Hello, Dan here. For those of you who don't know me, I play bass in Thyla and write songs; I might be slinging a synth next time you see us live too (à la Breathe video). It's been just over a year since we last performed; It was a packed intimate show at our local Brighton Electric Studios. It was our first gig of the year, a great start with lots to look forward to including a slot at Jack Saunders' Hop Scotch event with a 'secret headliner'... we never did find out who they were. We had our album ready in the bag, a label and a nice warm buzz around the band that felt promising…
…A year later and we haven't played a gig since, our album is still in its bag and instead of talking to fans at our merch stand on tour, I'm sat at the kitchen table in my running gear (I haven't actually been for a run) writing a blog. It's strange how normal this is too; it's strange how it's now quite comforting; I don't know how I'm going to deal with working full-time and gigging again. Where on earth did I find the time?
It's hard as a musician to keep on being creative during the pandemic, especially being such a live-based act, but I wanted to draw attention to this subject and share how I have dealt with the limitations, restrictions and cancellation of us as live performers. This is not a depressing entry; It should be an uplifting one. And I think the most important thing is to be able to adapt to the situation. It can be difficult to be creative because there are no deadlines at the moment, and to be honest, there isn't all that much to write about. I'm not going to write songs about coronavirus, no way, and there isn't much to feed your soul with either. Inspiration comes in smaller doses now. But, instead of waiting for inspiration, I've learnt to look for it in other things. Books, in particular, have been a great resource for me. And this is also a good time to develop my writing, to change my perspective, find topics to write about in books and films, or make up a story about an old lady I walked past on the beach, or dive deeper into my creative soul and dig out something that may have been there all along.
Another important thing to remember is that songs will never die. Art will never die. People will always be creative. And throughout this claustrophobia, creativity might even be ripe for some. One of the best books I read during lockdown is Station Eleven by Emily st. John Mandel. I saw it in a newspaper list called 'books to read during a pandemic' or something. I won't spoil it but it follows a group of travelling performers reciting Shakespeare plays across the derelict wasteland North America had become. It doesn't seem like it would be anyone’s priority when civilisation has collapsed but it was also very believable at the same time; it gave a strong element of hope throughout the story and made me realise that people will never stop creating or performing, whatever their circumstances.
At the beginning of lockdown when this was new and exciting I went straight for pandemic-related fiction, but I recently bought a book titled 'writing better lyrics' by Pat Pattison, it's full of timed exercises designed to improve your writing. I should have bought this book a long time ago; It's a necessity if you want to be a writer. Contrary to popular belief, songwriting can be taught in a structured way. It should be practiced like you would practice an instrument. A muscle you need to stretch every day. For the last week, every day as soon as I get up I do a 10-minute object writing exercise, focussing on creating sense-bound imagery. I'm also figuring out my bad habits and flaws. I have many. I'm working on letting go of the pride that clings to each song. They're just songs; not every one will be good. I used to keep them to myself until I was certain they were my best work. But now, I'm much more open to sharing my songs; I'll show people songs I'm working on, I'll show people songs I've written that I know are rubbish. I've realised how much there is to know, and I'm enjoying the process of improving. So anyway, here is my list of books I want to share with you. Some are better than others but I have gotten something valuable out of them all. I hope you do too.
Journal Of The Plague Year - Daniel Defoe
This really puts our pandemic into perspective
How Should One Read A Book - Virginia Wolfe
A good place to start
How To Write One Song - Jeff Tweedy
Writing Better Lyrics - Pat Pattison
Station Eleven - Emily St.John Mandel
The most enjoyable
Slaughterhouse-five - Kurt Vonnegut
The funniest, most vivid and out-of-the-box writing
The Plague - Albert Camus
If you want to put a downer on things
Powder - Kevin Sampson
A longing reminiscence of what it's like being in a band
On The Beach - Nevil Shute
A beautiful account of people accepting (or denying) their inevitable fate towards death
It's easy for one to see a part of themselves in the unsociable and anti-bourgeois protagonist, but the message I got from this was very clear and very important. When faced with absurdity you can either go down a spiral of depression or see the funny side. "Learn what to take seriously and laugh at the rest"
Where The Crawdads Sing - Delia Owens
Emotionally and visually captivating
High Fidelity - Nick Hornby