“We eventually came to the conclusion that we wanted to put the record out into the world.”
It’s no secret that COVID-19 has decimated the live concert industry since it shut everything down back in March, but it has also affected the way music is released. The weekly Friday release day hasn’t changed, but the promoting and marketing of new singles, EPs, or full-length albums certainly has.
Getting heads to your merch table after a set was always a tried-and-true method of making some money before this “new normal” came to be. Now, social media’s the primary tool. Nearly all acts are dealing with this, including Boston folk rock band Town Meeting, which dropped its third album, Make Things Better, in June. It marks a new direction for the band, and so I spoke with Tim Cackett, who plays mandolin and lead guitar along with being a co-vocalist, about changes in the band and playing socially quarantined gigs.
While recording Make Things Better, did you and the band do anything differently in terms of approach versus your previous two albums?
Yeah. We went through a couple of significant member changes, so we lost our lead guitar player and our bass player. I actually switched from mandolin, which is my primary instrument, to lead guitar for this record, and then we added a new bassist in Derek Fimbel. Russell Condon also used to play a cajon and he moved to a full drum set, so this album brought a completely new approach. We had been going through some member changes, like I said, along with some internal stuff, so we set out to make something that we would want to listen to, and if people liked it then it’s cool, but if they didn’t then that’s cool too.
It’s interesting to see how these numerous transitions can make changes but also take your sound to a new level.
How much did COVID-19 affect the making of and the release of the new album?
Thankfully it didn’t affect the making of the record because we tracked it all back last October. At the time when the pandemic started, tracking was done, mixing was done, and mastering was done. We originally had the record slated to come out as early as April, but when COVID-19 hit, we had to push everything back. A lot of our friends are also releasing albums this year and it’s a tricky environment when you know going into the release that you can’t tour off of the record, so it was unique deciding whether to release it now or wait until there’s a vaccine. We eventually came to the conclusion that we wanted to put the record out into the world.
Before I even listened to the first track, what really impressed me was the amount of artistic detail and bright colors in the album cover. Who drew that up and who had the idea for the face jutting out from the head?
A guy that I had gone to high school with named Dave Caron who runs Hoverchair Studios in Westminster made that. He’s done a lot of work for bands like Guster, Railroad Earth, and a lot of other different bands and musicians. I reached out to him, told him about how the record is a bit different with it being a roots rock kind of thing with hints of psychedelia, and that’s really all the info that he had. He formed the concept himself and when he showed us the finished product we were all like, Yeah. That’s it.
It’s a really cool design; you don’t really see that amount of elements at play with the shapes, colors, and overall motif in a lot of album covers these days.
We put this record out on vinyl and it looks sick. The huge vinyl jacket is really cool and on the back side there’s a woman’s face but with the same kind of thing going on.
All credit to Dave, he just kind of ran with it. We sent him the record too and we asked him to listen to it to see what he would come up with. He nailed it.
You guys recently played an outdoor show at the Stone Church in Newmarket, New Hampshire, on June 27.
A few venues that have the capacity to do so are having people sit separately at tables with reservations for between four to six people ahead of time. These tables also spread people out to accommodate social distancing guidelines. Do you find this setup to be fairly awkward or do you think it’s just par for the course for the current situation?
Going into that show, I definitely thought it would be weird. We’ve played the Stone Church a bunch of times indoors, so when they reached out to us about doing something in the parking lot we tried to envision what it was going to be like, but like everyone else, we just want to get out and play. We figured we’d roll the dice, and we had a lot of fans who went in on tables together while knowing that they were social distancing after they quarantined so they felt comfortable. For the most part, people were being pretty good with the guidelines, but by the end they were up dancing. It’s tricky. We’re doing another one in Mason, New Hampshire, at Marty’s Driving Range on July 26.
Their originally planned summer music series got cancelled because of national touring being on hold, so they hit us up and we’re going to do that. It’s not awkward enough where we’re not going to do it again.
Outside of the shows the band has happening this summer, what else is in store for you guys in the future?
We are going to try to tour this fall and we’ve got some shows lined up. We actually recently got contacted by IVOTED2020 to play Election Night as part of a series of streaming concerts that they’re going to do. We’re going to be involved in that, which should be kind of cool. I guess you have to take a selfie with a hashtag to get the stream link and we’re going to film it live on location at the Fallout Shelter in Norwood. Other than that, we’re just pushing the record as much as possible. It’s a weird time, and I’m sure you’ve been dealing with it too; it’s strange.
We’re trying to navigate where we can play as much as possible but we’re also doing a couple backyard shows, which is something that we haven’t really done in a long time. We’ve had a couple fans approach us about that so we’re going to do a few of those too, which will be interesting.
This article was produced in collaboration with the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism as part of its Pandemic Democracy Project.
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Providence Journal, The Connecticut Examiner, The Newport Daily News, Worcester Magazine, New Noise Magazine, Northern Transmissions and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.