Part 2: Local musicians channel creativity during pandemic
Everyone’s been hit hard by the pandemic, and that includes Utah’s local music scene. COVID-19 put a halt on shows, keeping bands from performing and venues from hosting concerts. Although the scene is looking different these days, that doesn’t mean it’s stopped. Many musicians have taken the opportunity to step back and work on their craft. Read to learn how these local artists found inspiration during a time of uncertainty.
Matthew Marinos, the bassist of Dad Bod, sat down for a Zoom interview to give us insight on how the band has been delving into their creativity. He said what he misses the most are live shows and movies. Matthew explained that there’s nothing like the energy and the camaraderie of concerts and meeting new musicians. He enjoys meeting new bands, making connections and playing with groups that he looks up to. He loves the memories he makes in the music scene, and misses that, as well as attending shows as an audience member.
Dad Bod consists of three brothers, Michael, Marcus and Matthew Marinos, as well as their friends Ben Ostler and Russ Allphin. The indie folk pop group has been using this time to write more music and develop their personal talents. Their legacy started when Michael Marinos, who is also a digital marketing and graphic design major at UVU, began his own solo act. Summer of June 2018, he asked his brothers to play live with him. Later on, Ostler was added as a guitarist, and Dad Bod kicked off.
“We bought a five dollar bass and a $200 drum kit, and we just got the ball rolling,” Matthew said.
Down the road, the group became good friends with local band Adult Prom, whose lead singer and guitarist joined Dad Bod on keyboard.
Because of COVID, they haven’t been able to play many live shows since venues have closed or have been developing safety regulations. During the initial phase of the lockdown, the band couldn’t practice for months. However, Matthew said that it gave them the opportunity to become more familiar with their instruments and develop their individual talents. As things opened up, they were able to get together and practice for a few approved performances. One noteworthy shows was a “concert cruise series” where attendees on bikes could come up to different music stations to listen to various bands that were playing. Even with fewer shows going on, the band still tries to practice at least once a week.
Dad Bod has also put on online shows, including a concert series on Ritt Momney’s YouTube channel. The performance was a virtual benefit concert for Utah venues that haven’t been able to hold events.
Sept. 23, Dad Bod is set to play a show with Urban Lounge in Salt Lake City. The venue has been preparing to hold socially distanced shows with sectioned off seating.
The band released their single, “Wasting Another Heart” July 16, and have been hard at work on their next projects.
Matthew said that often, the themes of their songs stem from the band’s childhood and personal experiences growing up. Michael, who Matthew refers to as the engine of their songs, is able to use a melody to create the “bones” of the songs for the rest of the band to work off of. They often write the music and melody first, then let how it speak to them guide the direction of the lyrics. Fans can expect their new album close to the end of 2020 or the beginning of 2021. Matthew explained that currently it can be difficult to determine the best time to release music, as they don’t want to deter attention away from any of the important movements going on.
Matthew explained that since we don’t know how long coronavirus and the pandemic will last, businesses will look for creative and safe ways to have shows. This could possibly make socially distanced shows the new normal.
Right now, he thinks the most important thing those in the music scene can do is support each other.
“We’ve seen so much support in the music scene and we’ve been extremely lucky with the community,” Matthew said. “I would suggest promoting local businesses and local venues that are struggling especially. We are all part of the same family at the end of the day. It matters that we as musicians keep it close and together. Hopefully we can support local bands and local venues together.”
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Ludovica Giusti, a UVU public relations alumni, has been around music her whole life. Since her graduation, she has been diving completely into her passion. She was surrounded by musicians growing up — her mother was an opera singer, her brother was a producer and her father was a well-known orchestra conductor, pianist and vocal coach.
March 4, 2014, Giusti was in an accident with her brother that totaled their car and fractured her skull. Luckily, she and her brother were okay in the long run, but the experience made her feel like she had a second chance at life, a chance she didn’t want to waste.
She moved to the United States from Italy in 2012, and her brother joined her in 2013. They were living by themselves in a small apartment, where they had a built home studio. After the accident, she was inspired to begin making music for herself. Although she had made recordings in the past, it was always for outside projects. She started playing guitar and piano, as well as writing her own music. Giusti practiced daily and she and her brother began producing records together.
After graduation, she went headfirst into music. Giusti connected with producers and musicians in the scene in Utah, Boston and L.A.. She focused on performing and getting her name out there. In L.A., she produced her first single, “Trust My Heart, Love Myself.”
Giusti’s music is inspired by R&B, funk, dance and soul. She puts a lot of thought into her art and tries to carry meaning in everything she creates. Some musicians that inspire her are Whitney Houston, Lauren Hill, Beyonce, Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. Lyrically, Giusti says she tries to write from multiple lenses, and says many times she is inspired by dreams she has.
When the pandemic started, she held livestreams to connect and engage with her fans. But her larger focus was releasing covers of songs that she felt were uplifting, such as “How Deep is Your Love” by the Bee Gees and “If the World Was Ending” by JP Saxe ft. Julia Michaels.
Giusti says that the pandemic has tripled her amount of work. She’s found herself in the studio, recording more than ever before. In Feb., she released five singles and two collaborations with multi-award winning reggae artist King Kanja. She filmed four music videos, and the most recent, titled “Reason”, came out Aug. 21. She has 10 songs in the making she is excited to put out soon. The next releases on the horizon are a collaboration titled “Sleeping with the Lights On” with rapper Galaxy Stoner and her own song “Decline”.
“You think the pandemic would stop everything, but the takeaway from this is that we are our only obstacle. We are the only ones in this entire world that can stop ourselves,” Giusti said.
She says that she found a lot of inspiration from a group that she is a part of with other musicians. They would have weekly meetings and keep each other updated on their projects. She learned that even when things are difficult, music doesn’t have to stop.
“We learned even through this tough time, we can make music. We can make people feel, we don’t have to cancel everything, we don’t have to cancel feelings,” said Giusti. “Maybe our events are postponed, maybe our travel plans are postponed, shows are cancelled for fans that are waiting for us. We don’t have to cancel feelings. We can listen to music in our own homes and just feel the music. The moment we kill that, we kill humankind.”
During this pandemic, she says musicians will have to see what happens and play by ear. But no after what, there will always be a way to make art.
Now, her goal is to build a solid catalogue of collaborations and singles, but she does have an album in the works.
Some advice she’d offer to other musicians would be to take this time to focus on yourself, and not compete with others.
“This is not a time to show off. This is not a time to be in competition with anybody. This is not a time to showcase that you’re doing more. You do what’s in your best interest, what your craft portrays, without hurting anybody else,” Giusti said. “You work at your own pace without comparing yourself with anybody…In this industry, you can lose everything at a heartbeat. It’s all up to you and how you conduct yourself, and how strong of a fanbase you’re building from scratch. Just be mindful that we’re not racing anywhere but with yourself. Showcase your artistry the best you can without putting anyone else down.”
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Jazzy Olivo was born a musician. At the age of three, she took the stage for the first time. When she was 17, she moved to Salt Lake City from the Dominican Republic. Although she described that experience as being very difficult, she also learned a lot from it. Jazzy says moving to America opened her mind and world, and helped her further define her self-identity. Now, she focuses on creating her art, which she describes as a mixture of Latin jazz, pop and soul.
Although COVID has definitely had its negative effects, Olivo has been able to find the light in a difficult time. It has been hard not playing live and connecting with fans. In addition to that, shows are a source of income for Jazzy and her bandmates. But, there’s some silver lining.
“It has opened up the creative mind of many musicians around, has given us the time to be more experimental and take more ownership of things,” Olivo said. “It has given me time to just sit down with my art and my music.”
When the pandemic started, Olivo started doing weekly concerts on her Instagram account. She became more active online and found fun new ways to connect with fans. Olivio hosted a livestream concert on her birthday, where fans also sang to her and helped her “blow out” the candles on her cake. She said it was one of her most special birthdays. Olivio also did a social antidote concert through a YouTube livestream.
Currently, Olivo is working on preparing her first English single “Broken Bloody Heart”, which is expected to release in October alongside a music video. She also plans to perform this song at Ted Talk Salt Lake City Sept. 19, where she will have a presentation and play music live.
She said that “Broken Bloody Heart” is the first song she didn’t write for her album. It was written by her producer and keyboardist Courtney Isaiah Smith.
“It blew my mind the ability he had to put himself into my heart and my own personal experiences. ‘Broken Bloody Heart’ hits home because it talks about my story in a very vulnerable way. I went through a really dark moment in my life with relationships and abuse and mistreatment,” Olivo said.
“This song portrays all of that. People really relate to it because all of us have had moments like that where you feel broken and dark. But actually the song tells you about how you can change that and how you can change. If you hit rock bottom, you can get back up. It’s a very dark song, but it brings so much relief to me because I’m no longer there. That song is a reminder of how far I’ve come.”
Olivo has noticed that lately, music has been pushing more towards cyberspace. COVID has furthered that push and opened up different forms of showing your projects through social media. She thinks it’s important for artists to learn how to use social media to take their art further.
“It’s a new era, things are changing, we don’t know exactly how it’s going to result. I feel independent artists being able to put their music more out there and be more recognized is the positive part of all of this,” said Olivo.
She also noted that the pandemic has highlighted how important the arts are, and said it would be difficult for many people to have gotten through this time without having access to art at home. Olivo believes that this is an important time to express how important music and entertainment is.
During this time, she says it’s important for musicians to take ownership of their art and to see how much work they put into it.
“You need to not be shy about that and keep on putting your things out there. Sometimes it’s very fearful. You feel very scared,” said Olivo “Just go ahead and do it, go ahead and connect, go ahead and reach out. Validate your art so much that other people will be able to validate it if you’re unable.”
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L8ER has been cooking new things up in the studio. But like everyone else, the pandemic created some setbacks. It made it hard for the group to get together and jam, and shows have been completely cancelled. Though now, they’re meeting up where they can and will soon be hiding out in an Airbnb together to completely dive into their music.
L8ER’s lead singer, Zane Matthew, explained how they’re focusing on music — and you won’t want to miss what they have in store.
Matthew said that this record will bring more industrial aesthetics, be more electronic heavy and feature some new singing styles from him.
“It’s 2020, and we wanna be the sound of alternative 20’s and beyond,” he said.
Matthew says a larger theme has shaped his interest for the direction of this record. He explained it as the cycle of “rise and collapse of human civilizations”.
“I’ve gone a little too far down the Graham Hancock rabbit hole, and am pretty convinced that there have been many more cycles of large scale societies than we as a species are aware of,” he said. “With the current state of the world, I’m sure you can understand that all of this thought is fueling my catastrophe anxieties.”
He said he’s working on shaping his musical interests into the music. Influences fans can expect to hear within the new record are Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails and Deftones.
The album is expected to have five to six songs. The pandemic put it on hold for a bit, but L8ER is back at it again.
Going forward, he offered advice for others in this time.
“I think it’s important for other bands to be patient, cunning and maybe a little reserved. No, we can’t do house shows,” Matthew said. “Everyone just needs to do their part, wear a damn mask and work together to get out of this mess. 2020 has been a joke, but at least we all have each other to relate with it on. I’m really excited to see how all of this crazy shapes the music of the 20’s and 30’s.”
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Missed part one? No worries, check it out here!