PINS – COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Friday, May 24th, 2024  

Left to Right: Kyoko Swan, Faith Vern, and Lois MacDonald

PINS – COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In

“Whenever anything damages the economy like this, art is always the first thing to go.” – Faith Vern

Apr 15, 2020 Web Exclusive Photography by Darren Kaskie (Lois MacDonald Photo) 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 all three members of Manchester, England’s PINS—singer/guitarist Faith Vern, guitarist Lois MacDonald, and bassist Kyoko Swan. Below we also have the premiere of the band’s cover of Joy Division’s “Isolation” (which also features the band Yellow Brain). The cover is accompanied by a video featuring PINS’ members having video chats with each other and others.

The band collectively had this to say about the cover: “Pairing up with our tour buddies, Yellow Brain, we covered ‘Isolation’ by Joy Division, straight out of quarantine! The song was literally passed all around the houses with one band member adding to it before sending it on to the next. We chat all day everyday online and always have, we started collecting clips of us and our friends trying to stay connected whilst we’re all physically apart. We’re adapting to this new way of being close, like spending hours on the phone when you’re a kid.”

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.

PINS are releasing a new album, Hot Slick, on May 29 via the band’s own Haus of Pins label.

Hot Slick is the band’s first new album in five years, since 2015’s sophomore release, Wild Nights. On Valentine’s Day the band shared the album’s title track, “Hot Slick,” which was produced by Jamie Hince of The Kills. That was followed a week later by another new song from the album, “Bad Girls Forever” (which was produced by produced by Rich Woodcraft). Woodcraft produced and engineered the whole album, with additional production from Hince and Dean Horner. Nathan Saoudi of Fat White Family played keyboards on the album. When the album was announced, they shared another new song from it, “Ponytail.” Then they shared another song from the album, “After Hours.” That was followed by a further single, “Ghosting,” which featured Nathan Saoudi from Fat White Family on additional keys.

Read on as Faith Vern, Lois MacDonald, and Kyoko Swan reflect on their COVID-19 experiences so far. Each has also submitted a photo of themselves under 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?

Lois MacDonald: I’m at home with my boyfriend. He is a key worker so still working every day, but we always complain about not seeing each other enough so it’s actually nice to be able to spend a bit more time together.

Faith Vern: Life is much the same for me: 24/7 with my baby girl! I’m wondering what this ‘bored’ feeling is that everyone keeps talking about, I’d love the time to be bored! I really feel for the parents with more than one kid, especially parents of the kids who are usually in nursery or school, y’know, having to be their school teacher and their parent whist looking after other children, it must be tough.

Kyoko Swan: I’m spending it in Milton Keynes (where I’m originally from) with my mum. It’s nice because I have space but I’m probably getting on her nerves!

Is everyone in your family safe and healthy so far?

Lois: so far yes. I have a few friends who have seemed to have the virus, and I had mild symptoms a few weeks ago but none of us have been tested for it so it’s not 100% if it was that. Everyone is okay and recovered at the moment though!

Faith: Yeah, I keep calling my granddad asking if he needs shopping or whatever; we’ve got to keep an eye on the elderly. Although saying that, there are so many old people just walking around the streets and in the shops: what are they doing?! STAY HOME!

Kyoko: Thankfully, yes! I have grandparents and uncles/an aunt and a cousin in Japan and they also seem to be doing okay.

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?

Lois: I’m getting way more sleep, which is probably good for me, but still getting up early and making videos or working on covers, and trying to learn some new skills too! I miss my friends a lot, and I miss seeing new places and the freedom to get out and do fun stuff a lot though too. I’m lucky I have a field near my house so I can get a bit of outdoor exercise. I’ve been playing football with my boyfriend too: teaching him a few tricks.

Faith: We’ve still been trying to work the album as much as we can from home, we’re planning lots of live streams, music videos, interviews etc.—trying to keep things as “normal” as possible. I miss my friends too, I miss the girls in the band, I’m used to seeing them all the time, it’s weird.

Kyoko: I haven’t been outside much at all if I’m honest, I used to be out and about all the time but I’ve really been staying indoors a lot. I’d love to get back to my normal life!

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?

Lois: Yeah, everything is cancelled ‘til at least September it seems. We have our album out at the end of May, so we were going to tour around then, but it’s been moved over to after the summer. Plus all the usual press stuff is impossible to do. It’s hard to tell at the moment what effect this will all have on live shows and how touring and press works, but it’s likely to be different forever.

Faith: Yeah, it’s a financial disaster, but we’re doing our best to hold it together. It’s only money, at least we’re all safe.

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

Lois: I’ve been furloughed! Sounds rude, but it isn’t—it isn’t even funny.

Faith: I don’t have another job aside from mum and musician. Most people are having a nightmare, having to apply for UC and all of that, I feel bad for the poorest people, they’re going to feel it the worst.

Kyoko: For me personally it’s meant I can’t work as all the pubs are shut. We have had a few things get cancelled but we’re pushing on and sticking to the plan as best we can.

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

Lois: Currently I’m worried they aren’t testing enough people, that they’re putting members of the NHS and other key workers at risk by not providing adequate safety supplies and that actually this is going to go on for a lot longer than they’re saying. I watched Andrew Cuomo’s speech the other day, he seemed to be taking it quite seriously and realistically, but I’m not over there so impossible to tell what’s happening.

Faith: How can we really trust the government when a few months ago they had nurses eating from food banks?

Kyoko: I’m concerned as to how so many people can possibly get by without their livelihoods, particularly those in the creative and service industries, and also all the people who were already struggling to get by, as that is who is primarily going to be the worst off as usual, and let’s face it, the Tories didn’t care in the past so I don’t see how things will miraculously change overnight. I am concerned about the long term effects this will have for sure.

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

Lois: Without wanting to be predictable, I tend to look at Guardian online and BBC news. There’s so much information out there and it’s changing so constantly it’s difficult to know what’s real! I check in on the news first thing when I wake up then again around five for the updates from [British Prime Minister] Boris [Johnson].

Faith: Just the radio really and yeah I pay attention to Boris’ updates, it felt like some dystopian wartime situation when he did the lockdown speech.

Kyoko: I’ve mainly been watching the news on the TV, and sometimes read articles online, BBC or the Guardian. It gives me the creeps though.

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

Lois: I was thinking about this the other day, will it be that we are all less social in general or will it be like the ’50s/’60s when everyone is recovering and wants to be out there more having fun… I also thought that prison probably isn’t like a holiday camp, as the phrase goes.

Faith: Maybe it’ll be a massive party? Dancing in the streets?

Kyoko: I’m not sure but I can’t see how we can continue to isolate for say, six months as recently suggested. I think people may really struggle with that and I don’t know if it’s really possible.

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?

Lois: Yeah they are. Everyone is doing the best they can to stay in and not strangle each other.

Faith: Some elderly people around here really don’t give a shit and that’s their prerogative, but I’m literally jumping out of their way in Tesco.

Kyoko: Everyone has been staying out at home. I don’t know what my grandparents are up to in Japan but I’d assume they were following guidelines.

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

Lois: Well the big one is probably helping with funding and raising money, there are lots of streaming platforms out there and lots of opportunity for people to do their own, I think we need help adapting to the new ways we can interact with people who like to listen to our music and see us live usually.

Faith: Whenever anything damages the economy like this, art is always the first thing to go but it’s cool that PRS stepped up with emergency funding and Bandcamp waved fees, that’s the kind of support we need.

Kyoko: It seems the music industry is struggling at this point as well so I really can’t say, but support in whatever way, be it financial or something practical to help you reach more fans is always appreciated.

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?

Lois: Buying our merch from our label We run it and all the money comes straight to us. Kyoko is doing live songs at 5 p.m. every day too, if anyone wants to help out you can Paypal us on .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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

Lois: I’ve been listening to [the podcast] All Killa No Filla with Kiri Pritchard-McClean and Rachel Fairburn. I bought scrabble yesterday and am considering the Indiana Jones special edition Monopoly if there are months of this to go. I’ve been reading The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall and Narcissus and Goldmund by [Hermann] Hesse, which I’ve read before but I love. Netflix just put the old original series of Star Trek up and obviously Tiger King.

Faith: Tiger King and Better Things are getting me through.

Kyoko: I’ve been watching a lot of apocalyptic films, I find them oddly comforting. I recently watched A Quiet Place, Bird Box, End of the World, and Cargo. I’ve been doing my own daily live streams of acoustic songs so been learning one song a day too.

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?

Faith: I’m doing a few. The challenge is making it sound good with very limited equipment but I’ve been watching the ones that Jimmy’s do every night at 9 and most of them seem to be people just having fun.

Kyoko: I’ve been live streaming a different acoustic cover every day, which is weirdly nerve wracking but I do enjoy it.

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

Lois: I’ve doing a bit of sewing and also trying to learn live coding.

Faith: There are so many things I would love to do, I’ll have to do them when I retire, right now I’m just hanging out with my baby, she’s super cute and keeps me entertained all day. When she is napping I work on PINS stuff, the days are flying by so fast.

Kyoko: Not particularly. I’d love to get back to Manchester as soon as I can, I didn’t bring a lot of stuff with me to my mum’s and it’s getting a bit annoying! I’d love to have my books around me and get really into some of them, and play my electric with my pedals.

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?

Lois: We’ve mostly been doing covers at the moment: but I’ve been digging out synths I didn’t use for a while and getting in the mood for some new music! I’ve also been working on some remixes, which I’ve never had the time to do.

Faith: We’ve had the opportunity to do covers and collaborations that we probably wouldn’t have if not for being quarantined.

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?

Lois: Crisps, wine, and yeast! We’ve been making pizzas. I’ve got tons of toilet paper.

Faith: I keep looking for pasta, I have enough left for one more meal then that’s it, life without pasta. I’ve stocked up on red wine and not much more, risking it with the toilet paper situation.

Kyoko: Loads of loo roll. I stock up on red wine and cigs! I bought myself some bread as my mum doesn’t seem to buy it at all strangely!

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