Audrey Kang and Kevin Copeland of Lightning Bug – COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In - “I have absolutely no trust in Trump and his WEAK administration to effectively deal with the pandemic.” – Audrey Kang | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, August 6th, 2020  

Audrey Kang and Kevin Copeland of Lightning Bug – COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In

“I have absolutely no trust in Trump and his WEAK administration to effectively deal with the pandemic.” – Audrey Kang

May 14, 2020 Web Exclusive
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We are checking in with musicians during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic to see how they are dealing with everything. What has their home quarantine experience been like so far and how is the crisis impacting both their career and art? Here we check in with Audrey Kang and Kevin Copeland of Brooklyn-based shoegazers Lightning Bug.

We’re living in future history right now, unprecedented times that will define our era. At some point we will be living in a forever-changed post-COVID-19 timeline, but right now we’re deep in it. Many have had their livelihood interrupted by the pandemic and included are most musicians, who make a lot of their money by touring and performing, two things they can’t do right now. Most record stores are closed, and vinyl factories are shut down, so album sales are depressed too. Our intention with this series is to highlight the challenges musicians are going through right now to hopefully encourage our readers and their fans to rally around and support each musician (financially if you can, but we know it’s tough out there for many people).

We’re all in this together, a whole planet united in this fight, and we hope these interviews will help illustrate that. We put together the same set of questions about the current crisis and emailed them to several musicians and will be posting their responses as they come in.

Lightning Bug recently signed to Fat Possum, who in April reissued their 2019-released sophomore album, October Song. In March the band also released new single “The Onely Ones,” accompanied by a music video. Lightning Bug is made up of a collective of close friends who aim to create sweeping soundscapes that connect the innerworkings of the human psyche to one another. Toying with the release of tension and joy juxtaposed with pain, these artists dig deep into their personal dialogues and to share their findings with listeners.

In a press release Kang had this to say about “The Onely Ones” and its video: “You know when you experience a sudden extreme of emotion? Not quite anguish, not quite joy, but some unutterable mixture of both. This song is my attempt to express that. The video for ‘The Onely Ones’ seeks to represent the fleeting impressions that stream behind the membrane of immediate reality. It attempts to remind how there is, shimmering within each person, an entire universe as intangible and as infinite as time.” 

Read on as Kang and Copeland of Lightning Bug reflect on their COVID-19 experience so far. They also submitted photos of themselves under quarantine.

Where are you spending the quarantine and who are you spending it with? If you’re spending it with other people, have you found that the quarantine has brought you closer together or caused tension?

Audrey Kang: I currently live alone, so my companions are the birds in the backyard. And my plants. If you really look at a plant, and I mean REALLY look at it, it blows your mind. Occasionally, I’ll bike to Kevin’s (he also currently lives alone) to work on music, but we’re very aware of the dangers of socializing and are careful to keep the loop of interaction closed and abide quarantine otherwise. I haven’t even gone grocery shopping since the shutdown and am surviving on the stockpile of rice my family brought me from Taiwan before the pandemic. I’m also pretty certain that Kevin and I have already had the virusboth of us got really sick in late February, and the symptoms lined right up with COVID-19. 

Is everyone in your family safe and healthy so far? 

Audrey: My brother Ian is working in the ICU at a hospital in Chicago. I worry about him a lot. I’ll text him about coronavirus and his patients, but I get the sense he doesn’t really want to talk about it. I guess as he’s literally surrounded by the virus and its dangers,  maybe he prefers to talk about other things when he’s not at work. So instead I’ll text him about other things like mourning dove behavior and the book I’m reading.  

What’s your daily routine been like? Have you spent much time outdoors? And since musicians spend so much time on the road, have you found it hard adjusting to so much time at home? 

Kevin Copeland: So, my daily routine has been roughly the same, though the time at which it occurs has shifted considerably. I wake up, make a big pot of coffee and something to eat, watch or read something while I have breakfast, get my brain warm. Then I always try to work on something, whether it’s writing or learning a song or recording. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes I’m not. Then the day unfolds from there. If I like what I’m doing, I’ll forget about food for a while, and if not, I’ll get into something else or get out on my bike for a bit to clear my head. Rinse and repeat. It’s actually been nice for me to be stationary for the moment. Obviously, I’d rather be on the road, but right now the house arrest and alone time is sort of welcome on a personal level. 

What financial impact has COVID-19 had on you and your band? Have you had to cancel or postpone any tours or festival appearances or postpone an album release because of COVID-19 and how will that affect you in the long term? 

Audrey: SXSW and a few of our shows on the way back were cancelled. But we’re lucky not to be touring around an album release, and we don’t have anything like that coming up other than the October Song reissue. It was definitely disappointing at first, but that disappointment was quickly dwarfed by the seriousness of the situation. I don’t know what to expect with long term effects. It’ll probably be difficult for us to get on a tour in the fall, with everyone starting up at once and the competition from more established bands. I’m not very worried, thoughI don’t like to stress about things like that because it saps the enjoyment out of being in a band and being able to play music. I prefer to just take it as it comes. 

If you also have a day job outside of music, how has that been impacted by COVID-19? 

Kevin: I was a coffee roaster, and under other circumstances would have gone back to work, but that ain’t gonna happen now. 

Audrey: I was so promptly laid off after the shutdown. Despite money troubles (haven’t been successful in getting unemployment), I actually feel grateful to be on pause from my old job. I was working as a copywriter for a furniture and home goods company, and I think I would have felt very miserable writing copy for expensive chairs and lamps when so many are struggling. Plus now I’ve been free to devote my time to working on music. 

Do you trust the government and our leaders (such as President Trump) to effectively deal with the pandemic? What most concerns you about the response of elected leaders at home and abroad? 

Kevin: The federal government seems to be really failing in most areas, particularly in calming and informing people, which I think is the one area a president could actually really do something. But it seems there is money on the way to bail people out financially, and New York State seems to be taking care of its own. Though I really do not like how “each-state-for-itself” this has become. It’s quite upsetting to me. 

Audrey: I have absolutely no trust in Trump and his WEAK administration to effectively deal with the pandemic. It’s hard to choose what concerns me the most, from our government’s muddled, confused “guidance” and indecision, to the political bickering, to the denial of facts and straight up stupidity from elected leaders. 

How do you think the crisis will affect this November’s U.S. presidential election? Will it make it easier or harder to defeat Trump? 

Kevin: God, you’re really going for the throat here. I’m bummed Bernie is out. I think a lot of musicians feel that way. I honestly don’t know. The last election caught me so off guard, I feel like I don’t have enough data anymore. I’d like to say being out on tour last with my other band, The Big Net, I saw more Democratic campaign signs than I did Trump signs, and I’d also like to say it’s clear Trump has done a shit job with this crisis. But I also know how steadfast people can be in their visions of the world. I think that’s the most disheartening part, when people won’t look past their own hats. I’d like to think I’m open. Hey, I didn’t like [New York Governor Andrew] Cuomo until three weeks ago. I still don’t know if I like him! But I think he’s doing a good job? So, I guess we’ll just have to see. Hopefully people will have their eyes open. 

What do you think will be the lasting effects on society of all this isolated time at home? 

Audrey: I’m tempted to say that everyone will pretty much forget about the whole thing after like one month and a period of general revelry. But that’s probably too cynical. I do think our society has a tendency to be very easily distracted and just latch on to the next thing at hand. Hopefully people begin to interact with the physical world more after quarantine is lifted. Things like getting groceries and food delivered, ordering stuff from Amazon, being glued to the apps—after this intense period of being confined to that way of life, maybe people will rebel against it when we’re all free to choose again.  

Kevin: I actually think the lasting effects of isolation will be positive. After we get past the financial carnage, everybody forced to limit their work/social lives is spending a lot of time (hopefully) thinking about which parts of their normal life are actually meaningful. Do they actually want to go back to that job? Do you really want to be with this person? Which people did you actually want to reach out to? Someone is finally learning how to play mandolin. 

Which albums, songs, films, TV shows, books, podcasts, live streams, video games, board games, etc, have been helping you get through the quarantine? 

Audrey: I’m re-reading The Brothers Karamazov. I really recommend that book if you can get past the antiquated language and confusing Russian names (each character has like three different names and you just have to gradually figure out who’s who). This book seems to cover every possible issue, from very intensely interior/personal ones like finding love and happiness, to broader ones like morality and the meaning of free will. Actually, one of the characters explains that though we like to think we are each separate beings who worry about our own problems, in truth we are all connected and so responsible for every other person in the world. That felt strikingly relevant. 

Kevin: John Prine, Terrence Malick, and Ken Burns as always. And I’ve been listening to a lot of slack tuned Hawaiian guitar. Incredible stuff. 

Have you been doing any live-streamed concerts during COVID-19 or do you plan to? A lot of artists have been doing them, do you think it’s a challenge to make them original and interesting?

Audrey: Yes, have done one so far and have a few more on the way. I was a bit torn about doing them. Like, does anyone really want to watch me play guitar through a tiny screen and hear my voice all tinny through the little mic/speaker? And it is hard to make them interesting amongst so many live streams—I feel like they all sort of blur into one long acoustic session. But I also think it’s a really nice way to stay connected and continue to play and perform for a community.

Kevin: I find it quite a fun challenge actually. How to transmit a song at its core. It’s like that drawing game for kids where you draw the character around the bones.  

Is there something you’ve been putting off for a long time, but are now doing with this time at home?

Audrey: I repainted my apartment and it feels so good! I also had all these planks of wood just leaning against the wall for almost a year and I’ve finally turned them into the shelves they were meant to be. 

Kevin: Sleeping. 

Has the quarantine been a fertile creative time (are you writing or recording new music, for example) or have you found it hard to focus on creative endeavors? 

Audrey: Creativity has been so very fertile with all of the time and energy I can devote to music. I think having the uninterrupted space to myself has been fruitful for ideas. Now the next Lightning Bug record is so close to being done! Something that has previously taken us years to do. 

Kevin: I’ve gone in intense waves, started with tons of creative energy, then fell into a deep valley, and I’m hiking out. 

Beyond the obvious items (such as toilet paper), what things have you made sure to get from the grocery store when stocking up? And, also, do you have any toilet paper?

Audrey: I have not been to the grocery store since the shutdown, but already had plenty of rice and flour. I’m pretty much subsisting on rice, sourdough bread, and pickled veggies. And yeah, I’ve got a few rolls. 

Kevin: Apples and garlic. And yes, I have plenty, if anyone is in desperate need, lemme know. 

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