The Covid Chronicles… Delta Underground's Greg Alsop
cAs a group, the multi-Juno Award nominee Tokyo Police Club has never been averse to its members embarking on extracurricular activities.
By Jason Schneider
cAs a group, the multi-Juno Award nominee Tokyo Police Club has never been averse to its members embarking on extracurricular activities. Keyboardist Graham Wright has a few solo releases to his name, as does bassist/vocalist Dave Monks who also popped up late last year as a member of CanRock supergroup Anyway Gang along with Sam Roberts, Sloan’s Chris Murphy and Hollerado’s Menno Versteeg.
TPC’s drummer Greg Alsop has now branched out as well with Delta Underground, a synth-pop project in collaboration with New York-born singer-songwriter Mike Scala. The pair had been gearing up to launch the debut Delta Underground single, Where The Wild Things Are, in March as a prelude to a full album, but plans had to be quickly readjusted due to pandemic uncertainty.
Where The Wild Things Are will now be released on May 1 with an added twist—all proceeds from sales of the single will be donated to the W.H.O. Covid-19 Response Fund. The duo also plans to team up with philanthropic organization Nexus Global. Scala already has some experience in this arena, having set up his own foundation in 2013 to help at-risk youth in the US and in developing countries around the world.
It’s not exactly how Alsop envisioned things would roll out for Delta Underground, but as he recently told us, in these unprecedented times everyone has to pull together as best they can. To keep up with all of their activity go to deltaunderground.world.
First off, what inspired the creation of Delta Underground?
I met Mike while I was still living in Los Angeles. We both came from the world of rock bands, where the only way to make music is to set up a bunch of extremely loud instruments and then bang away on them until you eventually have something.
When we started writing together though, first in my apartment studio and then later on songwriting retreats with other musicians, we weren't able to make lots of noise and feel it out. So we turned to produce music on our laptops because that was the best way to create what we were hearing in our heads.
That said, we were also really into what artists like Caribou, Rufus Du Sol, and Zhu were doing, making electronic music that's meant to be played live. We're still musicians at heart and we love the feeling and energy you get from a live band playing together. So we wanted to make dance music that's live and channel that energy into our music.
You're donating all sales of your first single Where The Wild Things Are to the W.H.O. and other charities fighting the pandemic. What made you decide to do that?
It feels a bit odd to be putting out new music and promoting something while this is going on. We had initially planned to release this first single in March but postponed everything when the reality of Covid-19 started to set in.
Donating the proceeds from this single—even if it's a small contribution—feels like a middle ground, where we aren't cancelling plans indefinitely but we're also not trying to take away from or ignore the situation everyone is still very much in. We want to do what we can on both fronts, as artists trying to make and release music but also as people who are affected by everything going on around us.
How has our current situation affected your plans for the Delta Underground album?
Since I moved back to Canada, Mike and I have gotten pretty good at writing together long distance. There are definite challenges but we’ve found a lot of workarounds that have kept us able to make music together, while apart. Honestly, I think we’ve been doing what a lot of people are doing amidst Covid—screen sharing, video chat, file sharing—just trying to make the most out of technology to do work.
Even with all the possibilities the Internet grants us though, I think we still feel limitations. It can be hard to feel creative with someone when you’re not in the same room together. The momentum sometimes just doesn’t happen and for whatever reason, it just won’t work that day. That’s when it’s important to find other ways to connect with each other beyond trying to make music. So we’ve been sharing funny videos, talking about what’s happening in both of our lives, basically just trying to remember to be friends as well as bandmates or musical partners. Doing stuff like that can take the pressure off having to be “creative” and sometimes it even helps to get the creativity sparking again.
How has the inability to play live affected you overall, and what sorts of things are you doing to engage with your audience at the moment?
It's definitely a setback not being able to play concerts. Live shows are such an important way to connect with new fans and it's disheartening to have to cancel shows and tours. Obviously, it's tough financially as well.
However, it's forced artists to get creative and find new ways to reach out. We've been messaging directly with people more and chatting with them about how they're doing. That's been good, to just have a conversation with people without it even necessarily being about the music. We're also working on more live performance ideas that we can do from our own homes. I think it can be inspiring for everyone to have those limitations and try to make something unique out of it. It puts you in an almost literal box where you have to say to yourself, "This is where I am and this is all I have to work with. What can I do?"
What do you believe the long term effects of the pandemic will be on the music industry?
I hope people, in general, will just be more excited about going out to live events when this is over. It became so easy over recent years to choose to stay home. There are so many options at your disposal, you don't have to go to a concert or a theatre or a movie to find art or entertainment. But I really hope people will realize how much they miss going out to find and experience those things. I definitely miss it.