It’s Lockdown… Again.

Hello everyone. This is Bryce here, writing from home. Obviously.

In the UK, it’s now Lockdown 3.0 and who knows when it will end. There are Covid vaccines and people hoping that life will go back to normal, but I just read this morning that vaccinated people can likely still carry and spread the virus, so who knows.

2020 was a busy year for Croydon Tourist Office and in a sense we have Lockdown 1.0 to thank for that. Before lockdown happened, I started working from home. My little home office set up in a spare bedroom which also happens to store my music and recording equipment. There were moments when I was working on designing a training package or doing some admin where I was able to put some music on. Fairly early on, I plugged in a hard drive had contained all of the Croydon Tourist Office unfinished recordings we had since 2011 and I wondered, ‘Why haven’t we finished these?’

But the revisit to Croydon Tourist Office started a bit differently. It started with a question on how do we write together in the normal way that we would, if we’re all in different places. That day, Max sent me a recording that he did on a guitar that only had two-strings and I quickly added a keyboard part. It sounded like something that would fit in a David Lynch film. Robert added some words to it, and suddenly we had our first lockdown song: Eugene.

We discussed opening the project up to anyone else who was feeling like they were stuck at home and wanted to be creative. A few people did send us some bits of audio, but very little of that was ready in time for the release of Take it Easy with Croydon Tourist Office, but will likely come together for a release or collaborative work we have done.

We continued to clean up and release work from the archives, particularly with Epicentre Nights Vol 2, but we also wondered what 2021 would have in store for us. We talked about what we would do the first time we could all be in the same location again, we talked about imposing limitations on ourselves (such as recording everything to only 4 tracks, because if the Beatles could do it….), but at this stage, we don’t know when that will be.

In October, a friend of mine needed more space at home for their thriving chilli growing and needed to clear out some old records they used for arts workshops. I quickly messaged them and said I would be happy to give the records a home, so in addition to listening to music from our personal archives, I found myself immersed in a forgotten collection of music. This made me reminisce on my days back in California when I would go digging through records for odd sounds I could incorporate into the things I was making. I still have a large box of records at my mom’s house in California (the photo on the right), but now I had a much bigger collection of vinyl in my house (the photo on the left)!

The records are very similar to some of the things I have in California: obscure records from around the world, odd spoken word records, a few jazzy things. My love of this sort of thing definitely came from my Grandfather who had a habit of collecting records from places that he visited. What better way to know the world (especially when you can’t currently travel) than by listening to its music?

I’ve been digitising and uploading the cleaned up record to a shared drive that we use, so we can all listen to the collection. It’s astounding how so many records that take up so much space can be shrunk to fit onto a USB drive that can fit in your pocket.

In April, we started streaming our music on various online providers and it has been interesting to see where our music is being listened to and what songs get played most. While most of our listeners are in the UK and the USA (which doesn’t surprise us), it’s fun to see people in Canada, Australia, Germany, Bulgaria, Netherlands, Mexico and a few other countries listening as well. By far, the most popular song is Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, with Fabulous in second place.

Possibly the most odd thing that 2020 has brought to us is the number of visitors to our website from China. We haven’t had anyone in China stream out music, but nearly 40% of the visitors to this website were people in China who found the website on a search engine. I’m a bit worried that these people are planning to visit Croydon and are looking for something to do whilst there. If that is the case, we are truly sorry for the confusion, but simultaneously hoping that they discover the music.

We are still working on new things (and even discussing what a Croydon Tourist Office movie might be like) and the eventual sound of the next album might be influenced by some of these records we’ve been listening to. While Take it Easy fluctuated between pastoral and electronic menace (which we felt was the sound of 2020), the music that seems to be coming together now is a lot more bouncy and bright. We’ve never given ourselves any restrictions to what our sound would be like, so here’s to 2021! Let’s see what it brings and how soon it takes before life goes back to some sense of normal.

But then, what is normal?