The sudden onset of the Covid crisis was such that many of us that had plans, be they personal, professional or creative, found them brought to an immediate and jarring halt. For Cork’s musicians, the absence of live gigs was the biggest change, but to varying extents, other aspects of life as a musician, from practice and jamming, to time in studio and post-production have all been dramatically affected, necessitating new ways of making things work.
After a busy few years balancing family life, work, building a studio and life in two bands, Cork-based multi-instrumentalist Alex Vinci found himself at a crossroads: resuming service with as part of alt-rock power-trio The Last Vinci without the benefit of touring and the usual promotional cycles would prove difficult, but lockdown has provided he and his bandmates with the time and space to get planning on the next step.
“It’s been tricky. I’m lucky that our drummer, Brasko, is my neighbour, and we live close to each other, but our bass player, Conal, is living in the city centre, outside our 5k, and lives with a medical condition, so we can’t see each other. We send each other stuff and work remotely.
“The main reason to keep going is, after our last EP, we toured around the UK, Ireland and Italy, doing something like 40 headline gigs, and supports around Europe.
“We started to work on new stuff straight away, as well as on our own little studio, our own environment, and we didn’t expect that it would be key to surviving this period.
“One other thing that’s nice is, as musicians, usually, there’s a little social connection, in that we all try to help each other, but sometimes we’re all doing our own thing. Now, people are asking for a call, asking to chat a bit, to create a connection.
“Before it was, ‘oh, can we talk about sharing a gig?’, now, it’s asking for a call to chat, for the chats and to keep each other sane, y’know?”
With the relative advantage of having bandmates close by, Vinci has been focusing some of his considerable energies into the creative process of the band’s as-yet untitled second full-length.
Having finished writing the album in summer of last year, the iterative processes of demoing songs in Vinci’s home studio has helped refine the band’s ideas ahead of their eventual post-Covid trip to the UK for recording.
“I brought most of the riffs, and the three of us work together. We had the chance to work out the parts before the world fell apart.
“Conal came over between lockdowns, and put everything down in three days, and we’re lucky that Brasko is also a singer, and we’ve worked together in other bands over the years, so to have him here, singing these parts, is important.
“We were tracking everything, and in the last six months, we’ve been working every day, in person and remotely, playing, reviewing and improving.”
In December of last year, the band launched a GoFundMe crowdfunding page for their second album, accompanied by an offbeat, humorous video laying out the band’s plans for world domination involving several costume changes.
Local music heads and fans of the band can donate whatever they can manage, with all proceeds going toward the album’s recording and post-production, with UK producer Tom Peters, who’s worked with contemporaries like UK math-rock trio Alpha Male Tea Party, Northside metallers God Alone, and others.
The campaign is off to a solid start thus far, raising €2000 of an overall €6000 goal. Vinci lays out the process of pleading the band’s case to the public, and the challenges of doing so in the current circumstances.
“We applied for all the funding that was available, the stimulus package last year, and unfortunately we didn’t get it. We know how strong our connection is with the people, and that people are more generous than you might think.
“It was a challenge, because you’re offering something to people that you know, but others from a non-musical environment think that you’re playing a game, or that this isn’t hard work. It gave us the chance to do something meaningful. For our band, and for other artists, music is life, and this is actually the best moment to do this.
“The concept of the album is based in community, and artistically, we’ve involved many people in this record, and we’ll reveal in the coming months what’s going to happen, but the cherry on top is to get our audience involved to help us make this.”
Though crowdfunding and other community methods have been effective in helping bands and artists cover their costs on projects in recent years, there’s still a sizeable portion of people in music and other walks of life that are skeptical of the concept.
Vinci lays out precisely where the money goes, once the band’s goal is met.
“The six grand for the entire recording cost of the album, including logistics - studio, producer, accommodation and travel. On the other side, of course, we hope to reach the goal, go past it, and get more, to invest in things like PR.
“But we didn’t want to push too much, because it’s a complicated time for everybody. But we need as a minimum to get the album recorded and up to scratch, and we can leverage our own experience and connections into PR and distribution.”
The timing is also interesting, then, for a related project of Vinci’s. Channeling years of industry experience, including a spell on Warner Brothers back in Italy, in another band in his younger years, he’s chosen to start Narrow Door, a management house and label, including The Last Vinci, and, in something of a coup, much-fancied Dublin math-rock duo Bicurious.
It’s one thing to parlay your expertise and life lessons into a project like this in pre-pandemic times, where the going was tough for anyone making a go of music amid changes in structure and consumption, but Vinci is confident that adaptability will be a key component of creative endeavour going forward.
“I’m a dad, working full-time, I didn’t expect to be in music management. Some of my experience with managers has been horrible. When music is just treated as a good, it changes how you perceive it. I said I’d never be a manager.
“We had the chance to tour with Bicurious, with my other band, Order of the Mess, and I was so into this band, in terms of engagement, and excitement. I saw they were young and they were working their arses off to get their music out there.
“I took six months, before saying to the guys after a gig in Waterford, ‘I’m so much in love with your music, that I’ll take care of your next release.’
“It’s a natural transition - I’m a musician, and creating something that’s not just for me is a goal. For me, it’s important to keep doing this, to keep making that connection and making something bigger than ourselves.”
Though it’s a common enough trope in this parish in particular as of late, the change in circumstances has brought people together in different ways, from venues in the city and county joining the Live Venue Collective, to artists collaborating in different online spaces.
Music in Cork stands to be profoundly affected by the knock-on effects of the Covid crisis, with its consequences already becoming visible. Vinci labours under no delusions, but insists that each of the Leeside scene’s constituents has a part to play in the work of rebuilding on the other side of all this.
“I think we have a great opportunity. Everything is objectively falling apart for music, and we were talking with First Music Contact (in Dublin) about last year’s funding, and their goal is to keep as many bands as possible in the country, because when all this is over, some of them might not be there.
“The reality here is, for the first time, all of Cork music needs to bring its energies together in one place to help build up something in a different way. I came here in 2011, as a foreigner, in the spirit of music but from a country that’s completely different, Cork is unbelievable. There’s a lot of great bands, playing all the time, in a DIY environment, and I have great memories of venues and spaces that make the difference.
“But who makes the difference? People - people like (promoter and sound engineer) Cormac Daly, who’s helped build so much stuff up. We can find a garage or a warehouse if we have to, and make the best venue possible, and make something memorable. We don’t have to give up, we can keep working.”
Attempting to plot a way forward, while getting slightly easier, is still very much contingent on lots of external factors, and we don’t have the clarity on the future nearly a year into the Covid response that we might have liked. Vinci maintains his optimism, though, when quizzed about his preferred outcome.
“Lockdown was productive - this album is ready to record, and we have another one written already. The thing is to keep going, keep working, record, and reach as many people as possible. We’re gonna come back stronger than before.”
For more information on The Last Vinci’s fundraiser and their next album, head to https://gofund.me/b627851b.
Find The Last Vinci on Facebook, and on streaming services.