Between the COVID-19 pandemic, a harrowing presidential election, and peak levels of social unrest, 2020 has been a year of strife and chaos. But we forget that amid all this negativity, local artists are still creating great work. Phoenix New Times touched base with musicians from across the musical spectrum to gauge how they're faring personally, the ways in which their work has been influenced, and what all this madness really means. Through these conversations, we might just find the spark to make it through 2020 after all.
Col Bauer will be the first to admit they started Closet Goth several years ago with nary a clue. In that time, though, they've grown into a competent and inventive songwriter, and Closet Goth's recent output, including several charity singles, reflects that maturation. At the same time, quarantine has pushed Bauer to rethink what the band's capable of and how to maintain their forward momentum.
Phoenix New Times: How have you tried to deal with quarantine from a personal level?
Col Bauer: I've been spending a lot of time educating myself and educating family, and that's been a pretty decent emotional burden. So, just trying to do the best I can to make the people around me the best that they can be.
I'm just eating a very nice meal on a burning ship. And that's that's how I feel with the privilege of still having a job and just existing with privilege.
Are you trying to turn some of these emotions into something positive by writing more songs?
In the past, I've pretty much written from my point of view and I haven't really touched on global things just because I think, as a person that struggles with words, it's really hard to say something new and creative without just sounding super cliche, and that's, like, what I worry about. So I try to take different approaches with lyrics in general. So I don't feel like this time period is making me more creative. But I also don't think it's hindering me either.
This is a very transitional time, whether that be personal or just emotional or something that you love is, like, disappearing. And that whole transitional mindset is making me more creative. I have been writing a lot more than I have in, like, the past two years combined in, like, the past two months. But I don't necessarily blame the world being a mess for my creative burst.
Where do you land as a songwriter in using these social/political threads to write songs?
The big thing with this is trying to use what platform I have as a white creative person to essentially stream all money that I'm creating into way more important causes. I just didn't like sitting on songs for a couple of years. And now I just want to release them because I know there's going to be a couple thousand people able to listen and buy.
For the first time since I've become a conscious songwriter, I've been actually looking to music as inspiration rather than just letting my abilities take me somewhere. In the past, a lot of my songwriting has come from my own limitations to my instruments. So a lot of my songs came from really good bass lines with really bad everything else. Now, I feel like I'm adequate at everything.
Are you trying to amass some new skills or even just flex a new muscle?
There's never a bridge in any of my songs. I cannot write that shit. I've used all the really cool rhythmic ideas in my head. I've always felt bad about that because there's some people that I used to look up to that told me I write bad songs or I don't write good songs. I stopped writing these long songs that had cool sounds in them. I should just own up to what I actually like.
Is it sort of weird or alien to have this project start as, "I don't really know what I'm doing," but know you sort of do in a way?
I have been a lot more isolated than I've ever been since I lived in Pennsylvania. So it's been a weird time of just relearning my own habits and relearning myself. I wish I could do it in a more spread-out fashion because I have been feeling very, very overwhelmed. But I guess, ends justify the means, maybe?