Musicians around the country have been feeling a bit like James Bond and, like the dapper Englishman, are slowly emerging from hibernation.
But often that’s not through choice. It’s hard at the moment. It’s hard for venues and it’s hard for musicians who play in them. It is particularly hard if you want to release an album.
Consider the massive amount of work that goes into creating an album of music, from writing, through arranging, learning to play the damn songs, recording, mixing, mastering, artwork design and everything else. It is no small task.
At the end of such a time-consuming, not to mention expensive process, you want to give the thing a proper launch - a tour maybe, or at least a few shows to share your year(s) of work. It’s also possibly the only way for most acts to sell physical copies of the album, which is your only recompense financially.
It is a little easier if you are – for instance – media darling Reb Fountain, who has just released her new album. She, deservedly, is in a position to get enough media coverage without performing live.
But most people lower down the musical visibility ladder need to be out there live to get the media interested.
Even National Radio’s Music 101 barely bothers to mention most New Zealand releases these days unless it’s an act signed with a recognised publicist (another expense). So there are, currently, more than a few frustrated musicians out there, with albums ready to go, waiting to present them in person to the public.
There are at least two in the queue in Tauranga at the moment, and I’m sure that’s just the start. Long-standing band Kokomo celebrates its 30th year together in 2021, but have called off plans for a big anniversary concert after the continued difficulty getting musicians out of Auckland and securing an, er, secure venue. A planned album will now be released in November, sans concert.
And Brendan McCartney, making music under the name Apollo SteamTrain, whom I wrote about a few weeks back, is also going right ahead with the release of his debut album, Generation Overload, on October 22, without any accompanying live launch.
I must say I feel for Brendan. He’s been working on this album for years now – a double A-side single emerged about three years back – and everything I’ve heard from it has been nothing short of excellent. Next weekend he was due to launch his album on all digital platforms and at a concert on Friday, then run one of the stages at the Historic Village Fringe Festival on Saturday. Now he has a free weekend.
Next week I’m going to review Generation Overload, and I’m stretching it out over a couple of weeks like this because I feel the least Brendan deserves is as much publicity as I can give him. It must be soul-destroying to put so much work into something – and he has, even recording some songs up in Auckland at Neil Finn’s expansive and expensive Roundhead Studio – and then having to send it out into the world with so little fanfare.
But you’ve got to do it. Brendan is an active guy. He is already working on new things, including some very cool electronica-leaning material that he’s posted on his website. You can’t just wait forever, even if you’re James Bond. If you’re a creative artist you have to move on, you have to keep creating.
And with that in mind, can I finish by repeating the call of Save Our Venues: “Now we want to get back to gigging again as quickly - and safely - as possible. The best thing you can do to get back to enjoying live music at your favourite venue ASAP? Get a Covid-19 vaccination.”
If you care about live music: get a vaccination. If you want to go to summer festivals: get a vaccination. But mainly to save our venues. People are losing their livelihoods, and musicians need places to play. If you care at all about music in New Zealand then I urge you: leave behind your hesitation, get a vaccination.