I had a sit down with Chad Canfield of the band Vardo late 2019, so we were due for an update about the band, the Steampunk community, and life for performers in general during 2020.
PD: Hey Chad! Thanks for joining us again here on Steampunk Journal.
CC: Thank you so much! It’s always a pleasure to chat with you, Phoebe!
PD: Obviously, this has been a really strange year for Steampunk and the greater entertainment sector as a whole. What kinds of things are musicians and other types of performers dealing with? Anything that might surprise those of us who aren’t in the industry?
CC: Yes, this virus really has changed everything about the entertainment industry. The obvious issue for performers is the lack of income. Between financial loss from ticket sales, stipends, and in-person merchandise sales, we have lost thousands in income. I sure do miss our meet-and-greet events, as it’s always a treat interacting with our fans and signing CDs, posters, tickets, etc.
As for a window into the soul of a performer, there is a certain gratification and dopamine rush missing from performing and meeting with fans, and the lack thereof has definitely affected many performers’ self-esteem and personal value. There is sure to be a lot of sad songs coming in the future.
PD: Have you seen any creative solutions that people have tried to stay connected to the community and their fan base? Anything you think we’ll see continuing on even after we can get together in person again?
CC: I have been enjoying watching the many livestream performances on social media, and it warms my heart to know that there are folks who are donating and sending tips to performers via PayPal, Venmo, etc. Offering private concerts via Zoom, Messenger, Cameo, or other services may be the future of private events.
I foresee that the livestream trend will continue for many years to come. In fact, I predict that performers, venues, conventions, festivals, and the like will be offering a separate ticket for streaming services to those who aren’t comfortable attending events that host large groups. Many venues already have multi-camera systems installed, and this type of service could be easily incorporated into events. The income generated would have to cover the costs of equipment and crew, yet still benefit the performers and hosts as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if the cost of in-home viewing exceeds the cost of attending the event in person. Venues may even give some amount of tickets away, in order to boost in-person attendance and generate income from food and drink sales to help keep their employees happy with tips.
With the several streaming services offered, many folks have become accustomed to consuming their favorite media from the comfort of their homes. Personally, getting me out of sweatpants and a hoodie, and into a pair of trousers and a waistcoat may prove to be difficult.
I also foresee many folks continuing to socially-distant themselves and mask, even after the immediate threat passes. Fortunately for the incredibly creative steampunk community, masks have, and will always fit the style and aesthetics of steampunk. I imagine we’ll also be seeing hand sanitizing stations as commonplace at steampunk and other conventions for the foreseeable future as well, and it may be awhile before we see the crowds we’re used to at our favorite events. To be honest, this experience has educated a lot of folks on how fragile we truly are, and that being extra cautious during cold and flu season is very important: the infamous “con-crud” may finally be behind us!
PD: Have you noticed (or considered) any kind of shift toward platforms like Patreon or other project-based crowdfunding type platforms to keep people afloat?
I’ve been active on Patreon for nearly two years. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the patrons that have continued their support through all of this. It keeps me going, and keeps me creating fun content to share with them. Having their monetary support really does make a difference, but I have lost many patrons over the past year. I understand that many of my fans are struggling to keep afloat themselves, and my heart aches for them: we are all in this together and I am grateful for those who have stuck it out with me.
I’ll admit, however, getting folks to be engaging on Patreon can be difficult, and can definitely affect one’s self-esteem. The majority of us have been living in a world of social media reactions and comments for years, and on sites that folks frequent, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., it’s much easier to get them to engage, which is accompanied by that instant gratification and dopamine rush I had mentioned previously. With Patreon, however, email notifications are sent out when a creator posts, and oftentimes, folks are not as quick to check their emails, engage, and show their support in other ways that fuel creativity.
We (Vardo) just reached our crowdfunding goal on GoFundMe to cover our Winter storage fees, and we are beyond grateful for the support we have received through this transition in entertainment. I’ve been storing our touring equipment in my studio for the last year, and it’s been really difficult to complete our recordings with giant drums, xylophones, organs, harpsichords, pianos, etc. taking up much-needed space. I’ve been moving it from room-to-room and corner-to-corner for months, just trying to get as much music completed and released as possible. It’s been difficult doing it on my own, but for the safety of my wife, child, and myself, we have not been hosting anyone. Our music and merchandise sales have been the only income we’ve had, so getting new content and merchandise released is a big priority. We’re hopeful that our music can also help others to bring some light into these dark times.
Once I am able get our studio space cleared and properly prepared, I will be completing a professional performance space for live-streaming and performance videos, so that you can safely welcome Vardo into your own space. Any additional funds generated from donations will go towards making this space the best it can be, and hopefully, our livestream performances can aid in bringing in much needed income for the foreseeable future.
PD: How has the pandemic affected Vardo specifically? I know you were all set to start a big tour in 2020.
CC: Yes, our intention was to tour nationwide for 2020, and then bring the show to our international fans in 2021. At this time, we’re unsure how, when, or if we will be able to get back on the road.
We (Vardo) have been doing our best to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. We’ve temporarily removed our dance instructional video for “The Cog Song” and “Dance of the Clock” to help promote social distancing, as group dancing with close contact and high fives is not something that we’re comfortable promoting at this time. We’ve also removed the single from other streaming services, such as: Spotify, iTunes/Apple Music, Pandora, etc… Although, “The Cog Song” and “The Cog Song: Clockwork Remix Pack” are still available on our Bandcamp page for those who would still like to support us, enjoy, and reimagine the music. Hopefully the entire, current Vardo discography will be back on all streaming services by time 2021 comes to a close.
We have also pushed back the release of the upcoming, “Dizzy Devil Dance” for the same reason. We want to see ALL of our fans dancing together WHEN it is safe to do so.
I have personally funded Vardo from my own pocket since its inception and have purchased nearly every instrument we use for our performances and studio recording, so sinking an enormous amount of funding into preparing for touring has definitely affected me and my family. Typically, Vardo is self-sustainable, but with no performance income coming in for over a year, 2020 has been really tough on us.
PD: Do you have any advice for your fellow creatives about keeping that artistic spark alive over this bizarre long haul? Has focus or motivation been an issue for you at all personally?
CC: The best advice I can give is to try your best to keep on a schedule: perhaps get into bullet journaling and habit tracking to keep up with your goals and personal expectations. I know it seems like we’re never going to get back to how our lives and industries have been in the past, and I’m not sure if we ever will, but trying to find new ways to keep your own creativity flowing is important.
As for me, personally, my number-one job is being “Daddy,” and it can be tough to keep on track while trying to keep a toddler entertained. Oftentimes, creativity sparks at inopportune moments, but I always have a recording device or notepad to capture my ideas and inspirations until I can revisit them, and I always do my best to include my son when inspiration strikes.
I encourage creatives to keep positive with a message of hope for our future, taken from the lyrics of Vardo’s “Heya-Heya” (featured on the upcoming “No Borders”):
We will fight. We will stand together. Though we may fall, We will fall together. But we will rise And we will fly.
PD: Have you picked up any unexpected hobbies or habits to wile away the hours?
CC: I’ve been building lots of unique and interesting “instruments” for my own personal use, and to sell to make up for lost finances. I’m hopeful to have an online shop up and running soon, so be sure to keep an eye out for “Mad Chad Labs!”
I’ve also been writing a lot of new music, and working on several other musical projects for my groups, TΩMA, Richard Cranium, and other secret Kenebula Records’ releases for 2021-2022. I have been working on multiple film scores as well, but reaching our GoFundMe goal will allow me to get my studio cleared out and modified, so that I can move forward with these projects. We are still accepting donations, however, as the additional funding will go towards making our space and productions the best products that they can be, and to help fund new merchandise. Donations can still be made on GoFundMe, and via PayPal, Venmo, and by joining me on Patreon for a behind-the-scenes look into our productions.
PD: What’s next for Vardo? Anything you are bursting to tell people about?
CC: The next several months will be big for Vardo. We currently have five releases in production, and if all goes smoothly, we hope to release them all throughout 2021-2022. The upcoming releases, “Dizzy Devil Dance” and “No Borders” are nearest to completion, both of which are currently scheduled for release in early 2021. Pre-orders for these releases are available on our Bandcamp page. We’re also still working to complete the eclectic, “Arcadia Infierno” and the official follow-up sequel to our debut record, “Once Upon a time in the Midwest” titled, “The Devil Rides Again.”
We are also planning to release some new merchandise through our Bandcamp page as well, so be sure to check in on us regularly and show your support for Vardo in style!
We still have several concepts for music videos, but we’re only planning to move forward with production when it is safe to do so.
Lastly, although Vardo has retired as TeslaCon’s “official steampunk orchestra,” I am continuing to work with Emperor Bobbins (Formerly Lord Bobbins: A.K.A. – Eric Larson) to create the musical and ambient soundtracks for both TeslaCon and ExpectoCon, as well as some new concepts that his creative mind is consistently dreaming up. Eric and I have a great working and personal relationship, and we fuel each other’s creativity. He has become family to us, and our son knows him as “Papa Eric.”
PD: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me today. Good luck in the year to come!
CC: Thank you for making time to catch up with me, Phoebe! May 2021 safely bring us all together again!
Where Can You Find Out More About Vardo?
Chad Canfield: https://chadcanfield.bandcamp.com
Richard Cranium: https://richardcraniumsideshow.bandcamp.com
Kenebula Records: https://kneb.bandcamp.com
Chad Canfield: https://facebook.com/madchadcanfield
Richard Cranium: https://facebook.com/richardcraniumsideshow
Kenebula Records: https://facebook.com/kenebula
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