With festivals, tours, and concerts canceled, and no end in sight, bands are feeling financially strapped. For a musician, touring is their largest source of income, and in some cases, that includes the salaries of guitar techs, tour managers, sound engineers, and more. So, what can we do to support our favorite bands during this tumultuous time? Aside from generous virtual tips during an artist's live streaming concert, you can also treat yourself to some of their merchandise. I don't know about you, but retail therapy is just what my anxious brain needs right now, plus, you're helping some of your favorite bands make ends meet 'til they can get back on the road. Win-win.
KEXP is rounding up some of our favorite items from bands who've been impacted by the coronavirus, to help inspire you to do your own online shopping. So, walk on over to the virtual merch table, add to cart, and show your support 'til they can get back on stage.
(Also, just for reassurance, the Current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) guidance maintain there is no evidence the coronavirus is spreading through the mail.)
Just when I think I've seen it all in the music merch world, Thao Nguyen of Thao & the Get Down Stay Down comes along and knocks my insert-band-name-here socks off. (I'm seriously going to do an "all-socks edition" of Add to Cart soon, so stay tuned.)
In support of her brand new album Temple (hear more about it here on KEXP's Sound & Vision), Thao has released this fantastic kit to help you make Chè, a traditional Vietnamese tri-colored rice pudding with toasted coconut and cashews, along with sticky rice, mung beans, and adzuki beans. The kit was prepared by renowned chef Diep Tran, the founder of the Banh Chung Collective and former chef and owner of Good Girl Dinette in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. And, as if this couldn't get any sweeter, all proceeds from the purchase of this dessert kit will be donated to Alma Backyard Farms, a non-profit urban farm project in Los Angeles that creates opportunities for the formerly incarcerated to reintegrate home from prison.
British brother duo These New Puritans are also passing along their profits to charity; proceeds from the sale of these puzzle piece kits will be donated to the National Health Service in England which supports NHS staff and volunteers caring for COVID-19 patients.
As we mentioned in a previous edition of Add to Cart, activities like jigsaw puzzles have come back into vogue as families quarantine at home and look for ways to not annoy each other. As percussionist/vocalist George Barnett puts it: “The plague is here, the world’s upside down, so this is our own small way to help the NHS and relieve the tedium for the tedious amongst us.”
These puzzles are a collaboration between the band and artist Harley Weir, featuring artwork around their 2019 LP Inside the Rose. You can choose from two different designs. They're 504 pieces each, and the finished product measures 16 X 20 inches. And once the puzzle is completed, a code will be revealed that you can enter into their website and get a new digital four-track EP. The first run has already sold out, but they're taking pre-orders now for a second batch shipping by July. (And as I mentioned last time, hopefully we won't need a family diversion at that point? Maybe?)
One thing that we will surely need, even once the stay-at-home order lifts, is facial protection, like a mask or even a stylish bandana tied around your nose and mouth. This illustrated one from Austin, TX psych-rock band White Denim definitely does the trick! (Note: their webshop doesn't confirm, but it's my assumption that these are white cotton, not... denim.) (Also, the CDC shows you how to fold one to wear here.) Each square of fabric is boldly illustrated with a fantastic floral design dotted with lips, eyeballs, and the band's name in cursive script. I'm not sure who the artist is, but I wonder if it's Will Gaynor who designed the covers for last year's LP In Person, as well as the albums Performance and Side Effects.
Earlier this month, the band released the brand new LP World As A Waiting Room, which was written and recorded in 30 days, from mid-March to mid-April, while the band were social distancing. That, in itself, would make an excellent purchase to support the band, as frontman James Petralli told Texas Monthly Magazine: "It was just a way for us to keep our crew and our band safe considering touring is our base source of income. This was the best idea we had to recover some of that — being creative and focus on something that wasn’t terrifying."
Maybe a cotton square doesn't quite make you feel safe enough. Maybe you need something a little more... "Devo." The '80s new wave icons have got you covered (literally) with the Energy Dome PPE Kit, an evolved take on the Energy Dome helmets the band have worn as their uniform since their 1980 album Freedom of Choice. As they describe on their website: "The Dome is solid and the attached Shield is clear but it’s what you can’t see that gets you! Stay safe from invisible particles and unwanted bodily fluids in this coordinated, disease blocking, DEVO Energy Dome PPE kit headgear. The Shield attaches to your Energy Dome via Velcro. It’s simple and it’s safe!"
If you'd like to exercise your... freedom of choice (RIMSHOT!), the band are also offering an array of cotton fabric face masks, a machine washable option made of triple-ply cotton, with a design reflecting their 1979 sophomore LP Duty Now for the Future. Who could've imagined it would take on such a different meaning 41 years later?
And finally, the stay-at-home order has been inspiring many to dig their old guitars out of the closet and reacquaint themselves with some power chords. Well, over at Wilco's recording studio The Loft, they've been sharing these one-of-a-kind guitar straps on their (excellent, I might add) Instagram account. Each one is constructed using repurposed vintage belts, making them one-of-a-kind gems with a "worked-in feel like an old baseball mitt," as they describe it. So, no, they don't all say "Mark"; each one is unique; you can see all the different designs here. (I'll be waiting for a "Janice" one.)
And even better, they've been previously seen on Jeff Tweedy's touring guitars! Yes, what touched Jeff's shoulder can soon touch yours! Each one is produced in non-adjustable custom-made lengths, so just let The Loft know how long you'd like it to be. Maybe you'll go on to produce the next quarantine-inspired album like White Denim did!
KEXP continues our series spotlighting stuff you should buy to help support your favorite bands during the quarantine.
On Friday, May 1st, Bandcamp will yet again waive their revenue share on all purchases for 24 hours, in a gesture of support to all the artists who've been impacted by the coronavirus lockdowns. KEXP's Digital Content Team has rounded up some of the things we'll be adding to our carts today.
It's like shooting fish in a barrel. KEXP continues our series spotlighting stuff you should buy to help support your favorite bands during the quarantine.