In the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic, it's hard to remember that we're living history.
But what better way to dig into and capture the current cultural mood than with a compilation album of songs written and recorded in quarantine?
That might not have been the aim of Pacific Sound System's Quarantunes, released on April 20 with a wide array of songs from Vancouver and Sea to Sky artists, but its certainly one byproduct.
"I'm still working from home, but I was essentially like, 'People could probably use some music to cheer them up,'" says Ryan Brass, the music promoter behind Vancouver's Pacific Sound System. "I started messaging people I know in bands and the reception was really good. People were into it."
His other goal: to check in with the hundreds of musicians he knows, many of whom work in the service industry and suddenly found themselves without employment.
At the same time, he recognized the value of an aural 2020 time capsule. "I have a couple of young kids," Brass says. "I wanted to ensure they had something to look back on and say, 'This is pretty cool. This is what happened with that whole COVID thing. Our good ole' dad did that.' It's a tough time for people and it will be hard to explain it in the future."
One of the 32 musicians and bands that took part in the project was Squamish punk outfit anonymericans.
Their unique angle: the four musicians recorded their contribution "WorldoMeter Death Count" from five different locations.
"There are four of us in the band, but Colin [Bates] our singer and guitarist, he was actually in quarantine for the first 14 days because he'd come in from another country. He had to go into quarantine on Gambier Island ... He and I started talking from there," says anonymerican's Paul Hudson. "We all had recording interfaces as home, so we recorded it."
Both the band and Brass were impressed with the quality of recording for their pop-punk track that, lyrically, offers a straightforward account of the last few months.
"People were able to really produce decent music even though they're stuck," Brass says.
Whistler musician Peter Vogler, meanwhile, submitted a track under his solo name PeteCatastrophe that aims to capture the plaintive mood of weeks of self-isolation.
"I thought about it and went, 'I have so many songs that are not finished," Vogler says. "I finished that one—'Soft Around the Edges.' That one is truly me in my basement studio, completely solo, a complete quarantine situation ... I was on a road trip in my van in the pouring rain and wrote that song on my acoustic guitar. Got back here, did drums, bass, guitar in half a day. The song came out of ... being buried in a place I couldn't leave, which is what quarantine basically is."
Initially, Vogler submitted a live track he and his band, Anarchist Employment League, recorded in January when he was sick with what in retrospect he think might have actually been COVID-19.
"I rerecorded it and sent it to [Brass]. He said, 'Peter, I love this song, except it's Quarantunes and there are people applauding and it's about skanking in the dancehall," he says with a laugh.
In the end, Hudson says his band was happy to take on a new challenge in this time of self-isolation.
"[Quarantine] has encouraged me to write more," he says. "That song never would've come about at all had we not been asked to submit it in a short period of time like that. We almost have to take the good out of a bad situation. When we reflect back on this period, I think a lot of the music and art that's been created in this timeframe will be part of a positive legacy that comes out of this."
To listen to Quarantunes, visit pacificsoundsystem.bandcamp.com.