“I am very excited to play music for people.”
In this summer of COVID-19, live music is slowly coming back around in these parts. It’s doing so while (trying to) abide by guidelines put forth by the medical community, starting with socially distancing outside in most cases.
One of the few venues that’s pulled this off is the Porch Southern Fare & Juke Joint in Medford. It’s hosted artists on its patio for the past several weeks, with a variety of blues, folk, and country musicians performing. Julie Rhodes and her band, the Electric Co., are among them, and I asked the Boston-based soul-blues phenom about her adventures in livestreaming, this new live music experience, and her new kaleidoscopic passion.
How did you get into tie-dying? Was it something you’ve always loved since you were a kid?
Actually, I started tie-dying at the beginning of the pandemic because I was social distancing at home pretty much all day, every day. I was dealing with some mental health stuff, pandemic related and otherwise, and I was just looking for things to do to keep busy. I’ve done a bunch of puzzles to keep my mind off of what’s going on and I bought a tie-dye kit just for fun.
Originally, I planned on doing some tie-dye to make some cool merch that I can sell and raise money for my band because they were out of work at the time. It turned out that I was kind of good at it and I really enjoyed doing it. It’s been really helping me take my mind off of everything that’s been going on, especially all of the negative stuff.
Do you have a favorite color combination?
One of my favorite things about tie-dying is the fact that there’s not really any rules and it’s really hard to mess up. In my opinion, it’s best to start with a color and then totally wing it. I don’t really go into making a T-shirt saying to myself, This is what I want to do for this shirt with these colors and I want it to look like this. I never usually do it that way, I kind of experiment every time. I don’t really have a favorite color combination, although I do love the color yellow. Basically anything that has yellow in it, I’m all about it.
A couple weeks ago, you and the Electric Co. did a livestream performance from someone’s backyard. What are your thoughts on the livestreaming experience? D Do you enjoy it?
That livestream was in my backyard, and I chose to do it because it was my birthday that day.
Oh, happy belated birthday!
Thank you. It’s been really challenging going through this pandemic while not being able to gather, go to shows, see my friends and carry on with life as it was. This was the first birthday I’ve had where I couldn’t go to a bar, have a show, or do something like that. Instead, I thought that it would be great to invite the band over and still have a show but have it be virtual. That’s how that came about.
Live shows are my favorite thing, it’s the reason why I make music. I love live music, I always have, so it’s nice to still perform and communicate with an audience, but it’s definitely not the same. It’s definitely missing the energy of a group of people sharing the experience of the same thing. Even still, I’m glad that we at least have that ability to perform and connect with people.
You can’t replicate that with livestreaming, but it’s cool to see people using it and not abandoning it because of what’s going on. This upcoming show at the Porch has you and the band performing outdoors on the patio of the place to a socially distanced audience. Do you know what to expect?
I don’t really. … The tricky thing right now about playing live shows during this pandemic is that we don’t have access to indoor venues. It’s really difficult to have a loud rock show, which is kind of what we do. That’s pretty much our thing. With everything moving outside and away from the loud bar venues to the outdoor restaurant patio, the vibe is very different from what we’re used to and it changes what we’re able to do.
For example, this show that’s coming up at the Porch is an outdoor patio show, and people are going to be eating, drinking, and stuff like that. So we’re kind of rethinking our setup in our performance to strip it down and make it something more intimate. It’s not necessarily going to be the same thing as it would if we were playing any sort of bar or venue. That’s something that I’m gonna have to get used to, just from performing in different configurations and different types of scenarios. I am very excited, though, to play music in general and play music for people.
I don’t love playing music when people are sitting down. It’s not my favorite thing, but I’ll take what I can get.
Do you have anything planned for the rest of the summer? Have you been working on new music?
Music right now, because of everything that we’ve already talked about, is a challenge. It’s a challenge to even get into a practice space with the band, so I’m focusing a lot of my energy on things that I can do myself. I’ve been putting a lot of focus into a lot of tie-dye and converting my attic into a screenprinting studio. I’m really focusing on a lot of the visual art part of myself, which is something that I haven’t been able to really explore until this pandemic. I’m focusing a lot on that, and something to look forward to on that end are some pop-up shops.
[For shows], we’re going to be doing one in my backyard and another one in Providence that’s going to be all hand-dyed different things. All different kinds of clothes, bedsheets, kids clothes, and all sorts of other stuff. I’m also working on an online shop where you can do custom tie-dye orders and then hopefully by the fall I’ll be able to start screen printing for people as well. Eventually I’d like to start a merch company, for lack of a better name. We do have some shows coming up, some shows here and there. We’re playing at Pump House Music Works in Wakefield, Rhode Island, on Sept 11 with Tyler-James Kelly from the Silks, and we have some others planned but they’re not announced yet.