Days of Rona: Stefan Mersch of Sun Voyager

The ongoing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, the varied responses of publics and governments worldwide, and the disruption to lives and livelihoods has reached a scale that is unprecedented. Whatever the month or the month after or the future itself brings, more than one generation will bear the mark of having lived through this time, and art, artists, and those who provide the support system to help uphold them have all been affected.

In continuing the Days of Rona feature, it remains pivotal to give a varied human perspective on these events and these responses. It is important to remind ourselves that whether someone is devastated or untouched, sick or well, we are all thinking, feeling people with lives we want to live again, whatever renewed shape they might take from this point onward. We all have to embrace a new normal. What will that be and how will we get there?

Thanks to all who participate. To read all the Days of Rona coverage, click here. — JJ Koczan

sun voyager stefan mersch

Days of Rona: Stefan Mersch of Sun Voyager (Rockland County, New York)

How have you been you dealing with this crisis as a band? As an individual? What effect has it had on your plans or creative processes?

We hit the pause button pretty early on which has been tough but we’re starting to figure out ways to get back at it. The three of us have been keeping in touch. We’ve been playing music together for more than 10 years and have never gone this long without playing or even being in the same room. At a certain point you get antsy, like you’ve been in “go” mode all these years, but when literally everyone around you is getting sick, you worry more about the safety of others than yourself. I think what sucks the most, as a band, is we were hitting a stride creatively and had a really productive weekend in the studio right before this hit. Any delay sucks, but when you’ve got momentum, it hurts. I’m trying to turn a negative into a positive though and all this time outside of bars and venues has freed up some cash to get everything we need to finish those recordings and then some, so I’m building a home studio in my garage, which has been an adventure to say the least. Kyle brought his drums down last week, we jammed with all the mics on, and it was killer. Enormous step up from the phone recordings we’re used to. No more 20-minute jams buried in the group chat. I’m psyched to see what kind of productivity and output we’re capable of with that red button on at all times. As for me, I’m quarantining with my fiance in Rockland County. Unfortunately, we had to push our wedding back to next year but we figured its better to be safe for the sake of all our guests. Bummed about that but I think it’ll make the actual wedding that much better when it finally happens.

How do you feel about the public response to the outbreak where you are? From the government response to the people around you, what have you seen and heard from others?

New York is bad, even where we’re at in the lower Hudson Valley. When it hit in Westchester, the population is so dense, millions in the city and millions more commuters, you just knew it was going to be bad. People are being responsible for the most part, working from home, and we’re all adapting, right? We’re ordering our groceries online, everyone is doing contactless delivery or curbside pickup now, and I haven’t really been out in public since the outbreak. We’re supporting local restaurants and breweries, which I encourage everyone to do. People come over on occasion and we sit or stand six feet apart, wear masks, and play “let’s-make-a-pile-of-cans,” which is always a good time. Just doing what we can to make the best of a dark situation. We all know someone who had it or know someone who knows someone that died. We all have friends who are out of work. There’s so much uncertainty. Even with the testing. Our friends in Brooklyn seem to think it went through them in one big wave but no one got tested. I know three people who live with someone that tested postive but tested negative themselves. That’s the scary part. The numbers are low. We all want this to end but it can’t end if we stop social distancing too early. New Yorkers are good at banding together in tough times. All this time apart, we’ll probably come out of it closer than ever.

What do you think of how the music community specifically has responded? How do you feel during this time? Are you inspired? Discouraged? Bored? Any and all of it?

The music industry is getting hit pretty hard, but I think a lot of us are seeing a nice wave of exposure with people having more time on their hands. They’re spending more time online than ever before, they’re sharing more content than ever before, and people are tired of the same old shit. It’s a good time to get found, so I’m not discouraged at all. I think it’s also a great opportunity for a lot of us to figure out new and creative ways to reach people and experiment with sounds and create. Bandcamp continues to waive their fees once a month and Apple gave out a free 90 day trial to Logic Pro X. I’m having a blast with it. Some of us might come out of this more inspired than ever. Others might never come out of this. I feel for the touring musicians that make a living off touring who had to put their plans on hold. I feel for the festival organizers, like Roadburn and Desertscene and Freak Valley, that basically lost an entire year. I probably feel the most for the bands that were given the opportunity to play some of those festivals this year. All that excitement only to get crushed by a global pandemic. It sucks. You know a lot of great music is being made though and hopefully we can all benefit from that.

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything? What is your new normal? What have you learned from this experience, about yourself, your band, or anything?

We miss everyone. We’ve met so many awesome people on this journey and just miss everyone. We should have been playing two awesome shows this weekend. We should have been playing another sold out show in Asbury with Ruby next weekend. We should have voted in a primary. We should have finished this record by now and you should be listening to it. We’re getting by though and teaching ourselves how to record killer records so we can put out as much music as we can, as often as we can. If I learned one thing jamming with Kyle last week, it’s that we’re more eager to make music than ever and I’m that much more excited about things to come. The next time you see us, that record will be out and another will be on the way. That’s our new normal.

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