Jay Watson of GUM and Tame Impala – COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, January 18th, 2021  

Jay Watson of GUM and Tame Impala – COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In

“Being in the most isolated city in the world is finally paying off.”

Apr 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 Australian psych-pop musician Jay Watson, who releases music as GUM, but is also a member of both Tame Impala and POND. Below we also have the premiere of a new video in which Watson performs his recent GUM single “Out In the World” in his living room in Perth.

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. 

GUM recently shared a new song, “Out In the World,” via a Laura-Lynn Petrick-directed video for the track. It is being released as a 7-inch single via Spinning Top Music/Kung Fu Nation, with a cover of Ballroom’s “It’s a Sad World” on the B-side.

Watson had this to say about “Out In the World” in a press release: “The song is about the feeling of wanting to give up and never talk to anyone ever again after something goes wrong. It started off as a jangly 12 string folk sort of thing, before morphing into my version of Fleetwood Mac meets Cleaners From Venus. It features very little keyboard and synthesizer for me and more guitars than I’ve used in a while, it was important to have that texture.” 

GUM’s last album was 2018’s The Underdog. It was his fourth album, following his 2014 debut Delorean Highway, 2015’s Glamorous Damage, and 2016’s Flash In the Pan.

Tame Impala (which is led by Kevin Parker), meanwhile, released a new album, The Slow Rush, in February via Interscope. 

POND released a new album, Tasmania, back in March 2019 via Interscope. That was followed by another new one in November 2019, Sessions, also via Interscope. Sessions features newly recorded live studio performances of songs from across their discography.

Read on as Watson reflects on his COVID-19 experience so far.

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?

I’m in quarantine with my family in Perth, Western Australia. I have a four-month-old son so it’s actually been really nice staying at home with him, albeit a bit hectic in the house.

Is everyone in your family safe and healthy so far?

Yep, all of my family and friends are safe and healthy so far, touch wood. Western Australia has very few cases relatively, so being in the most isolated city in the world is finally paying off.

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?

I basically wake up, go for a run, and then work on music when I have free time until dinner. To be honest, it’s not too different to what I normally do when I’m at home and not on tour.

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?

My record is coming out soon, but it actually suits me perfectly as I never have time to tour the GUM stuff anyway. Tame Impala and Pond shows have been cancelled or postponed, but we were working through them and coming up with other ways to be creative and make money.

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?

I don’t trust Donald Trump to do anything correctly or justly. He’s completely consumed by himself and his reputation on the most shallow and childlike level. I trust some governments more than others but the whole thing is never free from concern is it. You hope that everyone is just doing their best, but it seems like there is a lot of ego and countries comparing their results to each other, rather than just trying their hardest.

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?

I have no idea what impact this will have on the U.S election, but I do know that traditionally “wartime” presidents have been re-elected and this is similar to that in terms of global disruption.

Which sources of news have you been turning to most during COVID-19 and which social media platform have you found most useful? 

I watch the trashy Channel 7 news in Australia in the morning briefly before I get angry and turn it off. Then I watch SBS at night to see what’s going on around the world. I go on Instagram far too much. It’s super important for my music and working with other people, but it is slowly turning my brain into chocolate pudding.

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

I have no idea what the lasting effects of this will be, and it is impossible to speculate, like everything with this virus. I think and hope maybe some people will get to sort of reset their lives and bodies and mental health to some extent. A bit of a “Glow-Up” if you will.

Are your parents, grandparents, and others in your life who are at risk taking social distancing seriously? If not, what lengths have you gone to in order to convince them to stay inside?

My extended family all live on the other side of the country, but I’m not too worried about my parents as they practice social distancing year round anyway!

What other steps should record labels, music streaming platforms, and other music industry entities be taking to help struggling musicians through this time?

Perhaps more than an infinitesimally small amount of money per Spotify or Apple Music play would be a start.

What is the best way fans can support you financially right now? Buying vinyl and CDs, downloading and streaming your music, buying merch, supporting your Patreon page or other crowd sourcing platform (if you use one), or some other means? Is there a particularly cool piece of merch you’d like to highlight?

I think buying merch and records are the best way to help artists. Try and buy stuff from artists that you know need the cash too, there are plenty of artists who won’t make any income this year, but will be completely fine, and others who will struggle.

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

I’ve been listening to Nick Nicely, lots of dub and lots of soul. I’ve watched Tiger King. Other than that I’ve been making music each day.

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?

I did a live stream for an Australian festival called IsoAid the other day. It was fun but was very nerve wracking weirdly. You can’t see anyone but you know they’re there.

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

I’m going to finish painting the front of my house, and I’m going to do an immaculate job. There’s no rush!

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?

I think any free time I get is fertile creative time for me. Even if I’m struggling to write song-y songs I’m happy to sit there for six hours a day and make noise with pedals and toys that no one will ever hear. There really is no excuse for being bored in this day and age, with every bit of information ever available at your fingertips. If I got truly bored I’d try and learn a new language, or learn how to make my own fuzz pedal or something.

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?

I buy:

Broccoli
Red and Green Cabbage
VitaWeats
Fish
Lurpak
Oat Milk
Muesli
Sauerkraut
Lemons
Cucumber
Carrots
Sweet Potato
Chocolate
Greek Yoghurt
A nice loaf of bread

That’s a standard GUM shop

I’m drinking a bit of white wine at the moment, as well as Rogers beer from Perth as it’s mid-strength so I don’t get hammered every night. Dad Booze.

Supermarkets in Australia have been selling their own sort of home packaged toilet paper. You’re limited to one deck of four rolls at a time. I think it’s a good system.

www.facebook.com/gguumm
www.instagram.com/jay.w.watson/
www.twitter.com/jay_w_watson
official.tameimpala.com 
www.pondband.net

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