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Searching for good news in a world of coronavirus mayhem is like searching for hand sanitiser at the supermarket - futile and time-consuming. But amid the countrywide lockdown, a musical ray of sunshine could soon be hitting your eardrums. Katie Harris reports.


For years, the Mako Road band dreamt of a UK tour, playing at Splendour in the Grass and performing to a sold-out crowd at Jim Beam Homegrown, but in a matter of months, a then little-known virus swept the nation and globe.

And halted their touring endeavours in their tracks.

"Now it's all been canned, it's not ideal," bass guitarist Connor Jaine said.

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He's gutted, but despite the month-long lockdown, there is one silver lining.

New music.

Instead of globetrotting and playing their music in new and exciting places, the four boys have set up camp at their Wellington flat and are locked in for a month of writing and recording.

"It's definitely not the way we planned to record, and also I think it's what every band will be planning to do, so there's going to be a lot of music coming out."

The Mako Road boys are also in an unusual situation in that they all live together and Jaine can record and mix their music.

Mako Road band members Robbie Day, Rhian Ward, Connor Jaine and Connor Mcerlich. Photo/ Dane Scott
Mako Road band members Robbie Day, Rhian Ward, Connor Jaine and Connor Mcerlich. Photo/ Dane Scott

After cancelling the gigs, he said they got messages from people who were sad but most were supportive.

"It's gutting those people will miss out but we will return when things are good."

He said the month in isolation is necessary to keep people safe and it will also force the band to crack into their planned album, as well as giving them time to focus on their music without as many distractions.

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"People will also have more time to listen to music and watch music online, and maybe watching live streaming gigs."

Jaine told the Herald they were considering "all options" in terms of offering exclusive online performances to fans.

"We can get by without gigs but we'll be okay - I'm mostly nervous about other people working in the industry, like techs and venues and stuff."

Lead singer and guitarist Rhain Ward said it was an interesting time to be in the music industry but still difficult to wave goodbye to their touring plans.

"That's what we like to do with new music, to tour with new people."

However, he said cancelling the tour was the only option because their fans' health was more important.

Mako Road aren't the only musicians hoping to use the lockdown to crank out new music.

Anna Robinson, who goes by the artist name Robinson, was living predominantly in London before the coronavirus pandemic took control.

"We'd just started the New Zealand and Australian tour, and we'd just played in Sydney and flown to Melbourne, but after that, everything got cancelled. The plan was originally to do the New Zealand and Australian tour, then go back to London and write more songs."

However, reality had other plans, and the Don't You Forget About Me hit-maker is now in lockdown with her sister in a Nelson sleepout.

As well as her music, Robinson is hoping to get creative in the kitchen. Photo / supplied
As well as her music, Robinson is hoping to get creative in the kitchen. Photo / supplied

"Obviously I'm really sad the tours have all been cancelled, but at the same time, people's health and safety always come first, and the priority right now is that everyone is doing all that they can to prevent this thing from going forward."

With a long month ahead of her, the 23-year-old said she was looking forward to experimenting with new music styles.

"I've been writing a bunch of music and I've been trying to get better at production and all those things that I haven't really dedicated much time to before just because I felt there was no time, but now everyone's in a situation where we can work on those things."

On top of her music-making, Robinson also said she was hoping to get better at baking as well as getting outside and meditating on her balcony.

"I'm feeling really inspired right now and I have a lot of time to think. I feel like being in this home environment, I feel somewhat at ease."

Robinson in her Nelson sleep-out preparing for another day in lockdown. Photo / Supplied
Robinson in her Nelson sleep-out preparing for another day in lockdown. Photo / Supplied

She said although many in the industry would be using the extra time to write, musicians shouldn't feel pressured to be productive, as it is a confusing time for everyone and people deal with these stresses in different ways.

It's not just musicians feeling the burn from the lockdown; managers, sound technicians and venues are in some cases at greater financial risk.

Musicians have the ability to at least earn some passive income through sites such as Spotify, whereas music technicians and venues rely on the gig economy to keep afloat.

Music Helps general manager Peter Dickins has worked alongside musicians to improve mental health for 10 years.

He said although many in the music industry were going through hardship, the nationwide lockdown could produce some of the best music of our time.

"The art that comes out of this could be phenomenal and I'm really looking forward to what our artists and musicians come up with in this time of self-isolation."

Like the iconic music of the Civil Rights era, Dickins told the Herald a lot of incredible music is born out of difficult times.

"A sad song can make you feel better about a particular event you've been through, so music is pretty extraordinary in that way."

Dickens said they were observing that people were already looking for ways to express their creativity in self-isolation.

"In the absence of the distractions the world throws up, they're able to put a new focus on their work and it will be really interesting to see how that comes out in the next few weeks."

Christchurch singer BEXY told the Herald she would be one of many musicians releasing songs and videos mid-April to get people through the lockdown without gigs.

A handful of other artists spoken to by the Herald, including The Butlers, had their tours cancelled.

Drummer and singer George Berry said the band were cooking up some new tunes and would be releasing demos from their bedrooms.

Fellow Christchurch musician Holly Arrowsmith was also left in the lurch after having to cancel her three-month Europe and United States tour.

The 26-year-old Christchurch musician, prominent in New Zealand's folk revivalist movement, said she was initially upset, but after seeing how serious the situation became, knew she made the right decision.

"I spent two days just feeling really disappointed, I'd spent two months getting everything prepared for nothing."

As well as her music, Holly Arrowsmith plans to work on her garden. Photo / Supplied
As well as her music, Holly Arrowsmith plans to work on her garden. Photo / Supplied

She said at the time of cancelling her shows, the United Kingdom was still open, so it was a tough decision, but she wasn't planning on wasting her time in isolation.

"I will be writing over the month. I've got almost a new album written, so I'll use that time finessing those songs and working on some new ones."

As well as creating new music, Arrowsmith will be working on her house bus.

"I think there'll be a huge release of lots of new albums all at once from all over the world.

"The music will be quite a uniting thing because there's lots of us going through the same thing, which is quite unusual. It will be good to see what different artists' takes on it are."

Arrowsmith has already started dabbling in live streams, and for one of her cancelled US gigs, she put on a Zoom show for ticket holders.

"I won't be doing it for all the other shows but I'm sure I'll do some more live shows online that people can tune into."

As the world continues to dive into uncharted territory, at least we'll have a good soundtrack.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website