continued production of her new album and an increased online presence, with her new upcoming single ‘Reiterate’ she has asked her followers to contribute personal messages to loved ones from this Lockdown period to weave into her music video.

In the music video for your upcoming single, ‘Reiterate’, you say that you want to spread the message of ‘showing someone close to you how much you love and value them’. How do you think music can be the vessel for carrying these messages in this time?

I’ve always thought that music was a very powerful medium in the way that it is able to connect with people. I think music is universally loved by people, but listening can also be a personal experience because we connect our own stories to the work of others. With everything that is happening right now, I think it’s more important than ever to show the people in our lives that we love them and to share those personal stories. I feel that everyone who listens to ‘Reiterate’ will end up having a certain person in mind that they associate the song with, and I hope that the music video will be able to share those personal connections. For me, music has done so much in terms of helping me emotionally and allowing me to identify myself with others, and I’m hoping that my music will do the same for those who choose to listen.

You also call for volunteers to send in a clip sending a message to someone important in their life. How do you think music has become more inclusive during this pandemic, do you think barriers have been broken down between musician and audience, and what do you think the value of this is?

I think it’s really important for musicians to connect with those who listen because it gives us an idea as to who our audience are and what they are feeling about the content we release, and I think that this pandemic has given more musicians a push to make more direct contact with their listeners. I definitely think that a barrier has been broken, because we are all starting to speak more as real people rather than as “musician” and “audience”. The divide is becoming lessened in my opinion. With ‘Reiterate’, the original concept came about when a girl I was dating at the time told me she was struggling with her mental health, so I wrote the song to encourage her that she was valued whether she believed it or not. I feel that in this time there will be more people feeling vulnerable in the same way she did, so I wanted to be more inclusive to extend my personal meaning to the song further. It’s important to have inclusivity because we are all human and we need to look after each other, and I hope that music will be a way to achieve that.

Hollywood (UK)

York musicians have faced challenges that are in some ways insurmountable – their main source of performance has been completely cut off and it is now impossible for bands to meet without breaking the nation’s strict lockdown.

But they have done brilliantly. In the last few weeks everyone has put up walls to protect themselves, but their talent has managed to seep through and reach out to our homes. Hollywood (UK) is the perfect example of this. As she said, music does indeed have the power to connect people, and her new music video is a symbol for this.

Each of us thinks of someone as we listen to music. It opens a door to a kaleidoscope of emotion, and brings us into contact with friends and loved ones while we may sit hundreds of miles apart.

These bands may not be able to physically tour or connect with their audiences, but through their new releases and increased efforts on social media, they open these doors and shine the light at the end of the tunnel into our homes.

Everything After Midnight and Cider in a Wine Glass have their brilliant new singles ‘Again’ and ‘Cessation’ out now. Hollywood (UK) will release her single ‘Reiterate’ alongside the music video on Friday 24th April.

Featured image curtesy of Hollywood (UK)