“Even if the government ultimately acknowledges and acts upon its responsibilities, there will still be a time long before musicians receive their assistance...” - Helpmusicans.org
As COVID-19 news floods the screens and minds of the masses, times continue to get harder for the world. But in what way exactly is it impacting our musicians?
There are the unfortunate and obvious factors that we are witnessing all too frequently with festivals up in the air, tours being cancelled and albums being postponed. But how is this impacting our musicians underneath all the drama? How is their health and wealth being affected behind closed doors?
Clash speaks to The Blinders vocalist and guitarist, Thomas Haywood and bass player, Charlie McGough along with False Heads frontman, Luke Griffiths about the impact this has had on their mental health and future plans as a band.
"Music has constantly been linked to ‘improving the quality of life" of its consumers, but what is happening to the creatives that provide our music when their life and career has to come to a temporary stand-still?
Manchester trio, The Blinders intended to tour their new album this May however, all their shows have been postponed to September along with their album that has now been postponed to July 17th. "Releasing in May became impossible for us and we had to move it. It's a drag but we're just glad we got the whole thing finished in good time before running into problems with the mixing and mastering," states Haywood and McGough.
They also acknowledge that not many bands can afford to reschedule and rearrange studio or producing time: "That must be heartbreaking and really shit on you mojo. But the worst is obviously the financial side of things. The going is tough for everyone at the moment. Postponing the album and the tour could also prove difficult for not only the band, but the fans as well due to live music being considered the "most potent happiness trigger".
However, Haywood claims that this break is giving them some needed creative breathing space following their first record. They also reveal that they've been "swapping notes for the third record over email. It's not the best way to work but it works for now".
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But in terms of mental health impacts of COVID-19, the band are slightly worried. "It sucks. It really, really sucks that a lot of people, not just musicians, face being stuck inside their heads with themselves for a long period of time, worrying about the future," McGough begins. "It's frightening. I try to maintain a certain understanding with myself. Put things into perspective but sometimes even that gets difficult. Hang in there until we get through the other side".
East London rockers False Heads also fell victim to COVID-19 with the cancellation of SXSW this year. Vocalist and guitarist Luke Griffiths explains that although they received flight credit, the band members are now either on the dole, out of work, or waiting upon 80% of their wages.
However, the consequences of the cancellation goes further than the finances Griffiths explains, “My mental health hasn’t been great, but I mean, it never is- it’s a smoothie of everything but serotonin it seems…”
As part of False Head’s SXSW plans, it included them playing in NYC on the release date of the album. “Well, we’re in debt but a whole part of our campaign was going to the States….” Griffiths begins. “…It’s all fucked.”
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In terms of music survival, he believes this will be a chance for richer bands to survive whilst the less financially stable may have to call it a day. “For the remaining artists from normal or humble backgrounds I think it could kill us all off but for a lot of bands coming through I think they'll survive because of their parents”.
“People's mental health will most likely be absolutely awful. My depression, anxiety and insomnia have been taking turns to make this situation as shit as possible for me, but they always have to be honest. It's going to be bleak and there's not much point pretending it isn't. I don't have the answers.”
Griffiths, amongst others, feels the Government could be doing more for musicians throughout this time,“ I think the self-employed package will help but outside of that I don't really know... I do think the government should try and do more for musicians but I don't know what. PRS have issued a grant for you can apply for if that helps anyone”.
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Alternatively, The Blinders are trying to pause their views on the Government approach until this has all come to an end. Haywood and McGough state they are "trying really hard to not politicise the matter. Definitely think it will change the way the general public look at things. You'd hope it would have given the government some sort of priority check as well.... definitely a conversation to have after all of this has blown over."
Whilst it’s easy to fall victim to the stay-in-your-pants, watch-TV-all-day mode that is quite possibly the only perk of this pandemic, it's seems that musicians' approach is all the same. That is to stay active. Griffiths is utilising his time in getting cracking with the second album just a month after the release of the debut.
“I've got the basis of about five songs. So, I'm kinda doing okay on that front but that is the artists curse sometimes you do thrive in bleaker conditions, which sometimes creates the best art”.
Similarly, The Blinders have a "few bits stuffed up our sleeve. We're just trying to get them right, but we are working on something" as well as doing monthly blog posts on their website about the upcoming record and answering fan questions.
Haywood states: "People just want to be reminded that they're not alone. It makes you wonder how different things would be if communicating through the internet wasn't a thing. Music is a part of a lot of people's lives, me included. It's normal. So for times like these it's important to get a fix of normality. No matter how much you have to crowbar it in sometimes."
In times like this, it's important to look out for each other and remain indoors. Thankfully, bands are keeping active on social platforms and doing their best to live stream, create playlists and remain social for our entertainment (as well as their sanity). As Haywood mentioned before, "it's important to get a fix of normality."
One thing we must vow to do when all of this is over is we must buy the postponed records, we must attend the postponed gigs and we must continue to support bands everywhere as bouncing back after impacts of COVID-19 will prove a tough financial and mental challenge for musicians everywhere.
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Advice for musicians and financial help can be found HERE
Words: Jasmine Hodge
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