Music

Meet the band that made a song without ever meeting

Brought to you by nbn™

To showcase the possibilities of improved access to the internet, nbn is giving budding musicians from around the country the chance to be part of a virtual band, using the power of access to a fast and reliable broadband network.

What do Guns N’ Roses, Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and The Pixies have in common? They exist because musicians answered classified ads, met up with other musicians, and got together to jam in a room. But in 2017, that’s all changed. In 2017, bands are just as capable of coming together in their own rooms – even if they’re on opposite sides of the country.

Say g’day to Two Sense, a three-piece Australian band who’ve never met. Two Sense exists exclusively online – necessarily so, given that its members reside in Melbourne, Wollongong in NSW, and Bunbury in Western Australia. They’ve created their band in an entirely virtual world, forming bonds, building ideas and making music through screens, sharing large files, Google Hangouts, FaceTime, the list goes on.

The trio came together online over the course of about two months. Under the guise of producer and Prince-endorsed musician Harts, they’ve worked together and written a song.

So how exactly did the band get together?

Building an online relationship was no mean feat. “We used Google Hangout a lot,” says Wollongong-based guitarist and singer Leo (Lucy Mills). We all got to know each other and meet Harts and it went from there. We organised ourselves, planned when we could all get together. We just Facetimed back and forth, sent a lot of emails and large files, but I got the most out of the Hangouts.”

Lucy and Rowena (who comes from Brunswick in Melbourne) came from a folk music background, where they’d only ever played with other musicians in the same room. Bunbury-based producer Jayden, on the other hand, had only ever worked online with other producers, but was equally surprised by the benefits of that immediate, personal interaction.

“I’d never worked face-to-face or in a studio but this was different,” he says. “We did lots of Google Hangouts. I’d never done that before, it’s normally Facebook messaging. At the start we couldn’t get on the same page, but within about 20 minutes of video calling we knew what we were doing. In the end I think it wouldn’t have made a difference if we were sitting in the same room or on opposite sides of the country.”

Jayden Rando: “Within about 20 minutes of video calling we knew what we were doing.” (Photo: Facebook)

Although coming from opposite sides of the musical spectrum, the artists each faced their own challenges during the process. For Jayden, the challenge was more about working with recording artists for the first time.

“It was hard having phone recordings – they would send me their audio, I’d build the track off that, then they’d go into the studio and send me the finished product and then I’d set that out … It was tough to learn how each person worked, we had to combine our ways to make it easy for everyone. But once you start getting in the groove it fell together pretty well.”

Leo’s biggest challenge was acclimatising to the digital environment. “When you’re in the same room as your band you can get inspired by the things around you. When you’re all in completely separate places, doing completely different things with your life, we didn’t know what was going on for each other. I found it difficult to know where people are coming from, what the inspiration was, what we were actually writing about.”

“We’d send messages back and forth”

Logistically, too, it wasn’t easy at first. “Trying to figure out who was doing what was tricky,” says Leo, “because you’d say, ‘alright I’m gonna go work on this, and then we’d go away for a week, but you were unsure if you were stepping on someone else’s toes or doing something you weren’t meant to be doing.’ While difficult at first, the problems were approached in the most simple method possible: talking. “We’d send messages back and forth, find out if there was confusion about who was doing what or what’s gonna happen on a part of the song,” she says. “We’d arrange to chat, jump online, have a face to face, nut it out. We’d get out guitars, or Rando would put up his computer screen so we could see the production. So even if you’re not in the same room, you get the face to face time. A lot can be lost in text.”

Ten or 20 years ago, the idea of a virtual band would’ve been laughable (well, unless you’re talking about Gorillaz). There’s no way a band would’ve had the resources or capability to create music on the internet without ever meeting. Sure, you could email, but passion – the kind of fiery passion that demarcates incredible music from just plain good – happens in the kind of moment that can’t exist in text alone. “There’s so much you can gain from reading someone’s facial expressions and tone of voice when you’re showing them an idea,” says Leo. “And, you can show them on an instrument rather than try to put it to words. It made a huge difference.”

Wollongong-based guitarist and singer Lucy Mills aka Leo. (Image: Supplied)

As difficult as it was, Two Sense overcame the hurdles – and learnt a great deal in the process. For Jayden, it’s revolutionised the way he works, even though he’s accustomed to working online. “Even now, when I’ve had people ask to work together, I’ve said to jump on FaceTime. They ask why and I’ll say, ‘just trust me.’ It’s definitely shown me an easier way to do things.”

For Leo the experience has had an effect on her creative process – one that she hopes to explore more in future. “It felt restrictive because you can’t be in the same room, but it was also pushes you to be more creative. It felt more experimental, there were no other boundaries.

“In bands you usually hook up with people who are on the same page: you play the same sort of music, you live in the same area. Sometimes it can be a bit boring, or it can turn out the same as every other band in the place. It was interesting to chuck three people together and make something different.”

Australia’s first virtual band relied on fast internet to create an original song. Learn more about Two Sense and how the recent nbn experiment brought them together by clicking here.