If there ever was a time where we could use a smile, the mid-point of 2020 was it. As I write this, we are in the throes of another surge in this pandemic, and the resulting unrest has created the conditions to rethink all of our ills, physical and institutional. It’s in moments just like this, that music is at its best - giving us a chance to smile, a vibe to ride and transcend the moment, a message of hope to help meet the moment. Of course, repeated shutdowns have made concerts next to impossible, just when we need them so deeply. All of which is to say: What a crucial time to dive back into some Music Diaries.
Music Diaries At Home is a two-part special in which we catch up with the artists we met during this show’s first season to see how they are navigating these unpredictable times, and to see what it looks and feels like when they perform from the intimacy of their homes. This episode features the polyglot, philosophical future-pop of Angelica Garcia, the journeyman-soul of singer/guitar-slinger Van Hunt, and the incisive ruminations of Silver Lake legends Silversun Pickups.
Economists and spiritualists alike share a central principle: acts of creativity imply acts of destruction. Sure enough, some things are disintegrating before our eyes, but dreaming up the fertile period of rebuilding post-pandemic is top of mind for Angelica Garcia. “I think accountability is really important, and that’s a theme that’s been coming up a lot in the songs I’ve been writing,” she tells me. “Because in a way that’s part of what you signed up for as an artist, to really deeply understand these things that impact you, and use your art to mirror, to reflect that.”
It’s not exactly a casual thought, and so the song she offers for us here is the un-casually titled “Humanity,” though the playfulness is in there, too, through a one-woman symphony of vocal loops and intermittent smiles to punctuate the song’s ritualistic harmonies.
Being at-home so much can be safer in terms of contagion, but it comes with its own challenges to the heart. So many of us are feeling isolated and estranged, far from those we love or worried we’ll lose the ability to connect with loves anew. In light of that, catching up with Grammy-winning lifer Van Hunt was an absolute joy.
“I don’t even know if I should mention this, but I’ve been falling in love! And I’m digging that…” he confessed, with a lowkey beatific grin. And it’s beyond the romantic for Van: as many have found, being safer at home has meant deepening bonds within the household. “I got my kid with me, this is the most time we’ve spent probably our entire life at one time, and we’ve really gotten to know each other, and I can say the same for my mom.”
Van’s found peace in this time of intergenerational cohabitation - “one delving into the past, one trying to help him design what his future looks like” - while also writing material for a full album. And if that album’s anything like the harmonically rich, falsetto-full fluidity of the heart-acher he plays for us, “Falls (Violet),” -- we are all in for it. An absolute gem from one of the deepest talents I know.
And that brings us to Silversun Pickups, whose pandemic experience is both the most, and the least, relateable of the bunch. I’ll start with how I fit into the tale: Just weeks before this pandemic overtook the country, I went to see the band play a triumphant, sold-out hometown show at the Wiltern. The buzz in the room felt like an echo of what we all felt when SSPU were just coming up, and everyone sensed it - a newly refocused and energized band playing material from the recently released and acclaimed Butch Vig-produced LP Widow’s Weeds. So this is, on one hand, the story of “That Moment When a Grammy-nominated Band Had Its National Tour Pulled Midstream.”
But upon their harried return to Southern California, it becomes the story of “How Parents and Singles Alike Deal with a Pandemic At Home with Kids and/or Dealing With the Extraordinary Amount of Dishes That Come With It.” From rock on the road to pandemic at home, SSPU’s story is one for the ages -- and hearing Brian’s voice here performing “Bag Of Bones” is for the ages, too.
In a way, I feel like these "At Home" editions of Music Diaries are fodder for our collective COVID time capsules. Here we find three artists with different life experiences, bringing us a panoptic look at life during a pandemic. In a way, this half-hour is a cross-section of how we all are internalizing our rapidly reorganized reality – through hopes for humanity, a deepening of interpersonal relationships, and navigating the pragmatic household contours of this pandemic. Thanks to Angelica, Van Hunt, and Silversun Pickups for the time, the thoughtfulness, and the laughs. You can catch all three of them on Instagram. And you can watch the other Music Diaries At Home episode here.