An extraordinary year in many ways. How did it affect you specifically?
2020 will be remembered as a lost year – It felt like we were suspended in time, back in the early days of the pandemic. I suppose the most profound effect was on our relationships with our family and friends. There are people I would have seen on a daily basis that I haven’t seen once since March. The shift to working from home was a dramatic one too for me personally – but that had lots of positive side effects. We were able to reclaim valuable hours lost on our daily commute. Got to walk more, read more and enjoy simple pleasures that I think we all take for granted.
Of course, the fear and anxiety of the last few months affected us all in different ways. And any initial positive effects have started to wear thin. I think we all want to be able to get back to some kind of normality now as soon as possible.
Where did music fit in during 2020? Does it seem important?
I think the loss of live music was something that hit a lot of people hard. I have huge sympathy for musicians whose livelihood was so severely impacted by this. It is a difficult business to make a living in at the best of times. And as a music fan, we all want to have the freedom to attend concerts again. Music for me acted as a balm; I seemed to listen to a lot of ambient classical music during 2020. It just seemed to soundtrack those early days of the pandemic so well.
Music is more important than ever – you only realise how much something means to you when it is gone, or under threat. And the absence of live music demonstrated how important it is, and how much we really miss it.
What albums resonated this year? Can be old or new.
I really liked the Adrianne Lenker solo album. I am a huge fan – everything she has done on her own or with Big Thief has been superb. Phoebe Bridgers’ second album was fantastic too. It was good to see Bright Eyes back. Conor Oberst has to be one of the most prolific songwriters out there and the new Bright Eyes album was a fine addition to his body of work.
I think it was a good year for Irish music – lots of great releases; Joe Chester and Ollie Cole released two of my favourite albums of 2020. Joel Harkin was a new discovery for me -very impressed with his album ‘Never Happy’. The One Morning in August and Emperors of Ice Cream records were really strong too.
If you had to pick one album to sum up this year, what would it be?
I listened to so much ambient classical music during 2020. Really quiet, reflective music. I suppose if I had to choose one, I would go for Olafur Arnalds ‘Some Kind of Peace’. A really gorgeous album.
How have you got through the last 7 or 8 months?
I haven’t found it as difficult as some others have if I am honest. I don’t miss going out to pubs or clubs – not something I did much anyhow. I am lucky enough to live in an area where there are plenty of beautiful walks or routes to run. I noticed how much more aware of nature I was on those daily spring walks – I suppose the first lockdown took away so much, it forced us to slow down, and enjoy things we took for granted before.
So I did a lot of walking, a lot of reading, started playing board games again, particularly chess. Realised just how bad I am at chess when I tried playing online! I can take the kids in a game, so I went back to playing them! I got through 2020 pretty well – I know I am fortunate because a lot of people really, really struggled.
We spoke about the reissue of Heartworm (see our interview here), is there any update on that?
The update is it has been remastered in Abbey Road, and we got to hear those remasters in the last week – sounds great. It is scheduled for release in late January now. Was hoping they would be in a position to announce the pre-sale in early December, but not sure if they are ready to do that. They are putting together a really nice package, so there are bits and pieces with the artwork that have delayed things a little. I forgot just how frustrating all that side of it was! But it is at an advanced stage now, so we will definitely see it released early in 2021 – a shame it wasn’t ready for the anniversary but that’s just the way it is.
Any hopes for next year?
I just hope that we are looking back at this time next year and that Covid 19 is no longer dominating our lives the way it did throughout 2020. Hope musicians get back to playing live shows, and that we get back to some form of normality by then. On a personal level, I really hope we get to reissue all three Whipping Boy albums on vinyl – it will be nice to see the records available again for those who may have missed out on them first time around.