New EP “Still Life” by Neon Bloom
Neon Bloom is a Toronto synth-pop band consisting of Jen Simpson, Simon Chow, Fred Yurichuk, and Chris Romano. The band has just released their new EP Still Life, an experimental and impressive piece of work, that was brought to life entirely because and entirely in the social isolation of the early 2020 period of the COVID-19 pandemic. Still Life by Neon Bloom is available on all major streaming platforms; it comes along with the release of a video for the EP’s single, ‘Our Faces’.
The days of COVID-19 seem to be pretty far from over, relatively speaking I suppose. That said, it doesn’t hurt anyone to look on the bright side of things now and again. A promising vaccine seems to be in the works and with a little good luck, we might have a workable fix for at least, this virus. That’s not to say we’re out of the woods yet. The truth is that we’ve been pretty lucky that something like this didn’t happen sooner. This means that it’s probably likely to happen again if we don’t do something to prevent it. COVID-19 is a zoonotic virus of course, which means it is transferred to humans via some kind of contact with a sick animal. Most new diseases are zoonotic apparently, over 70% of them. We should probably stop fucking around with the planet so much. What was I talking about? Or right, anything else.
My obvious doom scrolling habits aside, we all have different ways of dealing with the reality of social isolation we find ourselves in. It’s not an easy task for any of us, being away from those we care about and it helps me at least, knowing other people out there are going through this too. It’s that sentiment that Neon Bloom is expressing in their new EP, Still Life.
The four-track EP is freshly released by the band and it’s here to help cheer you up, provide some comfort, and maybe even a little inspiration. Still Life, incredibly, was conceptualized, written, and recorded while each band member remained in their world, experiencing social isolation for themselves, with the rest of us.
The band members began by sending clips of riffs and ideas back and forth to each other and building from there. Through phone calls, video chats, and recordings, the band pieced together the structure and music for each song. Everyone then recorded their parts in their own homes and sent the files off to guitarist/keyboardist Simon Chow for mixing.
Chow had this to say about the process, “In the past, all of our songs and recordings were based on our live show and what we could play and perform live. For the first time, we wrote all of these songs remotely inside of Ableton and it opened up a lot of new sounds and textures that we couldn’t use before. There are so many new options available, but also the loss of intuitive, at the moment, collective writing, and all the happy accidents that bring. It was a challenge adapting to this new type of creative process, but something we’ll do again.”
Finding creative outlets is probably one of the best ways to maintain sanity throughout all of this. A creative outlet can often help us reframe our outlook on the world, ask questions good and bad, but most of all it can help us feel more connected by way of entertaining others, it’s an apocalyptic win-win!
The first track on the EP is a soft silky tune and the first attempt by the group at a hip hop track, not a bad one either. ‘Novacaine’ is as chilled-out of a track as it sounds, and it’s even more pleasant.
‘A Bullet in Tomorrow’ is a track written with the version of the world we’re currently living in mind. It’s a track that poses the question to everyone of what kind of a future we want to live in. The catchy-as-hell song draws inspiration from topics like dealing with the pandemic, and the current state of the world, in particular overconsumption and its consequences. In what seems to be an appropriate, albeit somewhat ironic partnership, considering the subject matter of the song, ‘A Bullet in Tomorrow’ is currently featured in the newest commercial for Wuxly, an ethical clothing label in Toronto, Canada.
The band had this to say about the song in a recent release, “The song is meant to encourage listeners to question their role as responsible consumers and co-habitants of this planet and to consider what sort of future they’re willing to work toward.”
A lighter note on the album is ‘Tangerine’, a dreamy electrifyingly chilled love song. Featuring some lush brass by Devin Hoare performing on trumpet throughout the track, it’s a great addition to the experience of Neon Bloom’s ‘Still Life’ EP.
‘Our Faces’, the first single off the EP, is a positive, anthemic shout out to those who have been suffering from depression, anxiety, or other mental health related issues during social isolation (or at any time, really).
Singer Jen Simpson recounts, “During the initial quarantine phase of COVID, I started getting messages on social media from people that I rarely speak to, some even complete strangers. Many of the messages were about these individual’s struggles with mental health during an unprecedented time of sudden social isolation. I think, in that way, we have been very lucky to have access to social media and each other. It’s allowed people to reach out to others when they need to. It can be surprising, the relationships that can evolve from a few brief chats on Instagram or Facebook. We’re now able to see how social isolation and other pandemic related stressors have had negative effects on individuals and I’m afraid that trend may continue, or possibly worsen, going into the winter. So, lyrically, the inspiration for this song (‘Our Faces’) came from these interactions and a recognition of the emotional difficulties people are facing. The song is meant to sound upbeat and fun, but also deliver a hopeful message, encouraging people to not give up. Given the apocalyptic feelings of late, I basically wanted to be a cheerleader…with edge.”
The video for ‘Our Faces’ was shot by director Jerry Wolf, who worked along with a group of teenage actors to bring his vision for the video to life.
Wolf had this to say about the video, “’Our Faces’ depicts the lives of five teenagers getting together to celebrate Guy Fawkes night when one of them is gunned down by a cop on her own live stream. It (the video) was designed to reaffirm the anxiety that maybe our police are not always out to protect us and the struggle continues. I wanted the final frame – staring down the barrel of a police officer’s handgun, the instant of the viewer’s death – to haunt them. It’s a murdered-by-cop virtual reality simulator to spare you the trouble of getting killed for real. Defund the police.”
There’s no doubt that the time we’ve spent in social isolation has been excessively tough. However, as a music writer with social isolation, the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have also brought with it some much-needed introspection for all of us. An introspection on what’s right, what’s fair, what we’re willing to sacrifice for the good of our planet and the good of each other. This rock is our home and most of us don’t have any other place to go. If I may quote Jason Pierce, formerly of Spacemen 3, “ladies and gentlemen we’re floating in space”.
‘Still Life’ is exceptional, it’s chilled out and upbeat all at once while holding you to the wall with its message. The EP is inspirational to say the least, especially when you consider the way in which it was written, recorded, and produced. For more information on Neon Bloom visit: https://neonbloom.band/