Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020
I Break Horses – COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In
“I think we’ll sadly see an increase in mental health issues as a palpable consequence in the aftermaths of these troubled times.”
Jun 03, 2020
By Mark Redfern
Photography by Fredrik Balck Web Exclusive
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 Sweden’s I Break Horses (the project of Maria Lindén).
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.
I Break Horses released a new album, Warnings, in May via Bella Union. Warnings is I Break Horses’ first new album in six years, the follow-up to 2014’s Chiaroscuro. “It has been some time in the making,” Lindén acknowledged in a press release announcing the album. “About six years, involving several studios, collaborations that didn’t work out, a crashed hard drive with about two years of work, writing new material again instead of trying to repair it. New studio recordings, erasing everything, then recording most of the album myself at home.”
For a while Lindén was working on instrumental tracks. “It wasn’t until I felt an urge to add vocals and lyrics,” she said, “that I realized I was making a new I Break Horses album.”
Eventually she got producer/mixing engineer Chris Coady (Beach House, TV on the Radio) involved to mix the album. “Before reaching out to Chris I read an interview where he said, ‘I like to slow things down. Almost every time I love the sound of something slowed down by half, but sometimes 500% you can get interesting shapes and textures,’” Lindén said. “And I just knew he’d be the right person for this album.”
As its title suggests, Lindén said Warnings deal partly with our troubled era. “It’s not a political album,” she said, “though it relates to the alarmist times we live in. Each song is a subtle warning of something not being quite right.”
Read on as Lindén reflects on her COVID-19 experience so far. (Note: This interview was conducted just before the massive and vital protests across America in response to the death of George Floyd began, which is why that isn’t addressed in any of the answers.)
Where are you 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?
At home and in my secluded studio space so not really causing tension with/for anyone but myself!
Is everyone in your family safe and healthy so far?
Yes, and I am extremely grateful for that.
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?
My daily routine has been walking down to the studio space, it’s about a one hour walk so [I’m] getting some exercise and outdoor time too. Not really, as I have been in a creating process for the last couple of years I have been spending most time at home and studio anyway, so not much of a difference there.
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?
It will be a difficult year for releasing music for sure. And extremely frustrating not being able to plan any live shows or festivals for an unforeseen future. The financial impact will be devastating for all artists, for sure. But right now, I’m just focusing on spreading some love via the release of the album.
If you also have a day job outside of music, how has that been impacted by COVID-19?
Yes, a part time accounting job (!) which I do online at the moment and that hasn’t been affected yet at least.
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?
As I see it, it’s too early for scientists to know all the aspects of this virus and recommend 100 percent guidelines accordingly. So, apart from the most crazy populist leaders out there, I feel the general approach with various rules to try and avoid pressure on hospitals as much as possible have been a good general advice.
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?
As a European living in Europe, my knowledge of U.S. politics and how it reflects day to day life for Americans is limited. However, my general feeling is that the U.S. is such a huge and segregated country, also very different from Europe, and with a tradition of very dramatic political public statements, compared to how it works in Sweden for instance. So, it’s very difficult for me to answer, though his most recent statements can’t have been received very well I can only assume!?
Which sources of news have you been turning to most during COVID-19 and which social media platform have you found most useful?
The WHO website and Swedish newspapers and TV channels.
What do you think will be the lasting effects on society of all this isolated time at home?
Apart from the obvious financial effects, I think we’ll sadly see an increase in mental health issues as a palpable consequence in the aftermaths of these troubled times.
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 taking it very seriously, all doing their very best to stay safe, staying at home, having food delivered, etc., etc.
What other steps should record labels, music streaming platforms, and other music industry entities be taking to help struggling musicians through this time?
Personally, I hope these crazy times will have people appreciating culture in a new way when all this is over. Would be nice if pricing models for streaming services could alter to the favor of artists. It’s unbelievable, really, that people are expecting to pay no more than 10 bucks a month for access to all the music in the world. And, hopefully I get the chance to play several more gigs when all this is over as more people might be hungry for live shows and interaction.
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?
At the moment there is a pre-order option of the record from the record label’s record shop. Still working on ideas for some cool merch! Also, if people would feel an urge for live shows when it’s again considered safe to attend them, I would love to offer that. I can’t wait to meet the listeners!
Which albums, songs, films, TV shows, books, podcasts, live streams, video games, board games, etc, have been helping you get through the quarantine?
I guess I’ve been consuming stuff depending on my current mood for the day. When I feel strong I watch stunning, melancholic films such as Bad Timing, Three Women, The Sacrifice, The Sun In a Net, etc. Same with music where I tend to go back to early Spiritualized, Spacemen 3, William Basinski etc. Films, music that will ignite my inspiration. When I feel down, I tend to try and cheer myself up with almost exclusively silly and cheerful stuff. I can’t really deal with watching/listening to/reading about/ films/documentaries/books about loss and sorrow when I feel down.
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?
No, and I doubt I will be doing any, at least in the scaled down way I’ve seen artists do them so far. I simply don’t find it interesting at all to listen/watch them to be completely honest! I really need a massive sounding concert with my listeners in the same room as me to be able to create something worth listening to. Breathe the same air. That’s what a live experience is about. It will never be the same without that special connection.
Is there something you’ve been putting off for a long time, but are now doing with this time at home?
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?
Extremely creatively fertile. During the last month I’ve composed a lot of new music. It really helps me mentally to focus on something that is not related to news about these troubled times. To bury my mind in sound for a while has been my therapy.
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 haven’t been stocking up on anything, actually! And I have toilet paper. Sometimes I wish I had some diazepam though.