We’re coming up on 10 months since the extent of the Covid-19 crisis made itself apparent. A period of time that might not seem like much in the overall scheme of things, but among Cork’s student population, long enough to affect one’s relationship with their field of study locally. In the case of Coachford man Christopher Hockey, that means missing gigs and all that attends, having just got into the rhythm of Cork’s local scene and helping fellow School of Music student Lloyd John assemble a live set.
He’s been making the best of matters, though, following the release last year of a pair of solo singles with upcoming single ‘After Dark’, a brooding, atmospheric slice of shoegaze-inspired indie, spurred on by the kind of head-spinning, equally glorious and harrowing anxiety that can only happen in one’s early twenties.
“I went back to college, things were picking up, we were about to do a run of gigs, then the night before the first lockdown was announced, we’d been playing at Cyprus Avenue, and the following, we went into lockdown. It was fairly full-on, then everything just stopped, and you were by yourself, with your thoughts. That conversation just came to mind again, and I was able to think about it more.”
Being a product of our time, ‘Closed System’ was created almost entirely in isolation, with collaborators like God Alone’s Jake O’Driscoll, drummer Mark O’Gorman Daly, and other guest players. Working remotely from rough demos sent on by Hockey to give them an idea, and ultimately to leave their own mark on, they created a collaborative record, made largely on a solo basis.
“It’s the first project where I’ve been able to work with other people, even though we were all locked up at home. I wrote all the songs bar one on guitar, and recorded rough tracks of guitar and singing, then layered stuff on.
“My main instrument is bass: the lines are quite simple but I like what they do. I added that, then mapped out rough drums in MIDI, and sent them to Mark. All he had to record with was a single drum mic, so he really focused on the sound, moving it and retaking things. It fit the vibe, as I wanted trashy-sounding drums that were big and boomy. He made such a difference.”
“Jake is brilliant - an inspiring musician to play with. I don’t play much electric guitar - bits and pieces - but the stuff he can do is just his own thing. I’d have the track in whatever state it was, send it off to him. He just went away and came back with something brilliant, and there’s some crazy stuff in there: some shoegazey stuff, but some almost harsh-noise stuff that can transform a song.”
The resulting extended-player is self-produced, mixed and mastered: a huge undertaking for anyone, much less someone relatively young, or struggling through the process while attending college and negotiating life in the current circumstances. It’s quite the learning curve to say the least, says Hockey.
“At the start of lockdown, (digital audio workstation) Ableton offered a three-month trial, and I said, right, I’ll try and get this done in this period. Having that time limit helped, otherwise I wouldn’t have settled on anything. There’s only so much changing or altering you can do once it all comes together.
“I’d love to be a mixing engineer, I’d hate to be a mastering engineer. The mix was done as it was recorded, to fit things in, give things their own space, and it came together quite quickly. I got so bogged down with mastering, questioning decisions, frustrated with it, so I’d take a break for a week, come back and realise I was very close, and that it was in my own head.”
‘Closed System’ releases into an uncertain time for music in the city - some venues’ existences are up in the air, as are any processes or protocol for attending eventual gigs, festivals, etc as a performer, professional or punter. As such, looking for bookings and ways to promote is a much different business.
“The EP has been done for a while, but then it was a question of release. Leading up to Christmas, loads of people were releasing, so I decided to wait until the New Year in hopes of gigs, but that hasn’t gone too well.
“I’m glad I’ve waited. Hopefully a fresh start. Everyone misses gigs, and if I can gig with this EP, I’ll jump at the chance, but it’s impossible to tell. The main goal is to get it out there.
"Suddenly being in the city and spending most nights at gigs was an eye-opener, the scene is really friendly and I’m a fan of the smaller venues in the city, like Fredz and the Roundy. I really miss them.”
Conversely, Cork music had an incredibly busy 2020, full as ever with great releases, revolving around Bandcamp Fridays, live streams, and other means of interaction. Hockey’s musical highlights of the year cut close to the grassroots.
“Some of the music last year has been phenomenal, was really excited for releases from Luunah and Rowan, really excited. It’s been inspiring, and even some of the other projects I’ve gotten to work on, like helping the God Alone lads record a live set at their practice space for a festival they were meant to be playing last summer, have been the closest I’ve been to gigs. A whole half-hour set in one take. I don’t know how they do it.”
It’s with a cautious eye and a sense of steeling one’s self that any of us are looking at 2021: Hockey shares much of the wariness about new-year optimism doing the rounds, but definitely has his goals in place, even as profound changes make themselves apparent.
“It’s such an uncertain year, it’s impossible to know what to expect.
"The thing is just to keep creating, to be more forgiving to myself when creating rather than the constant battle, especially now, with the world going mental. The last person you want to be fighting is yourself.”
- Christopher Hockey’s new single ‘After Dark’ releases on January 15th, while debut extended-player ‘Closed System’ is due for release in February.
- Both will be available across streaming services, and for download/adding to your collection on Bandcamp: https://christopherhockey.bandcamp.com/