photo credit: Maria Gelsomini // @ccoquelicot
This interview was conducted over many weeks via an email conversation.
So, who are you and where are you?
I’m Jolee and I am quarantining at home in Jamaica Plain. I was planning to go visit my parents and sister in NYC, but decided against it because of how bad stuff is over there right now. Hoping to go home soon once things start to neutralize a little.
I’m Grace! I was fortunate enough not to have travel plans that were affected by the virus, so I am cozied up in Somerville, doing the self-quarantine thing. I’m from Austin, Tx originally, and would love to spend some time there once it seems safe to be traveling, but I have no concrete plans to leave Boston anytime soon.
Ok, to dive in, how has this situation affected Houndsteeth’s gig schedule / band life & how how has it affected your individual work lives and/or communities?
We definitely had a few shows on the horizon that we are gonna have to cancel. Grace and I are both still technically in school, but personally my graduation got cancelled because it’s my last semester and it’s just super weird being pulled out of school so quickly. It’s also been kind of hard to rehearse because Grace and I haven’t been living very close to eachother. But we’ve been working on other stuff like booking a tour for late summer/early fall if possible! And grace has been making so much handmade merch and were working on getting some other design oriented/printed merch as well!! Feeling optimistic! And wanna keep looking to the future 🙂
As Jolee said, it’s affected us in more ways than just not playing shows. Quarantine has given us ample free time, but we’ve had to work pretty independently, which is super rough as a duo! Still, we are trying to keep positive and use this time for the less musical operations behind this project (handmade merchandise is hitting our insta very soon, so keep an eye out!). Beyond this project, I’ve personally been affected in a couple ways. I work in the service industry and do freelance bass work in order to make ends meet. With the cancellation of all my March and April gigs/tours, the closing of restaurants, and my entire school schedule being transferred online.. my world has been pretty rocked these past few weeks. Still, I am trying to keep my head up and dive into creative projects that I have been procrastinating on, such as making clothes and patches, and catching up with pals that I don’t call enough to begin with. It’s a weird time but it’s definitely made me so grateful for this project and our other project, Queen Crony. I’ll always have these collaborators, and once the virus stuff clears up, I am going to hit the ground running with a new found appreciation for what we get to do together.
to Jolee: Are you actively taking classes online right now? How’s that been?
And yeah rehearsing… not so easy right now. One day we’ll be able to play live in sync in real time with anyone anywhere via our computers or whatever. We’re not quite there yet though.
to Grace: First off, what you’re saying is mad inspiring in the face of all that is happening. Are you worried about money? You can’t stop being creative whether you are or you aren’t, right?
Can we get a hint out what the handmade merch is?
To both of you: do you think this pandemic will end up having any long term effects on diy culture and social culinary general?
I actually just took my first online class yesterday and it wasn’t horrible but it was still weird. I just felt super distracted the entire time, but it did feel nice to be having some sort of intellectual discussion with people other than the ones I’m living with. Yesterday’s class in particular is one that I really enjoyed irl, so if nothing else it was just nice to see all my classmates and my teacher and talk to them again. We start classes in full swing on Monday. I’m not that excited, but I also just wanna get this degree and be done. I was pretty bummed at first about school ending, but when it comes down to it, my situation is so much better than so many people’s as a result of this pandemic, and I have a lot to be grateful for. I feel way less motivation about school now though, so that’s been interesting to navigate. In terms of if the pandemic will have any long term affects on diy culture/general culture, I think the answer is yes. What I love about diy is that I feel like people are usually pretty aware of the space they’re taking up, and that there may be people in the same room as them who take up very different space. These days, it’s like when you’re out on your daily walk and you see a person coming near you and then they really obviously avoiding/walking around you. Even though it feels weird to experience that, I also know that person just wants to protect me and themselves. I think that post-corona, people might be even more tuned in to how others have been affected by the virus (whether that be losing a job, losing housing, being kicked out of the dorms at their school, etc). It might (hopefully) make for an even more loving and caring community. I think that could apply to general social life as well- I just really hope that this can be a wake up call to our political leaders, corporations, and rich folk about how to treat and take care of others in the face of a global pandemic. Nothing will ever be the same after this, but maybe that’s a good thing.
Personally, yes, I am definitely worried about money. But what is helping me approach this whole situation is understanding exactly what I can and cannot do. There’s been so many resources floating around for service industry workers and artists. (A great place to start is this google doc put together by my teacher and friend, Tanya Kalmanovitch:
People are looking out for one another in the ways that they can; whether that’s donating to these funds, or putting together google forms of resources. Maybe, I can’t apply to every relief fund out there. But, what I can do is apply to the ones that I qualify for, share them on social media to keep them circulating, and send them to individuals whom I know are also being impacted by covid-19 related closures.
Being creative is absolutely vital in moments like these, both as individuals and as members of creative communities. On one hand, we as individuals can use this time to do that deep dive into our creative selves- seeking, absorbing, planning, and constructing. These routines are what our brains want, are what our souls need! And what a special thing it is to have creative desires in times of forced free time. On the other hand, there is this other aspect of being creative- which is being part of a community. I, personally, feel that a HUGE part of identifying as an artist is aligning yourself with other artists, and tending to the well-being this largely self-supporting coalition of people. This side of being a creative is what we can’t let get out of our hands during these times. If we’ve learned anything about these past and coming weeks, this is not business as usual. That goes for creative communities as well. No, we can’t play or go to shows, but we can still check in with one another. We must think of ways to create the space to align, share, and support.
I can say with total confidence that art is forever. But, art can’t survive without community, and communities can’t survive without a collective individual concern for one another. As far as long-term effects go, I can’t say exactly whether this pandemic will cause some mass consciousness, but I really feel that it will help a lot of people to both realize and reflect on what is lost when we remove the the most guaranteed forms of social contribution. Maybe, there’s more to fostering relationships than just being another body in the room, or in these times, logging onto facebook each morning… Anyways, all I really hope for is that, coming out of this, people (both in and outside of DIY communities) will have realized the copious benefits to prioritizing collective well-being.
On a lighter note… merch! We’ve been taking second-hand clothing (T-shirts and crewnecks mostly), and decking them out with patches of vintage houndstooth patterns, as well as embroidered stars and squiggles. Each one takes a minute to finish, but as soon as we have a decent sum done, we’ll be putting them up on a separate instagram page and selling each one at a sliding scale price.
photo credit: Maria Gelsomini // @ccoquelicot
Yes, I think empathy is what your talking about essentially, right? I love how you put it “What I love about diy is that I feel like people are usually pretty aware of the space they’re taking up, and that there may be people in the same room as them who take up very different space.” I agree, this is a big part of what drew me to DIY culture in the first place as well.
I’d like to grab onto your optimism and swallow it but I’m unable to sadly. I don’t think the vast vast majority of “political leaders, corporations, and rich folk” are going to be changed by this experience at all. Maybe if they are personally affected I suppose. I guess it also depends upon how severely and fundamentally our society and economy ends up being changed by the events we’re going through. I guess I’m just still bitter from mainstream recoiling from Bernie Sanders and the looming and probable “showdown” between two terrible men who don’t represent anything or anyone I know yet AGAIN.
Thank you for this list, we’ll help to circulate it.
Art is forever. Like few other things. My fondest memories revolve around art of one kind or another and spiral out from there.
“Prioritizing collective well-being”… what are you a socialist?! I’m still holding out against hope that Bernie will somehow ascend to be able to lead us for the next four years. Even if not though, this crisis is and has been such an amazing real world situation to apply his societal ideas against. And when you do, they look so much better than what we have now. Many new people will get the message coming away from covid times.
You caught me! I’ve definitely thought a ton about the timing of this pandemic, and how it has obtained an undeniable political relevance. But honestly, even if you removed the fact that there is an election coming up later this year, this pandemic has gone above and beyond in proving that a society under late capitalism will literally crumble under any circumstances which ever-so-slightly threaten the comfort of the rich. You could learn SO much about your political preferences just by identifying all the ways in which our healthcare system is unequipped to handle this pandemic. In other words, if there’s anytime to realize that you are actually a socialist… it’s now.
I think empathy is definitely one of the biggest elements of DIY that I love, so yes I think that’s what i’m talking about! I totally understand and respect your nihilism about the state of the world and our political climate/leaders. Things are pretty fucked up right now. I’ve been getting into that negative zone more regularly lately- it’s a really hard pit to avoid. At the same time, though, the fact that there’s so much negative energy circulating in the news and on social media (rightfully so), makes me actually want to combat that energy and try even harder to be a source of light- or at least I’m working really hard to try and stay optimistic. I might just be an optimistic person- don’t know if that makes me naive during these times especially but I’m trying to ignore that possibility….
Let us hope that our peers, the general public, are internalizing this situation and its lessons and using it to do do some thinking about their world. Hard not to when you have lost your job or your health insurance (or both). But how will those not directly affected respond in the future? Will they lean into socialism or will they look back to their lord the market to dictate how the world should function once again as they did before this? Hopefully there’s just more of us than them and it won’t matter what they think. We shall see…
I’m no nihilist. I was just feeling beaten down when I last wrote I guess. I’ve been searching for the ways forward and I’ve finally been given some I think. It won’t be top down though. Governments, politicians don’t & won’t do the right thing, certainly not in a capitalist system, unless made to do so (barring in part an extreme rarity like a Bernie Sanders, though he’s not going to be anyone’s prez we now know). Change if and when it comes will be bottom up. My friend and colleague here @ the Hassle, Val Frost, put it this way: that after Covid times “the maintenance of self-awareness” is going to be crucial. What we’ve all experienced and gleaned and learned, and for some had their eyes opened to during all of this cannot be forgotten. It needs to be constantly reiterated to the people so that the struggle to defeat the evils of society continues and grows always, rather than ebbing and flowing like some goddamn fad (the 60s, ya?). The unions and the left media must rise for this “maintenance of self-awareness” to take place and the people must have internalized what the fuck is going, that lots of things need to be changed, in the first place for any of this work out. But it’s better than negativity, right?!
To you both: You just released a new track yes? I haven’t had a chance to listen yet, but I do look forward to doing so! anything to tell us about it? More tracks to come? Is this a pre-Covid recording?
I totally agree with you, and I apologize if my “nihilism” comment seemed too presumptuous! I respect and agree with a lot of what you’re saying, and I think your colleague Val really hit the nail on the head with their remark- a lot of people are basically in uncharted territory right now, and all I can personally hope for is more awareness and empathy coming out of it. Also a lot more collective organizing and continuous protest of the fucked up systems in place! To answer your question, yes we just released a new track! It was a collab with our friend Gabe Garcia, he actually wrote the song and reached out to us awhile back asking if we’d be down to help him arrange it and perform it! It was super fun and kind of a different workflow than we’re used to, and I personally am stoked about the result. Gabe also made an adorable music video to go along with it. It’s a pre-covid recording! In terms of new material, obviously Grace and I rely on each other a lot for a collaborative sound and we can’t be physically together right now. Honestly I just miss Grace in general and also musically- she inspires me so much and it’s hard not seeing her all the time! Houndsteeth really influences a lot of my other music and it’s weird writing songs and not being able to instantly workshop them together! But it’s ok! I think we’ve figured out a plan going forward for continuing to write HT songs, so if that works out we might end up releasing some more stuff! Our other band Queen Crony is also working on an album right now, so I know that I personally have been putting a good deal of energy into being involved with that!
You know, this question actually reminded me of a conversation I had with an elderly couple right before quarantine really started. I didn’t actually know the couple, but we ended up in some ~casual~ small-talk about the fact that there was a global pandemic on the rise while waiting in line next to each other. The couple was extremely friendly, but blissfully unaware, as they shared their ideas about the rarity of a public crisis that would undoubtedly affect the entire population. I bit my tongue in the moment, and then, I spent the rest of the day thinking about how truly false that statement was. In our society’s current state, even a virus will affect poor people, people of color, trans people, undocumented people, and incarcerated people at an exponentially more detrimental rate. Even the thick of this crisis, there will still be people who will not have to deal personally with the problems of being anything other than white and financially secure, and so they won’t. Like so many things in America, it is up to those affected and those with empathy to figure out how to shed light on the discrepancies between our individual experiences. But that’s nothing new. So, I’m not sure that the question is what those not affected will do, it’s what those with empathy and compassion will do. For starters, I believe we must continue the conversations about the current shortcomings of our healthcare system into the months, if not years, following this health crisis. Furthermore, I think it is vital that we continue to give platforms to people whose needs during this time were neglected. Finally (for the sake of not rambling on forever), I find it absolutely vital that we continue to support collective efforts towards the well being of marginalized voices, such as fundraiser albums, live streams for a cause, relief funds, and other forms of activism.
As Jolee said, Seals on the Beach was a new kind of collaborative project for us. It was honestly a challenge to be given a piece of music that neither of us had written, and turn it into something that reflected our shared styes. It was a studio experience that relied so much on energy and spontaneity and experimentation, which was truly refreshing! I’m definitely feeling the nostalgia creep in as I write this… I miss you, Jolee!!! <3
You two are speaking the truth. It’s on US now. I promise you that we at the Hassle will do all that we can to amplify underrepresented and marginalized voices.
I listened to the track too, and it sounds great. I also caught all of your other tracks on the Outlive the Sun: ERASED! Tapes benefit comp which I just wrote up on the Hassle site. Great stuff all around.
I’ll make these my final questions. Any thoughts on what might be different in our social lives “after” covid times and when do you even think that might end up being? And any final words? It’s been great talking with you both. I hope we get to play more shows together… someday.
First and foremost, thank you for interviewing us! Even though it’s been a wild ride with our response rate, I appreciate your patience and willingness to have these conversations with us. Also thanks for your kind words about all of our various tracks on Jon’s comp! He’s doing great and important work 🙂 In terms of if things will be different, I think it’s kind of inevitable that things are gonna be super different in post-covid times. In my personal opinion, it’s hard to say if things will be “better” or “worse”. On one hand, I think it could make people appreciate eachother much more, and it could serve as a wake up call for how hard the US has dropped the ball and how we, as a democracy, can and need to do better to support eachother and demand a political climate that values human lives and true equality. On the other hand, there’s still some really ugly shit going down right now, especially with regard to police brutality and general government dismissal of POC and folks in poor communities during these times. All I can hope for is more organizing and more supporting of marginalized communities in getting their voices heard loud and clear. I want to envision a better future, and I believe in the communities I am apart of.
It has been wonderful talking with you! I also hope we get to play together again!!! In terms of life after covid… it’s just so hard to say. Like I was saying earlier, different groups of people are being affected in such different and ways, and while I’m sure there will be a mass shift of social norms, it certainly won’t be felt or pursued on an equitable scale. Certain industries will never be the same in my opinion, such as the service industry, or any tip-based industry for that matter. In terms of music communities, I feel that it will take a long time before shows are being put on, and even longer before people feel comfortable attending them. One long-term effect that I could imagine (and honestly, hope for) among artist communities would be the normalization of supporting one another in ways that go beyond just attending shows. Now more than ever, people are getting super creative in imagining ways to support each other and sustain some semblance of community- whether it’s sharing/buying music, buying merch, sharing live-streams, making comp albums, etc… In these weird times, participating in a music scene is less about succeeding and more about well, participating, as well as extending the opportunity to participate! And I really really really hope that mentality carries over into “normal” life.
photo credit: Maria Gelsomini // @ccoquelicot