One True Pairing – COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, July 17th, 2024  

One True Pairing – COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In

“I am deeply concerned about the survival of some of my favorite artists after this.”

Apr 16, 2020 One True Pairing Photography by Jenna Foxton 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 England’s One True Pairing (aka former Wild Beasts member Tom Fleming).

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.

One True Pairing released his self-titled debut album under that name in September 2019 via Domino. Fleming wrote and played everything on the album and then got Ben Hillier (Blur, Elbow, Doves) on board for mixing and production duties. With One True Pairing Fleming cites such diverse inspirations Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley, Tom Petty, Depeche Mode, and Swans.

Fleming had this to say about the album in a press release announcing it: “I wanted to write about the real world, I didn’t want it to be an artistic, poised, tasteful record, it’s neo-heartland rock. One True Pairing is a name taken from internet fan fiction, where you write the perfect relationship you always wished existed. The idea of Prince Charming and Helpless Princess living happily after is no fun at all.”

In 2017 Wild Beasts announced their breakup in a typed up statement, signed by the band and posted to Instagram. That was followed by a final EP, Punk Drunk and Trembling, three farewell concerts in February 2018, and a final album, February 2018’s live in the studio release Last Night All My Dreams Came True (which featured new interpretations of songs from across their catalogue).

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

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?

I’m spending it with my family in the North West of England, having moved out of a flat literally days before the pandemic became news in the UK. To be honest it does seem to have brought the most important things closer, and made petty things seem totally unimportant. Though I am of course quite used to confinement having toured for years and years.

Is everyone in your family safe and healthy so far?

Thankfully yes. I am pretty certain I picked it up in London, and it put me in bed for a week and hammered my immune system, though thankfully didn’t go beyond that. Obviously I couldn’t get tested, despite being a T1 diabetic anyway. I did my best not to pass it on to anyone, living almost entirely in one room for the duration of the illness. Apart from that, up to now, 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?

Well, I’ve definitely reached peak tour madness without actually going anywhere. I’m trying to stay active, practicing a lot, collecting ideas to write, but now is not the time for any grand artistic statements, is it? The rules of engagement have entirely changed.

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’ve had stuff cancelled yeah, and I fully support it. The likes of Help Musicians and PRS here are providing some help for people, which is wonderful. I am deeply concerned about the survival of some of my favorite artists after this. The financial state of the industry was already extraordinarily hostile to anything remotely outside of the pop narrative, and this can only make it more so.

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

I’m lucky enough to have found some work, which normally wouldn’t be possible with commitments. So many people don’t have the protection of working from home.

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 think it’s a wakeup call. It’s telling how Asia handled it vs. the West, because they had experience of this. In truth, even despising the current UK government as I do, I’m not sure anyone would have been ready for this. They will have some very harsh questions to answer after this though. Why are the weakest in society deemed to be disposable? Who lives and who dies? As regards Trump, he is as ever finding the lowest possible bar and lowering it.

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?

Interesting. Whatever the rest of the world (and a large portion of Americans) seem to think of Trump, his approval rating goes up. I think the U.S. has the same problem as here, in that a radical opponent is seen as unelectable, and a more moderate one is seen as not enough of a challenge to the status quo. What I will say is that the last few years has proved that anything can happen, in the most banal and depressing way.

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

I’ve been careful not to watch too much news at the minute, because it’s relentless. Watching the ticker tape of deaths rise and watching people cry into their front cameras is not at all productive in my view. The BBC has generally been responsible, and The Guardian, for its flaws, has done well to put certain things aside while examining important stuff.

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

I find it very hard to predict. I’m hoping people will slow down slightly, and maybe value the small things. Certainly any commercial ambitions musicians have are now thrown into sharp relief, just as their value to people has become much, much greater. We really need working conditions to improve, and I think we need to demand it—look who we’ve been relying on this whole time! Health workers should be paid well and given what they need as a matter of urgency. Fairly obvious the UK is a whole society built on sand unless these things change. Of course there could be a backlash against civil liberties, and the neo-liberalization of the UK might continue, but I have to hope.

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?

I don’t have children and don’t have to deal with that, but I can only imagine it’s extraordinarily difficult to balance everything.

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?

They are definitely taking it seriously, which is good to see. I am unsure how long it can last before things start kicking off, but they seem to be working for the most part thus far.

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

There’s no real way to be diplomatic on this one. We need a greater share of royalties by law, and a more equitable relationship with record labels and especially with streaming services. The end game of the current model seems to be for the big boys to burn the land that the little guys live on. Yes we do it for love, but you can’t eat that or pay your rent with it. Also this over-dependency on touring is not sustainable—it’s so hard to make any money, and much easier to lose it.

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?

Certainly things like Patreon, Bandcamp. Buy a shirt if you would like one. Buy a physical record if you would like one. Pay for streaming services. As with anything, it’s use it or lose it. Just consider supporting an artist if you like their work, no one’s asking for free money (well maybe some are).

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

Jeff Van Der Meer and Clive Barker, James Kelman. Lotsa Anime. Live streams from artists (a select few). LOTS of music, way more than I would normally listen to.

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?

Thinking about it. Honestly I think it’s important not to grind for grinding’s sake right now. If you want to do it, and you think it might attract people who are into it, you should do it, but don’t feel you have to. I think interesting is in the eye of the beholder—I have no idea what makes my music good or bad, but I have to continue to do it. Musicians tend to be doers rather than thinkers, which is absolutely the way it should be. There’s enough anxiety right now without worrying “Is this interesting? How do I attract people to my brand?” Come on now.

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

I’m learning Slayer riffs, no joke. That and classical guitar technique. I’ve been sloppy for years.

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’m getting there, circling round it. Certainly having ideas, but trying to park them until I can engage with the world a bit more. Solipsism—nah.

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 have some toilet paper but am being frugal with it. I would kill for a McDonalds.

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