Right about now, Michael C. Hall and his bandmates should be in the California desert playing an intimate show juxtaposed with the massive annual migration for Coachella, all before taking to the studio to record new music.
But none of that is happening. As the country battles an ongoing health crisis with the spread of COVID-19, the New York City-based trio is isolating at home (in their own homes, of course) in the state hardest hit by the pandemic while festivals have mostly been canceled or postponed, as is the case with Coachella.
"I’ve gone up to Stone Ridge in Ulster County," reveals Hall, speaking on the phone along with drummer Peter Yanowitz and keyboardist Matt Katz-Bohen. "It’s about an hour and 45 minutes from New York. It’s pretty much where I’m staying for the unforeseeable duration of this, however long that will be."
The three friends have formed a group called Princess Goes To The Butterfly Museum and they have just released their debut self-titled EP, which explores a diverse landscape ranging from Explosions in the Sky-esque cinematic sounds to the haunting aura of Nine Inch Nails. And while the release was certainly planned long before the virus took hold across the globe, they admit to having had reservations about the timing.
"Is it weird to be releasing this music right now?" asks Yanowitz, before Hall quips: "We’ve been holding off to release it during a pandemic. That was the plan."
Of course, none of this was truly planned. Since the end of his Emmy-nominated hit series Dexter, Hall has turned back to film and theatre, meeting Yanowitz and Katz-Bohen when they were all working together on the Broadway production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. And although Hall has the most high-profile name of the three, Yanowitz began his career playing drums in The Wallflowers and has collaborated with the likes of Yoko Ono, Andrew W.K. and Wilco, while Katz-Bohen spent the last decade touring and recording with Blondie in addition to his work with Boy George and Cyndi Lauper.
"We actually just started jamming, really for the joy of it," recalls Katz-Bohen, who says he and Yanowitz had started piecing some material together for fun and when Hall heard some of the demos, he noted the lack of vocals. "Mike said, 'There's no singing on here. It might be good to have that—singing.' And of course he just blew us all away. His voice is incredible and we wanted to just keep it going."
With their first EP out, the band intended to head to the desert and record another project in addition to playing a show at Pappy & Harriet's, the iconic honky tonk near Joshua Tree, where the likes of Paul McCartney, Leon Russell, Wanda Jackson, Vampire Weekend and Lorde have all performed. Now that those plans are on hold, the guys say they're playing it by ear. And they're not alone.
"It seems like everyone right now is just recording songs and then releasing them or doing live videos," says Hall. "Everyone is getting creative and I think a lot of people appreciate that."
And maybe the quarantine gives them an advantage, like a certain Netflix true crime docuseries. At least, that's one way to look it.
"Everyone is pretty much home with nothing to do," says Yanowitz, adding: "So that part does work. It’s either Princess Goes To The Butterfly Museum or Tiger King. Those are the options. That's it."
Like a lot things these days, what comes next is still somewhat of a mystery. But after playing a few recent shows in Brooklyn and around New York, the band hopes once the country starts coming back to life again, they'll expand and maybe jump on a tour or play more shows in different cities.
"We’ve got a lot of stuff going right now," says Hall, acknowledging the current shutdown gives the trio a chance to record and collaborate even at a distance. "Some new stuff is being mixed now and then we have at least another album—maybe two albums—of material that we’ll definitely be getting out."
Ultimately, the band is simply taking it a day at a time, much like most of the world. And sure, they've got a new EP to promote and perhaps a fall schedule to think about, but they're also keenly aware of the candor of this moment.
"We’re still recording and trying to stay busy," says Yanowitz. "But it’s honestly about staying creative and just encouraging each other and looking out for each other. That’s what's important right now."