Come Together In Isolation: how five local musicians are spending their quarantine

We had a chat with some local musicians to see how they’re spending their downtime during self-imposed coronavirus isolation.

One of the consequences of self-imposed isolation is that there are a lot of artists cooped up at home at the moment. With most events being cancelled across the country right now due to coronavirus, many are facing the stress of their livelihood being taken away and not knowing how or when they will be able to pay their bills. I Lost My Gig currently puts the amount of money lost by people in the industry at $250 million.

With so much creative energy and so many constraints, we were wondering what people were doing to stay safe, positive, and inspired. From organising Instagram festivals to taking care of mental health, we spoke to a couple of musicians on how they’re passing the time.

come together in isolation, coronavirus, quarantine

Merpire and Isol-Aid!

Melbourne musician Merpire is the force behind this weekend’s massive Isol-Aid! Music Festival. It’s taking place over Instagram and featuring an insane 74 artists. We spoke to her about how the whole thing came together.

“I had a big cry Monday night feeling really helpless and sad for everyone and wishing I could save our community,” Rhiannon Atkinson-Howatt, the brains behind Merpire and Isol-Aid!, described.

“Tuesday morning I woke up with the idea of an Instagram music festival where artists could just go one after the other. It sounded crazy to put it on just for one day, for 12 hrs at first… Angie McMahon was the first friend I ran it by and she said ‘DO IT!'”

Rhiannon teamed up with her friend Emily Ulman who books Brunswick Music Festival. (By the way, they both also work at Melbourne’s pizza bar-turned live streaming venue Small Time in Brunswick – the world certainly changes fast). Between the two of them, they booked 37 artists in less than 24 hours. Then, artist manager Shannen Egan offered her help and the bill grew to 74.

There’s a scary amount of spreadsheeting involved, but it’s all coming together. The lineup includes the likes of Angie McMahon, Julia Jacklin, Stella Donnelly, Merpire, and many, many more. Melbourne-based artist Sebi White has even designed a kick-ass poster for it all.

The festival is taking place this weekend from 12 noon – 12 midnight on Saturday 21st March and Sunday 22nd March, and you can catch each artist’s set on their Instagram story. Viewers are also encouraged to buy merch from the artists. Check out the poster below for the full lineup and schedule, and head to the Facebook event for more info.

come together in isolation

Rosie Fitzgerald from I Know Leopard

We spoke to Rosie Fitzgerald, bass player extraordinaire for I Know Leopard, Odette, Thelma PlumAnnie Hamilton, Maddie Jane and more. She recently arrived home from New Zealand after performing with Odette at WOMAD NZ, and the whole band have been forced into self-isolation.

“Both Jen and Luke (I Know Leopard) have dropped off groceries [to me],” Rosie described. “Jack Moffitt (The Preatures) put coffee in my bread box. Grady, our sound guy, has been sending me photos of his lunch.” She clarifies that the lunch photos are for moral support.

Even the cafe Rosie was working at, Zubi, have offered to help her out financially. What emerges is an inspiring sense of generosity, even from those who are no doubt struggling too.

Every night the bandmembers of Odette (along with legendary sound engineer Brett Doig) are having remote movie nights. They usually convene around 7 pm, and so far they’ve watched Shaun of the Dead, Dark Crystal, and Black Books.

“Then we pause and chat and check in on time codes,” she describes.

As for any advice she’d offer fellow musicians in self-isolation?

“Cut your hair, do some gardening, order some Jimmy Brings, and tell all of your favourite humans how lucky you are to know the and much you fucking adore them.”

You can catch Rosie playing bass in G-Flip’s recent Like A Version performance of Lady Marmalade below.

Ali Barter

Two days ago, Ali Barter took to Instagram to describe how her and her partner Oscar Dawson (Holy Holy) have been tasked by triple j hosts Lewis Hobba and Michael Hing with writing a song about their experiences of self-isolating – a pretty universal theme right now. They had 24 hours to do it.

Well, this afternoon they delivered the goods, and it even includes a bit about Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Elsewhere, Ali shared a message of advice for others in self-quarantine: “Keeping your mental state healthy is very important during this heavy time. Listening to music that makes me happy is one of the ways I keep my spirits up. Jump around, sing loudly, sing in harmony and have a laugh!”

She’s also made a Spotify playlist called Good Vibes For Bad Days which you can find a link for in her Instagram bio.

Jordanne Chant from Dinosaur City Records

We spoke to Jordanne Chant from independent Sydney record label, Dinosaur City Records, who’s helping put together a compilation record, Stay Inside. It started as a conversation between Dinosaur City and Osborne Again, but now Inertia, Spunk, and Blossom Rot are all jumping on board and it’s become a collaborative effort between the labels.

The compilation will feature tracks written by artists of all genres whilst in quarantine. It will be out sometime in April, exclusive to Bandcamp, and 100% of profits will be given to the artists involved.

We’ll keep you posted on any more details as they come. In the meantime, head over to Dinosaur City Records’ Bandcamp to buy some new music and support their artists.

Ross Tipper from Pan-Pacific Grand Prix

Suddenly faced with a lot of spare time after having shifts cut from their other jobs, Ross Tipper from Pan-Pacific Grand Prix and Bec O’Brien from Darby decided that they’d use it to collaborate on an album, which they’ve called Undone, Like A Satin Ribbon Pulled Once, Gently.

“[We] both had some new songs – that are somewhat inspired by each other anyway – so we thought we’d chuck em together on a split and record them all together, in Darby’s studio!” Ross described.

In line with the Bandcamp initiative today, they’ve each dropped a single off the record. The tracks were recorded in Newtown, and Ross’s is titled What It Is (Is What It Is), whilst Bec’s is called Ten One Hundreds To A Grand. There’s no word on the release date for the album yet, but we’ll keep you posted. Check out the tracks below.

Support Act COVID-19 Emergency Appeal

If you’d like to support artists right now there are some incredible and very real ways to do it. Support Act, who are a charity dedicated to helping artists, roadies, and other music workers in crisis, have launched their own fundraiser, which you can donate to here.

Artist manager Charlotte Abroms from Hear Hear Group has also launched a fundraiser on Facebook, with all contributions similarly going to Support Act. You can access that one here.