Sondre Lerche – COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, May 30th, 2020  

Sondre Lerche – COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In

“We’re all looking for answers and no one knows right now, so I’m trying to stay in the moment.”

Apr 02, 2020 Photography by Sondre Lerche 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 Norway’s Sondre Lerche.

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.

Norwegian-born/American-based singer/songwriter Sondre Lerche is releasing a new album, Patience, on June 5 via his own label PLZ. So far he has shared the album’s first single, “You Are Not Who I Thought I Was,” via a Jon Danovic-directed video for the track.

Patience is the follow-up to 2017’s Pleasure and 2014’s Please (you can sense a pattern with the titles). It is Lerche’s ninth album and first since he relocated from New York City (where he lived for a decade) to the West Coast, but the album was mainly recorded in his native Norway. Patience features percussionist Dave Heilman, bassist Chris Holm, keyboardist Alexander von Mehren, producers Kato Ådland and Matias Tellez, mixing engineer Jørgen Træen, and classical violinist/composer/arranger Tim Fain. Van Dyke Parks guests on “Put The Camera Down.”

In a press release announcing the album Lerche said Paitence was inspired by his newfound love of ambient music and running marathons.

“The inspiration behind the theme and feeling of the album comes from the sense of space and time I associate with ambient music and minimalism,” Lerche said. “Ever since Pleasure came out in 2017, I’ve been running a lot, and I listen to mainly abstract music that helps me lose sense of time and structure when I run, what I refer to as 'patient music. Performing the flamboyant and intense Pleasure show 140 times in one year got me into athleticism, and made me passionate about running. Before this, I never did anything remotely athletic in my life. After Pleasure I felt like slowing down everything in my life. I stopped touring for the first time since I was 18. I moved to LA, and I just focused on writing. I needed to make soothing music.”

Read on as Lerche reflects on his COVID-19 experience so far. Above is a photo Lerche sent us showing him at home during the quarantine.

Where are 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?

Sondre Lerche: I decided to leave LA for Oslo on March 15, so I’ve been quarantined here ever since. I’m pretty used to being by myself for long stretches of time, so that hasn’t been such a big change for me yet. It has made me slightly better at calling people to check in on them, which I’m usually not very good at. I use the phone for everything except actually talking to people.

Is everyone in your family safe and healthy so far?

So far, yes. 

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 think I come well-prepared, as I stopped touring about two years ago for the first time in a long, long time. So I’ve been embracing being still, traveling as little as possible and just working from home, finishing my new album Patience, doing some music for film and writing a book. So adjusting to being home hasn’t really been much of a thing. I was just about to launch the first song and video from the new album. Plans have shifted a bit, and it can be hard to reach people, but I’ve been able to keep going, and have office hours both on Norway time and USA time. So it’s been really busy, and I’ve improvised a lot. I run my own label so I gotta try to stay on top of everything, especially when you’re setting the tone for the whole new album launch.  

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?

The album doesn’t come out until June 5, so I haven’t had to cancel any shows quite yet. But it’s looking like the special release shows in NY and LA will not be able to happen as scheduled. We were going to announce a U.S. fall tour along with the first single, but we are waiting a little bit to see how things develop. I really, really hope the entire summer isn’t cancelled. I have some festival gigs that have not yet been cancelled, so I still have hope, but it may be a very naive hope. If all the summer shows are cancelled, I’m going to be in trouble, financially. So I’ll have to come up with some plans B, C and D. Which isn’t really THAT different from regular life for me, personally—but this affects, and has affected already, so many industries and businesses big and small, so a lot of us small players will all be scrambling at the same time, looking for solutions. That scares me a bit. We’re all looking for answers and no one knows right now, so I’m trying to stay in the moment, do the job I can do here and know, while quietly investigating options in the back of my mind.

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

No. 

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 suppose me deciding to leave for Norway pretty early on answers that question. Although (or because) I’ve lived in the U.S. for 15 years now, I have much more faith in the Norwegian government’s handling, and the Norwegian social democratic system in general, than the U.S. in the face of all this. Foolishly, I haven’t had health insurance in a couple of years. I feel bad for a lot of my U.S. friends who do not have that exit strategy that I have. I don’t have rich parents or anything, but I am immensely privileged in that I come from Norway and can return there during this crisis.

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?

It is deeply worrying to over and over again hear that his popularity is up among his followers whenever he makes his most idiotic, heartless, and dangerous moves. With that fucker no one knows how anything will play. It could be the best thing that happened to him. And the worst thing for all the rest of us. He is terrifying.

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

I started listening to The Daily podcast by The New York Times during the primaries, and I’ve found their coverage of the pandemic constructive and balanced.  

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

Kindness, solidarity, and patience. 

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?

Yea, my mom is in her 70s and is home alone, staying inside. I try to call her once a day, so we’ve had some good chats. 

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

It might be a good time for streaming platforms to offer music makers a more fair cut. 

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? 

Seeing as I’m releasing a new album, pre-ordering the vinyl bundle is the absolute best deal for both me and fans! 

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

Honestly, Love Is Blind has been keeping me company at night when I need to shut down for a little bit and eat some dinner. I watched Words of Love, the documentary about Leonard Cohen and Marianne, his Norwegian muse. I really miss going to the movies. That’s my number one thing I do to take my mind of work, and break up the structure of my day. I’ve also enjoyed some great streaming concerts through my friends at Brakkesyke 2020—they book and curate home streaming shows by Norwegian artists, and it’s been nice to experience some of those shows together with friends in the comments section. I did one for them also.

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?

Yea, I did one in collaboration with Brakkesyke 2020, and had people donate money to Doctors Without Borders. We raised equivalent of $15,000, and I think around 70,000 different people stopped by, live from my living room. And then I’ve done a smaller more fan-based Q&A and mini-concert, tied in with the new single and video, last week. I like that you can just hang out with people who follow your music. That it doesn’t have to mimic a show so much as just hang time. I like doing it, and I think it’s good that audiences now appreciate the value in it, and that maybe it can be a short term way of getting some income for a lot of artists.

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

There is definitely, but so far I’ve been too busy to get to it.

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’ve gotten creative with regards to looking for opportunities and improvising when it comes to this album and single release, and I’m always working on a song, but I haven’t had time to sit down and write my symphony yet. 

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?

Doing good on toilet paper, thank you very much. I try to make sure I have enough spinach. Gotta stay strong!

www.sondrelerche.com
www.facebook.com/sondrelerche/
www.twitter.com/SondreLerche
www.sondrelerchemusic.bandcamp.com/
www.instagram.com/sondrelerche

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