With festival cancellations, venue closures and live gigs on hold for the foreseeable future, the Coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on the performing arts industry. With physical distancing in place, artists are using technology in new and creative ways to connect with audiences from home. We check in with some friends of MLIVE to find out how they are adapting to life in lockdown.
Vika, one half of Australian vocal soul duo Vika and Linda Bull featured as part of MLIVE’s hugely popular Jazz Greats Weekend in 2018, uniting with Joe Camilleri and Paul Grabowsky to bring a radical new perspective to the music of the ‘King’ Elvis Presley.
Vika and Linda have a new album ‘Sunday (The Gospel According To Iso)’ out on September 11.
Can you talk us through how the COVID restrictions and shutdowns have impacted you personally as an artist?
The Covid restrictions and shutdowns have impacted us deeply, our whole industry. Everything overnight was cancelled and it was scary. How were we going pay our bills? How were we going live? How were we all going to survive? Then as time went on, more and more gigs were cancelled and now the whole year is a write off! I have been working since I was 15 and have never been on the dole and to be on Job Keeper while it is a very welcome relief it is also a little soul destroying. I would rather be performing with the band and with our crew touring the country, playing in all the wonderful venues and all the fabulous festivals this country has to offer.
Joe Camilleri and Vika and Linda Bull. Image thanks to Riverboats Music Festival.
During this time of social distancing, how have you been maintaining connection? Have you managed to connect with your audiences in new ways?
Yes we have connected with our audience in new ways. We had never used our Facebook or Instagram much before Covid to connect with our fans. When lockdown began in March 2020 we decided to post songs on Sunday mornings. Because all our shows had been cancelled and especially the ones where people had already bought tickets we thought it would be a nice way of giving back. It proved to be very popular and the feedback was very positive.
‘Tips for staying grounded in a virtual world, hmmm. Talk to your family, talk to your friends, exercise, don’t eat junk food.’
Have there been any important creative routines and rituals for you during these times?
There have been no creative routines or rituals during this time. I have made sure that I get up reasonably early every morning, shower, get dressed and go about my day as usual. I thought if I use this Covid situation as an excuse to stay in my pyjamas all day then I will go downhill fast, so I make sure I do this every day to keep my sanity and to stay positive.
Have you felt the urge to be more creative? Are you working on anything new?
Linda and I have been very creative. We have released an anthology and made a gospel record in isolation with our piano player, Cameron Bruce, up in NSW. Our Sunday Sing Song has been fun. Learning new songs, asking guest musicians to feature each week has been a highlight.
Can you describe your home studio or work station set up if you have one?
No home studio or work station set up. We did buy a proper light for filming at home for our Sunday Sing Song and a tripod to hold our phone steady while filming and that’s about it!
Vika and Linda Bull at home during isolation.
What aspect of this period of isolation have you found the most challenging?
The most challenging aspect during this period of isolation has been not being able to see my parents. They are 86 years old and if I gave them the virus just because I miss them and want to see them I would never forgive myself.
What do you think things might look like for the arts industry once things start to slowly open back up again?
I think it is going to take a while for the arts industry to get back to normal once things slowly open back up again because people will be little nervous about sitting in a 2000 seater venue. I don’t see that happening for ages. Probably smaller gigs will be the go for a while, people may feel more comfortable with that.
Any tips for staying grounded in a virtual world?
Tips for staying grounded in a virtual world, hmmm. Talk to your family, talk to your friends, exercise, don’t eat junk food.
What is the first thing you’ll do in a post-COVID world?
First thing I will do post COVID world will be to go see my parents.
What song or album is getting you through?
Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong Cheek to Cheek. They have been on high rotation during iso. I just love them and I especially love this song and the way they sing it together. It gives me hope that we will all be out dancing together at gigs very soon.
Find out more about Vika Bull here.