Guitarist and recording engineer Bob Catlin (right) says streaming shows need not involve expensive gear.
We’re living in strange and uncertain times, and the San Antonio music scene is feeling it. With empty bars and desolate venues, it’s unclear how soon the business of presenting live music will get back to normal.
“How is the local scene going to look? It’s an absolute 100% chance it’ll change, and you don’t know what’s going to happen,” said recording engineer Bob “Bobdog” Catlin, who also plays guitar in the industrial supergroup Pigface. “It’s weird right now.”
Pigface cancelled its most recent tour due to the outbreak. There was talk about livestreaming, but it seemed difficult since the band members live far apart. Plus, Catlin said livestreaming wouldn’t fully capture the magic that comes with playing live. Pigface is a collaborative experience he wants to communicate to audiences.
“It wasn’t going to be the same band as the band from last tour, anyway,” he added.
Catlin’s advice to bands looking to livestreaming is not to overthink things or become obsessed with video quality. Just make it sound good. While Go Pro cameras may be a good option, Catlin said iPhones can suffice, especially because most people already have one.
“They won’t give a shit! They want to hear you play,” he said. “No one’s going to judge what you did in the quarantine.”
However, he does think artists should find creative ways to up the excitement and capture the thrill of live music. To that end, he suggests setting up a green screen to run graphics in the background, because “livestreaming can be so sterile.”
Working Around It
Andria Rose, an eponymous dreampop project, is persevering during the pandemic. Rose is almost done with a new EP slated for a summer release and plans to release a new song this month. She plans to do a livestream performance once the song is out.
“[The pandemic] just affected timing and shows,” Rose said. “But it’s OK! We’ll work around what we’ve got.”
The full band has livestreamed in the past using a simple phone setup, and Rose said it was well received. She plans to do acoustic sets for the quarantine livestreams, which would feature herself and her boyfriend and bassist Bryan Austin. Because of the quarantine, the pair haven’t met with their other bandmates in a month.
Hard rockers Donella Drive have kept themselves busy, making collaborative videos with Twin Productions, rehearsing to perfect their new set and writing for a new EP, which they hope to release by October.
To stay connected with fans, the band recently livestreamed a rehearsal and plans on working with Twin Productions to stream a performance along with a lineup of other artists. Until then, the band is rehearsing a new set revolving around its most recent EP, Bloomer, which came out March 14.
Donella Drive bassist Andrew Salazar said the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic became apparent on the night of its release party for the EP.
“We definitely felt it the night of the release show,” Salazar said. “At first we heard it was supposed to be no more than 500 people, then it dropped to 200, then gradually to 10, and I thought ‘Oh, no!’”
Despite the turmoil, the band sold out of physical copies of the release that night.
For bands unable livestream, Catlin suggests making their social media accounts fun, especially because feeds have been so negative lately. Putting out new music out during the pandemic won’t hurt either, since people stuck at home may be receptive to checking out new sounds.
Rose is taking advantage of social media. She’s been doing every interview she can to stay relevant and continue growing the band’s following. She’s also hoping to hustle up listeners on Spotify and Apple music.
“I think we’ll probably do livestreams even after this pandemic passes,” she said. “I think it’s a great way to connect with my fans that live abroad.”
The only difference is those post-pandemic streams will include the full band.
For Donella Drive, staying connected on social media means putting out new content regularly, even if it’s just a photo on Facebook.
The band recently put out a behind-the-scenes clip for their newest music video, which will be released soon. It also did a “Twin Talk” for Twin Productions — a PSA on staying safe during the pandemic.
Also in the works are livestream rehearsals and sets on YouTube and Facebook.
“If you sit stagnant, people get bored and eventually lose interest,” Salazar said, “and I’ve seen it happen all the time with local bands.”
While it’s hard to be sure what the aftermath of San Antonio’s lockdown will be for musicians, they’re clearly not letting it stand in the way of their creativity and connecting with fans.
Despite genre differences, they say they’re feeling empathy for others trying to figure out how to make music during the crisis.
“I do hope all of San Antonio’s local artists stay strong and hang in there,” Rose said.
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