'I'm sharing a bed with the bass player': bands trapped in lockdown together

From a six-strong indie household in Glasgow to a trans DJ thruple in a remote log cabin, we meet the bands weathering the pandemic with each other

Sports Team

The London indie-pop band were recording at a studio in Devon when lockdown began

Al Greenwood (drummer): Our debut album should have been out last Friday, but when we realised we had to push everything back, we decided to go to a studio in Devon and start writing again. We were there for 10 days before lockdown and then had to make a tough decision: prioritise the band or be with our loved ones. Ultimately, we agreed on being in the studio indefinitely. I think the situation brought out a new side in us. There’s a tendency for everyone to be constantly joking, but it forced us to be more considerate and open. But then we were told we had to leave. Now, there’s complete uncertainty and we’re all in different parts of the country, trying to make a music video.

I don’t know how we’ll manage being in different places. Some vinyl records need to be signed by all six of us. The sheer logistics of trying to organise that … Our fanbase is super-engaged, so we’re trying to find means of maintaining that connection that isn’t, like, “Oh, we’re on Instagram Live again today.” We have a WhatsApp group where fans can share stories – stuff like that spurs you on.

Joe Armon-Jones (left) with Maxwell Owin.
Joe Armon-Jones (left) with Maxwell Owin. Photograph: Publicity image

Joe Armon-Jones

The jazz keyboardist lives in London with the producer Maxwell Owin

Maxwell and I have been trying to make some music together for ages. We rarely have a week where we’re both at home, so now it’s easy. I’ve seen a lot of people posting about the pressure to be creative, but that pressure is always there. People just distract themselves by doing things like gigs and touring.

We’ve been working with beats rather than live drums. I wouldn’t be able to record an album like [Jones’s 2018 release] Starting Today because that requires me to be in a room with a lot of musicians, playing together. That can’t really happen at the moment, and that upsets me. It’s going to be interesting to see how lockdown affects UK jazz. A lot of music is created for dancefloors – that music is going to change probably. If the lockdown goes on long enough, music will naturally adapt to the setting that people are in. I’m not sure that all of the musical scenes will make it through this time.

Eris Drew and Octo Octa.
Eris Drew (left) and Octo Octa. Photograph: Publicity image

Octo Octa and Eris Drew

The DJs and producers live in rural New Hampshire with their partner, Brooke

Drew: We’re in a log cabin, surrounded by trees and a river. It’s beautiful. We’re all trans here and we’re in a relationship: me, Maya and our partner, Brooke, so we look after each other. I’m the most scared for my friends who are alone. When I first came out and I was trying to be a woman and exist in public spaces, the only places I got validation for who I was, at first, were within the very small dance music community. So if the only people who use correct pronouns and see your struggle in this world are the people that you’re connected to through music and then you’re isolated, no one is creating that support system around you for who you are. It can get dark.

That’s one of the reasons we’ve been doing livestreams from our backyard. We’re trying to do one thing a week to give people some access to music and community. We’ve done DJing guides, and we want to start a conference to discuss them. Maya and I have been joking about starting a synth-pop band. But we do so much together, it’s important to go it alone sometimes.

Octo Octa (Maya Bouldry-Morrison): It’s hard to say that isolating is nice, but I am happy to be here. We work as a unit pretty often. When Eris and I are on the road, we’re attached at the hip. There is a lot of melding of personalities and becoming one person, in a certain sense, when you’re having to travel together, play together, and that somewhat carries over to home. But we have two different studios in the house, so we work on music separately, and then Brooke does visual art.

When we first came home from tour, I got a bunch of stuff done really quickly. I put out a mixtape; I put some finishing touches on an EP. And then my motivation kind of started dipping. I’m staying positive by doing all the things I’ve been waiting to do around the house – I get to throw away old roofing tiles that have been sitting in the basement since 1989. Quarantine is not for ever. It eventually ends, and then new things will come.

Walt Disco.
Walt Disco. Photograph: Publicity image

Walt Disco

Four members of the Glasgow-based glam-pop band share a flat

Dave (synths): There’s six of us in one flat: me, James, Finlay and Charlie from Walt Disco; Ali plays drums for Lucy and the Best Boys and Anna is the singer of Medicine Cabinet. My bedroom has turned into the performance space and the four of us are in it all day. We all gave up on having personal space a long time ago. We actually filmed a music video for our next single, Cut Your Hair, in the flat on our iPhones. It feels like the best thing to be putting out now.

James (frontman): I share a bed with our bass player, Finlay. Charlie, the guitarist, sleeps on the couch. The only problem is in the morning when everyone wants to shower. People in bands are suited to being in isolation because they spend days in cramped spaces without doing much exercise. We’re lucky, because we were meant to be writing a debut album anyway, and being stuck in quarantine with your band means that you don’t have any other option but to do it. We weren’t in the best financial position, so we applied for the Help Musicians’ Coronavirus Hardship Fund, and that’s been a massive help. We got really drunk and made a trap song one night with the other two housemates – but we haven’t formed a supergroup yet.

Fulu Muziki.
Fulu Muziki. Photograph: Publicity image

Fulu Muziki

The band from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who make music using discarded junk, are stranded in Uganda

Pisko Crane (bandleader): We’ve been stuck at our label Nyege Nyege Tapes’ studio in Kampala, Uganda, away from our home in Kinshasa. We were supposed to be here for three months to record our album, but then the country shut the airports. It’s difficult to be away from our families but we’re used to working under tough conditions. Music is really helping us in confinement.

Our band name means “trash music” in Lingala. We’re used to going and looking for new materials to make instruments and getting inspiration from the environment. But we have made a song for coronavirus and also we’re making costumes and masks to ward off the virus. Even in the time of corona, music has an important role to play.

Amyl and the Sniffers.
Amyl and the Sniffers. Photograph: Publicity image

Amyl & the Sniffers

Australia’s pub-rock punks live together in Melbourne

Amy Taylor (singer): There’s four of us in a three-bedroom house and Declan, the guitarist, sleeps in the shed. It’s just like being on tour, except we’re not playing any gigs. Today, I did a two-hour walk, a half-hour boxing class on YouTube, half an hour of yoga, and another half-hour walk. I haven’t felt like doing much music stuff – everything was cancelled, so it’s kind of devastating. But because I’m always working, it’s been nice to step back.

I’ve been reading Patti Smith lyrics books and getting some inspiration from places that I wouldn’t usually look. Before this, I hadn’t read a book since Captain Underpants. I feel like every band’s gonna make an album about being stuck inside, and I don’t really want that. But the lockdown probably will change us a little bit. I know the boys have been twiddling on guitar during the day, so they’re probably going to get better at their instruments. I don’t think we would write a Covid-19 song, but you never know.


Kate Hutchinson

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Tunisian techno, Xitsongan rap and Satanic doo-wop: the best new music of 2019
From cheeky rappers to explosive hardcore punks, we introduce 50 artists sure to make an impact in the coming year

Ben Beaumont-Thomas, Laura Snapes and Ammar Kalia

28, Dec, 2018 @10:00 AM

Article image
The 100 greatest BBC music performances – ranked!
As the Beeb celebrates its centenary, we take a look at its most memorable pop moments, from the birth of grime to the first sightings of Bob Dylan and Bob Marley, plus TOTP goes Madchester and countless classic Peel sessions

Guardian music

06, Oct, 2022 @12:12 PM

Article image
Irish drill, jazz violin and supermarket musicals: 30 new artists for 2021
From the ferocious hardcore punk of Nicolas Cage Fighter to the ultra-meditative ambient of KMRU, discover new music from right across the pop spectrum

Ben Beaumont-Thomas and Laura Snapes

01, Jan, 2021 @6:00 AM

Article image
Sports Team: the indie stars romanticising middle England
The Cambridge graduates have found success with prosaic songs about phones, pubs and motorways, but that doesn’t stop them being rude about their rivals

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

27, Dec, 2019 @6:00 AM

Article image
‘A summer of love!’ Musicians on the awesome, tearful return of gigs
From Sleaford Mods in London to Mogwai in France, bands and performers talk about the strange and wonderful experience of returning to the stage after 16 months of deprivation

As told to Michael Hann

02, Sep, 2021 @2:00 PM

Article image
The 50 best albums of 2019: the full list
Our pick of the year’s finest albums brings American dreaming, teenage dynamism, heartbreak, barbed rap, impetuous indie and beautiful soundscapes

20, Dec, 2019 @9:41 AM

Article image
The 50 best albums of 2021
And finally – a deserving winner, whose second solo album is a truly relatable, pin-sharp pop classic. We reveal our No 1 album of 2021

Ben Beaumont-Thomas and Laura Snapes

17, Dec, 2021 @6:52 AM

Article image
Why Radiohead are the Blackest white band of our times
Radiohead released Kid A 20 years ago today. It pointed a new direction for rock music – and mirrored radical Black art by imagining new spaces to live in amid a hostile world

Daphne A Brooks

02, Oct, 2020 @9:00 AM

Article image
Belle and Sebastian's lockdown listening: 'I have a dance-off with my kids every night'
Stuart Murdoch from the Scottish indie favourites rediscovers his once-illicit love of Joni Mitchell, and celebrates the passion of Malcolm McLaren

Interview by Dave Simpson

01, May, 2020 @6:00 AM

Article image
IAMDDB's fantasy festival: 'Rihanna's got to be there – she's a buff ting!'
The Manchester rapper imagines 48 hours in Ibiza surrounded by Black Coffee, Megan Thee Stallion and her own octopus recipe

Interview by Timi Sotire

31, Jul, 2020 @9:00 AM