It's no secret that the last 18 months have been extremely difficult on many industries, with Covid-19 impacting so many lives and situations it almost feels redundant to say it. Hit especially hard were creatives, with that being said were also some of the most resilient and quickest to adapt to the changing world.
A recent report into the impact of COVID -19 on creative industries in the UK, by Nesta, found that of the 675 companies contacted by the report, only 4% had definitely closed or appeared to not be trading in 2021. This may be contrary to what we think of when thinking of the struggles many businesses faced in the last year. Although the impacts of COVID 19 have been incredibly difficult for businesses of all kinds, it suggests that many businesses and creatives were able to survive by adapting to the new challenges presented. Many creative businesses survived through scaling down operations or by targeting new mediums, this being something that musicians were extremely quick to respond to.
With the almost imminent closing of beloved venues across the city, artists were forced to find new ways of connecting with their audience and in some cases finding an audience from scratch. It seemed like once the country went into a lockdown, overnight, artists were taking to social media platforms to share live streamed performances. Usually in a stripped back or acoustic manner, artists would connect either directly or through hosted live streams to connect with a pre-existing and, possibly, a new audience. Seeing an artist awkwardly set up their phone and fumble in between songs was always a humbling experience and truly did capture the confusion and new found introspection of the time.
However, one Midlands based band in particular took it upon themselves to do something a little different...
The confusion, distress and overall triumph of musicians during the start of the changes to society caused by covid and the present reality we live in today can be summed up perfectly in the journey taken by Coventry based power house Candid. The band going from strength to strength in 2019 were planned to christan in the new year and firmly set their path with their biggest headline show to date in march 2020, the almost 1000 cap venue was set to be lit by a room full of fans who knew what was to become of the band. Unfortunately mere days before the show the UK went into lockdown and then ensued 18 months of cancellations, rescheduling and triumph through adversity.
In the wake of acoustic bedroom liveshows and fresh on the heels of the cancellation, Candid were the first band I had seen, and certainly the first band in the midlands that I was aware of to put together a full live show as a live stream. We sat down with frontman Rob to delve deeper into the backstory and insight into the band's innovation and experiences.
"The full band livestream during lockdown was a stroke of luck really, we were in contact with someone from the AV company Claritas because we featured on the City of Culture lockdown album a few months beforehand. They had a lot of expensive equipment lying around at the time and needed to test it, so we were the guinea pigs. But they were an amazing team of talented individuals. Great to be a part of that.”
- Rob Latimer
There followed a run of continuing innovation and commitment to quality throughout the past 18 months, never slowing but always on the forefront of what was possible from livestreamed festival sets, the unusual time of sit down performances and limited caps for venues. In December of 2021 Candid finally took to that stage in what can only be described as a landmark moment for the current creme of the crop of Midlands mussicians, completing the circle and coming out bruised but unscathed, full of life and potential.
“To finally play The Empire show after so much rescheduling was a real relief. It’d been a long time coming but it turned out that maybe waiting as long as we did was worth it. A new venue, better songs, more of a hype, it all added up and made the show far better than we could’ve anticipated.”
- Rob Latimer
But what was it like to start a band in 2020, during the peak of a global pandemic?
For many Midlands musicians the pandemic was about trying to retain their audience and navigate the new landscape with, in some cases, years of experience but for many it was uncharted waters. In contrast to the bleak picture painted over 2020, the pandemic also gave birth to a new scene of bands and artists filling the city's venues and ears with unbridled talent and hope. In the gap left by Midlands musicians who had either disbanded, hiatusted or simply moved on to bigger and better things, the space waiting to be filled following the natural wave of the scene, washing away those who remain or taking them to new places leaving the sand untouched and waiting for its natural cycle. When venues slowly started opening its doors it seemed that a new scene had already formed, some playing their first shows but having already captured the attention of many.
We sat down with vocalist and guitarist Lalita, from pandemic born band Hamburger Momma, to find out what it was really like to start a band during the pandemic.
Tom: Hey Lalita, so what was it like starting a band during the pandemic?
Lalita: Initially we found it difficult adjusting to doing everything virtually. It made a lot of processes quite time consuming; sending stems/demos back and forth, as opposed to sitting in a room together doing the same tasks in half the time. It detracted from the overall excitement to an extent and at times made things feel a little tedious. I feel it also hindered our creative collaboration to an extent too, but we managed to overcome this by communicating more frequently and openly and I guess this actually helped to develop a more substantial and authentic relationship between us. It was also reassuring knowing that we were together, creating something from a place of passion and positivity during a time of much uncertainty and anxiety. Again, I feel that this really strengthened our bond as a band.
Tom: Have you found it hard to find an audience during the pandemic?
Lalita: This is where the convenience and accessibility of social media really emanates. We were able to gain a diverse and steady audience across our socials. It was extremely heartening to see and hear the response to what we were putting out, from an array of close friends and distant acquaintances alike. Each milestone we celebrated was also virtual in nature, for example, gaining a certain amount of loyal followers, hitting a certain number of streams and shares etc. We also got the idea that there was a certain anticipation brewing amongst our audiences, as we were receiving many messages that exclaimed how people were looking forward to seeing us play live when it was safe to do so. This in itself, almost acted as an unprompted form of promotion that was coming from a place of true and authentic excitement, which was truly humbling!
Tom: Do you feel like there is a sense of community with you and other local bands who started during the pandemic?
Lalita: In terms of the pandemic, as aforementioned, there is a certain solidarity and bond that is formed when people experience hardships together and in that regard, I do feel that a sense of oneness was reinforced amongst bands that were finding their feet during such a tumultuous period. In general, we feel we have been extremely fortunate as we have been selflessly embraced by the local music scene in all regards. In a particular field that may give rise to certain competitive preconceptions, we have experienced nothing but support and encouragement and we are truly grateful to be a part of such a community.
At the beginning of post pandemic Britain it seemed at times impossible to believe we would be able to even be inside a venue again, cut to the end of 2021 and artists are playing their biggest shows to date, already inspiring the next generation and sharing stages in some cases with artists who only formed last year. New labels, venues, bands, photographers and almost any cog that turns the wheels of the Midlands music scene has seen growth and new life despite the debilitating circumstances. And while we are not completely free of the effects of Covid -19, here lies a reminder of what we can achieve even in the hardest circumstances. We here at bonded can't wait to see what's in store.
If the struggles of the pandemic have shown us one thing, it's the importance of community and the astonishing resilience and innovation seen by musicians in the Midlands.
Words by Tom Barker
Candid's Links Hamburger Momma's Links