Five Melbourne musicians tell us how their careers have been impacted by Victoria’s shutdown

Five Melbourne musicians tell us how their careers have been impacted by Victoria’s shutdown

Although much of the country has seen some kind of return to normality in the past month or so, the same can’t be said for many Melburnians, where an immense second wave of COVID-19 cases has resulted in a stage four lockdown – essentially shutting down the entire metropolitan area to save lives and stop community transmission of the virus. 

 

With so much uncertainty within the music industry and an overwhelming sense of dread among many artists living in what’s typically considered the heart of Australia’s music scene, we reached out to five local artists in very different stages of their careers to find out how Melbourne’s latest round of restrictions had impacted their lives as musicians. 

Tom Dowling (RAT!Hammock)

Known for their ridiculously fun live shows and upbeat sense of humour, RAT!Hammock’s brand of lo-fi rock has seen them become mainstays on Melbourne’s gigging circuit. They released their killer new single ‘Word Of The Day’ last month, which was recorded during Melbourne’s first lockdown and features a music video filmed by each member in isolation.

 

 

 

How has the onset of Stage Four restrictions impacted your musical plans? 

I think, like a lot of other people, we saw the writing on the wall that things were going to get worse before they got better, and we were lucky enough to already be adapting to the idea we wouldn’t be able to see each other or rehearse and record anytime soon. 

 

Have you been able to change/adapt things at all?

We’ve definitely had to make some compromises and change the way we approach creating music and content; our last music video was filmed individually in our seperate houses during the first lockdown. A few of us also shared a studio, and not being able to fully utilise that has been a bit of a bummer, but we’ve pivoted to creating, playing and in some cases recording in our thrown-together home studios.

 

I guess one of the biggest hits to us is knowing that even the vague, far-off plans for live performance that were floated at the beginning of the restrictions are further away than we’d initially hoped, but that was always a risk. 

 

What have you been doing to stay inspired while in lockdown?

A lot of reading, a lot of listening to music, and a lot of playing for the sake of playing rather than to practice or write specifically, which it can normally be kind of hard to find the time for. My room’s currently overflowing with gear we took back home from the studio when we had to shut, a lot of which I haven’t looked at or used in a while. Playing with all these weird bits of equipment has been a nice way to stumble onto things I wouldn’t normally do. 

 

Do you have any tips for others to keep their creativity going?

I think having recreational activities that are a bit more removed from music can help avoid burnout when you’re not feeling as creative. I’ve been building effects pedals and exercising properly for the first time in four years. 

 

What’s your overall state of mind like as an artist in Melbourne right now?

It’s hard to say, it’s been a very, very tough time for a lot of artists, who are disproportionately employed in casual or insecure work, or work within creative industries that have been decimated by the pandemic. We’re privileged enough to still be working, but many are not, and the sad truth is that some artists are not going to be able to continue being artists in this time, and some of our favourite venues are probably going to have to shut their doors and won’t reopen, and some companies involved in the industry are going to go under. 

 

However, we’re also seeing some very hopeful things. There’s so many amazing projects that are coming out or being given more attention now that musicians are stuck at home with the time to work on them. As restrictions ease and things start to open back up, there’s going to be an explosion of really creative and interesting music, and it seems like everyone is hungrier than ever to hear it.  

 

 

Brent DeBoer (Immigrant Union, The Dandy Warhols)

As both the longtime drummer for seminal US neo-psychedelic band The Dandy Warhols and the frontman of local freak-folk outfit Immigrant Union – who recently released Judas, their first record in seven years – it’s fair to say that Brent DeBoer’s professional life is dependent on a functional music industry. Having lived in Melbourne for almost a decade, DeBoer is considered by many as a legend within the scene, and boasts quite an impressive portfolio of projects to prove it.

 

 

How has the onset of Stage Four restrictions impacted your musical plans? Have you been able to change/adapt things at all?

We had an online concert all set to pop for the night of the eighth at Cherry Bar that we were all very much looking forward to but… postponed now. Major bummer. This whole thing has devastated musicians. In the States, there are so many amazing venues closing down. Really sad. 

 

My other band The Dandy Warhols had so many great trips planned for 2020 including a bunch of gigs with various symphony orchestras around the world. We are really hoping this will all end soon and we can get back to work. A world without live music doesn’t seem like a healthy way to live. 

 

What’ve you been doing to stay inspired while in lockdown? Do you have any tips for others to keep their creativity going?

I’m up to about 13 lockdown songs. I have my drum set and a bass mic’d up on the ready and have been laying down drum and bass beats with vocals. I’m labelling them ‘Corona 1’, ‘Corona 2’, etc. My goal is to reach 19 before “they” decide this thing is over or they decide they have attained all of their goals through this crisis – once the Hegelian dialectic has run its course I suppose. 

 

What’s your overall state of mind like as an artist in Melbourne right now?

I’m trying to remain positive. I really really miss live shows. I’ve had at the very least one concert and many times 20 or 25 concerts booked every month for the last 25 years of my life, so it’s a big worry for me. I am faced with the realisation that the salad days could be long gone and a period of reinvention may lie ahead. 

 

 

Katie Wighton (KIT, All Our Exes Live In Texas)

Best known as one fourth of adored local folk outfit All Our Exes Live In Texas, Katie Wighton’s main focus for 2020 was to launch her latest musical project KIT – that is, until the pandemic came and ruined everything in real time. Her first single ‘Good Guy’ was released towards the start of the outbreak back in April, and now, she’s gearing up to share her new single ‘King Size Bed’ in what might be the bleakest time for Melbourne musicians in recent memory.

 

 

How has the onset of Stage Four restrictions impacted your musical plans? 

I’ve been trying to make a film clip for my single ‘King Size Bed’ for a good two months now… I was due to finish it before the most recent lockdown, and this new set of restrictions have pretty much put the nail on the coffin on that! I’m also trying to finish recording a couple of other singles so that’s been slowed down too now. It’s a bloody weird time to be a Melbourne musician.

 

Have you been able to change/adapt things at all?

A little bit! I’m having an ISO Pub Party for my single launch. There’s a raffle and a fun playlist full of danceable tunes so I think that will feel nice. I’m going to encourage people to order their favourite pub meal and cocktails from their local too. Hopefully we can contribute a little to the dire situation our venues/pubs are currently in. 

 

What have you been doing to stay inspired while in lockdown?​

Honestly I haven’t really been that creatively inspired at all in lockdown! Some days all I can do is lie on my bed and listen to audiobooks. Other days, I’m full of beans and have pleny of ideas for songs. However, this morning I was reading Rilke’s Letters To A Young Poet and came across this really beautiful idea. Solitude, for artists, can be one of the most powerful states to be creative in. Instead of turning away from those scary feelings of anxiety and loneliness, turning towards them and leaning in to them can be the catalyst for some pretty incredible creative ventures, I think. In fact I’d say a lot of the most incredible art has been made in those states! This is a very new idea to me which I’m going to try to embrace. Get back to me in a week…

 

Do you have any tips for others to keep their creativity going?

Don’t put pressure on yourself to be creative in your normal way. Why not do some finger-painting? Make a mug out of some clay. Bake, decorate and eat an entire cake.  There are many ways to be creative where the pressure is off and at the moment I think that’s the way forward for me!

 

What’s your overall state of mind like as an artist in Melbourne right now?

Hmm… Without meaning to be a totally negative Nancy, I am pretty bummed about the whole situation to be quite frank. Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazingly creative things coming out of this shitshow – I’m weirdly having a great time on the old socials. I am stoked that people who normally can’t get to gigs now have access to live streaming events. However, I am so disappointed that the arts industry hasn’t had more support – particularly for the people behind the scenes. I’m also pretty bloody nervous about all of our beloved Melbourne venues closing down. I want to make sure that when we are allowed to play again that there’s somewhere for us to do it! 

 

 

Benjamin Trillado

An emerging young talent with a huge voice and a heart of solid gold, Benjamin Trillado might just be Melbourne’s next biggest songwriting sensation. Following the breakout success of his debut single ‘Glue’ and its follow-up ‘First Kiss’, Trillado recently released his most potent track to date in the form of ‘Worth’: a heartfelt number that sees him grapple with notions of self-love and acceptance as a young queer artist. 

 

 

How has the onset of Stage Four restrictions impacted your musical plans? Have you been able to change/adapt things at all?

I’ve honestly chosen to halt/slow down most of my musical endeavours because we are amidst so much uncertainty. Under ideal circumstances, I’d probably be out there gigging but that’s just not possible right now. Just like many other musicians I’ve turned to live-streaming instead of a live gig setting. Unfortunately with live-streaming, it’s possible to have poor video and audio quality and audiences are less likely to pay to watch a live-stream. However, I’ve found that live-streaming with other musicians can still be a great way to stay connected and build a following. 

 

What’ve you been doing to stay inspired while in lockdown?

I’ve been learning quite a few covers and that’s helped me expand my chordal and melodic choices when writing. I’ve also been watching a lot of documentaries, films and TV shows to help ignite some song ideas. 

 

Do you have any tips for others to keep their creativity going?

If you’re feeling uninspired I suggest trying to be adventurous with the content you choose; watch a certain genre of film that you wouldn’t normally gravitate towards, or listen to an album that might have received a lot of negative critical reception. There is so much content out there to be inspired by and you’ll be surprised by some of the things you might absorb and use in your work. 

 

What’s your overall state of mind like as an artist in Melbourne right now?

It can honestly feel a bit deflating with all the uncertainty surrounding our live music scene. However, I’m aware that I’m still very lucky to be healthy and have a roof over my head. I’m also still able to put my energy into other musical things whilst staying at home, such as writing and attending online workshops. I’m staying positive because I know that we will eventually make it through this if we all do the right thing. I’m looking forward to the day we can all be together again and celebrate each others company. 

 

 

Antoine 

A relatively new name to Melbourne’s music scene, Antoine is expected to share his debut single ‘One Time’ this week. Hailing from a musical family and taking influence from RnB/hip-hop crossover sensations like Drake and PARTYNEXTDOOR, Antoine has spent years honing his craft to ensure his music is as authentic and hard-hitting as possible, and there’s every chance that ‘One Time’ could solidify him as one of the best up-and-comers of 2020 upon release – watch this space. 

 

 

 

How has the onset of Stage Four restrictions impacted your musical plans? Have you been able to change/adapt things at all? 

We try to take the positives where we can. At first we had some extra time to write and produce which was great. It’s definitely a strange feeling not knowing if you’re going to get the best out of your music given the current situation, and filming will be a challenge. But we’re all in the same boat and I think we timed things well thanks to our amazing team. We’ll continue to work hard during this time and as soon as we get the green light, we’ll take advantage of that, like getting some more filming done etc. which will probably be the biggest challenge.

 

What’ve you been doing to stay inspired while in lockdown? Do you have any tips for others to keep their creativity going? 

Stay positive. If you’re locked in a room with no windows and concrete walls, you still have the ability to create because all you really need is yourself. Use this time as the event in your life that it is and take advantage of it. Whatever you do, don’t stop for anything or anybody.

 

What’s your overall state of mind like as an artist in Melbourne right now?

It’s definitely a a little bit all over the place, but we have a strong team and support group. But at the end of the day, we love making music. We live and breathe it. I can’t picture a day where I’m not creating melodies in my head or jotting down lyrics that I’m gonna feel the need to lay down you know. That will always keep us going and keep us motivated.

 

If you’re an Australian artist and need to discuss your wellbeing or the wellbeing of a friend in the music industry, you can reach out to the Support Act Wellbeing Hotline on 1800 959 500.