Dundee duo ST. MARTiiNS are as intriguing a proposition as any in Scotland’s pop music landscape. Katie Lynch and Mark Johnston’s musical partnership of well over a decade is encapsulated perfectly by a recently released mini album, Hoping For The Worst, that manages to resist easy classification.
Juggling electronica, indie-pop and jazz influences, it thrives as a cohesive body of work best appreciated as a whole. With the seven-track collection released on the eve of the Covid-19 enforced Lockdown, Lynch has been pondering what happens next both in music and in life.
How have your attempts at writing through the lockdown been?
If I’m being honest, I’ve found it much easier to write. I don’t find time at home particularly taxing and I love my own company, so without work to go to and without people to see there’s been no excuse not to write the ideas that have been present in my mind for a while. I think it’s really important that artists are documenting how this time period has affected them, others and life generally. It has had such a specific feeling to it all and people will definitely be finding solace in the arts throughout and when this is over.
What are your thoughts on the whole livestream gig scene?
We haven’t livestreamed and we don’t plan on doing so. I’ve put a few of them on whilst I’ve been working on things in the house which has been mildly entertaining but I just feel it worrying potential for the future of music. I think live shows are so important for people’s well being, being able to first hand engage with music they love. Also just for keeping so many venues open and people in jobs. We want them to still be there for when we get back. I think it is definitely an avenue that works for some people, but just not for us.
You mentioned the precarious state of things for musicians – has the current climate made you think about the music industry whether changes are necessary?
I’ve thought about this all a great deal. If anything this pandemic has highlighted major cracks in the systems we all live under. How unsustainably we are all living, how little people’s lives are actually valued. The arts, like everything, have absolutely fallen victim to capitalism. The ‘product’ of artists ripped from them whilst people in charge decide its value. My hope is that the time away from it all will make people realise the sheer importance of the arts and how they’ve kept everyone company in this time. I hope that people will be really excited to get back to live shows, to support their favourite bands more because they’ve seen first hand how little support there’s been for artists when things are abnormal.
Have you started anything new at this time? Any new skills you fancy doing?
Not really, I’ve just kind of spent my days how I want to on the day. Some day I’ll do a lot of cleaning, or I’ll do lots of facemasks and my nails. Other days I just sit at the window and am lucky if I even read a few pages of my book. I think it depends more how overwhelmed I feel with the outside world that day. I go for a walk around 8pm every night though and I’m so lucky to live at the top of a hill with beautiful views and I get really excited about that time of day. Also I feel like I literally live for eating at the moment but I don’t really care, I’m just trying my best to stay safe and healthy. I’ve applied for my masters (in Psychotherapy and Counselling at Abertay University) which is something I literally just kept putting off.
Has the change of pace made you consider the meaning of productivity?
Absolutely and I hate how productivity goes almost directly hand in hand with guilt. I’ve seen so many people online asking what you want to achieve in this time and I’m like ‘but we’re living in a pandemic?’ It is hard not to be drawn into that train of thought that you’re not doing enough, that I should be running a marathon every day and still presenting myself and what I’ve achieved for all the world to see. I’ve definitely realised how false productivity actually can be, how much of a facade it is, an idea used to control people’s lives. I think people will find it very difficult to return to the rat race when they’ve seen how unnecessary that actually is. It has definitely redefined how I feel about myself and what I’m making things for.
Finally – what was it like releasing new music during this strange time?
We were lucky to have released Hoping For The Worst the weekend right before lockdown. I think it’s definitely something that people need to really listen to in full and I think that this is the perfect opportunity. We are also really lucky that our vinyl was delivered to everyone as well in time. It was a shame that our tour was cancelled but, as it transpired, that has been a really positive thing for us as well. We put the work out, we are proud of it – however it’s received. With ST. MARTiiNS, we always pretty much couldn’t believe it had gone as far as it did.
Hoping For The Worst is out now via Assai Records and LAB Records.
photo: Douglas Hill