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Subculture Music in the Time of the Pandemic

In three separate interviews, Daniel Graves of industrial pop band Aesthetic Perfection, goth pop band WINGTIPS, and dark pop sorceress Roniit shared with Auxiliary Magazine what changed for them when the pandemic called for us all to stay inside, what they are doing, and what supporters can do for artists today.

It is a spring, soon to be summer, of cancelled events. That’s a familiar pain for would-be concert goers who anticipated seeing their favorite band, but now have to wait until fall or next year at best. The priority becomes making it through this situation unscathed if possible. But how does it feel on the other side, as artists eagerly anticipating shows and tours, often in support of albums released just before disaster struck?

We asked precisely that question to Daniel Graves  of Aesthetic Perfection, WINGTIPS, and Roniit. We also asked what they might be doing to keep momentum going at the worst time and what supporters might do for them. The following are their answers.

Auxiliary Pandemic Impact on Subculture Music Aesthetic Perfection
Daniel Graves of Aesthetic Perfection

Daniel Graves of Aesthetic Perfection

Creator of Necessary Response and Aesthetic Perfection, Daniel Graves has released stompy dance floor classics through labels like Metropolis Records and most recently on his own. Auxiliary wanted to cover an AP show and upon its cancellation, Graves offered to discuss the current situation.

What plans did you have in the works before the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent responses to it necessitated cancellations?

Daniel Graves : I was on tour with LINDEMANN as the crisis began to unfold across Europe. At first, no one took it seriously, it was a subject of humor, but as things got worse, and the situation became serious in Italy, we all started really paying attention. After the LINDEMANN run ended I went home to Austria, with about 48 hours to spare before flying to America to embark on yet another tour. That’s when Italy went into full lockdown. I tried to warn my colleagues stateside but they didn’t get it. They assured me the tour would go on as planned and I had nothing to worry about. So, against my better judgement, I got on a plane and flew to Los Angeles. Not twenty minutes after landing Trump announced the travel ban between America and Europe, which left me about 24 hours to turn around and get home before facing the very real possibility of being stranded in America. I pulled out of the tour, booked a ridiculously expensive flight and returned home the following day. By that time, the entire tour had been postponed as well as all our other spring dates in Europe. And, one after another, they continue to fall!

Auxiliary Pandemic Impact on Subculture Music Aesthetic Perfection photo by Jennica Abrams
Daniel Graves . photo by Jennica Abrams

What other impacts is this situation having on you as an artist? Feel free to discuss how it all makes you feel.

DG : I think it’s important to remember that many of the spring tours that imploded across the world were only a few days (or weeks) away from kicking off. Flights had been booked, vehicles and hotels rented, merchandise had been printed and produced… we’re talking tens of thousands of dollars invested that will probably never be recouped. I imagine, like myself, many of my colleagues are staring at bloated credit card statements with no way to pay them off. It’s terrifying. When you combine that with the general fear that’s brought on by a global crisis, it makes for quite a panic inducing combination. When I got home I had a number of episodes that I originally attributed to an asthma flare up, but now realize were just good old fashioned panic attacks!

Have you organized any live streaming events in the interim? If so, feel free to describe, and discuss how you feel it went. Are you planning any such online streams/events that you would like to announce?

DG : Global pandemic or not, I’m a pretty active live-streamer. I really enjoy using technology to connect with my fans. Whether that be YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram. Because my band members all live in different parts of the world, it makes it difficult to play a proper live-streamed show together, but we’re in talks about the options that are available to us and how we can give something to unique and exciting to our fans.

Auxiliary Pandemic Impact on Subculture Music Aesthetic Perfection photo by Jennica Abrams
Daniel Graves . photo by Jennica Abrams

How can fans best continue to support you through this trying time?  

DG : I think what’s most important right now is that we all look out for each other. I need help as much as everyone else does. For that reason, I’ve made all my music on Bandcamp pay what you want. If you’re struggling financially, and just need some music to help get you through this, by all means, download it all for free. If you’re doing okay, and you want to help me, then please, overpay for it! I think these situations really do help bring out the best in people.

Beyond that, I have a wonderful group of supporters on my Patreon. It’s a fantastic community we’ve built there over the last couple years and has been instrumental in helping keep Aesthetic Perfection going.

WINGTIPS

This emerging duo released its first album, Exposure Therapy, August 2019, and had announced a deal with Artoffact Records. A compelling guitar-and-synth combination, they were eager to get into touring before most people’s plans were halted. They have pivoted quite well into live streamed shows.

Auxiliary Pandemic Impact on Subculture Music WINGTIPS
WINGTIPS . photo by Alexus McLane

What plans did you have in the works before the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent responses to it necessitated cancellations?

WINGTIPS : Almost all of our scheduled live dates into the summer months thus far have been cancelled. This includes an east coast run, a number of festival appearances, and one of our few annual Chicago shows which is now being rescheduled to late fall now. We have a solid tour plan in the works for the end of the year, so we’re hoping things are somewhat back to normal by then.

What other impacts is this situation having on you as an artist? Feel free to discuss how it all makes you feel.

W : We are full-time musicians, so this means zero income. This is a stifling blow that is being felt by endless numbers of performers in our community and beyond. Devoting our lives to our art was already financially hard before the outbreak, and now it’s on an entirely different level. We are however thankful for our communities’ unwavering support, coming together to make sure that artists’ struggles are visible in this insane time and doing whatever possible to help us.

Auxiliary Pandemic Impact on Subculture Music WINGTIPS
WINGTIPS . photo by Alexus McLane

I watched your March 30 live stream! How is the live streaming experience from the artist’s perspective? What sorts of hiccups could anyone interested in live streaming experience right now, and any tips for working around them? How did you find the fan response? Have you organized any more to do at a later time? Feel free to announce anything else you’d like me to pass along.

W : We really like the platform! It’s funny because in the months before coronavirus hit, we were making rough plans with one of our video collaborators to do a live stream. We thought it was a cool idea in general… but now we’re all doing it out of necessity! We honestly never thought of using it as a utility, but the response was overwhelming. It’s shown to be effective by engaging with your global audience simultaneously, and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if, even after live shows start happening again, the live stream thing continues on. We feel in a way it’s begun to truly change the way people view the live experience… both figuratively and literally. The only downfall is that we all fall victim to the imperfect state of technology at some point. In our area wireless/internet availability is fairly garbage, and streams are rather sensitive to that. We have a few other scheduled streams that are currently unannounced, but maybe by the time this is published they will be!

How can fans best continue to support you through this trying time?

W : Well honestly, where we’ve been hit the hardest is by the virus’ tremendous financial impact which echoes within our artistic communities. Ways that one can help are by donating to us directly via Venmo or PayPal, or buying our music online. Right now our label Artoffact has listed all digital music pay-what-you-like on Bandcamp in response to COVID. We also have a few shirts left in our Bandcamp store! But of equal importance is sharing our links on social media as well so that our support base can continue to grow.

Roniit

Auxiliary recently featured Roniit’s Crescent Manor in our recently debuted Unique Homes feature. If you have to stay indoors, that’s a really good option she’s grateful to have. We discussed how she’s spending the time, not only for herself, but for the wider community of musicians and people who need a boost at this time.

Auxiliary Pandemic Impact on Subculture Music Roniit
Roniit . photo by Ashley Nicole Joncas

What plans did you have in the works before the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent responses to it necessitated cancellations?

Roniit : I just released my album XIXI in January and had a tour scheduled through Europe with Crywolf for April. I was actually just about to announce the tour when everything started going crazy in Italy. I was also planning to go back to Bali after the tour to play some shows. I lived there for six months last year and even have a storage unit full of studio stuff out there. Now I have no idea when I’ll be able to go back there!

Auxiliary Pandemic Impact on Subculture Music Roniit
Roniit . photo by Ashley Nicole Joncas

What other impacts is this situation having on you as an artist? Feel free to discuss how it all makes you feel.

R : Honestly I haven’t been at home for this long in years. I rent my house on Airbnb when I travel so over the last few years I’ve been traveling a lot and was able to produce my album in many different awesome locations! Being home and completely grounded has been really good for me so far. I feel like I’m being more productive than I have in a long time. My house is kinda my ongoing art project so I’ve spent a lot of time doing DIY projects, then another large chunk of time finishing songs and video edits I started last year. In general I just feel happy and grateful to have a house in the woods and so many hobbies and passions that I don’t ever feel bored.

Have you organized any live streaming events in the interim? If so, feel free to describe, and discuss how you feel it went. Are you planning any such online streams/events that you would like to announce?

R : Yes! I did a live stream over Zoom with Crywolf that was amazing. It was so cool to see all the faces and see people singing along! We did a ticketed event and it was for charity – we were able to raise several thousand which was amazing. I enjoyed that so much that I’m doing another one Thursday May 7th on my own. It’s going to be over Zoom again!

Auxiliary Pandemic Impact on Subculture Music Roniit Livestream
Roniit Livestream . photo by James Ruehlmann

How can fans best continue to support you through this trying time?

R : Buying tickets for my Zoom concerts and buying merch at www.roniit.com! Or just streaming my music on Spotify 24/7! [laughs]

Concluding Thoughts

For those of us staying indoors as much as we can, the help we get from music can’t be overstated. It’s also important to remember that behind the music, there are people feeling an impact of their own. If you feel you have the resources at your disposal, it can’t hurt to ask what they need to get through it all, or to take inspiration from some of the ideas offered in these interviews. It may even be as simple as getting the word out for fellow fans so you can all do something together. It’s also a great time to ask, if you’re the one needing a lift. We hope that some great community building, maintaining, and uplifting can continue to happen during these times.

Read more about Aesthetic Perfection, WINGTIPS, and Roniit.

Dylan Madeley
Copy Editor
Dylan Madeley is the Copy Editor of Auxiliary, a frequent contributor, and the author of The Gift-Knight’s Quest.
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