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Elmira
Monday, March 30, 2020
Connecting Our Communities

Music in the time of coronavirus

Local band The Sitters and The Makers , which includes Elmira teen, offers a pick-me-up, delivering an aural care package

An Elmira teen and his bandmates made an early release this week of their music in the form of a four-song EP called Care Package.

The trio, who call themselves The Sitters and The Makers, felt inspired to put a little positivity into the world by pre-releasing songs from a forthcoming album. Isolation for the trio is no different than everyone else, and they’re feeling the personal effects of being socially distant.

“We decided that we should put out a couple songs to help lift spirits,” says band member Parker Merlihan in an interview by email March 23.

The abrupt shut-down of schools, events and activities has put life on hold for everyone. The group isn’t immune to how that has impacted their lives.

“I had to finish school early, and move back from Toronto quickly. It’s unfortunate to leave behind things you wanted to finish, but ultimately I’m glad to be with my family,” said Ayden Elworthy of Kitchener.

Disruption to their lives is small in comparison to what is happening in the world and they felt the need to release their music filled with hope,inspiration and a good dash of silliness.

“This has been a time of great reflection for many of us, and I hope that our songs will not only be seen as entertaining, but also as pieces people can connect to, both in and out of the context of the pandemic,” says Jake Evans-Whitley of Kitchener.

All three musicians met through the Integrated Arts Program at Eastwood Collegiate, and despite all being in different grade levels their passion for making music brought them together. All three sing, play and write the songs while the recording/producing is done in Merlihan’s makeshift recording studio: a spare bedroom in his home in Elmira.

During the isolation and distancing they’ll continue working through songs in production on their own for a full-release of their album this summer. While there is no plan for a COVID-19 inspired song at this point, if they did write something about current events it would focus on the positive things that are happening in this difficult time.

Elworthy says he would “probably write about the good things. Clean water in Venice. Italian people singing in the streets. Increased public health awareness. In many areas of my neighborhood, people have put up art. Sidewalk drawings read things like “thank you doctors,” and colourful banners are hung around residential areas. I’d like to write something about that.”

For now, Care Package by The Sitters and the Makers is available as a free download. You can find their music on all the major online streaming services as well.

The Complete Q&A interview:

Who are The Sitters & The Makers?
Ayden: The Sitters and the Makers are a group of like-minded boys who wanna make fun music! The three of us met while attending the Integrated Arts Program at Eastwood Collegiate in Kitchener. I was a year ahead of Jake, and Jake was one year ahead of Parker.

What made you think to start a band?
Parker: We all connected when we were working on our school play “Radium Girls.” We are very like-minded individuals with similar tastes and at first the band was just an idea, but it quickly took form after we all worked to write, perform and stage our original musical “You Smile” last summer.

How would you describe your music?
Jake: We are an alternative folk-rock band, mainly focusing on whimsical and nostalgic themes. Our music is often silly and pretty overarching family friendly, but we also wouldn’t say it’s aimed at kids. We don’t exactly stick very much to a single genre, with the connective tissue between each of our pieces primarily being the general consistency of our writing styles.

Tell me about Care Package EP. What events inspired you to release an EP now?
Parker: During the COVID-19 shut down, we decided that we should put out a couple songs to help lift spirits. We had recorded and finished the post production on four of our songs for our upcoming album and decided to put them out for free.
Jake: Coincidentally, the songs we’ve recorded so far all featured themes and symbolism that felt apropos to the pandemic.

How has life been different for you, your friends and family during the coronavirus pandemic?
Ayden: I had to finish school early, and move back from Toronto quickly. It’s unfortunate to leave behind things you wanted to finish, but ultimately I’m glad to be with my family. I’ve been playing lots of chess, and word games, making food and baking. It’s not the ideal situation, but I’m glad that in the face of a national pandemic, I can still play Scrabble with my Dad.
Jake:  I personally had been directing and producing an original stage show in Kitchener when the virus became a more serious threat. Our performance was set for March 26 (today), and has since been postponed, though we don’t know until when. I had been working weeks straight without rest on the project, and the sudden stop so close to our goal has been hard. Though I am getting some real rest for the first time in about half a year – working on the project has been welcome.
Parker: The school musical I am involved in is still in the air and less than likely to be performed. Not only that, but many personal projects have been cancelled and I’ve been stuck at home without the ability to work with my collaborators. This past week has been tough, but I’ve been trying to make the best out of a bad situation. I’ve been finding new hobbies, cooking and reading, as well as making more music and watching a lot of TV.

Do you think current events may inspire you to write a song about it?
Ayden: Maybe. I find it difficult to write about things that are currently happening. In the future I might reflect on it, but right now I’m trying to think about it less and less. COVID-19 feels like, and really is the only thing going on right now. I want to take a break from that.
Jake: It’s a bit early to say for me. I’ve been filling a lot of my time by practicing playing music though, so it’s more than likely I’ll write something.
Parker: I have a hard time finding inspiration in real world events. Most of the music I make is hypotheticals, relationships or humor. It’s not super likely I would write something about this, but it’s not impossible.

If you did write a song about it, what aspect of the pandemic do you think you would focus on?
Ayden: Probably the good things. Clean water in Venice. Italian people singing in the streets. Increased public health awareness. In many areas of my neighborhood people have put up art. Sidewalk drawings read things like “thank you doctors,” and colourful banners are hung around residential areas. I’d like to write something about that.
Jake: The shift in social structure and attitude. It feels like a real anomaly how an event that has been keeping people physically apart has also bred a very supportive, connected attitude online. It’s unique. I’d probably take it down to a more personal scale.
Parker: I’d maybe look at the relationships between people stuck at home, finding solace in each other when the world is in troubled times.

What do you hope people will feel after hearing your EP?
Ayden: Happy! It’s supposed to make you feel good and silly in this weird time.
Parker: I’d like for people who hear it to feel the positivity that inspired these songs. Though some of the songs are less upbeat, they are all hopeful.
Jake: I hope that people will find the pieces to be thought provoking. Our songs can be quite silly, but they aren’t devoid of meaning. This has been a time of great reflection for many of us, and I hope that our songs will not only be seen as entertaining, but also as pieces people can connect to, both in and out of the context of the pandemic.

Do you plan on songwriting to occupy your time in isolation and will you do that over video chats?
Jake: It’s very likely we’ll write, though the three of us typically write our songs individually, on our own time, and then record them together.

When do you plan on finishing your first full-length album?
Jake: We’re aiming to release an album titled “Everyone I’ve Ever Known & All The Things I’m Missing” around the beginning of this summer. Care Package features a quartet of songs that will eventually be featured on the aforementioned album.

Where can people find the EP to listen to it?

Parker: It’s on Bandcamp and will be out on other streaming services shortly. It will be a free download!

Do you have any gigs in the future?
Ayden: We should be playing at the Belmont Bestival in September, as long as things move forward! We’d like to play in lots of places during the summer, especially festivals and outdoor events.

Any other information you think people should know about the album/songs?
Parker: I’d like to shout-out Sophie Hopkins, a secret collaborator who helped us write Achoo!. Ayden and I were working at a musical theatre summer camp called “The Singers Theatre” as councillors and we were approached by one of the campers to write a song with her. She had planned out a full musical with another camper, and wanted our help to write a song for the Dragon, who came down with a cold. Once the song was done, we wanted to record it and we were able to get Sophie to sing on it as well.

The song Better Things, originally came from the musical “You Smile”, which we all worked on last year for the Playground Festival with JM Drama.

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