Published on March 25th, 2020 | by Brian Coney0
A Problem Shared: How The Irish Music Community is Navigating Self-Isolation
A wise man once said, “The country’s cowped”. And you know what? He wasn’t wrong. But in strange, unprecedented times – in totally unchartered territory such as this – it doesn’t take long for the best of us to come together. Even now, as we’re all adapting to being cooped up in our own liminal little worlds, a sense of solidarity in numbers grows stronger by the day.
For many of us self-isolating like it’s nobody’s business, the last week-and-a-bit has felt more than a little dream-like. And yet, loitering in the forefront of my mind, demanding to be heeded, is a new-found clarity that was just slightly out of view. It tells me in no uncertain terms that our perfectly simple & uncomplicated desire for human connection – that same urge that up until recently meant many of us were venturing out to gigs several times a week – is what it’s all about. That essential drive to be near and to understand and appreciate others? That’s what defines us. Beyond health and a roof over our heads, almost everything else feels a little superfluous.
As things have gotten progressively more Groundhog Day (sadly sans the budget and presence of Punxsutawney Phil) a comprehensive feature that delved into the personal worlds of various Irish musicians, producers, DJs, broadcasters, journalists, venue owners, PR folk etc. started to make more and more sense. “How are all these people navigating self-isolation?” was a thought that started to crop up, again and again. Sure enough, the inevitable “fuck it” and a fair few emails later and here we are.
For me, these words (35,000+ from well over 100 different contributors) don’t just tap into the solidarity, empathy, humour and community at the heart of the Irish music scene: they distil much of what many of us love about our independent music community, right across the island. As we saw it, such heavy worldly circumstances warranted some hefty personal insight. While we could’ve easily centered on a handful of acts, capturing a broader sense of how we’re all keeping in such a trying and unprecedented moment in time felt right.
As you make your way through this feature, you may notice a few patterns emerging: baking, knitting, walking the dog, making a daily schedule, listening to Alice Coltrane, gratitude, succumbing to Yoga with Adriene and not putting pressure on yourself to be productive. You will hopefully also notice that, despite the endless variations of insight, advice and recommendations that have been very generously offered up, there is an essential fulcrum of what Albert Camus referred to as an “invincible summer” at play here. This too shall indeed pass.
It’s important to underscore the fact that what works for the following artists and industry individuals may not work for you during self-isolation. It’s what works for them, and it might just work for you. See how it goes. By the same token, this isn’t something to necessarily be read in one sitting, but if you manage it, major respect. Rather, it’s a resource of personal accounts to dip in and out of, as and if you so please. After all, we do all have a bit more time on our hands at the moment.
All artists linked to social pages with links to the music. Please, if you can, support some of them during this time by picking up a record or some merch. And remember: Ctrl+F is your friend. Onwards. Brian Coney
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I would like to take part in your article but I am struggling with finding anything interesting to say. I spend half the day in bed and the other half watching shite on TV! You can use that if you want. One love.
I’ve been spending the time at home trying to get things in order. My son had to come home from Uni early so his life needs to follow a routine lest he drift into ennui and re-runs of Family Guy. The online lectures start soon.
I’ve tried to use the time to write new material, try out new guitar sounds and catch up on those half-written riffs and lyrics I’d always meant to get back to. I’ve given myself a regime of getting into my workspace at 10am and staying there until lunchtime and then maybe returning for a couple of hours later.
We were supported to be on tour in Europe at the minute but we’ve had 12 gigs postponed until later in the year and we’ve yet to hear how the festival circuit will be hit. As a working band we have to be careful. Our last show was October 2019 so we can’t afford to go too long without any touring. Everybody will be experiencing the same dread, and many more in worse circumstances.
Lethargy and depression has to be avoided at all costs so a morning run soundtracked by Rainbow Grave, Minutemen, Petbrick, Soakie, Arvo Party, Lalalar and Luminous Bodies helped. I’ve got a lot of books I’ve yet to read, albums I only listened to a few times, movies I’d intended to watch. These can all wait until the evening. Get into the workspace, switch on the amp and keep playing until I’ve finished something. Keep in contact with my friends via text and email and Family via FaceTime.
I’m lucky that I’ve got my family around me and a room full of musical equipment. It’ll be unusual times ahead but people are homeless, unemployed, desperate and terrified. Those of us who are capable should be helping out in responsible ways. I’ll make the most of the free time, the isolation to play more music, write more music, and listen to lots of new music. I’ll also avoid writing a song about the virus itself. Andy Cairns
Seeing my family – from a distance. I’m currently self-isolating in my bedroom in my Mam’s house, as I left London on the 15th March after seeing Boris’ ‘herd immunity’ approach. I’m looking forward to being able to hang out with my family when my 14-day quarantine is over, but they’ve been great and keep me company sitting on the stairs outside my room at dinner time.
I’ve been doing radio broadcasts from my bedroom over the past week, on The 343 Radio and Dublin Digital Radio with my dog Poppy. The idea is to create a sharing circle of stuff we’ve all been working on lately. People have been sending me amazing demos and new songs and it’s created a lovely community in the chats attached to the shows. Because it’s new music, I don’t post the shows online after or anything, just one play, we all listen once, and have a nice time. The current schedule is Wednesday 8-9pm on The 343 Radio, and Sunday 6-8pm on Dublin Digital Radio. Send me ur tunes.
Yoga. YES I’M A CLICHÉ and I don’t care. The incredible CMAT set up a small group of amazing women getting back into practicing yoga (or starting for the first time), where we encourage each other and trade videos and photos of pets. I got pretty into Yin Yoga last year as a way to maintain my mental heath, and I’m very glad to be back at it. I highly recommend setting up a similar group with some pals. Constance Keane
Being based in Dublin, I was very lucky to be able to come down home to Kerry fairly early, so my isolation being spent with rarely-seen family is a silver lining. My heart goes out to people who are on their own, or who can’t see their parents and loved ones due to their vulnerability to the virus.
I’ve been focused on keeping the blood flowing by executing odd jobs around the house, these odd jobs being rewarded occasionally by an alcoholic beverage or two. I’m lucky not only to be with family in isolation but to be in “the country” too, with lots of space around me and little in the way of people to come into contact with.
I’m also trying to write songs and practice the guitar, learning harp and trad tunes, ballads too. It’s great to see so many musicians live streaming sets for people, I particularly enjoyed the Mary Wallopers one, which I believe will go down as legendary in the years to come.
The main thing I think we are all trying to do of course is to stay positive and optimistic. Staying inside all of the time toys dangerously with one’s mental health at the best of times – even more so with a virus pawing at the door and people’s livelihoods being put on hold. But the light is just around the bend; to get there quicker we just need to stay a little bit longer in the dark. Ronan Kealy
I’m working on some very intricate handshakes for the post-corona era and everyone I know is going to have to learn it! On a more serious note, I miss hugs A LOT. I’m finally sick of looking at my phone so that’s a positive. Anyway here are three things I’m doing to cope with this temporary predicament.
First off, I try to look at this self isolation as a service to my community rather than a punishment. When done right, it is an effective way of protecting yourself and a lot of folks so I remind myself everyday. And I’m using the time I have to try and undo what seems like a lifetime of procrastinations. I’m doing about 20 minutes of Spanish everyday. That’s a start. Muy divertido!
Do something, regular if possible. In my case, it’s music. So I do something music-related every day as I would usually do anyway and that helps me maintain some semblance of normalcy. I still get hyped over my own punchlines as usual. And I’d be beaming after it. Keep doing your thing!
I feel it’s important to stay connected with the “real” world as much as possible and continue to laugh, cry and whatever with those you usually do that with, whether it’s over the phone or during a little stroll in the park once in a while, staying within the recommended guidelines, of course. Myself and a few of my friends have a Bible study group we attend once a week but since that’s no longer possible for now, we decided to have a zoom meeting every other night just to chat and check in on everyone and see if there’s anyway we could help anyone, somewhere. It gives you something to look forward to. When it gets boring we’ll improvise. The key is to stay connected.
I’ve had a handful of moments over the past few weeks where I felt that what little career I had in the music industry is over. In a way that is terrifying but it has also given me perspective: it can be really easy to forget about the verb to ‘play’ music. Thinking about lining up release dates, tour dates and pitching singles for premieres on The Thin Air feel a little futile at the moment and in a sense it has given me a feeling of bliss because the pressure is off. (Brian, please review our next album though…).
Of course, it’s worthy to take this time to do something outwardly productive but maybe the world doesn’t need your podcast? I’m trying to take some time to turn off transmitters/receivers and spend time with myself. It’s difficult; we all spend a lot of time and money every day distracting ourselves from ourselves and it can be tough to stare down who you are. But what better time to explore your own mind, identity, gender, sexuality with some thought experiments and introspection?
I’ve resigned to the fact that the world has changed and instead of clinging on to everything maybe it’s better to let some things go that really don’t matter. Many of the things that we’ve lost have been privileges and in a sense it was just nice to have them in the first place. I know that sounds sanctimonious as fuck but I think I’m just at the ‘acceptance’ stage of loss here after seeing all my work dry up in a matter of days back in the first week of March…! My mum is doing alright and staying safe so really what have I lost? Chris Ryan
Reading: It is probably a surprise to literally no one who knows me to learn that I’m using this time to do as much reading as possible; today I’m reading Can’t and Won’t by Lydia Davis which is a collection of micro-short stories that I extremely recommend if you, like me, often have the attention span of a goldfish, it’s funny too. Yesterday I was reading Square Haunting by Francesca Wade which is a group biography of five women writers/academics (including Virginia Woolf) who lived in the same square in London during the two world wars and the years in between, it’s really interesting to read excerpts of their letters/journals describing being bored, staying inside, being anxious about the apocalyptic state of the outside world and comparing it to now – not that a war is really a comparable condition to a global pandemic but the anxiety persists all the same!
If you want some book recommendations, DM me on Twitter and order over the phone from independent Irish shops, like Books Upstairs in Dublin or Kennys in Galway.
Dancing: Never have I been more grateful for the fact that pop music exists. I’m not very good at exercising, but I love dancing perhaps more than anything. Every evening I’ve been putting on an 8-hour playlist I’ve made entitled ‘Quarantine Bangers’ (again, DM me on Twitter if you want access) and dancing around my bedroom. Really cannot stress the importance of this enough, dancing is my no. 1 cure for when I begin to feel depression and despair seeping in.
Gardening and growing things: I love plants more than I love humans, I am very lucky to have a small backyard here in Dublin city where gardens are rare and I’ve been making raised beds and filling up pots with flowers. If you don’t have a garden, a sunny windowsill is a great place to plant little baby seedlings, you can grow lettuce, basil, coriander etc from seed on a windowsill, and it’s never been a better time to grow your own food! If we go into total lockdown, make sure you can still eat salad! You can cut old milk cartons in half and make seed trays. Gorgeous. It’s so cute to watch them grow. Also sprouting mung beans by soaking and rinsing overnight is a good, quick way to grow fresh food full of Vitamin C. If you’d like some vegetable or flower seeds and don’t want to leave the house, again, DM me on Twitter with your address and I’ll post you some!
Angela Dorgan (First Music Contact)
At First Music Contact, we are doing a weekly questionnaire for the sector to assess losses, we have a list of tips and resources that we will continue to add to. Aside from that, we will then be working to see if Government and Industry can contribute to a fund where these losses can be clawed back and have taken our free consultancies online and have doubled the amount of days so artists and those working in the industry can have a virtual meeting by filling this out.
Set up an incredibly scary disinfection zone at your front door. Lay plastic everywhere. Get your roommate who works in a lab to steal isopropyl for you. Get a hand pump and medical grade chlorine tablets. Spray everyone. If you live with immunocompromised people, it is your DUTY not to bring it home and your duty to protect them. There are many immunocompromised people in the rev who must be protected AT ALL COSTS. Help the community! HSE and crisis cover Pirate a load of software, chat to people on Zoom. Make nice food. Keep a schedule. Stop leaving the fuckin gaff!
Write a song a day: It doesn’t have to be a good song and it doesn’t have to be fully finished. I just grab an instrument and start noodling away until you start playing something I like. Then just hit record on the phone and busk away at it – 90% of it may be pure gmibberish or a rip off of someone who I’ve been listening to that week, but then in the 10% there is usually a little gem of a lyric, melody or an idea I really like that I can focus on. It’s a great way to get the first draft idea’s down. I’ll listen to it a bit, maybe write some better lyrics around a theme that may or may not have come from the scratch demo, practice that and then do another demo with some more focused lyrics & melodies – and there you have it, your song for the day.
Give your instrument some TLC: This is a great time to do a little bit of work on the guitar you have that you love but it’s fucked. I have a few of these (and one of my friends guitars which I’m helping him with) weird guitars that I love but just aren’t stage worthy yet because of the intonation, dodgy pickups, dirty pots etc. It might even just be a case of taking the strings off, getting the polish out and get it shining – but I find it very therapeutic & also helps with my songwriting as some of these guitars might not have been picked up for a while.
Don’t force your creativity: If you wake up and don’t feel in the mood to write a song or fix up a battered guitar – ask yourself what you want to do today. Maybe this is finally the time to invest a solid amount of time in watching loads of Kung Fu movies, reading books you haven’t got around to yet or simply lying on the couch doing sweet fuck all. Whatever it is you’re doing – be kind to yourself and remember that either way, you’re good enough! Joey Edwards
There is so much pressure to “Use this time!!”, “Learn all the skills you always wanted!!, and “Be productive!!”, but we need to remember that we have no more hours in a day than we did before. As creatives, we are always fighting that little voice that tells us we should be working harder, and now it’s coming from external sources too. Pick just one or two things you want to grow in over this period, and put in a few simple measures to get there. Pick two books to read, and give yourself an hour a day. Set aside half an hour a day to get better at guitar. Manageable things with practical steps in place to get there. Don’t overwhelm yourself!
I’ve decided that I’m not going to watch TV/Netflix until after 6pm each day. Otherwise I’d start watching something over breakfast, finish the series over lunch, and then hate myself.
Human connection is so important in this time, especially from a mental health point of view. I’ve gone through times when the idea of not being able to spend time with friends and family would have been terrifying. Sometimes that was the only thing that got me through the day. If you are struggling with your mental health, it can be these things that you schedule into your life to make sure you’re not getting caught up in your depression/anxiety, so you don’t cut yourself off and just allow yourself to get worse. You have something to look forward to and people checking in. It might feel like this lifeline has now been taken away, what with the distancing and detachment. Choose a few friends you can check in on everyday, even just two or three. They can then do the same for you. Make a list of other people you’d like to catch up with, and book in a FaceTime call. I’m trying to do one every day or two, you know, just to stay sane.
First of all, I’m smoking a lot more. I’m not necessarily advising this, but if you’re like me and you don’t smoke in the house, then it’s a good excuse to sit in the back yard for a bit. Plus all the VAT I’m paying on the fegs is a good source of income for the government right now, so in a way I’m doing my bit to support the economy in these uncertain times… right?
As disturbing as it all is, I’ve been getting a feeling I haven’t had in years, it’s a bit like when you got off for the school holidays when you were kid. No more deadlines, or timelines and you have all this mental space to try new things. When I start to feel stressed or anxious about what’s going on, I try and bring myself back into that frame of mind.
We used to slag off technology and the net all the time but look at us now! The net carries so much emotion. It is our arena for coping mechanisms like communication and humour. And then there is the commerce. As a music fan, The Mary Wallopers streamed gig on Paddy’s night was a thing of pure joy. Last night I tuned in to Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin and John Francis Flynn of Skipper’s Alley singing and playing in their living room. Really beautiful gigs and the donate buttons are easy to use too. The sound on the stream tends to be shite though, somebody sort that out and we’ll be flying!
This has been one of the most surreal times of all of our lives. I still need to have that little conversation when I wake every morning; “Is this actually happening? … ok, yes it is happening.” In that respect I try my best that I react positively and in a way that helps others. I don’t know what to say when people tell me that their livelihoods are gone. I just say, “Look, everything is up in a heap, let’s just survive for now …” With that said, I do have hope. I certainly do not despair. Sometimes I get irritable and I know that it is from worry about the people that I love. But I’m trying to be calm.
I had been hiding out at my Mam’s house in the countryside in North Cork. We have two dogs named Jessie and Dunphy and I’ve been spending some quality yard-time with those two. What I do is I gather up around ten balls of various shapes and sizes. There are rugby balls, sliotars, squeaky toys, burst balls, all kinds. Then I go to one end of the yard and the dogs go to the other. Then I blitzkrieg all the balls one after the other up high and lob them down on the dogs. They go nuts and try to make up their minds which ball to chase. Then I run down shouting and also grabbing balls. Then when it all calms down we re-set and do it again. Ray Cuddihy
Protecting Your Peace in Quarantine
I think one of the most important lessons we will learn as we step into this next period is not how to work more effectively, but how to rest more effectively. An important part of that is protecting your sleep cycle. Do your best to stay out of your bedroom during the day. Designate yourself a place of rest you can look forward to returning to, then create a comfortable space somewhere else to tackle the day. Your sleep hygiene affects so much. Loss of sleep can be the cause or the result of things like anxiety and depression and currently we’re all vulnerable to both, so please prioritize this. You are better equipped to handle emotional upheaval, change, improve your memory and boost your immune system if sleeping means true rest instead of putting yourself on standby for 3-8 hours. If you find sleep hard try cutting out caffeine and sugar and winding down your screen time in the two hours before bed.
Be Picky About What/Who Can Reach You
Yo. Set and maintain boundaries for yourself. Please. You’re allowed to say no to things that hurt. You don’t have to constantly be accessible to everyone whilst in survival mode. Whether that means limiting media intake, making yourself available or unavailable to whoever, or acknowledging that you’re not ready to ‘be productive’ yet. Loneliness, anxiety and boredom will have you running to spaces of familiarity or indulging in coping mechanisms that aren’t always safe. Instead of answering loaded phone calls or eyeing the cans in your fridge, this is the time to lean into your safe spaces. Family, good friends, unambiguous relationships, people you can express yourself to freely and without reserve. If you’re in a non-verbal space; writing, throwing on a playlist and head banging for a while or painting with some background noise are good ways to acknowledge the emotion without running or becoming too overwhelmed. Most destructive behaviors come from avoidance, and just because the world seems like it’s on pause doesn’t mean your life is.
Establish a Routine
Structure will give you the anchor you need to do all of the above. Whether you need rest or to work or be creative or to play or connect with other people— having a loose structure will help mitigate some of the fear that the uncertainty of this transition has us feeling. Treat yourself like a houseplant. You need light, you need water, you will wilt or wither with prolonged neglect, and putting down roots is essential to survival.This doesn’t mean chores necessarily. It’s just all the stuff you care about given form so you can start to understand how to shape your world better. Many of us will perform care-taking functions in some capacity over the next few weeks and it’s important to keep your finger on the pulse of your emotional world and find your solid ground. Easy, repetitive tasks that you can depend on can give you the foundation you need to help regulate your emotions and remain aware of your own needs. Maybe burrowing underground for this season can be an opportunity to cocoon and nurture before your next growth spurt.
Show love and compassion to your bandmates and yourself. Isolation is a scary word and something most of us dread. Problem Patterns are a close family and one thing that has helped us is to keep in contact often. Video calls, messages, sharing our experiences, virtual band practice and most importantly spreading love. Additionally, trying to reflect on all the great stuff that we’ve done rather than dwelling on what we can’t.
Cut yourself some slack. Step back and realise the context of the situation we are all in. Take a break, breathe. Create music if you want but reading a book or cleaning the kitchen is just as cleansing. Don’t let guilt set in, you’re only human. You will be okay and music will be there for you with a big warm hug when you’re ready. Or, write that lo-fi bedroom album you’ve always wanted to. Reply to the emails you’ve ignored, clean & detangle your leads and pedals & be safe.
Exercise real solidarity with your music and art pals. I’m gonna tell you a secret… Local D.I.Y music is not all money and cars. Any money we make (outside of gigs) comes from the love & support of lovely folk buying stickers & digital tracks. So, a great way to support your pals is to buy their merch & records. Whether it’s a £25 album or a £1 single, every little helps. However, if you don’t have a penny to spare, a quick share of a band page can mean the world. Shout from the digital rooftops about your mates class band. Share their socials and send messages of love & support. Tune into live streams. Kindness is the real cash money. Go spend it. Ciara Nic An Rí
It’s crazy, this thing happening in real-time. Everyone’s experience of this, how it applies to them, is valid. If you’re productive and finally writing that novel then cool, fair play. If you’d prefer to just stay in bed, that’s fair enough, too. Create your own reality as best you can, basically. It’s a scary time, so act accordingly.
A couple of weeks into this new normal I’m finding that there’s something of a sanctity in turning the living room into an unofficial cinema in the evening. Point Break really fuckin’ holds up, let me tell you. Throw on a classic wrestling match or two afterwards – that WWE Network subscription I meant to cancel is a sudden lifesaver – and you’re laughing, hopefully.
I’m no expert. None of us are. This current moment is a heightened, troubling exercise of the cold hard truth that every single fragile one of us on this rock is just winging it. But hey, fail we may, sail we must. Anyways, here’s a few things getting me through:
FILMS: Phone off, lights out, popcorn at the ready. Draw up a shortlist and add to it so you don’t lose an hour remonstrating with your housemate on what to watch. Plan your day around it, make it a reward.
TV SHOWS: I don’t know why I find myself catching up on Mr Robot when I’m either really depressed or the world is on fire but here we are. Good time for a box set, innit. Hannibal, Rectify, Deadwood, Justified, The Shield, The Leftovers. Watch ’em all.
GAMES: Doom Eternal and the upcoming Resident Evil 3 Remake seem perfectly timed but I’d add Dead Cells, Hotline Miami 1 + 2 and Death Stranding to the mix.
MUSIC: Make playlists, hit up your mates for recommendations, soundtrack this thing.
PODCASTS: Old episodes of your go-tos sound pretty good right now. Oh, and listen to NO ENCORE. It’s funny, I swear.
YOUTUBE CHANNELS: YMS, Lindsay Ellis, Hbomberguy, Folding Ideas, Every Frame a Painting, Jenny Nicholson, Jim Sterling, Noclip – all worth a look.
NEWS: Follow trusted sources, try not to glue yourself to a rolling feed if you can help it. Keep informed but take breaks.
THE OUTSIDE WORLD EXISTS: Not to go all Bressie here but a good – safe, responsible, socially distanced, government-approved, et cetera – walk or run or cycle is kind of essential if still an available option. Clear the head, stretch the legs, be sound to any retail staff and pharmacy workers you encounter.
CREATE SOMETHING: If you can. No pressure. You have worth, you have talent, you have a voice. Small personal gesture, big livestream event, whatever. Just enjoy it.
CHILL: Do you miss being on a bus stuck in gridlock and knowing that your boss doesn’t care about your valid excuse for being late yet again? I sure don’t. I’m also highly wary of framing this situation as hugely beneficial given the colossal damage and tragedy sweeping the world right now but, like I said above, everyone’s experience is valid. Hitting the pause button on life, on paper, isn’t the worst idea ever conceived. We’re forced to right now and there are positives. Recharging batteries is one.
TALK: The most basic of basic advice but people need communication. Talk, listen, be honest, be kind, compassionate and respectful – for real, not the bullshit hashtag trend.
TEXT: A mate that you haven’t in a while. They’d love to hear from you.
DON’T TEXT: Your ex. Not like it can really go anywhere, right?
So to preface this I am still working 3 days a week as a wholesale florist. We supply a lot of online gift shops so Mothers Day was quite busy but I dont know how much longer we’ll last. Shame as it’s a family business that’s been going over 100 years. Anyway, I digress.
With music in the live/group environment put on indefinite hiatus Squarehead have had to cancel whatever gigs we had planned and stop our weekly practice.
This headspace away from the performance/social side of music has reminded me a lot of when I was just starting out. When I would write songs just for myself not knowing if anyone would ever hear them. So this leads me to my first pointer.
Positive imaginative visualization: anyone who plays music in the semi-professional/professional sphere knows how unpredictable it can be. It takes a lot of positive tunnel vision to get through frustrating songwriting, bad gigs and no gigs! So use this talent to imagine positive outcomes. However hard things are, keep fooling yourself that they will work out. They can and they will.
Play along with/cover songs: today I took an hour to play along with an album I knew in its entirety as a teenager. It really gave me a boost. With every album ever available online and tabs/tutorials there’s no excuse to not learn that whole Rush/Grateful Dead album and thrash it out with pure joy.
Don’t play music: Music is so much more than a job or hobby. Don’t set up an “office” and expect a perfect end result from a “days work” like you’re entering data or something. Do everything else on your to do list, go outside if you can, read that book, cook a meal and then see what’s left in the tank. Don’t push it. It pushes back. Roy Duffy
The future has gone out the window, so focus on the present and don’t think about what’s happening too much or project on what may or may not happen. You’re probably self-isolating and washing hands appropriately and not touching your face, good, you can stop worrying about catching it so much. Your biggest enemy now is time, so fill it. Watch movies, indulge in all those video games, tear through box sets, practice that violin you got but never learned (you’re gonna find lots of videos on youtube etc to help), start that new album, start a whole new solo musical project different from what you normally do. Learn to meditate. Indulge in alcohol and your favourite ‘legal smoking herbs’ at the weekend. Don’t overdo it, alcohol can lower your immune system and mind them lungs. If you smoke habitually, really really try not to.
Eat well, I’d even order in some supplements if you can too, try and keep that immune system in tip top shape. Mix up what you eat, if you do, you might find something new to look forward to every day.
Don’t worry about not being productive. Try not to stress, and just use this as some sort of downtime to recharge your batteries, everyone is normally overworked and over-stressed anyway. Skype friends and family to keep in touch. Skype pub on a weekend night anyone? Philip Quinn
Don’t Feel Like You Have To Be ~Productive~
This is a really big challenge for creatives but also for everyone who lives in a capitalist society that defines people’s worth based on their productivity. Some people will take this period of time to write their magnum opus and that’s unreal for them but it doesn’t have to be the same for us all. Social distancing is hard, uncertainty is hard and, for many people, we’re not living in a time that is conducive to creativity or learning.
For the first couple of days of this situation, I was stressing about spending all of my time making music or writing. It was making me miserable because I felt like I had no excuses to not be productive. However, we aren’t machines that exist to develop services and outputs – we’re all just folks trying to survive in a rubbish situation. If playing PS4 for 12 hours straight makes you feel better, get comfy on that couch and don’t let anyone make you feel like less for that.
Keep showering and getting dressed
Maybe this will seem obvious to most but it’s one of the most important ways to keep myself on track. I have long used socialising and keeping busy as a tool for preserving my mental health and being inside or on my own for too long can result in a spiralling situation where I just give up on myself. Making sure that I shower as I would if I was heading out every day and not just living in my pyjamas is a preventative measure against becoming completely out of sorts with routine. It can also be a great way of getting my own little bit of self-care in.
Make sure to stay in contact with people
When I’m feeling my most isolated is typically when I find it the hardest to talk to people. It’s very easy to lose all motivation to reach out and to start ignoring message notifications when you’re lost inside your own head. Conversations might not initially flow well when your answer to ‘any news?’ is that you’ve been sat on your couch for nine days now, but take time and persevere. If this battle we’re facing has any lessons to teach, it’s how reliant we are on everyone around us and the importance of stripping back individualism to focus on building connections and community. Take time to remember the preciousness of the people you love because those people are all that really matter. Kelly Doherty
Read books: Oet lost in another world and keep the synapses firing. We remember more information from the physical structure of a book apparently and any chance to get your imagination working has to be positive.
Learn to cook/cook better: It’s fun and tasty to cook you’re own meals and it’ll keep you away from the news/internet. Jack Monroe is great if you’re a novice or like a disturbingly large amount of us now, skint!
Safety first, then teamwork. Stay well everyone. Joe Greene
Music: I’ve been listening to lots of music lately and have rediscovered my love for albums such as Bob Dylan’s Desire and The Beatles’s White Album. I’ve also bought new music on Bandcamp from the likes of Windings, Ailbhe Reddy, Kobina & Daithí. I miss going to gigs but have loved watching the likes of Kojaque, Paddy Hanna, The Mary Wallopers, The Scratch & Daithí performing online. Look to your favourite acts to give you inspiration.
Running: I swear to God running has helped me so much over the years and no more so than the last couple of weeks.
Being creative: Like most people my life has slowed down a lot and one advantage of this is being able to try new projects. Am hopefully starting something new called Lemon Tree which will feature live online interviews with musicians/industry people and am also working on a new radio documentary. Like, wouldn’t it be great to come out of all of this having started something new or achieved something that you normally wouldn’t have had time to do?
1. Don’t do all your nothing’s all at once, spread it out and keep that one movie, book, game (or whatever) something to look forward to tomorrow.
1a. Watch the news sometimes. Don’t get too sucked in if you start feeling your anxiety kick off, so if you find yourself constantly freaking out over stats, do something else. Its too scary to think about all the time.
2. We usually rehearse like crazy, like three/four times a week crazy, at the same times every week. So one thing we find really useful to at least feel like we are being productive is to keep that routine to an extent is do a group video chat and just hang out, because half of rehearsals for us is bonding time to talk shit. So we do that and we always feel better right after. Set up a regular time with your pals to get together and just hang out as usual! Also be wary of said pals maybe having mad anxiety about it though and maybe talk about something else for a bit of relief if you get those vibes.
3. For the musicians out there: deep down no matter how we fight it our band are music nerds, so challenging each other to learning a cover or something and sending a video of it into the chat was a way to keep the “chops” up and also have a laugh. Pick up your instrument if you can and use the time to do what you love!
The toughest thing is not being together making noise, but making sure everyone is on the same page is for the greater good. So Wynona says; Be safe, wash your hands, STAY HOME if you can and don’t fuck it up for others!
The Mary Wallopers
We’ve been dealing with the isolation by doing the things we can’t when we’re touring so much. We’ve been learning new tunes and are in the process of clearing out our shedc and turning it into a studio. On top of that, we took the oppurtunity to start streaming from home, which is great fun and fills the void in our hearts created by not doing gigs. It works especially well when you build a pub in your sitting room.
Aside from that it’s been a great time for us to write songs and get better at Red Dead Redemption and GTA. We hope everyone stays safe and enjoys being stuck at home, it’s much better than spreading or getting coronavirus and can be a good oppurtunity to do the stuff you never have time to do. Andrew Hendy
Get up and get dressed: As Joe Strummer once said “Like Trousers, Like Brain”, don’t lie around in your underwear just because you can. Between tours I used to feel like life was void of purpose, Id start to feel my self get into a slump. Right now everyone’s metaphorical “tour” has been cancelled, so we’re stuck at home wondering what life is all about. Get up early, make your bed, get dressed, eat breakfast, attack the day like it was just as important as any other.
Partition the day, both chronologically and physically. Don’t work where you eat, don’t relax where you work. Take breaks, moves around, when the working day is done, switch off, relax and enjoy the quiet.
Slow down: If it’s worth doing it’s worth doing slowly. We’ve time to do all those things we couldn’t justify before, and even better we’ve time to do them properly. Emails, rearranging your cupboards, watering the plants – if its important enough to be in your life then its important enough to do properly. Enjoy making that first coffee of the day, make those recipes that take all day, finish that thing that’s been hanging over you or start something brand new, absorb and perfect. Imagine the impact we’ll all have on the world when we immerse from a few months of self-improvement, empowered with a whole host of new talents and most importantly an immeasurable appreciation for getting to show them to each other again. Rory Friers
Instagram Live/Livestreams: I’m sure this will probably be mentioned elsewhere in the article but watching everyone’s Instagram Live streams have been helping me feel connected. The Robbie Kitt Show (every weekday at 6) has been greatly lifting any malaise that may have befallen me in my new solitary lifestyle. I have also taken to streaming although I am aware that I shouldn’t be. I have nothing to say, I just do the washing up.
Video Calls: I have taken to video calling everyone I possibly can from people I saw last week to people I haven’t seen in year. It has really made me start wondering: why didn’t I do this all along?
Nintendo Switch: If you don’t have the greatest console ever made then I am sorry. I bought mine last Summer in what may have been one of the greatest decisions of my life. (I’m nearly finished a game called Celeste which I would highly recommend.)
Moustaches: Take from this what you will but a bunch of my friends have moustaches now. I don’t really have much more to add to this.
Shave Your Head: Same as above but I have yet to do it. I will, though and then you’ll be sorry. Oh you’ll all be sorry.
Think About Your Past: I’ve found being locked inside has really helped me focus negatively on my past. I have been overthinking past interactions and worrying about pretty much everything I possibly can. I’m looking forward to going outside and making new mistakes.
I am currently sat at my computer writing for a different project from Arvo Party. Working is one of the few things that keeps my mind busy and at a time like this I would say that’s pretty important. I’ve also been reaching out to other artists to ask about collaborations and/or remixes. Granted, all of this isn’t so different to my usual day to day existence but it somehow seems more important right now.
I’ve also been trying to get into more of a routine with my days. As an artist it’s easy to let the discipline slip but this week I’ve been setting time limits on tasks and making sure that my bedtime routine is relatively disciplined otherwise I would just work all night and eventually go mad. A cup of tea and Grafton Tanner’s ‘Babbling Corpse’ is doing the trick at the moment.
One of the things I’ve really let slide is listening to new music. I don’t drive currently so I usually spend a lot of time walking or on public transport and that’s where I listen to new music so I’ve taken to putting headphones on and standing outside (I live in a relatively isolated area) with a cup of coffee and my headphones, listening to new stuff to find inspiration.
More than all of this, I’ve been reaching out to friends and family to see how they are. This is the most important part of my current routine. And it is a routine; every day is the same for me right now as I’ve been isolating since I returned from the states. Maybe I have IT, maybe I don’t but I’m not going to risk the health of someone else just because I’m lonely. I hope everyone else is looking after themselves and those who may need a little love. Herb Magee
I certainly don’t have any revelatory ideas here, but in these unprecedented and worrying times here are a few things I’m doing to preserve sanity:
Balance with media
It would be easy to spend all day glued to the BBC/internet, but I think that can just add to confusion and fear. Of course it’s important to stay informed, but knowing about idiots going to Nutts Corner market is just an extra stress we could maybe do without. After the last UK election I stopped watching the news, reading about politics online and in social media for a few weeks, and although this is obviously different, I found that allowing my brain to spend more time thinking about fuzz pedals and less time about Jacob Rees-Mogg was probably a good idea.
Learn something new
It doesn’t matter if it the Rubix cube or playing piano, giving something new a few hours of dedicated focus occupies the mind and gives you a sense of achievement, a rare positive emotion in these dark times.
Revisit old music/books
We all have books or records we quote as being favourites or inspirations, but in reality maybe haven’t actually gone near for years. It’s an opportunity to re-evaluate lost gems/stinkers – I found out that The Stand by Stephen King is awful nonsense with weird religious overtones, whereas Population II by Randy Holden is even better that I remembered. There’s an awful lot of Hawkwind records out there, maybe now is time to delve into those forgotten years. Stay safe! David Majury
Remember that impulsive fashion purchase you made way back when? The sweater/pair of leather trousers/knee boots/suede jacket with unnecessary fringes that exists in a special drawer, neatly tucked away out of sight & never to be dawned in public? The item that you cannot bring yourself to donate to another home because you keep telling yourself that “maybe one day…”? Well, that day has arrived my friend. Dust down that old garment and wear it freely, with pride, with style, with any other item of clothing at any time of the day. People don’t wear stetson hats with silk pajamas? They do now.
Work on your fright game
By the time this pandemic cools down, spooky season will be fat approaching and you for one don’t want to be a slouch when it comes to the holiday of the ghouls. You’ll have ample time to improve/develop such things as your stealth game & creepy ghost noises that are sure to put the willies up even the most hardened trick or treater. On top of that, you’ll be able to develop your own craft & makeup application skills when designing & creating your outfit(s) of choice. What a time to be alive!
Write your memoirs
Isolation can be a particularly self indulgent time so why not redirect that angst into a captivating tale of heroics in the face of adversity, or generally name & shame all of those particularly arsey people in your life that you don’t have to face every day & the subsequent time alone has given you the space to reflect on just how shit they are as a person/persons. Make it interactive by asking whoever you’re in isolation with (if you are with people) to critique your work and upload their review onto a nifty WordPress page that you can later dissect around 1am over a prematurely-opened easter egg. Then later, your growing feelings of resentment toward them will lead to frosty encounters at the kitchen bench where the kettle is situated or when the talk of putting the bins out comes up. Or, if you live alone, feel free to lavish yourself with praise on a deeply honest exploration into the human condition and play out many fantasies where you pick up mass critical acclaim and the likes of Taika Waititi begin to follow you on Instagram.
Self-isolation can be tough, especially for those of us who are already dealing with underlying mental health issues. So, here’s some things I’ve been trying to implement into my life to make each day a little brighter.
Turn off your phone for wee while!
As someone who suffers with quite bad anxiety, the constant barrage of negative headlines across all social media platforms has been a bit overwhelming, to say the least. It’s important to stay aware of the situation of course, but don’t feel guilty for not wanting to be exposed to the harsh reality of things 24/7. Take a break! You’ve earned it.
Attempt a routine
If you’re like me and have the ability to sleep for 23 hours a day if not stopped then this one’s for you. As a recently unemployed uni student with too much time on his hands, it’s so easy to just waste away the day doing absolutely nothing. It’s fun for the first few days, but then the purposelessness hits. Seemingly simple things like setting an alarm, showering and getting drhanessed can make an honest world of difference for your mental health! From there, accomplishing small tasks like a of housework or coursework can then be awarded by playing Animal Crossing late into the night.
Call your mates
Sometimes we can forget to reach out in the simplest of ways when we are separated. Just hearing someone’s voice for a bit can drastically reduce the loneliness that comes from self-isolation. Check up on each other, Skype, play an online game or even watch a film together through Netflix Party! You don’t have to be alone, just because you can’t be in the same room for a while. Caleb Roberts
Be creative: We’re in the mixing stages of our debut album so thankfully that’s taking up a fair bit of time and creative energy which is nice. We’re also in the midst of choosing artwork and the title for the album so plenty to be doing. I also plan to write some music that isn’t about being stuck inside very soon.
Set yourself challenges: I’ve been setting myself little challenges, like learning to cook different things but ‘ready steady cook’ style so I don’t have to venture to the supermarket too much. I made a recipe video for Guinness stew the other day and that took a solid 5 hours. I made bread with flour, milk and salt, which was understandably dry. Today I challenged Cathy to learn a load of new riffs while I did weights using tins of chickpeas.
Get into new things: Generally speaking I’m a pup for not getting into new things. I have my faves that I don’t tend to stray too far from but having endless free time has ensured I’ve watched/read/listened to loads of new things. I’ve been having really weird dreams as a result but sure look at least it’s something to talk about. Pillow Queens have been getting really into group video calls too. Pam hung up the Irish flag the Ivory Coast way around so it would look like the Irish flag to us. Rach has been having digital games nights and her family just got a new puppy so that’s maybe the best thing in the world. Sarah Corcoran
Acceptance and perspective: This is a particular moment in time where circumstances have changed, in order to protect life. It’s not something that is just about us – or the people we know – but it’s about the people we don’t know (that’s a lot of people). ‘All we have… is here’ is a lyric from ‘Human’ – now is all we have ever had.
Know yourself: We are all different in terms of how we function best; areas such as routine, stress, joy, humour, social needs are adaptable and manageable for self-isolation. Of course, even for the most introverted among us, lockdown is challenging. It’s important to be honest and gentle with ourselves, being aware that it takes trial and error adapting. A special note for our mental health: reach out. Physically being the only human in a perceived and constructed space does not have to mean you are alone. I also think the Samaritans phone line is still in operation and they have an email address you can write to.
The doing: We can all still ‘do’ and ‘be’: creating, moving and attempting to laugh, to help our morale. KP
It’s important to busy yourself, and to do so without this looming notion that the busyness has to be considered productive, or conducive to the greatest Irish novel or the best album that anyone has ever heard. Take this one day at a time. Find some solace in the fact that everyone is as unsure and anxious as you are, and have that conversation with your family and friends.
A couple of things I’ve been doing that may or may not help you too:
Block the click bait “journalists” on Twitter who want to scare you and your granny into a heart attack.
Follow wholesome accounts. There’s this account on Instagram I’ve been following for a while called Pergola Nurseries Garden Corner. Every single video is this lovely Cavan man with a lovely Cavan accent tending to his shrubs and plants and veg. Every now and again he’s joined by a robin named “Peter” that he speaks to. Soul food.
Take up that hobby you’ve been pushing away. I’ve been brushing up on guitar playing techniques & telling myself I don’t have to learn everything about music theory in these few weeks/months/whatever. Adrianne Lenker, Sibylle Baier, and Linda Perhacs are particular influences at the moment.
Find community. There are a lot of resources out there if you look in the right place. One that has stood out to me in the past couple of days is ISOLATE/CREATE. A number of American musicians have uploaded digital assets such as stems from their tracks, or custom fonts for fans to get creative with. Resources like these provide ideal opportunities to immerse yourself and interact with your favourite artists. I’m sure there are more out there that are similar.
Walk your dog and listen to Sinéad O’Connor. Diarmuid O’Shea
In Boccaccio’s ‘Decameron’, ten Florentine citizens quarantine themselves in a villa to escape the Great Plague of 1348, which is ravaging the city outside. They pass the time by telling each other stories: 10 per day for 10 days, some only a couple of pages long, others intricate moral tales that would go on to find counterparts in Chaucer and Shakespeare. I’ve been using this time (sort of) similarly, while trapped under admittedly less severe circumstances. I’m trying to read stuff that I always put off because of time restrictions, or mood, or basically any excuse I could come up with that would get me out of ever having to pick up Don Quixote. I’ve run out of those excuses now, though, and it feels great to do nothing but read. Michael O’Loughlin has put together a reading list of Plague literature on the Dublin Review of Books site, which will work like a kind of group reading exercise with a plague-themed work up for discussion each week. For the morbid-minded.
I think I’ve been getting about the same minimal amount of physical exercise as I ever did before the quarantine (maybe more, if you include the anxious pacing and fretting), so I haven’t been overly concerned about that. But I have started to feel a weird effect of the monotony and boredom induced by the household, and it’s almost making me wish I was in college, or at school. I guess I haven’t learned anything new in a while. It’s a really good time to start something, or to return to a former passion. I’ve been brushing up on my Classics with courses on Roman art history and literature over here (all free lectures on a huge range of topics).
Fender are also offering three months of free online guitar classes, which is an amazing resource, especially for people like me, whose guitar playing plateaued at about age 15 with the discovery of the power chord.
Knitting is the real game-changer here. I was taught how to do it last year, and I’ve been annoying people with it ever since. It’s a great way to keep your hands occupied while binging a TV show, as it stops you from mindlessly devouring too many snacks, or from downing too many cans. Plus, by the end of it, you have something to show for the otherwise wasted time. Usually a bit of a scarf. I expect to come out of this quarantine having knitted myself a full outfit, complete with surgical facemask in an array of colours.
This past two weeks have given us hope, not having to deal with the stress of organizing gigs has opened us up completely. Now our release schedule is obliterated so we are just going to put things in the wild for the craic instead of cause we felt we had to. Now we’re even more productive than we ever were because the superfluous capitalistic pressures are no more. Funny that.
The global economy is 80% smaller than it was 12 weeks ago. Capitalism has nowhere to hide anymore. Our politicians have shown us the things for which they care and we are not included in this. Think about ways of organizing when this levels out a bit. I hate to sound crusty but the earth is trying to tell us to move the bad cunts out of the way.
If this pandemic has taught me anything its that our culture has been destroyed by instantaneous content and greed. People were too greedy to socially distance themselves, They wanted their share of the virus RIGHT NOW, delivered to them in notification form on a screen so that they could see it to believe it. If you’re not distancing: wise the fuck up.
P.S Northern holidaymakers: could you please get the fuck out of Donegal. We are in quarantine. Rob Mulhern
I live in a two-bedroom house with my wife and eight-year-old daughter. There are certain days where the small space we have feels more than adequate. I could be bashing a set of drums in one room and they could be working and schooling without being phased by it. Other days It feels like the world is closing in around you. It feels like its all dependent on perception and mood. Main thing is, everyone is getting to go what they normally do, to some degree and we are safe and well.
To keep myself busy work-wise I have been doing admin stuff that has build up over a three year period that I’d previous been to sick or lazy to do. I’ve also been doing some little online performances and trying to write some new songs. In the first week of self containment I didn’t write a single song, but my daughter wrote one [in about 8 minutes] called ‘Lockdown’ that she asked me to put music to. It’s a punk song in the vain of The Clash and her heroes The B52’s – I’m going to try and help her finish it this week.
I’m finding it difficult to sleep at the moment, which I need to work on and If you were to ask me how I felt about being on house arrest, in general, I’d say I hated it – but here we are! Living in the US there is no clear-cut directives from the government about whether we are locked down or not but we are treating it as if we were in Italy. I hope everyone else out there is being safe and feeling ok.
So far I’m a quarantine failure! I can see the idyllic vision of exercise, homeschooling, meditation inspired productivity but the reality is just the other day I added ‘get dressed’ to my to do list and realised this would be yet another thing to beat myself up about. There’s a lot to process right now; collective fear and sadness. Let’s not make ‘isolation’ another thing to win or fail at.
The ‘world’ is asking of us to stay home, to simplify. I’m aiming to follow the inspired words of Timothy Leary” “Turn on, tune in & drop out”!
By nature, I’m a messy creative who could easily live in a suspended reality of daydreaming for years. Thanks to some recent life coaching I had an “Aha!” moment: creativity without a deadline is procrastination. Set a deadline then work back from there scheduling all the tasks that need doing for ‘the thing’ to happen.
If you feel yourself spinning, you are traveling in some future fear, bring it back to now, in this moment everything is ok. Do not feel pressure to create the best album, write the best song. I feel we have an opportunity in this “dropping out” of society to actually reconnect, with ourselves, with our local communities and with our shared human existence (man!). How that manifests itself for each of us will be different.
Scribble the semblance of schedule, nothing to beat yourself up with but something that gives shape to your day, modify as needed. Accept the days you are productive or inspired and accept when you are not. In practical terms: call someone every day, be grateful for our messy creative brains as we are much more able to adapt to change than others. Lean into any darkness with gratitude, not fear. Music will lift your mood. Find nature. Get dressed!
Streaming: I’ve enjoyed live streaming from The Mary Wallopers and Paddy Hanna whilst getting involved myself. I did a live acoustic stream last Sunday in which I played some songs and violin pieces to an overwhelmingly positive response. I plan on doing another this Sunday at 8pm on Instagram.
Reading: I’ve been reading ‘Patrick in his Own Words’ by Joseph Duffy which features Patrick’s very own writings on Christianity and ‘Anger is an Energy’ by John Lydon, which is a very honest account of his life. Both captivating in their own unique way.
Knitting: I’ve got into knitting socks and jocks whilst complaining about everyone from Idles to Inhaler in equal measure.
I’m self-isolating at home alone, which is no huge shock to the system as I typically tend to spend a lot of my days, happily cocooned from the world. One could panic if one begins to consider the bigger picture, be it what’s happening globally, or projecting yourself into imagined futures, so the way I’m approaching things is simply by taking it day-by-day and focusing on what I do with my time. I’m one of the extremely lucky people that can – for the time being, at least – work from home, so I guess it’s as middle class a form of self-isolation as one could envisage.
Sure, all upcoming DJ gigs have been postponed, but I still have my radio show, which I’m enjoying hosting more than ever before, especially as I’d never broadcasted from home before. Hosting my shows is the best form of therapy I can imagine – sharing the songs that tugged on my heart-strings, or made me smile, or dance today – with you. In the past week, I’ve found that rather than listen to a Spotify list, I want to hear a DJ introduce and talk about the music, a DJ who sounds like he/she cares about what’s happening and that you can hear that in their song selection. Might our future post-Covid19-Age slow down the rate of the automation of our societies and make us focus on what’s ‘human’ again? It’s certainly made me appreciate anew the importance and power of radio.
So I find that focusing on just the day in hand is the approach that works best for me and breaking it down into: what will I do this morning, this afternoon, and tonight?
1. Exercise is crucial for me, be it going for a run (early, in a quiet spot, where I rarely might see people), or doing a home full-body work-out, followed by pilates or yoga or mediation (not very good at this, but I’m working on it). So after a glass of warm water, that’s how I kickstart the day. 60 minutes focus on the health and mind. Then breakfast. After, I settle down to reply to mails and listen to promos and start gathering tunes together for the night’s radio show. I will allow myself a glance at the day’s news to make sure I’m in tune with what’s happening, but I won’t dwell on it. I can’t control what’s happening in northern Italy or in New York. All I can do is look after myself, focus on staying away from people, focus on my work. If I didn’t have my show on RnaG, I’d probably be making mixes, sharing them online. Doing something creative that makes me happy. Then it’s lunchtime.
2. After lunch, I might do some more admin work, prepare social media updates etc, but the last few days I’ve found myself getting in touch with people and having long chats with them. I might spend an hour and a half catching up with family and friends, or friends I haven’t spoke to for a while. So, communicate. Reach out … like The Four Tops. While we need to stay apart, more than ever we need to keep in touch with one another (“together we’ve got power, apart we’ve got power” …. the Reverend Jesse Jackson said it best) . Pick up the phone and ring someone, especially if you’ve been alone all day. We’re in The Matrix, there are those in other Pods that would love to hear from you. I also love to read, so it’s also a good time to catch up on books and perhaps half of a movie (the rest can wait till later, or tomorrow), or a TV show. I’m in a cocoon, so I’m going to make it as pleasant a place as possible. Also: ignore spending time on Twitter, it’ll just make you anxious. I just mainly check my notifications and ignore the anxious news-feed.
3. After supper, it’s almost showtime. Then, two hours, locked in, surrounded by my entire music collection for the first time in all my years on air. Playing from the heart, having Eureka moments as I dance and waltz around my studio. If I think of a tune that sounds / feels appropriate as next choice and find it in time, I’ll play it. This is almost a revelation to me as before I’d be 30 miles away from home and lamenting that I didn’t have a particular track with me. I’ve had a few emotional moments on air, listening to old songs through a new filter (we’re at the dawn of a post-viral Age), reading new meanings into old lyrics (listen to ‘City Sickness’ by Tindersticks, or ‘April Skies’ by The Jesus & Mary Chain, you’ll find within them a new word, that previously didn’t exist). If there’s a lump in my throat, you’ll hear it. If you’re not fortunate enough to be able to work, I would recommend doing something creative with your time at some stage during the day. Whether it’s making a big pot of vegetable soup, or learning to bake, or learning to sing a song, or writing. You’ve always wanted to have more time on your hands? Here’s your chance to use it.
In short, my tips are (a) exercise, (b) stay in touch with people and (c) do something with your time that you’ve always wanted to do, or that makes you happy. And take it one day at a time. Don’t panic. The next breath is all that matters. Tabhair aire x
A few things that are helping me negotiate self-isolation that you may find helpful too:
Jana Winderen, Chris Watson and Deathprod. Listening at the moment to Jana Winderen’s Energy Field, some Chris Watson and Deathprod’s albums Imaginary Songs From Tristan Da Cunha and Morals and Dogma. Non-song music I find soothing, cleansing of nervous energy, and drowns out the news when it all becomes too much to digest.
MUBI. When you’ve exhausted Netflix and just feel groggy dipping back into it knowing there’s nothing left to watch, there’s Mubi. There’s been a lot of Ingmar Bergman films up on the site of late and some great independent cinema from all over the world. Recent inspirations include Bong Joon- ho’s Mother and Claire Denis’ High Life.
Meditation. Now that all has slowed down or shut shop, I’m finding a little more time to meditate in the morning. Slowing down and quietening the breath and mind has helped stave off anxiety and grounds me in my day. If you have the opportunity to do so, would recommend giving it a go.
I have a couple of kids and as we’re all at home at the minute I’m trying to find ways to entertain them. One thing we’re doing is listening to records while doing art. I let them choose a record (my son Henry is 6 so it’s usually dictated by the album cover) then we chat a bit about the music and it gets them away from screens for a bit. I think that’s a healthy thing for anyone to be do. Anything that gets you off the screen for even half an hour. Henry has just discovered The Cure because of it and he loves them so happy days!! As much as I love The Beatles, I’ve been listening to Revolver nearly every night for the past few years because Yellow Submarine is, or was, his favourite song. It was getting to the point where I was going to have to warn him “with peace and love”. Sorry Ringo!
Try not to put pressure on yourself to be productive. It seems like everyone is flat-out doing livestreams etc. which is class, especially if it’s helping the artist and the audience but some people won’t be in the right frame of mind to do that at the minute and that’s cool too. Don’t be stressing if you’d rather binge on Netflix instead of recording a concept album about the end of days! I find that something good always comes after a quiet spell.
I try to stay away from the news. I’ve been doing that since the economic crash in 2007. It’s everywhere anyway so I get whatever I need from various sources and from chatting with friends but I avoid mainstream coverage as much as possible as I find it always has an agenda and I feel myself getting depressed if I’m exposed to too much of it. Stevie Scullion
Willie: So far the most noticeable difference to our otherwise very, very quiet lives in rural Leitrim is the amount of people now walking up and down our road with their families and dogs. It’s nice to see people, but it is strange. Social distancing has been on our road for centuries. I’ve been waking up earlier than usual since this all began. I think it is important to maintain a routine. A walk is always first after coffee. Followed by some outdoor work: planting trees, cutting wood, clearing stuff and getting ready to build new things. These things must be done before going near a screen or computer. Maybe just the odd update, but nothing more. I also pick two friends at random on my social media to say hello to and check in on. Everyone is in a different situation and coping with things differently. So far, all the people I am in touch with are all self-isolating (to a point) and it makes me feel like I’m part of a larger community.
There has been lots of healthy meals being cooked, some great books and films being read and viewed, and some great jams going on in our music room. Before our after-dinner walk with Rooster (the dog) we listen to some very loud early dub and dance around the living room. This seems to be Rooster’s favorite and he always passes out on the couch after the walk. Adapting to this new way of life has come quickly to us and we are making the most of it. We are very lucky to be in the situation we are out in the countryside, but I believe everyone, with a few changes can still have a lot of fun, stay healthy and not go out of their minds… and I just found out today that my favourite Irish beer (White Hag) is now doing free delivery!
Natalia: When I wake up I make sure to change out of my pjs straight away. Even if I’m just getting into a tracksuit and watching cartoons with my coffee, it just makes me feel like it’s a new day. During the day, I turn off my phone and internet for hours at a stretch to keep myself from constantly refreshing all the mad updates, cause, lordee, is this all fascinating second to second, but if I don’t consciously turn it off, I’m lost down the rabbit hole. Since I live rurally and can get out without seeing anyone, I’ve been planting loadsa trees everyday. I’ve been planting trees on our land and also on the clear-felled forestry land around us to try and eventually restore the health of the soil there. At night, we’ve been meeting up with friends online for dinner or some drinks which has made me more social than I usually am when I’m at home. To keep fit I’ve been watching dancehall dance tutorials so when we all see each other again my dance moves will be out of this galaxy.
Aonghus: Current isolation strategies: making quesadillas and watching Curb Your Enthusiasm. Practicing guitar lots and lots and lots. Frequently putting away my phone. Push-ups in my room listening to Ghettotech mixes. Running and cycling. Dancing to Throbbing Gristle, DAF and Psychic TV drunk in my kitchen (subsequently getting the fear and convincing myself I’m infected). The novels I’d been putting off. Scramble some eggs or scramble some tofu? Writing music. Not being a bozo when I have to leave the house. Dancing in the Street Silent music video. Long stints of time spent with Eliane Radigue, Alice Coltrane and Sandy Bull.
1. Don’t worry if you don’t have a home set up. There is no pressure to create right now. We are like everyone else and this whole thing can be distracting. So if you’ve nothing to create, enjoy other music. Just sit around and listen to your favourites, get inspired. It can be a good time to turn off and reset.
2. Don’t just sit on the phone or at the telly all day. I’m not saying write a song a day but attempt writing something or note down ideas you have. Just for your own process. I find for me the less I write the harder it becomes to get back into it.
3. Self-isolation as shite as it is without loads of us are losing jobs and opportunities. But think of it like when ye didn’t do your homework and your teacher wasn’t in the next day. Go back perfect something you wanted to do. Maybe learn more about how to master/ sell/ market your music. Also, shout more people because we’re all at home and looking for distractions if you’ve any questions but don’t go to mad with badgering people all the same as they may just need to tune out of things for a while too
I’m currently dealing with the isolation and (perhaps?) mild symptoms by watching this video. It’s incredibly informative and alleviates anxiety. Before the virus hit I was starting to self isolate anyway so personally my life hasn’t changed at all. I’m still spending most of my days working in my studio. Conor O’Brien
Big fucking bangers
As someone who usually operates the “save the best for last” rule with everything, I’ve decided that now is the time for indulgence and I am diving in deep with my favourite songs. Bangers are the songs that hit like a karate kick against your stomach, stopping you in your tracks and making all the hairs on the back of your neck stand. That’s what we need now, to remind us that fun and passion are things that can exist in small doses no matter what our circumstances are. In no particular order, these are the songs that make me feel like I’ve just snorted a line of life: Robyn’s Call Your Girlfriend, Dua Lipa’s Physical, The Blaze’s Places, Janet Jackson’s Love Will Never Do (Without You), SZA’s Drew Barrymore, John Talbot’s Oro Y Sangre, Jon Hopkins’s remix of Daniel Avery’s Glitter. You’re welcome.
A playlist, if you will:
Before all of this… became what it is, I saw a tweet from some self-isolating in China and they advised people to get up early. It doesn’t matter what you do with your day, just get up early. As my workload shrinks every day, I can’t live as if I have nothing to get up for so I wake up around 8 or 9 every morning and create chores to make the day feel worthwhile. I’m not reaching Shonda Rhimes levels of productivity – or making sourdough – but I’m reading the book that’s been sitting on my nightstand for the last three months, walking the dog for a little bit longer each day – he’s having the best time, btw – or joining in on #CovideoParty each night on Twitter. With less work to do, I can give whatever piece I’m working on my full attention. It’s funny when money is taken out of the equation/ bank account, how quickly you can reset the pace of your work. This is probably the pace I should always have been working at so I’m going to try and enjoy this weird silver lining before capitalism returns, and I really, truly hope that it doesn’t.
Appreciating what I have and thinking ahead
Knowing just how many gigs, festivals and parties that have been cancelled for the foreseeable, I can’t help but appreciate how much fun I normally have with my friends. I’ve been in constant contact with them and it’s agreed that the sesh we’ll have when we’re reunited will be incredible; swinging bottles of Buckie, licking each other’s faces and dancing like our lives depend on it. If we ever get to go to a festival again, I can’t wait to feel the clap of cold air that hits your body as you emerge from a sweaty dance tent, helping us cool down like we’re thoroughbred racehorses that have just crossed the finish line. Oh, and I hope that we all get that shift we’ve been dreaming of in contamination. Put in the groundwork now and gracefully slide into the DMs of whoever it is that sends your tongue wagging.
Our situation has changed today because myself and my wife Carla have developed sore throats so we are now socially isolating rather than distancing but up to now, here are some things I’ve been doing to adapt:
My ‘go to’ is always to get busy in the studio, so I set myself a goal of creating 10 tracks that reflect what’s going on around me right now. It’s essentially an imaginary film score. I’ve called it ‘Endless Suspension’. It’s my attempt at capturing the moment and how I’m feeling rather than a commercial endeavour. I think we all feel a bit surreal right now, like we’re merely characters trapped in a film. Time has been suspended. Health and financial concerns aside, slowing down does allow us time to really live in our lives and it might open up opportunities for positive changes too. We can control how badly this plot plays out, by staying home as much as possible and supporting our NHS staff to get on with saving lives.
So here are some other things I’ve been doing to keep physically and mentally healthy
Belfast City Marathon has been cancelled but I’m keeping to my running regime. I get up really early to avoid crowded paths and also to get some me-time. Running is like my meditation time. Now I’m self-isolating I’m going to miss it and wish I’d bought an exercise bike or something for the garden.
I’m a fan of audiobooks. I’m listening to The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck’by Mark Manson and relistening to Sam Harris’s Waking Up. It’s great, it explores how meditation is a rational spiritual practice devoid of religion. It could probably help a lot of people cope in these uncertain times.
It’s my birthday today. It’s strange not going out or meeting up with friends and family. Instead we celebrated by cooking special meals. It’s a good time for getting out the slow cooker or handmaking pasta or other recipes that usually take too long in a busy household. Eating together as a family is something I hope to continue doing more often when life gets back to normal.
Some of you may find comfort in practicing mindfulness during these times of isolation but I’m practicing living like a little goblin and it’s honestly way better but ultimately unsustainable. I’ve enjoyed whiling away the hours watching King of the Hill for the first time. Still like 200 episodes to go, hopefully that’ll take me to the end of the month.
If sound and colour is too much to stomach during your hermitic period then literature could be the answer to your prayers, poindexter. I just finished My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh which is fantastic although the idea of a self-imposed hibernation might hit too close to home for some.
Gamers Rise Up
Now is as good a time as ever to delve in to the world of gaming whether board/card/video/mobile/mind/love/war. A lot of these can be enjoyed alone or online with minimal social contact. If you live with people and you all wash your hands then trading in screens to argue about board game rules for a hot minute can be beneficial. Personally I’ve been playing too much Solitaire on my phone and channeling a lot of Flowers On The Wall energy but that’s sorta my whole existence anyway.
One of my friends made a playlist for every person that messaged them, I did a trade and we both ended up discovering new music that was outside of our own personal Spotify bubbles. This was a nice way to feel connected to the outside world and whet my appetite for content.
If you’re a musician who subscribes to the myth of productivity but suffers from creative block try experimenting with your set-up. Rearrange your pedalboard, try alternate tunings (D-A-D-F#-B-e is really fun), watch tutorials about the music theory you’ve been ignoring for years. Also do some maintenance on your instrument. Clean it, restring it, change the reed whatever.
If it’s more fun to play you’re more likely to pick it up. Listen to albums you like and play along with them. Jam over the King of the Hill theme song. Don’t try to force something just because you feel you have to in a period of extended downtime. Carl Eccles
The majority of my time has been spent working from home for the better part of the last decade or so. Whether that has been teaching piano or writing and recording in a bedroom studio, i’ve gotten pretty used to being disciplined and creating routines in small spaces. You could also definitely categorise my personality as the more hermit-y type, so having to stay home for long periods really hasn’t been that bad for me so far.
I’m very fortunate to have a four-legged friend who doesn’t hold back letting me know when it’s time to get up and go outside in the morning, and again throughout the day. It’s easy to slip into feeling like every minute has to be productive when you’re spending large chunks of time at home and punish yourself when you feel like you’re not doing enough. It’s important to step back from the desk / computer / drum machine etc. Go outside and get some air at regular intervals. I’d definitely go insane from too much screen time if it wasn’t for the dog walks. I don’t listen to music and try my best to not look at my phone during these outings and focus on my surroundings instead.
Likewise I find it helpful to block off my time to it’s not just: sleep – get up – try and feel productive – fail – sleep. Making a list the night before of what you’d like to achieve the next day and mark off a realistic time frame in which you think you can achieve it. Then you can binge watch watching Hairdresser Reacts with Brad Mondo to your hearts desire and not feel quite so crippled with guilt.
Sure there might be some novelty to the initial lounging you’l experience, but personally speaking, every day feeling like a Sunday wears off fast and I start to feel pretty G R O S S. Get dressed, go for a walk (see routine) and eat something that isn’t trash.
Turn off social media
I was doing this sporadically pre-social isolation but i find myself doing it even more now. Being constantly bombarded with news articles and the general feeling like the world is going to implode is not conducive to feeling good. Sometimes i feel like it’s really hard to have any sort of clear thoughts with all the outside noise. I sign out of all my accounts (including email!) on my laptop and try to either put my phone in the opposite side of the room or turn it off completely for a couple of hours and focus this time on doing something productive; arranging a track that I’ve been putting off, recording something new etc.
On the flip side of this sometimes my head is so melted I can’t even focus on the task at hand to i try and do something mindless for a bit like prepping my food for the week, paint my nails or serenading my dog. I usually feel better after a while. Screaming into your pillow is fine too.
It’s ok to not feel productive and/or motivated right now
This kind of ties into the social media part and the feelings of not doing enough but now more than ever I’m seeing so many posts about people working on that album they’ve been putting off, doing that collab, recording that mix etc. This is all wonderful of course and hell yeah, seize the day! But there are also many others feeling overwhelmed or paralysed with fear and anxiety, and that’s ok too. There’s so much uncertainty in the world right now but there’s one common thread; no one is alone in this, we’re all in the same boat. It’s the perfect time to reach out to that friend you haven’t spoken to in a while or check in a bit more regularly with folks you think might need it. The last couple of weeks have oddly been a very good period of ~re-connection~ for me, I’ve had several lovely video chats with friends I haven’t seen in years! Ellen King
1. Eat crisps, order back-up crisps online. Find fun, fresh places in the gaff to eat them. While you’re at it, style your outfit to the flavours. Savage x Fenty and green Walkers salt and vin.
2. Mute your favs. Don’t watch your friends do their own terrible version of social distancing. They are wonderful but they are DUMB and it is stressful to see. Link up on apps and have a delayed chat on a bad connection. It will feel like you are pissed in a club and keep talking over each other, like the old times.
3. Move your body. Now, follow step 2 because the internet is weight-obsessed and the news is stressful enough that I don’t need to start competitively squatting for clout. Wear a mask and gloves and get some air in the dead of night.
Adopt a Teresa Mannion state of mind. Don’t make unnecessary journeys. Leigh Arthur
Composers for the most part work in solitude as it is. This hasn’t changed. What has changed, through the slowing of various infrastructures, is the potential for outside distractions. Creation can achieve a beautiful fluency when uninterrupted. I’ve been really enjoying this of late and finding value in previously discarded works that didn’t get the time to blossom fully.
Socially, music’s changed quite a bit of course. I deeply miss playing with my musician friends. Connection is achieved through a vast multitude of electronic media channels however. It’s producing novel results and surprising collaborations! That is a truly wonderful thing.
A lot of people I work with are career musicians whose love affair with music has become deeply distorted as a result of wanting music, as a tool, to springboard them into desirable lifestyles of various forms. This is an obvious and natural desire to have, but now more then ever, we’re given the opportunity to look deeply at our personal relationships with music and sound. Focus on primitive elements of sensory experience. Remember what your early sound experiences meant to you as a child for instance and reestablished a connection with music that is yours alone. Challenge yourself to be content with that. There are endless adventures to go on.
I usually practice in a studio and I don’t have much music equipment in my apartment, so I am putting together sounds with what I have around me and using silence as a tool in the pieces I am making. I am trying to treat some of this time at home as a DIY residency. A buddy of mine in Leeds told me he recently put on a live stream gig and half of someone’s set was just them making ice cream. This goes to show we can use this time to explore new ways of coming up with how we can perform by making use of what we have. I hope that a lot of artists are getting time to create work in this period, but we have a lot on our minds right now and it is important not to put ourselves under pressure to get loads of work done just to feel like we’ve been productive. If you are struggling to make work at the moment, it can also be a good time to take a break from making and to get inspired by others through reading, online courses, listening to records and learning about other artist’s work.
Live Stream Gigs
It is a tough time for lots of musicians. January and February tend to be quiet enough months for gigs and a lot of artists would have been spending the last couple of weeks gearing up to get back gigging and going on tour. Musicians all over the world have been coming together online and putting on live stream gigs, that people have the option of donating to if they can. It’s been inspiring to see and a nice way to do something with your friends when you’re social distancing. I normally try to limit my use of social media, and in these times it is important to take breaks from social media, yet I am getting a lot of comfort from it in a way by seeing how everyone is doing their bit to support one and other. Be it simply sharing their music with a friend, buying merch or having some banter in the live stream comments – it’s also good to still be able to laugh with your friends!
I am starting to appreciate a lot of things that I would not normally take as much time to appreciate, things like going outside for fresh air, nature, cooking or being able to go for a coffee with a friend. It is a good time to think about what we can do for the planet when the self-isolation period is over. For example, our carbon footprints, how frequent we travel by plane was a factor in how quickly the virus spread, and this also makes an impact on the environment. It is also going to be unimaginably tough for healthcare workers and frontline staff to get through this, it is important to do what we can to show gratitude and support for how hard they are working under these circumstances. I live in Scotland and made the decision not to go home to Ireland during this time, phone calls from family and friends have been keeping me at ease. Keep checking in each other, it might help a friend more than you would think.
I can only speak for myself here and don’t feel in a position to give general advice or words of comfort during al of this, because as much as everyone seems to be going through something so similar globally, peoples living situations, savings, no savings, debt, regrets etc. still play such a huge factor into how this is affecting everyone individually. As a musician and songwriter I must say the self-quarantine is something I have at least touched on before in my life. Holding onto every penny while trying to maintain some sense of belief in my values, all the time carrying a sense of dread around in my back pocket is not necessarily something my new for me.
Artists and musicians are losing gigs, cancelling tours and taking an immediate financial & spiritual hit with this crisis. I sometimes find myself thinking about the fact that this community of people are often the ones who have had some ‘extra time‘ to think, to analyse capitalist systems, to wonder whether it’s worth giving up the NEVER lasting dream of being an artist with integrity while paying the rent. I’m really feeling for people in other sectors who’ve had their entire life structure suddenly pulled from under them. It takes years to build up such skills as planning your own day, setting your own goals and creating some sense of purpose.
In regards to how I’m coping, I guess I’ve been doing what I’ve always been doing, counting my money weekly to see if I’m doing “ok”, creating new music and wondering how long this economy is going to climb before the next big tumble. I’ve been really enjoying live-streaming DJ sets from my living room, saying hi to friends in the chat rooms and staying connected with music & songs. Now I’m doing some morning slots on DDR too which I’ve never done before and I just love spinning records & sending out some good energy into the world whatever way I can.
Everyone’s going to have a different reaction to this pandemic and the follow-on effects economically and socially will vary greatly as much as they will be shared. The best thing we can do is allow people to feel how they feel right now, accept some frustrations and take each moment as it comes. Cathal Mac Gabhann
Michelle Whitehead (Aiken Promotions)
The one thing that has saved me in all sanity levels is a daily routine. I’ve had to change it up slightly just like the rest of the world – no more 8AM Luas trips!
I realise I am very lucky to be in a position that allows me to work from home, so I get up at my normal time, get a coffee, shower and then start my work and actually get dressed (I know, shocker!) It wasn’t easy at the start, it took me a few days to adjust but I realised that I needed to treat my day like I’m in the office and refrain from opening the fridge 40 times an hour.
I created a space for me to work within my normal hours, taking my normal lunch break. Writing all my tasks for the day down but I’m finding a bit of breathing space to come up with new creative ideas for upcoming projects.
By excerises, I don’t mean learning Tik Tok dances….
One of the things I’ve realised especially during this time, I hold onto a lot of stress in my body and I wondered why I’m completely drained all the time! I found running every couple of days is good for me, it releases extra energy, makes me feel good and gives me mental clarity, practicing social distancing, of course. I’ve only started doing yoga the last couple of months, so I’m starting to research YouTube videos that I can use. I have the calm app also, which is great to do daily meditations when things get a little too much.
Connect with people
My job is a very sociable one which relies heavily on being connected with people, nothing has really changed from this prospective, only the location. I’m still picking up the phone and to speak to people professionally and personally.
I’ve had my good and bad days in these uncertain times, I’m seeing the words “rescheduled show” a lot more than I would have hoped for 2020 but generally, I’m feeling positive that this will only bring the music industry together.
There’s a lot of good faith towards people in music right now and it should continue, we’re all in this together. Help support each other.
Morning Pages: This is from Julia Cameron’s course ‘The Artist’s Way’. To start your day, write three A4 pages of stream of consciousness. You can write about anything; your worries, fears, breakfast, hopes and dreams – just write! It is a great way to quieten the mind and the collective anxiety we are experiencing in these extraordinary times. Excellent for working out creative problems too.
Yoga/Dancing: YouTube has a large library of free yoga classes (the infamous Yoga with Adriene or try other Vinyasa Flow ones). The Space Between (located in Dublin) have announced free livestream yoga classes. CMAT is streaming live videos of her learning different dances. Get back into your body.
Cooking/Baking: If, like me, your days are revolving around eating, cooking or baking is a great way to relax and get out of your head. There is something about the movement, focus and time management in cooking that always seems to help me write lyrics.
As far as offering practical advice on how to deal with this. We don’t know if we are doing this the right way or the wrong way. But so far we are all still sane-ish.
Cahir: The House Party app is a necessity. We all met for a drink in the virtual club last night.
Conor: Cooking healthy meals, meditating, reading books about Buddhism, stretching/body weight resistance exercise. Fighting the urge to drink wine at 5.30pm.
Claire: I’m trying to make sure I do some exercise in my tiny yard everyday and am slowly making my way through the Criterion Collection in an effort to elevate my status as “movie nerd” to full “movie bore”. Escapism is everything at this point.
Allan: Whisky is essential and the odd Jane Fonda workout.
Lyndsey: Cahir and I have two toddlers. Maisie is two and Odhrán is one. Over night like many parents we lost our childcare infrastructure. So, I’m either working on my PhD thesis or dancing around the living room to Frozen, both scenarios are an absolute mind melt.
I’ve carved some time for myself in the evenings, to do something relaxing and meditative. For me, this means working with textiles. I’ve been using hand embroidery as a way of decompressing and meditating for about 16 years. I don’t plan out a design, I just gather up all my fabric and threads and start stitching. Hand embroidery is a very easy technique to learn, I’d encourage anyone who needs something to help calm them down during this uncharted time, to give it a try.
It’s difficult for anyone to make complete sense of what’s going on. Locking yourself away from everyday life is in a word unusual for most of us. It does give us an opportunity to work on those unfinished projects that have been gathering dust; be it a song, remix, or side project.
One of the fun things that has come from this time of social distance is home performances. Maybe they’ll become overdone, but right now, they’re a great way of connecting with an audience that may possibly be bigger than the one that stands in front of you at gigs.
One thing that I really hope flourishes during these uncertain times is collaborations. How great would it be to see acts that may never have thought to work together come up with material. How about Happyalone working with Sister Ghost, Arvo Party teaming up with PowPig, and a Co. Cork collaboration with Bantum and Simple Kid. I’d love to hear the end results of some of those.
First of all I’m trying to become a better cook. I’ve got a load of cookbooks to try out sitting around and have always wanted to be able to put some time into trying some of the reciepe out. Cooking is pretty relaxing too, never mind being rewarding with good food at the end so It’s a pretty good use of your energy.
Secondly, I’m gonna try to get a lend of an instrument I’ve never played off one of the lads and learn the basics of it. I’ve not had the drive to spend a lot of time and energy getting to grips with a new instrument since I learnt guitar in my early teens so I’d be interested to see how far I can get with it.
Lastly, I’m just gonna relax and not put too much pressure on myself to do too much writing or anything. It’s a stressful time for everyone so it’s not reasonable to expect the creative part of your mind to be able to work to full capactity and come up with great results. Everyone will need a bit of time to find their groove in isolation. If I get some good stuff written, then good, but if not then that’s fine too. I’ll probably put more focus on trying to binge watch all the shows I’ve watched over the years and have never put the time into watching fully back, and maybe try to get my total of books I’ve read into double figures. Josh Healy
Don’t try and do too much.
Just because other people are writing albums/books/fan fiction doesn’t mean that you have to. If you want to watch Schitt’s Creek for the 20th time that’s great – it’s one of the greatest TV shows. Just because you might be out of work or cooped up at home doesn’t mean you have to be productive – fuck that capitalist noise. If, like me, you’ve gone from being super busy to having all your work for the foreseeable future postponed to 2021 (my chest got tight typing that) it’s important to take time to allow yourself rest and recover from the madness. A lot of us were teetering on the edge of burnt out before all this started – that doesn’t go away in a few days.
Allow yourself to feel sad when you need to
It’s ok to be sad/scared/worried about things changing drastically in your life. None of us were ever prepped to deal with this kind of a situation so it’s going to be draining on your mental health. If you have a day where you want to cry and stay in bed allow yourself to do that. If you’re angry at everything that’s going on be angry. Emotions are important and don’t go away no matter how much we stuff them down.
Video chat your pals
I’m really missing my friends and just having silly chats about nothing so I’m trying to video call as much as possible to see their lovely faces. This is especially important if you’re having loads of the emotions alá point two. Reach out to people if you need to. It’s also good to fire off a few ‘how are you doing?’ messages when you feel up to it. Talking to someone else about their worries is a good way to lift yourself out of your own too. It reminds us that we have connections to people. Helping others can also stop that silly voice in your head telling you that you’ve done nothing that day.
Eat what you need to when you need to
The main thing we all need to do in these times is survive and feeding yourself is a very important part of that. Don’t feel guilty for being hungry and feeding yourself. I saw someone post a meme the other day about ‘being out of breath cause they were fat and not cause of the virus’. Spare a thought for your fat friends (or anyone struggling with their weight) before you go posting nonsense like that – it’s fatphobic and toxic. You putting on a few pounds because you’ve been listening to your body and feeding it what it needs to deal with the stress of this time isn’t a bad thing.
Every morning I get on my bike and go to work.
We haven’t been sent home from work yet.
I work a 20 minute cycle from my home.
Every morning I cycle down an empty South Circular Road.
We haven’t been told that we can leave the office.
I work in an office in Dublin 2.
Every morning I make a coffee in an empty coffee dock.
We have been told to move desks to keep the regulatory distance.
I have been washing my hands every time I use a door.
Every time I take the elevator, I wait for an empty one, as per instruction.
We sit at separate tables in the canteen at lunch.
I usually do this anyway.
Every 5pm, I leave and cycle home the same way I cycled in.
When I get home, I make dinner making sure to leave enough for the next day’s lunch.
When I finish eating, I wash up.
When I finish washing up, I have a drink and watch an episode of “Lost”.
When the episode is finished, I watch the next.
When the episode is finished, I watch the next.
I haven’t gotten around to working on music.
I haven’t read a page.
I haven’t had the time to volunteer with community work.
I haven’t corrected my fucked up sleep schedule.
I haven’t woken up early.
I haven’t started properly freaking out yet, though. David Tapley
Looking after your mental health is critical while self-isolating.
1. Maintaining your routine is essential. For me, getting up and getting dressed, and then starting the working day at my usual time helps me to get into the right headspace for work. Simple things like taking regular breaks and setting a finishing time help maintain productivity and also gives me the freedom to enjoy that all-important downtime in the evening.
2. Use all the technological tools at your disposal. I have been making the most of video calling to keep in touch with friends and family members. It is important to try and maintain face to face contact at a time when many of us are alone. I have also taken the opportunity of this time to develop my own skills by signing up for online courses. I’ve recently registered on a course with edX studying 18th Century Opera.
3. Go for a walk or sit in the garden. It’s important to stay mentally and physically well at this time while adhering to government guidelines. Our little french bulldog Peanut has made all the difference for my husband and I. Simply being able to take him out for walks or throwing the ball in the garden helps distract us from all the uncertainty we are all facing. Plus, he is a serious cuddle monster, which always helps.
Think about any time in the past that you said to yourself ‘If I didn’t have to go to work today I could do x, y & z…” Even though we may have learnt that having extra time at home doesn’t necessarily mean having time to do extra hobbies, using the time you would have spent commuting to work is a great way of scheduling time in your day to actively do the thing that up until now you’ve only talked about.
Discover a new side to artists through their live streams. You get to see a new side to them feeling comfortable in their own homes. Take for example Post Punk Podge’s recent live stream on Instagram, we got some beautiful acoustic versions of old and new material that we would never have heard otherwise. You also get to see the community surrounding the artist in the comments section!
With more time in the day and a decrease in takeaway options, spending more time in the kitchen to prepare proper meals has become a more convenient option. Looking for recipes online that are outside your comfort zone is a good way of building your confidence in the kitchen. It’s an easy way to switch up each day from the next with as much, or as little effort as you feel like on the day.
Charlotte Dryden (Oh Yeah Music Centre)
First off don’t beat yourself up if you are not set up and in a routine yet. If you were always out and about, had a job to go to etc, take some time out, work out what you need to do, talk to your colleagues, friends, collaborators, clients about next steps. This is a whole new world we are entering and we’ve got to get our heads around it. Don’t leave it too long though, get essential family, home stuff sorted, then have a home holiday. Then set yourself a date for getting back into a routine – simple things like set your alarm, get up, take a shower, get dressed and get into a regular routine. It will help everything else flow just doing that. We have just discovered zoom at work and so to keep my team focused we are going to set up regular catch-ups, we will all make coffee, sit down and catch up and get work organised between us.
Take a break from social media. People are trying to help but it’s overload, hearsay and quite often utter nonsense and if you are already worrying about money, livelihood etc it won’t help. Please mind your mental health and talk to your family and friends on a regular basis, set up video calls with people for light-hearted chats as well as for sharing any worries or concerns. When I am feeling overwhelmed or low, I remind myself of the good stuff, like my family are healthy or I’m able to work from home etc. Wee things can help calm you down when you feel like the world is crashing in on you.
If you can, then this is the time to do some things you just never had the time to do around the house, read more, create more, make more music, write more, learn to cook, organise your record collection, talking to loved ones more, listen to more music, sort the garden etc.
Record: We have already been recording our album in isolation so the current circumstances won’t change that much. Things are going to get weird I think. There are spores.
Make stuff: Making music stuff is of course making stuff, but being able to throw something together with paint or pedals or software is conducive to further creativity. Rather than stopping altogether between recording sessions, having some kind of creative output just generally keeps the thing ticking over.
Talk: I have friends in health services right now. They give me perspective and sometimes videos of them singing Cherish in full gown and mask etc. As for other friends, telling someone you’re going out of your mind has proven to be a quick way to open a long old dialogue.
Scram. I certainly can’t stay indoors too long, getting outside hits a massive reset button. And it’s possible to do it in a solitary fashion. On the other hand,
if I don’t get my own dog soon, I’ll be that scary woman wailing in the park, trailing the empty dog lead.
Stay in: Music helps everything. I’ve had an Aldous Harding and gin night that was a great success. Her odd videos make me squirm and laugh. Television is draining. Except Only Connect of course, no matter how many episodes I watch, I’m still not very good at this infuriating quiz.
Listen: To Circle. And Pharaoh Overlord. They get their own paragraph.
Cook everything: Ian’s gone mad on baking bread again. I’ve left a slightly more accessible recipe below, for novices. Spud only makes bass, and you can’t eat that.
A recipe for panic aches, see.
Sift the sane and salt into a mixing sneeze and make a gathering in the centre.
Crack the children into the well; add the weeks and months of oil and a half.
Gradually draw near to the liquid by crying all the morning with a friend until all the internet has been incorporated and then beat well to make it batter.
Scream in the remaining milk. Alternatively, beat all the strangers together for 1 minute in a car park.
Leave for about 30 weigh-ins. Stir again before waking.
To make the fever, meet a small heavy-based man until very hot and then turn the handle down to size.
Lightly trip with oil and lay in enough wine to coat the base of the man thinly (about 2), tilting the perspective so the gathering spreads evenly.
Long for a moderate heat forever or until the fomite looks thin on the top and begins to frown at the edges. Flip the fever over with a family knife or wait on the second side.
Turn into a plate, smeared with a little butter, sprinkle your neighbour, run and serve. Eleanor Myler
Make an intense, but non-permanent change to your physical appearance. Something really unexpected that will look objectively strange, and be drastic enough for your family and friends to give you the attention you so desperately crave. Bleaching and shaving is passé, so try to be original! Ideas could include:
Grow out your unibrow, if physically possible.
Get the dermal piercing you have always wanted! This will be especially effective if you order the equipment online and administer the piercing with the help of a YouTube tutorial.
Make a bird’s beak out of papier-mache and elastic. Wear it around the house as casually as a new pair of earrings.
A lot of people have been talking about upskilling, and finally starting creative projects that have long been on the back-burner. My advice would be that if it took a legally enforced social lockdown for you to start your novel, then maybe being an author is not your destiny. Might I suggest, as an alternative, deep-diving into an online community you have always been curious about? Consider it upskilling your personality! I joined a Goop subreddit, spent 75 dollars American (plus shipping) on a candle that smells like Gwyneth Paltrow’s vagina, and I never looked back.
Now is the best opportunity anyone in our generation has ever had to rid yourself of any doubts. Worried that your significant other isn’t ‘the one’? Break up with them over the phone, and have them send your nice knickers back in the post. Sneaking suspicion that an acquaintance stole your expensive plumping gloss on a night out four years ago? Request her on Facebook and immediately demand it back, no preamble. Have you been burdened with a secret your mother told you about five years ago? Drop the full details in the family Whatsapp. Not only will this be entertaining for everyone involved, but it will ensure that your life is on the right track post-Covid lockdown. You can’t buy that kind of peace!
Pete Murphy (Pete Murphy PR)
To say the last couple of weeks have been strange and difficult would be a massive understatement. Working with musicians and media doesn’t lend itself easily to social distancing. Obviously for musicians, the first casualty was live show, but for me it was live and pre-recorded studio sessions. The last time I was in a radio station was with EDEN on March 7th at 2FM. That seems like an eternity ago.
Radio plugging continues via phone calls and e-mails, but it’s just not the same. Coupled with this, I’m the father of two primary school kids, and I’m home-schooling, which is way more time consuming than I ever envisaged. My wife works in essential services Monday to Wednesday, meaning my work-day is impacted greatly on those days, and it’s a case of getting things done before they start schooling, and catching up on other work later in the evening.
We will get through this together if we just take care, and hopefully, sooner rather than later, we’ll be back in that venue, watching our favourite artists, and doing what we do best. Stay safe and well.
Well, here we are. I don’t know about you but it feels strangely like all those post-apocalyptic, dystopian movies and books I loved growing up have weirdly prepared me for this, so here’s what I’ve learned. Minus the zombies, so far.
I had symptoms earlier this month so under instruction I didn’t leave my flat once for seven days. I live alone, but thankfully had enough food to last me – just about. I didn’t start my day much differently; Getting up at the same time I normally would (8ish) and did some light exercise whilst listening to something upbeat or informative or funny, showered and ate breakfast & swam in some coffee. Personally, I get swallowed whole by TV and very rarely get much done if I switch it on so I set myself a rule that I wouldn’t turn it on until 6/7pm. Instead, I either read or got on with some writing and recording. Taking breaks to walk around the apartment and phoning friends/family or practice silly voices (seriously), sometimes both.
Eating light meals at the right times was important, so I wasn’t feeling bloated and wasting food unnecessarily since it was finite. Then some boring stuff like tidying, cleaning etc. but with a kick-ass loud soundtrack (may I recommend Public Enemy’s Muse Sick N’ Hour Mess Age, particularly, ‘Give it Up’?)
All basic stuff from a ton of zombie/last human on earth/spaceship stuff, really. It’s amazing how quickly the day went in. I found that the only day I felt my spirit really sag & go into self-pitying mode was when I broke my rule and put the television on all day and got sucked into Twitter, Instagram etc. and scrolled myself into misery.
This was what worked for me (and many, many zombie apocalypse survivors), it may work for you, it may not – I know I will have more than a few movie, video game, drawing days in the coming weeks too to add some variety to the contained days. I think variety, with a modicum of discipline, is key. For me, anyway.
But basically, think of yourself kindly and that means thinking of others kindly too. Try your ardent best to stay indoors as much as possible as that is the simplest way to be kind to others. To us all! Call an old friend or relative – they might not be handling it well and the contact will go along way to easing their worries. We never had to go anything as horrific as a military draft, this is our nearest challenge.
Together we can do this… separately. Be kind and take care. Tony Wright
There are three main things getting me through this time of isolation as my memory of the outside world becomes increasingly more abstract (what do trees smell like again? Big green?)
The first is my greatest love outside of music – an incredible rescue shelter in Harbin, China, called Slaughterhouse Survivors. I follow everything that those utter heroes do to protect, heal and re-home a ridiculous amount of dogs, cats, foxes, pigs, geese etc. They recently spent six weeks in lockdown with FOUR HUNDRED dogs. Three girls, 400 dogs to manage. That’s approx. 800 poops to clean a day, let alone all the medical treatment, feedings and such. The team lived on just cabbage for ages. They got through it all, as did all of the animals in their care. If they can do it under those conditions, we can do it from the comfort of our homes!
The second is simple – I am a massive nerd. My house is full of games and books. I did not realise before now that being able to turn on a game and accidentally lose three days of my life to simulated city management would someday be a handy skill.
The third is very close to my heart – the charity for whom I work, Help Musicians. I have never been so proud of anyone than I am right now of all the teams across the charity. The second that there were hints of concern for artist welfare in the UK the charity immediately jumped into action. So much has already been put into place or adapted in the last few weeks, with a lot more still to come. We really are here to help, now more than ever. We joined forces with several music industry bodies to create a regularly updated website of info and support for musicians in these concerning times, you can check it all out here.
I have a six-month-old baby. Therefore there is no time to be bored and it’s been great to have more time to hang out and show her what acid house is and explain why Giggs is the best rapper of modern times and to sing ‘O Superman’ at her.
I’m an artist. Therefore there is no time to be bored full stop. There’s art to be made. Always. Don’t be whingeing. Make some art. And if you hit a wall or maybe just aren’t in the mood, go clean the jacks.
That’s it, to be honest, I tried to think of 3 things but my life is not much different than it was last month. I’ll be 40 next year, I spent all my 20s and 30s out in pubs and clubs having a laugh and talking shite with people. These days, I go to work, I do the odd gig and I stay at home with my family. It’s class.
Note: I actually did have a third thing but it turned into ‘old guy hates the internet’ rant and I said ‘cop yourself on Andy’. Andy Deviant
Sit on a roof
Living on a first-floor apartment without access to a garden, this has been my saving grace the last two days. Who knew watching birds battle in the trees and cats go about their secretive lives would be so entertaining.
Try to just think as far as the end of the day
As someone who gets very claustrophobic very quickly, its been helping me to not think past today. When my mind goes to thinking ‘but how long will this go on until’ ‘until what exact date will I be inside this 3 room space’ I feel my chest tighten and my mood change very quickly.. so I’ve been trying to just go with the flow of the daylight to night time.
Sleep. Have naps in the daytime. Enjoy your mad dreams if you have any. It’s calming
While the world is moving normally, work is to be done and big bad rents are to be paid, the prospect of those indulgent days on the couch are seldom. Not because of a relentless schedule of working and sleeping, but indulging in something that is “unbeneficial” to art, work or a skill can be often very guilt-inducing. Now that the world isn’t moving as normal – and all the while keeping some dire sort of structure to the day – I have taken the time to do those things separate from music and creating that I have felt too busy to try… now guilt-free. (Avatar: The Last Airbender is in another window as I write).
Learning something new and documenting the progress has been a real incentive for me to continue with my practice. Brushing up on my piano playing and recording a track out of the little diddy written has been an exercise in different styles and how they are applicable. When saving the tracks, I see the log of entries over each day and really don’t want to break that streak. It kind of looks like a diary entry collectable from a video game.
Now that I have moved back to my family home in the countryside, it’s easy to fall into the uncanny routine of a 15-year-old me taking my Summer holidays for granted. Being isolated really reaffirms how dependent on other people I can be. Luckily I am not on my own, but with people who love me. Complacency in contacting the people I love who aren’t around me or even checking in with the fam on a regular basis can begin to set in. Video call, text, play some Peter Gabriel from a boombox over your head outside your mate’s window until they lean out to you, doesn’t matter, just check in with your friends and family. Chatting with those people has been a relief from news and talk on the virus and is a refreshing taste of normality in a weird time. Shane Crosson
Stay connected, you might feel like locking yourself down but its really important to maintain contact with friends, family and a wider community. We are lucky to have the technology we do so use it, and it feels really good to see other peoples faces. Professional commitments might feel a bit pointless but they can give you a sense of purpose and help maintain self-esteem so keep them live and active as best you can. It may feel like everyone is using the situation to bring their A-game to social media, starting new projects, learning new skills and that’s great for providing distraction and ways to connect for some people, but if that’s not you, don’t feel like its the only approach to take.
Develop a daily routine, try and stick to regular sleeping hours. It might feel hard to get up some days but force yourself to, you will feel better for it. Eat as well as you can, look after your mental and physical health and a daily routine will help with that. There are a lot of organisations out there who are offering online support sessions. Aware NI for example, have an online support group every Tuesday afternoon and Help Musicians have the Music Minds Matter 24hr helpline 0808 802 8008.
There is also a lot of uncertainty and anxiety about income and employment. Musicians Union and Help Musicians have useful information on their websites. Help Musicians, for example, have launched a COVID19 Hardship Fund, that you might be eligible for. It is worth exploring these options and seeking further advice on what else might be available to you.
Don’t put pressure on yourself to create. Right now is an unusual headspace to be in and just because you have a lot of time it doesn’t mean you necessarily will feel like being creative, and that is ok!
First things first: keep your routine. It sounds boring and basic, but try to get up at the same time every day – and have that shower! Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean showering daily needs to be off the agenda – do it for yourself and you’ll feel much, much better. Also, if you’re self-isolating with loved ones, they will thank you for it.
Embrace video calls. I’d be the first to admit that I don’t love the video call — I’ve a terrible habit of looking at myself on the call (and thinking about whether I need a haircut or my eyebrows done) rather than looking at the person who’s opposite me. But as we all get more used to video calls, they’ll start to feel a bit like a virtual hug — and we all need a little of that in our lives these days.
Take up a new personal challenge. Is it learning the guitar? Doing an online course? Writing a short story? Whatever it is, try it – and set yourself daily challenges around it. It’ll make you feel energised rather than cooped up – and that can only be a good thing.
Tune into My Roots Are Showing podcast to hear interviews with authors, musicians, broadcasters, politicians and more
It’s fair to say we are all in uncharted waters here in both a personal and a professional sense, and that the most concerning thing at this point is that we know that those waters are about to get much much choppier on both sides, but we don’t quiet know just how choppy, or for how long.
I’m finding the combination of the very scary health emergency, and quite scary economic emergency means there is plenty to keep your mind occupied on both sides of the fence.
Beyond the bouts of existential dread around what is impending in terms of the virus itself and what lies ahead work-wise, It feels like a momentous moment in our lives, and it feels like there surely will be long, lasting scars and effects, but one also hopes that some enduring perspective and benefits will endure on a social level.
It is both a worldwide emergency, and a huge social experiment being played out in real-time across social media and news channels, fascinating and dread-inducing in equal measures, so I’m not sure if I’m very qualified to give any advice at this point, but here’s a few thoughts.
There are so many elements to this whole situation, and not least the bizarre dichotomy between the pandemic and all that brings, and the somewhat welcome relief of the enforced ‘full stop’ from all the racing, running, moving, traveling, constant plotting, constant productiveness, constant fomo, next thing, next thing, next thing, next thing of modern life.
Running Homebeat and ALS as small, DIY minded enterprises is certainly enjoyable and definitely self-determined, but also challenging. Small businesses have very little support structures by their very nature, and add the fact that you tend to live 6 months to a year ahead in terms of your day to day planning and it can be hard to see the woods from the trees sometimes.
I know I for one, have been craving a stop and a pause like this for some time at a very deep personal level, so there is definitely an almost guilty sense of relief in that part of it, but obviously these are not the circumstances that anyone wanted a pause to come about.
But, there will never again (hopefully!) be a moment to draw breath and to re evaluate like this – nature has just intervened and given us all a gilt edged chance to take a moment to take stock, evaluate what is really important to to think about where we’re going next.
Beyond work, don’t forget to actually breath, deeply. It makes a big difference. Take the chance to have a slightly stiller life and embrace it.
STAY ON IT
On the other side of the coin, it’s also important to keep some focus on work and your projects to keep your brain engaged away from the news cycle.
There’s obviously a great opportunity to do some housekeeping – update your website/transcribe that filofax. There are a lot of things to keep on top of regarding Government help initiatives for your business which are there to be taken advantage of.
Doing a little here gives you some sense of purpose and more importantly agency in this whole helpless hurricane. Make sure you are doing all you can to keep your business afloat , we’re going to have to fight tooth and nail to survive this in a business sense, so now is the time to use some time to make sure that you’re doing all you can to keep things afloat, and trying to visualise some plans when it passes.
And remember it will pass.
KEEP IN TOUCH
In general I like to catch up with people on the phone a bit, but the avalanche of gas WhatsApp/FaceTime/Zoom vibes is one of the few shining lights in the world right now.
Go for it, ring everyone you know to check in and see how they’re doing, it’s pretty interesting to chat to people from other parts of the world to see how their countries are doing things too.
Never have friendships or the importance of relationships and letting people know that you care about them seemed so important.
Back to business – I have found it hugely helpful to reach out over the past few days – get in touch with people in your field be it other musicians, managers, festival promoters.
People are SO willing to help in this moment – humanity is shining through all the terribleness – chatting to people in similar circumstances helps you feel that you’re not alone in this on all levels, and gives you a sense of comradeship that helps steel the senses.
Everyone feels vulnerable right now, so there’s strength in comradeship and togetherness, foster it.
So here we go, no road map from here, we’ve just got to ride this one out – onwards!
I don’t think there’s any right or wrong way to adjust to the life of self-isolation that we’re all being asked to do. Last week, all I basically did was stare at my phone and search for anxiety-reducing songs on Spotify. It’s probably not the best way to spend the next few weeks, but I also think it’s okay to not stress too much about getting loads done. Life feels very weird right now and it’s hard to take your mind off the news.
Having said that, I spent the weekend rearranging my little bedroom studio so that I’d be more encouraged to spend more time working on new music and less time on my phone. I borrowed my friend’s mini Roland 808 drum machine and bass guitar and played around with them for a couple hours last night. Writing music is one of the few things that really make me zone out and lose my perception of time passing, which can be very meditative, especially at a time like this.
I got into the habit at the start of the year of keeping a daily journal. With the release of my album and the fact that we were touring a bit more, the end of 2019 felt like a bit of a whirlwind and I hate looking back and not being able to remember how I spent my time. I’ve found that keeping that up helps a lot to break up the days, especially as it’s so easy right now for things to feel quite monotonous. I also just like the act of writing stuff down on paper. It’s quite calming and more often than not it leads me to a lot lyric ideas for songs that I’m working on.
We’ve been getting on relatively well I think! While we’ve all had worrying situations with our jobs, we seem to be all okay for the time being. This is something there is no modern precedent for, so there’s a strong feeling that we’re living through very strange times. It’s just odd and the feeling of impending doom is definitely lingering, pangs of anxiety about the future are inevitable, but there’s an unusual sense of optimism, that perhaps this will change the world in a good way once the trouble has passed. At least if the internet is to be believed.
We are all of course in a state of lockdown, having to wrap up with makeshift protection before going out. A lot of our time has been spent discussing our own measures, and we’re all discussing the situation online, having a good laugh too. Obviously, none of us have seen anything like this before. As far as entertainment goes, you have everything you’re used to, and I’d say there is a lot of hedonistic behaviour involving large stocks of cans and box sets going on. How much longer this can continue is unclear.
I have my studio computer set up at home, have instruments and everything, so I’m planning on using this enforced isolation to experiment musically, which has been going well so far, as well as trying to read the books that have been mocking me from my bookshelf for quite a few years now. That’s not going as well.
Brien has ascended to some kind of bizarre visionary state, wanting to wage some kind of war between JustEat, UberEats and Deliveroo. The lack of daily combat sports is taking a worrying toll on his sanity and frankly we’re all quite glad he’s not allowed to go outside. Dale Hughes
I’ve not been affected by gig cancellations like vast swathes of artists so I’m lucky. I’ve been feeling lots of music right under my skin for a while so I’m just knuckling down and really focusing on writing at the minute. I’ve an opportunity to bring all that creative energy to fruition so it’s come at a good time for me. Limitation and creativity are best pals so self-isolation sets the parameters nicely. There is so much to be gained creatively from a period like this. In the current madness where lots of things are out of your control, instigating creativity is totally within your control and there’s such beauty in that.
I work better when I have a working routine which I’m strictly sticking to. That discipline gives a bit of pressure which can be good. I’ve set times which I allocate to music-making no matter how I’m feeling, when the clock strikes outside of that, I stop. This gives a bit of structure so when you’re working on tunes you pour all your energy into it and work harder. When you’re not working, you pour all your energy into whatever else you’re doing.
Do Other Things
It’s great after a day of melting your head with tunes to try and give the head a wee rest. Getting out of the ceann is what I call this. Different things will suit different people but I love to put my body under some pressure, otherwise known as exercise! Get that heart belting away and the body will step in and take over. Gavin Murray
Confront all those dodgy, half-written songs you’ve been sitting on. You know, the ones you thought were too twee, or too right-on, or that terrible disco one you wrote after watching that how to play like Nile Rodgers video.
Proceed to piss off your housemates by recording demos of these tunes throughout the day – painstakingly correcting that second guitar harmony on the bridge, no matter how many flubbed takes required to get it right.
Take necessary breaks to watch the Classic Albums documentary series, 1997-2020. A nice mirror version of the Pet Sounds episode is on Dailymotion for example. This will provide the delusional inspiration required to think that you are a modern day Brian Wilson.
If still stuck for inspiration, try the Thin Air Podcast. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I suppose one way I’m coping is by getting a bitta spring cleaning done, cleaning out my house and rearranging things to get my life together for when the lockdown is over
Basically I’m just trying to stay positive about the whole thing. I just ordered a Gillian Michaels’ workout DVD online so I’m hoping Gillians gonny get the oul serotonin juices flowing!
I’m just chilling playing loads of Xbox. I think it’s important to remember this isn’t going to be forever and that we will come out the other end of it. But at the same time, stay at home folks.
1. Lots and lots of music. Sometimes I feel a bit guilty I’m listening to so much music instead of actually working on my own. The world is literally on hold right now, which means I’m removing any guilt on myself for just trying to find enjoyment through the day. Lots of music. Sort of trying to pick a different genre every day/every other day. Going through old stuff I love and trying to find new stuff.
2. Actually cook more. All the prep time in the world available at the mo, so gonna make some stuff I’d bookmarked ages ago but never actually bothered making. I can’t have chicken Super Noodles EVERY day, can I?
3. Making my music. It’ll be nice to make stuff without having a focus on whether it’ll work in a club, since none are open. I want to try and make some nice stuff just for me. I should probably exercise too to not become a fat bastard, but ye can’t win em all.
Don’t feel pressure to be creative
I think many people are feeling this pressure to make music, write and make sure this time is productive. This is a crisis and it really doesn’t have to be productive. Make sure you are focusing on staying safe,indoors and keeping in touch with the people you care about. The next album, novel, creative project can wait until you feel a little more sure on the ground. If these circumstances open up a creative well for you that is awesome but if it doesn’t you are not alone. You are not obliged to spend your time in any particular way.
Try to set one routine a day
For some people it’s yoga, others it’s making a meal. For me I’ve been trying to watch the Covideoparty event Alison Spittle runs every night at 9pm on Twitter. This is a great way to engage with the outside world even with people I don’t know.This has kind of broken up my day. The days I don’t do it, I’m doing something virtual with friends. I made a mastermind quiz for a bunch of us the other night and prepping that took up the whole day. Setting one scheduled event a day has helped keep me grounded. I’m also a night owl and part time insomniac with no ability to keep a routine so I try to keep it as simple as possible.
Cooking is wonderful but baking is the greatest joy. It’s meditation for those, like me, who can’t meditate. I’ve been trying to get into the habit of trying to make simple recipes with stuff I have in the house. The other night I made chocolate chip banana bread and it was whopper. It also creates a small achievable goal in the day and a delicious treat. As an add on to this, absolve yourself of any guilt around food. This is not the time. Enjoy the things you eat, feel good about them. I’ve learned so far there is nothing like a worldwide crisis to make you realize how inconsequential weight is. Eat the cake.
Listen you’re going to be spending a lot of time inside those 4 walls over the next while. However long it takes until we are safe again anyways. It is good for the mind to be in a space that is neat and clean and tidy, so grab a feather duster and throw on a good podcast (I recommend Unsolicited Advice by Jake Sprague as it is very, very funny) and get to work getting your gaff in good shape. It will definitely pass a few hours and you’ll be better off for it. I actually really like cleaning, it’s pure therapeutic.
Now that your gaff is clean you can do mad things like sleep on the floor. The last night Deirdre and I just decided we’d have a slumber party. We took the sleeping bags downstairs and made ourselves wee makeshift beds out of duvets and stayed up telling each other secrets and watching cartoons. It’s no big thing, it probably won’t help that much but it was nice to use the space for a different purpose than it’s intended. I don’t know, wash your hair in the sink, do press-ups in the bathroom. It’s your gaff sham, keep it interesting fam.
I’ve seen loads of people saying to use this newly found free time to learn a new skill or whatever, but listen, the weight of the situation is preventing that kind of thing for me anyways. And if you have the willpower to learn a new skill right now, power to you, but I don’t think I’m able, so I’m doing things I don’t normally do. I read some comic books for the first time yesterday! Finished the six Scott Pilgrim wans in like two days. They are really good and easy to read and the illustration is class, and they pure took my mind off of the bad thing that’s happening. You don’t have to read comics or learn to play the piano but what you can and should do is something that helps you forget that we are all in our houses for the foreseeable.
Stef Edwards (We Are Redhead PR)
These uncertain times have brought disarray to the lives of countless musicians, artists, and all the other creatives who work in the music and arts industries. It’s a daunting time for us all so while we’re getting our heads around filling out forms like the Covid19 unemployment form, why not keep music at the forefront in a time when it can help to soothe the soul, calm the mind or kick start the brain.
Now, more than ever, is a time to support our creatives. Being cocooned indoors is a pretty good excuse to consume copious amounts of music, from uncovering brand new artists to revisiting some old favourites. Why not sign up to Bandcamp to curate your very own digital record store with the bonus of supporting artists if you purchase a digital track or album? It would be a great way to support Irish artists. Or, if you have a few quid to spare, you could pick up that deadly band t-shirt you’ve been eyeing up or how about a coffee mug for the endless homebrews you’ll be making? Even better, consider finally committing to that vinyl you’ve been eyeballing and that you can treasure for years to come. All of this will go a long way in supporting our artists.
Keep an eye on musicians’ social media platforms as more and more musicians are coming up with genius ideas like live streaming performances from their homes. Fiddle player Colm Mac Con Iomaire performed in his own sitting room and Dundalk folksters The Mary Wallopers live-streamed a gig from their sitting room pub. With options for viewers to donate online, this can be a huge help to artists. So if this is the new normal for gigs now, they are a joyous coming together of music fans and quite simply, they are the craic! Let’s hope this turns out to be a hugely creative time for our musicians and artists, and we can expect a host of new albums this time next year.
Creativity and connection can be hugely beneficial as we stay indoors. I’m all for being creative and productive but let’s face it, none of us are going to learn 17 languages over the next month. However, it could be a good time to brush up on some skills and look towards online courses. With sites like Coursera and Udemy offering free courses, you might find something fun and beneficial. A course in web design can help you finally create that website for your band or for the DIY musicians among you, a course in music production might hit the right note.
To keep you and your pals distracted from the real world with something fun, start a daily music challenge. Pick a letter a day and only listen to bands and artists with that initial. When the weekend hits and you need that bop around the kitchen, just hit play on a Spotify house party playlist. With apps like House Party entertaining millions stuck indoors, it seems online hangouts are the new staying in.
When the dust settles, the arts will need support more than ever and we all look forward to getting back out to live gigs and festivals. For now, look out for each other, stay sound and when all this madness ends, we’ll be ready to throw the mother of all parties!
Living in London and being classed as a ‘key worker’ means I’m not actually able to fully self-isolate (I work in BBC News studios) but that doesn’t mean I can’t do my bit. I’ve been cycling regardless of which shift I’m on instead of using public transport, and subscribing to some Irish podcasts (David O’ Doherty’s isolation podcast from Achill Island is strangely settling). I am also staying at home for whichever days I’m off. I think we all feel like we need our vices during these challenging times, but whether it’s smoking, drinking, gambling or ‘other’ I would recommend taking days off and/or doing them in moderation.
Finally, as a qualified mental health first aider, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE reach out to one of the many phone numbers available (MIND/Samaritans etc…). Oh and listen to relaxing music. Niall Jackson
I’ve been using this site called Splice for a while now to collaborate with other musicians remotely. I’m currently working with Loah and Brian Dillon on a project using it and we did parts of April Brave/Summer of Love using it when I couldn’t make it up to Dublin from Cork for a studio session. It’s free to use for the collaborative element so if you use Ableton Live and all that jazz give it a shot. You can also pay for a pretty huge sound library if you want to dig for samples.
I use this Pocket Yoga app on my phone to follow these little half-hour yoga sessions and it’s great for clearing the head. It takes you from beginner-level and it’s totally easy to use. I’ve been doing a mix of group classes in town while using this app at home so if you have a mat handy it’s great. I’m trying meditation too which is fantastic using the headspace app. On top of that I do a lot of body-weight home workouts, just a half-hour at a time using whatever I can find on YouTube. Main thing is doing at least half an hour of movement/exercise a day.
I try to make sure I do some activities (like reading, cooking and playing guitar) that don’t require staring at a screen for a period of time. I’ve been playing guitar just to relax lately and it feels great after not playing much last year. I’ve been re-reading the Beastie Boys biography, Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up and Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. I also do a mean satay sweet potato curry. Secret ingredient is coke zero, don’t tell anyone.
There’s a good chance my kid won’t be back at school again until September, so I’m trying to familiarise myself with the secondary school curriculum so I can be of help to her, homeschooling-wise. My husband is a generous and dedicated lecturer who has always given a lot of time to his students. He’s working morning, noon and night trying to adapt, assist and teach through untold upheaval right now. I’ve lost a fair amount of paid gigs so I’m doing my best to get a good structure in place for domestic and school stuff so that if one of us gets sick or if I’m needed outside the home when the frontline pressure increases, we’ll have a good system in place to keep things tipping here.
I’m on a register for childcare volunteers for frontline healthcare workers here at Cork University Hospital, and submitted my CV to both the HSE and Crisis Cover’s recruitment drives. I’ll go wherever I’m needed first. I try to not sleep in and keep my phone to hand in case I get a call to help one of the days. I’m linked in with our local mutual aid group but things are quiet at this point in time.
Creative projects are mostly on hold. I’m not in the right headspace to even open a book right now, though I have a small stack set aside for when the time is right. Last week, when anxiety really took hold of me, I dusted down my guitar after years of not playing and taught myself a Paul Brady song by skulling Guinness and following some tab on his website. The shift I felt in my mind/heart was powerful (though maybe it was just the Guinness?) I’ll try to set aside time to learn new tunes.
Five weeks ago, myself and five friends were building a community gym in the Aida refugee camp in the occupied West Bank. A few of us had wanted to return in late March and April to help further establish the operation but things remain on hold until it’s both safe to fly again, and until the camp feels secure enough to welcome in outsiders again. Until then, we continue to work with our Palestinian friends via video calls and e-mail. Many of our friends from the camp (mostly young people in their twenties and thirties) make up a community medical team that have been trained to visit and support camp residents who suffer with hypertension, diabetes and various other illnesses and afflictions. Just as we arrived back in Ireland, they were suddenly stepping up to the challenge of directly educating and empowering their community to stay home and protect themselves against the spread of COVID-19. I think of their courage and resilience every day.
I don’t have the words to talk about what is happening right now. I know there is horror coming down the line. Sometimes all I want to do is read the news all day long, or laugh at shitposts, or hum along with trad music while washing the dishes, or talk with friends until it’s late. I know that getting out for a walk has become more important to me, and cooking helps take my mind off things. I think about times with friends – carousing, hugging, kisses on cheeks, dancing, sitting thigh to thigh in the pub, waiting for pints to settle, heads thrown back laughing, squeezing an arm at a punchline. I will cherish every reunion and every touch when this has passed.
Stay busy: Unfortunately, this is century-defining stuff we’re living through. The fallout from it may go on for decades, with recriminations over inaction, legal cases, political argument over fatality numbers, economic downturn and enduring mental health issues. The latter for a musician, with future prospects looking less than uncertain, is an immediate concern. Continue to write as you normally would, try not to get fixated on what is currently going on, those old ideas are still relevant and will be after this is all over.
Connect with others: If this had happened 30 years ago, music would’ve simply stopped. If it happened 20 years ago we would’ve been plagued (sorry!) with years of Boss digital 8-track recorded sub-genres released via myspace and Limewire. So, count yourself lucky that we have the luxury of sharing Pro Tools sessions and sending files to drummers, guitarists etc. who are also sitting at home with some extra time on their hands. Reach-out.
Think big: Wouldn’t it be great if, during this unprecedented period of musicians connecting at home and reaching-out to each other, we stumbled upon a restructuring of the industry where the musicians were at the heart of it and held the power. Our very own ‘shock therapy’. Just a thought.
Support retail: Where possible, local record shops and book stores are trying to keep their services going by delivering. In Belfast Strange Victory Records and No Alibis Bookshop are both taking orders for delivery and – the people behind the label who released my last LP – Rollercoaster Records in Kilkenny will soon be doing the same. We’ll need them to still be there when all this is over. Mark McCambridge
Big Monster Love
1. Get up in the morning
2. Check-in with pals, especially the pals you haven’t been in contact with in a while.
3. Whatever you’re doing, don’t feel guilty if you think it’s not enough. CJ McCanney
We launched into the year with touring dreams and album 2 plans. As with everyone we’re in a different situation now and we’re trying to embrace the changes that it’s brought and not focus too much on the uncertainty. More than anything we feel lucky that we live together, we’re able to play music and record songs the way we would have before and that’s the thing we love doing most. Despite being in isolation we feel oddly connected to the world as it’s affecting us all – for better or worse, we’re experiencing this together.
I’ve started to have a more positive view of my phone, usually it would bling with something urgent to get back to but now Skype, FaceTime etc have become a vital and fun way to connect with loved ones. We’re hopefully that Skype pints becomes a thing.
Working from home is something we’re used to – we’ve done it a lot over the years. The one thing I think everyone is coming to realise is it’s REALLY HARD to work from home! A lot of tips we would give on this matter would usually involve getting out of the house – meeting with friends and working in coffee shops and going outdoors, so the fact they are off the table now as well is so strange to us. BIG TIP – OPEN YOUR WINDOWS!
One thing I’ve come back to is writing in my diary. Writing what I’ve done in the day, write what I want to do tomorrow, set goals for the week and put in actual times for when I go for a run, have lunch, do my admin, write a song. My grandpa used to say, “If you mean it, write it down” and that has been so useful to me over the years. Honestly though, it seems silly but every bit of research done on the matter proves that you’re way more likely to achieve something if you write it down. And it gives some structure to your day. There’s something in it, it’s small but it really works.
The other thing I’d say is forgive yourself if you end up spending a day in your PJs binge-watching a TV show, when you intended to be so productive. It happens to the best of us. If you feel the day going that way, embrace it, decide to do things tomorrow and enjoy your day off. When you work from home you can constantly feel like you shouldn’t be relaxing, you can end up beating yourself up into a spiral of sadness if you don’t achieve everything on the list. It’s hard to focus. Forgive yourself with slip ups, move on, tomorrow is a new day.
The way we’re coping with the isolation part is ordering leisure/hobby activities to the house. We so rarely have free time, and we’re going to have to embrace it a bit. So we have some knitting wool, some paints and some books on the way! There has to be a few options for you to relax and find meaning in the day – not just social media, TV or work, make that list as long as you can, change it up each week, give yourself a chance to enjoy new things. Take time to enjoy cooking a really great meal, read that book you always meant to, do a jigsaw, Skype a friend, write a short story, learn a song on the guitar, whatever it is. It feels like a breather. Social media can wait until tomorrow. Ryan McGroarty
I’ve been really enjoying that Yoga with Adriene one on YouTube. I’m trying to do a few minutes every day – it gets me out of my head and into my body. I’ve also been trying to practice guitar every day, and just not put too much pressure on myself to be productive. And I’m trying to stay off my phone as much as possible! Hana Lamari
Focus on the things you can do rather than the things you can’t
We’re all facing fear from lost income and disappointment and sadness from lost opportunities – tours and gigs are being cancelled, commissions, rehearsals and recordings postponed. Instead of focusing on those, think about the things that you can do in the new time you have. The projects you can dream up, the writing you can do, the rest and reading you can catch up with, the break you can literally give yourself and the (virtual) catching up and reaching out you can do with loved ones. The possibilities are endless: maybe grow some vegetables, start an online quiz team or maybe… just maybe do something creative just for fun rather than to pay the bills.
Try and build a new routine for yourself
This is always something I think most of us creatives could get better at in general, but in times like this it’s more important than ever. A routine can help to stifle anxiety and give us much needed structure, purpose and a sense of normality especially as we will be spending the majority of our days within the same four walls. Try different things – work out what makes you feel good.
Be kind to yourself
Don’t give yourself a hard time if you need to stare at a wall for a couple of hours… these are crazy, confusing times and our normality has been disrupted. It’s ok to have a panic, but try and work out ways to calm yourself down that aren’t always sinking a bottle of wine in 15 mins or becoming 97% made of cheese (literally me yesterday). Enjoy and be grateful for the little things… Do some yoga, go for a walk, meditate, listen to some music, cook some food, facetime your friends, take a deep breath and know that we are all in this together and we are going to be ok. Katie Richardson
Being isolated on paper sounds great if you’re being creative, it’s been the basis of how I’ve written music for years. I’d disappear to the middle of nowhere and write for weeks with no distractions. The difference between that and the situation we are experiencing right now though, is that this is forced isolation. Nobody wants to be forced into creating something because you’re stuck at home. If you’re planning on being creative at this moment, I would focus on the ‘play’ aspect of creativity; mess around with things, noodle about, procrastinate, and when the mood strikes, the art will come. Don’t force it! Read Aoife McElwain’s ‘Slow at Work’, it’s a fantastic book on this subject.
The other piece of advice I would give is a very simple one which I think most Thin Air readers will know already: Don’t get bogged down in news. In the last few weeks I’ve stripped back my news intake to the 9 o clock news every evening with a cup of tea. Usually I have podcasts going non-stop, Twitter & Reddit refreshing, but at this time, the information age needs to be put on hold for a while. By all means stay informed, but just carve out a part of your day for updates.
Finally, call and Facetime your friends & family! Get out of those Whatsapp groups. Now more than ever your voice and face is hugely valuable to those around you. Even if you have nothing to say or talk about, I promise it will feel really good just to do it. Be kind and stay strong!
1. Learn an instrument
I haven’t had this much time since I was in TY, when I said I played bass to my friends that were starting a band, and then proceeded to learn bass (badly). I think it’s time to badly learn another instrument. My dad’s tenor banjo was lying in my bed when I got home to Donegal, so I’ve been threatening that. There are ridiculous amounts of tutorials and free lessons on Youtube etc, to spend guilt-free time learning a/another instrument.
2. Yoga with Adriene
It is said that at any given time, there are at least 10 white girls somewhere in the world doing Yoga with Adriene. I am happily a part of this assemblage. It’s totally free, there’s a huge mix of stuff on her channel, and she seems very sound. It’s also good to just have something to tick off the list for every day. Currently trying out her ’30 Days of Yoga’. Also she has a dog! *white girl screams*
3. (Biased answer) Supporting artists
So many class independent artists, so many class live streams, too many cancelled tours.
1. Read all those books you claim to have already read.
I’ve found reading/listening to podcasts or audiobooks is such a great way to ground myself and escape at the same time. I’m reading a book called The Lonely City by Olivia Laing at the moment. It’s a non-fiction book exploring the importance of solitude and loneliness and the connection between isolation and creativity. In each chapter she writes about the work of a different New York-based visual artist or photographer, weaving some beautiful insights and meditations on loneliness taken from her own experience. Psychology and art and honesty and beauty. I’m really enjoying it.
I’m also listening to an amazing podcast called The Last Bohemians. Each episode is an interview with a kick-ass older woman who has lived an artistic or creative life. The interviewer and the interviewees never hold back, the conversation is always fascinating. It always lifts me up out of a mood.
2. Keep a journal.
I usually keep a notebook where I scribble songs, drawings, poems and whatever else comes to mind, but recently I’ve started keeping a daily journal and it’s absolutely great. Writing about the mundane can actually help you escape it in a way because you have the power of the words you choose to frame it. Writing or documenting everyday life, what’s happened, or (what’s not happened!!) and how I feel about it, the conversations I’ve had or overheard, the things I’ve learned, dreams I’ve had really helps me focus on what’s important to me, what I value. It’s also helped me to question myself and laugh at the state of myself. Most of the time It’s so cringey that I couldn’t bear to read back on it but nobody will see it until I die and then I won’t care. Anais Nin’s diaries were a real inspiration for this, as were the Instagram journal entries of Ashley Watson from the Ocelots.
3. Get off your phone
Though I’m very grateful to have the ability to still be able to connect with people while in isolation, its so easy to fall into a trap of spending hours scrolling and checking messages and the news. Last week I had just had enough. My head felt like an erratic ball of static. I turned off my phone for a few days and I felt like a new person, present and clear-minded. The freedom of forgetting about my phone and being present in the here and now was wonderful.
DIG! further than before. Watch, listen, and read stuff you wouldn’t have done. The idea of what is a waste of your time is all askew now. Fellini and Grindhouse movies, Early Turkish psychedelic and Noise Music, The Necronomicon and the Handbook for Recently Deceased. Comfort viewing has its place aye but binge-viewing at the end it makes me feel the same way as binge-eating/drinking, like shit. God I’ve been missing the cinema as much as the pub conversation (maybe that’s an exaggeration). P.S. Video Essay Youtube Channels are great for rabbit-holing, ‘What’s So Great About That?’ is my fav.
BREATHE! Find things that help form some sense of routine and (this might sound silly and even inappropriate considering) make breathing fresh air + getting sunlight on your face a part of that. Once I’m out of bed and ready, which is unpredictable time-wise atm, I’ll have my coffee outside quietly for a few mins (don’t worry I’m nowhere near anybody). Then answer the emails and then watch something to get the brain going, I’m nearing the end of my PhD and shit I’m struggling to write. I keep going back to this video on why horror is the best genre because it’s completely cannibalistic and I’ve been viewing through the lense of club-music in place of horror. Get the wheels turning.
CYBER-COLLAB! Of course keep in contact with friends but start collaborations with unlikely people. The social standard has changed and people will be damm bored too. A collab could be a real blessing to help motivate people. I’m in the middle of one atm (maybe with someone else in this article 😉 shhhh) and it’s keeping things exciting without any contact. I’ve been at the end of my tether with some of my recent tracks but getting collab stuff always gets those wheels turning again.
Read a book or literally anything you can find online
An obvious suggestion, but one I’ve found to be an immensely helpful distraction and portal into a different – preferably less socially-distanced – world.
Bizarrely, I’ve gone for books with severely claustrophobic undercurrents running through the narratives over the last fortnight. This was unintentional, I assure you. Firstly, I delved into Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation, where the protagonist aspires to hibernate through a difficult period in her life. It’s set in the months preceding the 9/11 attacks in New York. As a reader, you feel a perpetual pang in the pit of your stomach because you’re acutely aware of the catastrophic event that’s about to occur and potentially send the character’s life into disarray. The other book I’ve been enjoying is Bill Callahan’s Letters to Emma Bowlcut, comprised of one-side of a correspondence between a man and woman who met at a party. It’s beautifully penned, as you’d expect from a songwriter of Callahan’s calibre. Here, we’re given a one-sided account of a person who is constantly alone except for when he’s in front of a page. Eerily, the book opens with the sentence, “The world had gone quiet around me.” Bill never takes time off from being all-knowing and all-seeing.
Generally, filling a few hours reading has been vital for keeping my brain ticking. Outside of that, reading profiles on various musicians or histories of certain genres or scenes – Longreads.com is a great resource – will help keep you sane. It’s also a great way to develop your language and style if you’re a writer by seeing how others approach a subject that’s of interest to you. I think it’s so important to use this time to educate yourself whatever makes you happy.
Allow the ideas you’ve had out of your brain and into your notebook
I tend to let ideas go by the wayside. If something is outside of my familiar realm of writing an album review or interviewing an artist, I’ll tell myself there’s no time to try something different. Well, there’s literally no excuse now. Not to sound like a teacher giving advice to ease the stress levels of leaving cert students, but going for a walk always fills my head with initial plans for pieces I’d like to write. Now seems like as good a time as any to finally fill my notebook with spider-diagrams expanding the significance of Peggy Olson’s red flask in Mad Men. Basically, now’s the time to give in to that project that’s been percolating in your brain. Whether it’s teaching yourself an instrument, writing a short story, learning how to cook or pitching features to publications you’ve dreamed of contributing to, just do it!
Similarly, take every opportunity that will bring you closer to any ideas you’ve had but don’t necessarily feel comfortable to venture in to by yourself. So, if you see writers or musicians you admire reaching out online to collaborate, why not answer their call. Everyone’s in a similar secluded boat. This leads me to believe that people are a lot more open for engagement and embracing unchartered waters because we’ve had to readjust our mentality so much, recently.
Watch as many live stream gigs and Instagram live gigs as possible
One of the weirdest parts of this is not having an end in sight or trying to imagine what social gatherings will be like once some semblance of normalcy creeps into our lives again. I really miss going to gigs, in particular. I have, however, loved tuning into local artists live streams on both YouTube and Instagram Live. If you have social media, I couldn’t recommend watching them streaming from home-studios (or a back-garden pub!) to reclaim that feeling of enjoying live music. These online sessions have brought a sense of community, also. As is the nature of social media, there’s a space to interact with the artist and audience, simultaneously.
It’s heart-warming to see friends and internet acquaintances share these spontaneous experiences. Just to have an image of people slouched on the couch with their phone propped against a mug or sitting in bed giggling at the cameos of musicians pets makes you feel less alone, even when you are. To date, The Mary Wallopers and Paddy Hanna have given great performances with more to come from Maija Sofia, Junior Brother and many, many more. Furthermore, it’s important to spread the word when these live streams are happening so that you can share the experience with friends and family, perhaps encourage more musicians to host these interactive shows and, in turn, to support the artists in whatever way you can.
Danny Madigan is a guy who likes to get things done. And when it comes to getting things done, he’s not the kind of guy who’s going to let the end of the world get in the way. So here’s his three simple tips for surviving self-isolation.
Taking the dog for a walk
Exercise is good, and the best kind of exercise is walking. And the best kind of walk is a dog walk. In this new post-apocalyptic world, it’s handy to have a trusty hound by your side, and my five-month-old pug puppy certainly fits that bill. Just remember to cross the road to keep your social distancing in effect when you see someone coming. It’s for their sake, as Toby is a vicious attack dog (in principle).
Eat and drink healthy
It might be tempting to just eat chocolate and crisp sandwiches morning, noon, and night, but if you do that, there is no doubt the undead will get you and devour you (or whatever this pandemic is about). The trick is to separate them out into their constituent elements and eat them separately. I recommend chocolate for breakfast, crisps for lunch, and bread for dinner, washed down with a refreshing cup of saltwater, or “Sailor’s Cocktail”, as I like to call it.
Keep to a routine
It’s easy to stagnate when you feel hemmed in, so set yourself a routine and stick to it. I get up at 4.00am, do a forward roll out of my bedroom window, land in the back garden, and PUNCH THE SKY. After that I mainly just read magazines. But if I miss that routine, I punish myself, harshly. There’s nothing like a hefty portion of guilt to survive the apocalypse.
While myself and everyone I know, is thinking “wow, what a time to get writing”, I think it’s vitally important not to put inappropriate pressure on yourself. Obviously, everyone’s method is different, but (besides physical, obviously) mental health is the priority here, and I know that being trapped inside with limited physical communication – I haven’t hugged a friend in over a week and it’s a fucking bummer – forcing creativity is a fast-track to a really bad time. Instead, I’ve been listening to the music I love, trying to learn some songs by artists I love and remembering why I love my instrument, thereby allowing the opportunity for something to reveal itself. It hasn’t yet, and that’s fine. If nothing else, it creaks open the rusty faucet of creativity. Can you ever say you’ve really regretted the time spent with music? Stevie Lennox
Hydrate, stretch, reach out to friends, family and associates, learn a few bossa nova guitar shapes, don’t guilt-trip yourself and stick ‘The Weight’ on repeat (trust me, it works wonders). I’ve also gotten surprisingly decent at playing chess online. Hit me up if you fancy a best of three. Brian Coney
Reading: I have too many books so I’m trying to get through some monumental novels that heretofore gathered dust, their spines eyeing me resentfully through nicotine-stained ex-library book plastic sleeves. I’ve become a master procrastinator whereas before I was merely an expert. At any rate, whatever the global toilet roll situation, I’m sorted.
Streaming: I’ve always avoided streaming live gigs but now as a skint man, I have no choice but to get on with them. I have one coming up soon and it seems to me a great way for artists to perform, connect with people and maybe earn a few quid. Having just finished my third record – always a wonderful but disquieting process – I’ve not been gigging much anyway. I reckon I’ll probably perform more gigs this way than real-life ones. Which seems ironic, except of course, it isn’t.
Learning: I’ve also been oil painting. For my own amusement, not to foist upon the eyes of others. The world is suffering enough. And I’ve been slowly teaching myself to write music properly. When this is all over, it’ll be wile craic altogether.
I’m personally excited about learning how to work with and adapt to unprecedented limitations. Everyone has had to immediately change the way that they think about collaboration, performance, reaching out to and engaging with people, creating income..the whole thing is turned on it’s head and that kind of chaos breeds invention (Garvey, 2020).
We have nine Smells Great Granny Panties left, untouched since 2019 and they will be sold as branded face-masks.
I think the isolation will get people familiar with what they want to create rather than making what other people would enjoy. Music for me, not me mates (Byrne, 2020)
We have a lot of Pop music coming out this year that will be great for the virus.
Limiting your intake of information is essential. The influx of ‘news’ has been very crippling. It is hard to help anyone else when your head is wrecked (Reilly, 2020).
We will be starting our Agony Gran column on Instagram to give people an auld wan to chat to. Acid Granny‘s manager, The Gran Daddy Lama
Sophie: I’m getting through self-isolation by playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I was first captivated by Animal Crossing in 2006 with the release of Animal Crossing: Wild World, a game I played religiously on an exceptionally chunky Nintendo DS. In 2020, on a Nintendo Switch lovingly borrowed from my brother, my character has moved to a deserted island, learnt to craft her own tools and furniture, grown her own peach trees, owes a huge mortgage to a racoon, and has slowly begun to populate the island’s museum with fossils, fish, and insects.
The soundtrack of a soft looping guitar guides me into casting my flimsy fishing rod into the ocean, rather than feeling compelled to religiously check Sky News or Reddit for updates. A game you can play at your own pace, with no overall structure is a laidback, relaxed way to pass the time in the house.
Sam: As someone who is used to being constantly busy, I found the idea of having no work, nowhere to be and no deadlines to meet a bit overwhelming at first, and wasn’t quite sure how I’d handle being indoors all day. I’ve found that just taking it slowly and setting daily, manageable goals to be really helpful, rather than looking at how many weeks ahead we might have and panicking.
I’ve been using the free time to start learning Irish on Duolingo, figured out some new tunes on guitar, cooked some extravagant recipes I’d never have had the time for in normal circumstances, and am attempting to read and write every day, but I haven’t been too strict with myself about that.
One word of advice I would offer to fellow artists: don’t be pressuring yourself to be creative and inspiring and productive! It’s a great time to get the juices flowing, but its also just as beneficial to have some down time and enjoy the freedom we have to relax, drink wine and play copious amounts of Crash Bandicoot!
A number of years ago I got interested in gardening. Its become an obsession of mine. Even with a small amount of space you can grow lots of different plants, all from the comfort of your own home. As much as possible, I try and grow from seed and have a particular interest in unusual and rare flowers. I find gardening connects me to the creative side of my personality with colour co-ordination etc. so I’d really recommend it to other artists. Be warned though, last year I nearly had to abandon the recording of my most recent album ‘Commander of Sapiens’ because I got so addicted to it! I’d be up till all hours researching varieties of tomato plants instead of playing guitar.
Science Fiction Books
I’ll be diving into a few science fiction novels over the next few weeks. I’m particularly looking forward to reading Dune. Sci-fi is a great way to escape the current social climate. You can travel to new worlds and explore different states of mind without having to physically go anywhere. My personal recommendations would include The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick, The Stars my Destination by Alfred Bester and The Forever War by Joe Haldemen.
I’ve been practicing S.N Goenka’s vipassana meditation since 2014. I was due to go to a course at Easter but for obvious reasons, it’s been cancelled. Instead, I’ll be meditating at home and connecting in with other old students online. I can’t recommend mediation enough. However you find that space in your life, make sure you make time for it. There’s no better time to start than now.
Call your friends! It’s so easy to feel out on your own during the day, so I make a point of either calling or texting a few close friends at different intervals, just to check up on them. Apart from having a laugh, it’s a reminder that everyone is in the same boat right now. Chances are you’ll be making their day, as well as yours.
Don’t forget to create. This situation is extremely rare, a once in a lifetime event. If you need a little break from your work to write a song or a poem, paint or record a podcast, allow yourself the chance. I felt I was being lazy anytime I stopped working to make something, now I see it as essential!
Something fun I’ve found myself doing recently, is making a list of bands/artists I’ve always wanted to check out, but not got around to before. Then I make a playlist with different tunes from each and get stuck in! Seven Summits and The Sundays are my new favourite bands at the minute. You just never know what you’ll get. Taylor Johnson
Don’t focus on what is happening outside, in terms of the news and in the fact you aren’t there yourself. Keep yourself in a comfortable place and focus on something that you draw comfort from, doesn’t matter what, if anyone is going to know what that really is it’s you. (If you’re really stuck Denmark did some strong work on the subject and every columnist and blogger talked of nothing else for about a year. Just type Hyggi. Bonus opportunity to really indulge odd ideas if you are on your own during this time. Expecting to see at least one truly impressive but really strange art installation in someone’s kitchen with a stunned creator who barely understands how this happened to them.)
If you are in a position to work, do what your job normally requires of you time-wise if workload is normal. It is easy to work because the line between there and here has become so blurry. If you are working from home and keeping things working simply by force of will, and I can’t stress this enough, PLAN IN DOWNTIME! And again because some people think this doesn’t apply to them. PLAN IN DOWNTIME!
Working too much and too hard for too long will wear you down at a time where it can only help to remain healthy. Work sensibly.
Keep perspective. We may not be in an ideal situation, our lives are interrupted, so much is in jeopardy but we are probably still amongst the most privileged people in history to find themselves in this position. We have the world at our fingertips, our loved ones so easily reached even if they are far away, food is there even if some weren’t behaving sensibly, and things will become normal again. It is inevitable. (And in the meantime you get to watch how the world is adapting in real-time if you take the notion. New concepts of how we do things and entertain each other will emerge in the coming year. Don’t miss the chance to experience some of this because you’re obsessed with how bored you are.)
I read a lot more these days, no better form escapism, little bits of different things, shorts stories mostly, big fan of Lem at them moment. And the collected works of Brendan Kennelly. I also read a Wikipedia page on ultraviolet light yesterday, you could ask me anything about that. We had planned to record our debut album in Berlin in April but we moved that out to September, giving me a chance to rewrite a lot of lyrics I wasn’t completely happy with and work on new songs we’ve written, and is possible, will be on the album now. Writing of any form, keeping a journal is great way to get things off your mind, onto the page and then put away.
I’ve meditated for a few years now, find it a great way to take a break from myself, my mind tends to race about certain things, about most things. Especially now where we’re saturated with info, it’s great to take a break from it.
I record every little scrap of a song that emerges in the studio, since the band formed, over the last number of days I set myself the task of going through all the old recordings and naming them, putting some rough lyrics around them. We send tracks around to each too, synth lines or guitar riffs, little particles of tunes.
I let myself get bored sometimes, watch bad tv, really shit stuff, it’s rare that you get a chance to get bored. I found myself watching the collected interviews of July Walters over the weekend, not a high point of my life but not a low point either, actually that was great she’s cool (ask me anything about her too). Eoin Kenny
My Time in Social Isolation by Conor Wilson of Slouch
Before today I was enjoying my time in social isolation a little too much. I haven’t had an extended break from work in a few years and a dulling of the senses that accompanies a lack of time spent indulging one’s various pet interests/delusional obsessions and the endless sea of customer service jargon and forced conversation that comes with a job in retail had caused me to feel like I was walking around wearing a mask stuffed tightly with cotton wool. Wrapped up in the pleasure of my creative pursuits, the time melted away as I finally found the time to sit myself down and practice my guitar obsessively for my eventual graduation to king of the local wedding band circuit. I started reading Alex Ferguson’s biography. In the mornings, I watched interviews with former members of King Crimson. It was heaven. Today, a week in, the novelty of isolation is starting to wear off. Although I live with my best friend and our co-op file on Borderlands 3 is without a doubt entertaining I’m starting to miss roaming freely and seeing people who are important to me. Conor Wilson
Kev’s isolation time
I bought a shit load of quirky synths a few weeks before this all popped off so I’ve just been flat out making weird synthy tunes, trying to sound like Harmonia, essentially. It’s been nice kind of working on stuff that I had put on the long finger creatively speaking. Trying to keep the head on the straight and narrow and going for cycles and listening to the never-ending list of recommendations given to me over the years has been fab too. Missing practice with the band too, we were hitting a stride of writing so hopefully when we all come out the back of this we’ll have a new look on things creatively and socially! Working from home is shite after a week. Listen to this (sound Stevie). Kev Shannon
This is a strange time, and it is very hard to fathom the seriousness of it all when you are cut off, alone in your room. This entire experience is shrouded in loss: loss of jobs, opportunities, health and of course, life. For our generation, the sudden prohibition on our daily freedoms is something I think we are all struggling with, even with the knowledge that a lot of these things are irrelevant in the face of greater losses.
I had just returned from a 3 week holiday in Cuba, a beautiful country regularly faced with shortages and struggles – the supermarkets are always half-empty. Regulated queues outside shops and travel restrictions are the norm. It made me consider the simple things we are free to do and consume with ease. My privileged position to be among those who can afford to travel like this wasn’t lost on me then, and coming back to a Europe on lockdown, it hit even harder.
I really respect the efforts of everyone online encouraging people to stay at home and giving each other ideas to create and stay active- I have thoroughly enjoyed the fitness sessions and live concerts. As always with social media, however, it undoubtedly will make others feel inadequate or unproductive at the same time. Not creating enough, not self-caring correctly etc.
Of course, Caoimhe, Saoirse and I have been putting this time to use to work on our new album, and I’ve been personally using this time to work on that-song-I’ve-always-wanted-to-play-but-never-did. However, it is equally important to do things that might be of no benefit to your skillset and enjoy doing them. Yesterday, I sat down and wrote a poem for my three nephews in Australia who cannot yet read, and it was the most gratifying thing I did all day. It started out as a note to send along with some outrageously cute linen shirts I bought them in Cuba and ended up a long rhyming poem about travel and adventure. It made me realise that even with the wonders of WhatsApp and skype, the human contact we experience online often remains only at surface level. So my suggestion is to write letters to your friends and family (lengthy voice notes if you don’t like writing). Go a little deeper than the general chat and see where you end up. I’m sure many people have family members in Australia or other far-away places and are wondering when they will be able to travel (or afford to travel) to see them again, and of course so many are cut off from their immediate family at the moment. Another version of this is to make a Christmas card list and then IMMEDIATELY text people to get their addresses. Bring back Christmas cards, I say (this was, in fact, my boyfriend’s suggestion but I’m claiming it). I am already excited about sending these out in December. This last one is obvious but it has really been calming me down and punctuating my day: make ambitious meals. Use recipe books (currently ploughing through Roz Purcell’s No Fuss Vegan book!), and actually set the table.
Finally, I am going to try to shift the focus on self-improvement to one of collaborative ventures – for example, I threatened to send an old friend some music for him to add some cello to today, which I know will end up being so much more satisfying than working totally alone. For others, this could be a virtual photo album between your friends or something like that.
Failing all of this, I hear my mother’s voice, impatient at my tween-age boredom of years-gone-by yelling, “Go and read a book”. Thanks Mammy, I think I will. Karen Cowley
Like many musicians, I spend a lot of time shut inside as it is, buried in synths and rat-kings of cables. In fact, between one thing and another, the past year has seen me spending more of my days indoors than ever before. But even that is nothing compared to the current level of self-isolation we should all be sticking to as much as humanly possible, and it is jarring for each of us, no matter which way you cut it.
Everybody is different, natch, but here are a few things that are helping me right now. Maybe they’ll help you too.
Routine is Good. Ritual is Better
Now is the exact time you’ll see lists appearing online of people’s day-to-day self-isolation schedules. And fair play to them for making a schedule if it helps, which it may well do. Although I’m not sure how much help sharing them or reading others does; at best it seems irrelevant or at worse inspires a sort of perverse one-upmanship.
For me, I prefer to focus less on rut-inducing rigid routines, and instead put emphasis on the importance – and enjoyment – of smaller, individual tasks.
Like, I really enjoy matcha tea. Not just the taste of it (and bazillions of health benefits), but the ritual of making it. I have a little set with a nice bowl to drink it out of, and a bamboo whisk and all. It’s a joy to use, and I enjoy the tactility of frothing up the drink, giving me a little time for my brain to do a bit of wandering while my hands do the work.
It doesn’t have to be that specific though; it just boils down to trying to find joy in little, simple things. If something seems boring and shit, try to make it… not. If you’re shaving in the morning, get into the way of putting on some new music at the same time and making it an enjoyable little event. Use a favourite pen to write the shopping list. Enjoy the way it feels, the physicality of it, the way the ink looks coming out of the pen, the thickness of the paper.
Alright, maybe it all sounds dumb. And obviously there are important, large tasks you’ll need to do. But my nan always said, ‘look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves’. I think of this approach as the mental equivalent, saving for the psyche.
Music is Class
I’m a worrier. Sometimes I can be a knotted ball of anxiety and, while I try to be as outwardly enthusiastic and optimistic as I can, I have a tendency to think the worst. I’m hardly alone in this.
So for the past while, any time I feel actually great, and relatively worry-free, I’ve been writing down what I’ve been doing. Just sticking it in my phone. And at some point I’m gonna transfer it to a notebook, with that nice pen I mentioned. A list of perfect moments.
I’m about 7 or 8 deep, and something I’ve realised is, they almost all involve something I’m doing while listening to music. It almost certainly seems obvious given that you’re reading this in an article featuring musicians, on a website devoted largely to music. But music is great. And if you’re at home, something you can do a lot of is listen, and enjoy. Go nuts, put down any barriers you might have and explore something new.
I’ve been listening to a load of jazz fusion lately, particularly an album called Sky Cruisin’ by Horii Katsume Project. There’s something about those crystalline, smooooooth sounds that just instantly resets me. It’s stylish and sexy, and just a little silly. Life goals we can all dream of.
Do as I Say, Not as I Do
There’s a danger of sounding a bit know-it-all-ish writing out stuff like this. I probably sound like an arsehole swishing around his house drinking frothed up matcha tea, in a kimono, listening to jazz fusion.
I mean, I absolutely am precisely 100% that.
But also, I’m deeply affected by all this. I mean, we all are. Earlier today I was saying how important it is to make sure you don’t over-consume on social media, lest you find yourself spiralling down an anxiety-hole of worst-case scenarios.
Instead, keep yourself well informed and take all the precautions you should absolutely be taking, but instead of getting lost to death-tolls and panic-inducing posts, lose yourself in art and creativity.
I said all that. And then sat online for absolutely ages reading a bunch of shit that I really had no need to, and felt horrific. Thankfully a pal (thank you Bart Graft) suggested I log off and listen to some Brian Eno, which is what I did. And it helped, and now I’m writing this.
It’s a serious time, and you need to treat it seriously, but your body and brain will thank you to stay chilled. Wash your hands and stay home, absolutely, 100%. But allow yourself to be a little silly. Let your hair down, literally. I have a ponytail now, for the first time in my life. It’s pretty funny.
And honestly, the kimono is a good shout too.
Checking in: I have friends all around the world and I try to check in with as many of them as possible (even with the pesky timezone differences). The main comfort at this time is that almost everyone is feeling a similar way and has had a drastic change to their everyday life. It’s good to avoid chatting too much about the pandemic and chatting about whatever else may be going on; just try to have a laugh as much as possible each day if you can.
A daily schedule: As someone who has lost all of my foreseeable employment and was used to a busy schedule, I still feel comfort in having some sort of daily schedule to keep me focussed. I’ve worked my day into 1hr sections from 10am – midnight (yes I have a Virgo sun…) and includes everything from strict flamenco guitar practice, making zines and writing letters for friends to ‘outdoor time’ and meditation.
Staying positive and grateful: Each day, mostly before going to sleep, I remind myself of things that I am grateful for. I try hard not to think about the possibilities and experiences that have been curtailed, or what the future may look like, and instead I try to focus only on the present day. Shannon Delores O’Neill
Stuart: I’m writing songs in self isolation and I plan to force myself to write in genres and styles that I typically wouldn’t play in an effort to challenge myself, keep things interesting and hopefully, learn some new things.
Jordan: Trying to be productive during this time is important because you can lost in staring at a screen that will just wear you down over a few weeks and that can have a negative effect on your mental health. So get up early, get some coffee on the go and do something productive. I’m using this time at home to play more guitar, revisit old songs from some of my favourite bands and try to get inspired to work on new music. Also finally got an Audible account so making my way through Johnny Marr’s book.
Louis: I think there is an optimistic approach we all could have during this self-isolation period! For one, I have been able to listen and discover more music, asking friends what to listen to, watching performances online and practicing more as well. It’s great to be given a chance to develop my style and technique, because otherwise I would have made some lame excuse that I didn’t have time. For a bit of fun, I have been doing a 30-day challenge where there’s a prompt for each day, i.e. ‘A song with a colour in the title’ and I would learn the song that comes to mind. I also luckily borrowed a few books from my library before everything closed down (unlikely to bring them back on the return date) and so I’ve been trying to get my reading up during this time too!
Like most people I’m just trying to stay safe and keep my mind healthy. I’ll be trying to follow the next few lines as guiding principles for the coming weeks:
1. This might not be the time for your album, novel or sourdough bread. Don’t feel pressured by the onslaught of people sharing their successes. Try to be happy for them and find comfort in that creativity will come to you when the time is right.
2. Find time to sit with my thoughts and to really meditate on how I’m feeling. The Dublin Buddhist Center offer free downloadable guided/instrumental meditation audio files that can act as platform for you to relax and align internally.
3. Have fun. Whether it’s being active, conference calling for cans, or doing something you’d been meaning to try for ages, try to find and enjoy this as much as possible. I’ve been enjoying digging back into my old blues collection for the first time in years. Sean Arthur
As a musician, a creative or in fact in any pursuit of living, you will invariably have made sacrifices to move yourself closer to where you want to be. You’ll have regrets, missed connections and frayed relationship endings that will leave you feeling like the fabric of your life is threadbare or moth eaten in places from time to time. This isolation each of us are undertaking needn’t be truly alone. Use this temporary, unprecedented, slowing down of the world to fix the bridges that someone might desperately need to get them through this time we’re in. It might start with a text saying hello, it might start with an apology but use this time to reach out. The world is smaller and smaller for better or worse, but even in isolation we can fix the slack suspension bridges we blame ourselves for not tending to.
Set yourself a routine for your time at home. Always breakfast if you can, but don’t drink more coffee than you need to unless you want to drum through your sofa armrests. Open the windows for a period of time each day so that you feel the wind of the outdoors on your skin. I’m an awful cook but now is the time to change that, set your days by knowing what you will try to have for dinner on Monday through to Friday, we’ll look back at this menu when this blows over. It’ll teach us never to take choice for granted and it’ll sandblast the option paralysis from the shruggingly indifferent generation a lot of us can sometimes unfortunately be.
Try to keep a level head but be firm with people who are unnecessarily reckless in the face of a brand new illness. This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, This ain’t no fooling around. Paul Connolly
I’ve been in self-isolation since March 12, bar one trip to the supermarket. Anyone who knows me would think I’d be like a duck to water with this – but it turns out that isolation, like many things, feels very different when it’s obligatory.
I work mainly as a screenwriter, so I see a lot of gabble about how this is going to be a great time for ‘getting some writing done’, etc. More power to whoever feels that way, but – for my part – I think it’s hogwash. Even for somebody who works mainly alone, the idea that more time alone necessarily equals more and better work seems a very utilitarian way to think about creativity. I think an important thing is to not place additional expectations on ourselves at this point.
I’m actually locked down in the house I grew up in, so I’m alone not only with myself, but also with the ghost of my teenage self – which is a trip, as I’m sure anybody can imagine. I’ve been glad, though, to be able to dig out some of the books I grew up with. There are few people I find more embarrassing than my adolescent self, but looking back at these books has given me a more forgiving perspective. So maybe that’s something important to do in isolation: try to get along better with ourselves.
In the evenings, I’ve been working through some of the films I’ve been meaning to watch or re-watch, but have kept long-fingering because they seemed too much like hard work. I’ve watched A Woman Under the Influence, The Life of Oharu, The Saragossa Manuscript… And it turns out they aren’t hard work at all; they’re absorbing in a way that ‘comfort viewing’ isn’t. I find that the more I try to ‘comfort watch’, the less comfort I get, because I’m always so acutely aware of what I’m doing and why. (That being said, I did revisit Twilight, and thoroughly enjoyed it).
I’ve also been exploring some of the ‘orphaned’ and public domain films available on the internet. I’d recommend visiting Public Domain Movies (publicdomainmovies.net) for links to interesting films that, for whatever reason, have slipped through the cracks of copyright. The image quality isn’t always what we’d be accustomed to from conventional streaming, and the indexing isn’t great, but persevere and you can find a shadow history that’s ‘curated’ not by an algorithm, but by chance and ingenuity.
One of the projects I’ve been working on for the past couple of months is a film set during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and 1990s. I’ve been dismayed, to say the least, to see uninformed bigots drawing parallels between the present situation and AIDS. Personally, I don’t think there are any meaningful parallels to be drawn – but I was struck, nevertheless, by something I recently read in David Wojnarowicz’s Close to the Knives (1991). Wojnarowicz is, for me, the most powerful chronicler of AIDS in America, and he writes very unsentimentally and movingly about the shock to the system of a generation being forced into a confrontation with mortality in their twenties and thirties, as opposed to later in life. “Our mental structures are shifting at this early age,” he writes, “to reveal our mortality for more than just a few seconds”. In a way, that realisation seems to be coming to a lot of younger people at the moment – revealing not just individual vulnerability, but also our interconnectedness with others, and how vulnerable we are as a society and even a species.
There’s a real temptation at the moment to always be reading/watching/playing/drinking something – anything! – to crowd out disquieting thoughts, particularly if we are alone with them. I think, though, that doing so creates an oppositional relationship with our own minds that is only going to make this situation more stressful. I certainly wouldn’t recommend anybody spend this time in isolation ruminating on mortality. But I also wouldn’t recommend barring the door against those thoughts when they come. It’s a hard thing, facing our frailty – but it can also deepen us. David Turpin
When I was in my twenties, I, like many white male, aspiring academics in the arts and humanities, romanticised solitude. There are countless non-fiction and fiction books that celebrate the “art” of loneliness, and a lot of them, mostly unread or half read, are sitting on my bookshelves. Invariably they are written by the well heeled, or by worldly middleclass freelancers on a career break. They read like precursors to that impossibly bohemian Instagram account of that friend you’ve blocked who is constantly ‘traveling’ (not holidaying, she’s keen to point out).
Like a preposterous cliché, I imagined myself as some kind of intellectual recluse, isolated somewhere remote, like a northern Icelandic coastal bay, taking morning walks on the black sand – black as my poor heart – letting the volcanic landscape shape the contours of my thinking. As befitting someone who was doing a PhD in the arts, I idealised wanderers, wayfarers, drifters, and the displaced, because you see, I saw the cross-pollinations of my intellectual pursuit as deeply allied with the phenomenological character of the uprooted. I was a scholarly migrant, polyglottal, determinedly outside of the Academy, and in that respect, saw myself as alone in the hinterlands, the liminal spaces (oh god, how many academics populate liminal spaces? Enough to secede I imagine) which suited me fine, as it conferred on to me arty edginess that I assumed would translate into my work. In reality I was terribly lonely and I ended up nearly killing myself.
Thankfully I’m a far less self-destructively angsty man these days, and strongly value the ideals of collective, communal effort, and of living well amongst each other. Years of working alone from home have taught me a few tricks to keep things from sliding into gloom and despondency. However, the one I feel is the most critical is this:
Don’t feel that you need to be productive. Just because you have time to fill doesn’t mean you need to fill it. Let’s not internalise that Silicon Valley micromanagement cult where your time is a resource to manage, extract, and optimise; your beautiful self funnelled in service of some daft idea of creativity or Culture. I’m deeply suspicious of what Culture has come to mean anyway, because it feels like its primary imperative is content, content, content, at all costs. Ask yourself, am I a collaborator in the simmering down of my art in service of a bleak, corporatised hegemony of hyper-specific audience targeted media? Probably. We’re so far down that road now. Let’s just hand it over to the AI bots and be done with it. It’ll take care of itself.
You don’t have to read the works of Robbe-Grillet, or learn a language, or detox and tone up. Lifehack apps like Slack and Toggl, are tools of technological fascism, designed to colonise your leisure time, weaponised by an emergent class of professional panellists and arts consultants. They encourage us to compartmentalise our down time, and ascribe labour value to time that should be spent on self-care. Don’t buy into it. Let your time loosen, slacken. Don’t line manage yourself. Sure, do what you need to do, but don’t feel guilty for being unproductive.
I was asked for three. Here are the other two:
Hopefully when we emerge from the other end of this, we will do so with a renewed sense of kinship and respect for each other, and ourselves. A slower world might be waiting for us, which might be no bad thing. Jamie Thompson
Brendan: I’ve been reading more, currently on City of Bohane by Kevin Barry. It’s important to keep a good mindset and stay healthy – have been doing so by trying out some new recipes and getting in a cycle when I can.
Cathal: I’ve been collaborating with other musicians by sending files back and forth. It’s a good opportunity to start new projects and take a step out of your creative comfort zone, try something totally different.
Mícheál: I’ve been taking solace in the little things. Trying to be a little more clean, tidy, and organised than I usually would, to make my surroundings comfortable. Allotting some time to do some yoga/meditation, and to plan routines/meals/etc. Putting my phone and laptop away from me when I’m not deliberately using them. Little steps, one by one. Oh, and listening to a lot of Alice Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders and Laurie Spiegel.
Isolation is a familiar state for a lot of artists. It suits me to be undistracted so I can watch Curb and form strong opinions about the first Star Wars trilogy. It’s reminiscent of a bout of depression. Confinement, doubt and clutching to small comforts. Routine can be a great life raft. Sourdough starters and Yoga with Adrienne might help or like me, reiterate feelings of inadequacy.
Those privileged to have their health and financial stability, this is can be a time for rest, however it’s important to realise some people are confined with their abusers. Romanticising the plague might help for art but the tragedy of this hasn’t fully hit us yet. Give empathy where you can and check on people often. We’re all going to suffer in ways but thankfully memes and music still exist to punctuate the existential crisis.
There is no competition for isolation. If you can create and be productive, fucking class. But also you don’t have to write an album/novel/epic poem. Do not feel guilt for eating. Any weight you gain will be helpful when it gets Mad Max.
I can totally appreciate that people will find different activities and approaches to isolation and lockdown helpful. Things that I find particularly useful tend to pull me away from social media and news sites and transport me to a different world. Yes, it’s definitely important to stay connected to the world and stay educated on the changing nature of things, but actively taking some time off if you can is revitalising.
I’m an avid reader and it’s my go-to when I have a spare moment regardless. But I have found travel literature especially enjoyable these past few days. Anything that plucks me from my tiny Belfast house and drops me in an olive grove in Provence with a glass of wine!
I live for museums. When I’m on the road I’ll be in an art gallery or museum any spare minute I have. Being housebound has revealed to me that many of the world’s great museums have digital collections you can explore for free. You can get completely absorbed in these endless databases.
I love a trip to the pub, the conversation, the atmosphere, the music, the wit, the buzz and the decor – it’s in our cultural DNA! So I’ve been creating my own pub at home in a minuscule back porch. “Little O’Dowds” (named in reference to one of Ireland’s finest pubs in South Connemara) is a tiny tribute to those beautiful nights we’ll all be missing. It’s full of postcards, photos and even foreign currency taped to the wall. There are two bar stools and a turf fire (courtesy of youtube) and myself and my girlfriend are the only patrons. It opens Friday and Saturday nights only and gives us something to look forward to at the weekends!
I’m going to run a series of live stream gigs from my front room called the Sanitiser Sessions. The first one is tonight on my Facebook page.
Writing. I’m starting to write album number 4, even though we haven’t even started recording album number 3 yet. Getting ahead of the curve. Also, some co-writing. Get in touch if you fancy or need.
I’ve started reading the Sherlock Holmes books, so I’ll probably be finished them before this all blows over.