Smells Like 'Tine Spirit or How to Make an Album During a Pandemic

Singer-songwriter Kandle Osbourne was already self-isolating in the studio when Canada went into lockdown, so she kept recording.
March 25, 2020, 4:13pm
Kandle Osbourne
Images courtesy Kandle Osbourne

Every musician harbours a fantasy of being locked in a state-of-the-art recording studio, twisting EQ knobs and flange pedal settings until every sonic detail has reached a state of undeniable brilliance, high-priced “Recording” light be damned. The strict economics of the music industry, however, dictate that for most artists, this scenario remains just that—a fantasy.

That is, of course, unless your recording session begins to overlap with a global pandemic that disrupts civilian life as we know it. For Canadian singer-songwriter Kandle Osbourne, the pipe dream of endless studio time and infinite flange became a harsh reality while recording her third album at Hipposonic Music in Vancouver, in the midst of an aggressive escalation in Canada’s response to the Coronavirus health crisis.

While heeding every possible health precaution, Osbourne decided to press on with recording, since she and her team had already been observing the strict self-isolation required to make an LP in the first place. The result is a record fuelled by both pandemic frenzy and a sense of gratitude for being able to make music while the world outside suddenly shifted into a strange new rhythm, a potent combination that led to what Kandle calls the best album she’s ever made.

We caught up with Kandle from the safe confines of her parents’ home (her dad, Neil Osborne, is CanRock royalty, being the frontman for 54-50) in Victoria, as she adjusted to a far more mundane phase of isolation, just hours after putting final touches on her as-yet untitled album.

VICE: Are you safe and sound?
Kandle Osborne: Yes, I’m back at my parents’ house. I feel fine but my parents are over 60, so I’m staying away from them just in case. They have a section blocked off for me and slide me food under the door. I’m not allowed in the kitchen, so I’m just texting them, like, “Can I have a snack?” I don’t feel like a loser at all!

A couple of weeks ago you were recording your third album and now your parents are sliding you food under the door. Can you fill in the blanks please?
We started the record about three weeks ago on March 7th. It was pre-panic, the BC ferry was full and toilet paper was still on the shelves. Even without a global pandemic, making an album is a confined, quarantine-like experience, for sure. Music demands obsession and absolute dedication; your focus and attention are entirely captivated by the music and the outside world barely exists except your breakfast and daily commute.

You unwittingly picked one of the weirdest times ever to record an album. When did you realize this?
It became very serious very quickly. As the days went by, recording music wasn’t enough to keep the talk of pandemic from seeping into every conversation, obviously. We definitely had a few moments of panic and fear and trying to figure out safe places to stay, who was willing to let us quarantine on their couch, where to get food. But the record became our small beacon of light in the chaos of uncertainty.

By the second week there were just four of us left and we just basically self-isolated together. We were referring to ourselves as a quaranteam; we were there every day and night and eventually the studio owner called us and told us to stay and said we could bring a mattress in there if we needed to. We didn’t end up doing that, but that’s how into it we got. We’d go into work mode for 14 or 15 hours straight and just sleep and repeat.

Where were you sleeping?
My producer, Michael Rendall, and I were staying in my uncle’s basement; we had to stay away from the upstairs and his kitchen. Rave [ _engineer_] and Liam Moes [ _studio assistant_] would just go back and forth from their apartments, so we realized the four of us were safe. We would just Pine Sol everything when we ran out of cleaning products, we all got rashes on our hands; we were shredding our little solos with our crusty rash hands. My hands have aged 100 years.

Does that level of intensity have a positive impact on the music?
I hate to say it, but it did. It kept us really focused and really aware of what was important to us at that moment. It kept us grounded and able to find happiness and some calm in what was going on. In order to get focused, we had to shut it out. We just stuck together and kept going and when the tape was rolling, the magic seemed to pour out. Every moment was unique and the pandemic reminded me how lucky we were in that moment and the honesty and emotion was definitely captured in the recording, it was such a crazy experience.

Being able to channel that energy into a recording is a privilege for sure.
I’m so grateful that I had that luxury, because everyone I know was at home worried and reading everything that was going on in the news and on the Internet. It was totally a luxury to just do a lot of work and try to get the best performances and non-stop music all the time. We had more days in the studio just because we were locked in there and we made it perfect.

When did you know it was the end of the session?
By the last day it was very obvious that it was the last day. We ran out of food, our engineer Dave “Rave” Ogilvie got his car broken into. Everyone was so tired and watery-eyed. We all looked at each other like, “We did good… Let’s go hide now.”

What surprised you most about this recording session?
I’m continuously surprised at how amazing people were when faced with such a horrible situation. Nobody went dark, nobody got angry. There was no ego, no drama, everyone was beautiful. I was very lucky to have all those people with me. There was a lot of dancing. Everybody was nice and supportive and had a lot of love for each other. If someone was down we all brought them back up. I think we made a really special record, it’s definitely the best one I’ve done. I guess I’m probably one of the luckiest people during this quarantine.

What stage is the album at now?
We were going to wait a few months and then mix, but we had so much time on our hands that we just mixed it there. Even the mastering guy was quarantined in the studio upstairs, like, “Is it ready yet?” and we gave it to him. We don’t have a title, but the album is completely done. We mastered the first single “How Can You Hurt Me” for release April 16th.

So you go from having total creative control over this thing to basically a new reality where people now have very little control.
It’s scary, but this thing is way bigger than me and my life and I have guitars here and my Pro Tools set-up. I’ll dive into what I know I can do and keep creating. There’s a lot to say right now; a lot of emotions and a lot of time.

It’s a good time to be creative?
Under these circumstances, I think creative people are the lucky ones. They are able to completely focus on their art, on their writing, on whatever they do. With so much going on, I’m sure everyone has a lot to say and express. Most of my friends are artists and musicians and nobody is just sitting around doing nothing. They’re painting, writing short stories, writing songs. Just looking at that is keeping the rest of us continuously inspired. It makes me want to make a new song. I might just write the next record. I think it’s the only way to stay sane right now.

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