Though many states and communities are slowly reopening in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been a particularly tough few months for musicians who made their livelihood playing music in a live setting. Because of as much, we’ve been checking in with various artists throughout the area to see how they’ve been coping during lockdown.
This week, we caught up with Andrew Bromhal, lead singer of Frederick indie rock vets Silent Old Mtns. Andrew has always been great to talk to, and among the things we discussed were the process of writing music during a pandemic, the sadness in not being able to celebrate the eight-year anniversary of his band’s first album, “Velvet Raccoon,” and why a song from daMOOD is the perfect one for the times in which we currently live. To check out more from Andrew and the Mtns., visit their website, www.silentoldmountains.com, or check them out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/silentoldmountains.
1. What were you listening to while self-quarantining and what about it made you want to listen to it during a pandemic?
Bromhal: I’ve been listening to a lot of music that has been released during the pandemic. It’s been a source of joy during a time where joy can be hard to hold onto, and I think that’s why I have had these records on repeat lately. Field Report (Milwaukee) released their fourth album, ‘Brake Light Red Tide,’ in April, and I would’ve worn out the cassette if I had it on cassette. It very much feels like a self-examination album, and it hit me hard. My favorite songwriter, Damien Jurado, released a new record, ‘What’s New Tomboy?,’ in May, and as always, I couldn’t help but listen to nothing but that for two weeks straight. Moses Sumney also released a new album in May called ‘græ,’ and that actually led me to listen to his prior album, ‘Aromanticism,’ a whole bunch, too. His stuff is absolutely beautiful.
2. Have you come across any livestreams/internet-based performances throughout the pandemic that have stuck out? If so, which ones and why?
Bromhal: I’ve really enjoyed what NPR Tiny Desk has been doing. Sylvan Esso’s Tiny Desk From Home was amazing, and that led me down a Sylvan Esso kick. As you can see, I obsess over chunks of music. They released a live performance/doc called ‘WITH’ in April, and that was incredible. It’s been so great to see all the local musicians/bands doing livestreams as well. Though the pandemic halted live shows, the tunes and performances are still flowing, and it has done my heart good to see.
3. Has this been a time that has been creatively fruitful for you? I know you guys were going to celebrate the “Gary” anniversary in some fashion — were you able to do that? Have you been writing a bunch over the last three months?
Bromhal: When the quarantine first started, I felt compelled to create, and I think I put a little too much pressure on myself as a result. I’ve come to a place recently where I’m trying not to force anything. I’ve written a few songs completely, and have several others that are just pieces and parts. Maybe those pieces and parts will become something down the road, maybe not. I’ve chosen not to sweat it too much, but some days are easier to do that than others.
I have done some recording of some of those new songs, though. I used my phone and GarageBand, and sent them around to the other guys in the MTNS. It’s been great recording and creating that way, and the quality of iPhone mics is bananas. Normally, I bring a new song or idea to practice, and we flesh it out right there. At this point, I send my parts, and wait to see what comes back. Having the piece by piece layers come together at different times has been wild. I have no idea what anyone else is recording, and every single time, it’s come back great. I have a lot of very talented bandmates, that’s for sure.
While in quarantine, the band has celebrated nine years of being a band. I did a livestream that night. We had a band Zoom a while back, and that was the first time some of us had seen each other since our last show in February. Our first record, ‘Velvet Raccoon,’ turned eight years old a few weeks ago. It’s weird to hit those specific benchmarks and not be able to celebrate with a show or eating Vocelli’s pizza together as we’ve done in the past, but it’s the time we’re in now I guess. I know I can’t wait to actually play music together again.
4. What’s the most positive takeaway you’ve been able to experience from all the self-quarantining and the sort of art world being on pause for the time being?
Bromhal: First and foremost, I know that I would not have done well quarantining without my wife, Kara. I’m so grateful for her and what we’re building together. There’s this level of hope that I’m not sure I would possess if it were different. Also, celebrating your first wedding anniversary amidst a global pandemic is definitely one to remember. Backyard camping is pretty sweet, to be honest.
I believe only an aspect of the art world has paused, and even that has allowed artists to adapt. Having that ingenuity to get your art to an audience even when you can’t look at them directly face to face is pretty awesome.
5. If there’s one song that you think could help everybody get through these uncertain times, what would it be and why?
Bromhal: Easiest question of the lot. ‘Deep Creek Dawn’ by daMood featuring Downtown Dawson. That song is perfect musically and lyrically. It grooves so good, but those lyrics would have to rip the blindfold off of anyone who has been avoiding the world as we find it. I am so glad this song exists.
BONUS QUESTION: What artists, local or not, do you think have done a great job staying engaged musically online and what about what they’re doing and have done sets them apart?
Bromhal: The first band that comes to mind is Deep Sea Diver of Seattle. Not only have they been doing weekly Instagram Live shows, but early on in the quarantine, they were posting tracks they recorded at home to Dropbox. Sometimes it was just a drum beat, and others they’d have guitar and synth as well. Each week, they’d make new tracks available for fans to download and use for their own songs. They’d then ask for people to send their collaborations/creations back to the band, and DSD would feature their favorites on their IG shows. I thought that was genius.
Ultimately, it’s been pretty great watching friends perform while in my living room. Whether it be an intimate solo performance from Mr. Husband’s backyard, or the full band of Chevre jamming with one another outside, it’s all been a blast to witness.