Joan As Police Woman – COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, May 26th, 2024  

Joan As Police Woman – COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In

“I am spending [the quarantine] alone and it’s both brought me closer to myself as well as caused tension with myself.”

May 05, 2020 Web Exclusive Photography by David A. Fitschen Bookmark and Share

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 Joan As Police Woman (aka Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter Joan Wasser).

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.

Joan As Police Woman just released a new album, Cover Two, last week. As its title suggests, it’s a covers album, with Wasser’s interpretations of songs by Blur (“Out of Time”), Prince (“Kiss”), The Strokes (“Under Control”), Talk Talk (“Life’s What You Make It”), OutKast (“Spread”), Cass McCombs (“Not the Way”), Neil Young (“On the Beach”), and others. The record is the follow-up to her first covers album, simply titled Cover and released in 2009. She worked with various musicians on Cover Two, including Meshell Ndegeocello, Justin Hicks, Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman), Jim White and more.

“I began working on new covers ever since the release of the first covers album 11 years ago!” Wasser said in a press release announcing Cover Two. “I’ve been performing ‘Kiss’ by Prince and my version of ‘Out of Time’ by Blur throughout last year’s Joanthology Tour and finished the record as soon as I returned home this winter. Recreating existing songs is a gratifying creative challenge for me, especially with songs I adore. I start with the question ‘WHY, exactly, do I love this song?’ I take those elements and reform them, sometimes removing much of the remaining material to refocus them through new glasses. I re-harmonize the chords, radically change the feel or shift the hook or the phrasing to rebuild the composition.”

Wasser got her start as a classically trained violinist, before joining the indie rock band The Dambuilders as a violinist in 1991. After the tragic death of her boyfriend Jeff Buckley, in 1997 she combined forces with the members of Buckley’s band to form Black Beetle, Wasser’s first time fronting a band. In 1999 she joined Antony of the Johnsons, while also branching out on her own and adopting the Joan As Police Woman moniker in 2002. Over the years she has collaborated with an impressive array of musicians, including Tony Allen, Damon Albarn, Lou Reed, Beck, Sparklehorse, Laurie Anderson, Sufjan Stevens, John Cale, Aldous Harding, Norah Jones, Rufus Wainwright, Daniel Johnston, and more. Her last album of originals was 2018’s Damned Devotion, although in 2019 she released the career-spanning best-of collection Joanthology.

Read on as Wasser reflects on her 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 am in Brooklyn NY in my apt. I am spending it alone and it’s both brought me closer to myself as well as caused tension with myself.

Is everyone in your family safe and healthy so far?

My family are all okay. I lost a good friend two weeks ago from this virus. Honestly, I’m still in shock. Not having the ritual of gathering together with friends and family when someone dies has created confusion in my mind and my body. A part of me continues to hope that this is all a terrible dream and he’ll be here again when we’re all able to get back together in the future.

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 spend a lot of time at home when I’m not on the road so that part doesn’t bother me. I ride my bicycle most days with a mask and gloves. I am used to getting a lot of exercise so I need that for my sanity. I try to do yoga in the morning to wake my body up. I also have a roof that I will lounge on if the weather is nice enough.

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?

I am continuing to release my new album, Cover Two, on May 1, as scheduled. The European tour that was booked for this May and June is getting rescheduled. The financial impact is deep and it doesn’t only affect me. My two band members, two crew members, manager, booking agent, etc. will not be paid for this tour until it happens, whenever that is. Long-term we will have to see. Present-time, I am just concerned that our tax money go towards science and medicine.

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

No day job. I just work on music all day, all night long.

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 live in a country whose leader I did not vote for, nor do I respect. I have no reason to think that he can handle this or any decision to be made on behalf of human beings he cares nothing about. He’s proven he will always choose money or hate over human beings and love. The scientists and pacifists need to be in charge now and forever.

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. In 2016 it horrified me that many Americans hated the idea of a woman president more than they hated having a sociopathic lunatic running our country. The choices he’s made have directly killed thousands of Americans (and non-Americans), but because logic and compassion are not guiding factors for many American’s decision-making processes, your guess is as good as mine.

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

To remember,

The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Atlantic.

To forget,

Instagram because images are like candy.

I did a Twitter listening party run by the great Tim Burgess that was miles of fun.

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

We will all know how to be better cooks, to appreciate the sky, to love seeing people’s skin in the sun. I hope we will vote in leaders who care about human beings.

If you have school-aged kids, how have you been dealing with homeschooling and how are your kids adjusting to life at home and away from friends?

No kids thank god.

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?

All my parents and grandparents are no longer with us.

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

Because the entire industry was de-funded far before this pandemic, many musicians have gotten used to their music being worth almost nothing monetarily. I’d love a complete re-working of how musicians get paid in general, both the songwriters and the players. WHO’S UP FOR THE CHALLENGE?

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 have a new release, Cover Two, available right now in limited edition red vinyl or package from my website.

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

Music: “Upside Down” by Diana Ross on repeat. ESG, Tom Tom Club, U.S. Girls.

Books: I’ve started a little light reading with The End of Faith by Sam Harris, who I appreciate greatly as a writer. Also excited to get into the new Prince book The Beautiful Ones, a collection of poetry Holiday in the Island of Grief by my genius writer friend Jeffrey McDaniel and The Gut by Giulia Enders which is teaching me a lot about the body I run around in all day, or, rather, lazily saunter around within these days.

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 one for Spin Magazine’s Instagram. In order to deliver good quality sound I had my tech friend help me set it up remotely. That shit is no joke in terms of set-up! I wore a sequin dress and sang lullabies. I’m personally not interested in sitting on my couch and strumming an acoustic guitar because it’s just not what I do! Nor would you want to see me do that…

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

Eating three pints of ice cream a day and not giving a f∞ck.

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 been working on mixing a live recording we made right when we got off a long tour in November 2018. That’s more focus than creativity honestly. But it’s great to have that focus. I have been writing and recording but in a ramshackle way. I have learned that when I don’t have the kind of energy that whips out songs that I also need time to generate the optimism to write with that kind of energy. Sometimes I just flail and that’s fine.

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’m a natural buy-the-biggest-pacakge-available-so-you-don’t-have-to-return-to-the-store kind of person so I already had enough toilet paper. In terms of pantry items I make sure I have enough tahini, kim chee, quinoa, coconut butter, balsamic vinegar, dark chocolate, coffee, almond milk and in terms of produce items?—I get everything—all the fruits and all the vegetables!

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Victoria Joachin
May 7th 2020

very good & good and unique article. thanks for sharing with us. keep up the good work.

Victoria Joachin
May 11th 2020

very good & good and unique article. thanks for sharing with us.