The past year has been incredibly rocky for the music industry. Album sales and streaming are down, and live music in all its forms is, for the moment, pretty much a thing of the past. Small acts have to rely on streams and sales for revenue without the support and promotion of prominent labels. For three Philly-based indie acts, though, the pandemic hasn’t been all bad: it’s given them a chance to create, reflect, and plan.
On a Zoom call from her home in Philly, Sophie Coran, a 30-year-old singer-songwriter, is gearing up for the release of her debut album, S P A C E. Coran self-describes her genre as “Noir&B,” a laid-back amalgamation of R&B, soul and jazz, with a generous sprinkle of old-school nostalgia and charm. S P A C E is an album three years in the making, but the final result was achieved during quarantine and released on April 9 for online streaming and purchase.
Prior to the pandemic, Coran was planning a tour with her band to coincide with her album release. After its cancelation amid state lockdowns, S P A C E’s release was postponed. But to Coran, it was a blessing in disguise, giving her more time to perfect the album. But, at the same time, she said, the loss of live shows was disheartening. She dealt with it by reminding herself that every other artist in the world was in the same situation.
“In a way, I came to terms with it,” Coran says. “And it’s like, okay, well, I can focus on recording and writing, and then when shows come back, I can jump back into that and focus on that, and by the time we can go on tour, maybe I’ll be touring two albums.”
Even as a child, Nuge knew he could rap. The 20-year-old hip-hop artist lived in New York until he was 12, and then moved to Washington, DC before recently settling in North Philadelphia. But it was at his elementary school in Manhattan where he first discovered that he could freestyle.
“Kids go crazy [making beats] on the lunch tables,” Nuge says. “And basically, if you can rap and you can freestyle, then that’s a cool thing to be able to do. So in elementary school, I was doing that shit.”
Nuge is all grown up now, and he hasn’t stopped rapping. On his debut album “Little Thoughts,” which was released on May 1, 2020, Nuge floats effortlessly and melodically over bouncy trap beats, cooly reflecting on love and boasting an extravagant lifestyle. While the album was written and recorded before the pandemic, it was released during the first few months of lockdown, during a time where Nuge was feeling creatively stagnant. His remedy for bad days in quarantine? Making more music, of course. The process of making music is “therapeutic” for him, he says, and it’s given him something to do during repetitive days.
Despite current circumstances, Nuge has big plans. When asked where he’d be five years from now, in a perfect post-pandemic world, he immediately had an answer.
“In Paris, right before my European tour,” Nuge says. “I’m gonna be in my house in Paris with all my best friends getting ready for my tour. I might be in a bathtub with some champagne, maybe a Parisian model if I’m lucky. Yeah, that’s pretty much my next five years.”
Gloss, the creative brainchild of three students at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, just might be the girl band that saves the 2020s. The band consists of 21-year-old Sophia Grosshauser on vocals and piano, 20-year-old Mollie Schechter on drums, and 19-year-old Harlee Torres on bass. Initially, Gloss was nothing more than an idea Grosshauser and Schechter had as a response to the lack of women in the music program at UArts.
“We wanted to start something that was all girls, but there were not enough female instrumentalists at the school at the time,” Grosshauser says. “So we waited a year, and talked about this plan, like, all the time. And then Harlee came, and we just all wrote songs together really well, and it just kind of worked out.”
With Torres’ arrival at UArts, Gloss found their bassist. They started rehearsing in February 2020, just before the pandemic hit. Over quarantine, the band recorded multiple songs from remote locations, states away from one another. Their debut EP, titled Entwined, released onMarch 26.
Gloss’ unique sound blends vintage jazz, Latin and R&B elements with a refined alt-pop sensibility. They’ve also taken time over quarantine to perfect their visual aesthetic as a group, which reads as a charming and eclectic blend of bright colors that brings to mind the girl groups of a bygone era. Since Gloss was a relatively new band when lockdown began, they’ve yet to play any live shows—but when the time comes, Schechter said they’ll be ready.
“Our big goal for the pandemic is just to get as tight as possible so that as soon as it’s over, and as soon as we can perform again, we’re ready,” Grosshauser says. “That’s kind of been our game plan mindset, just to write and come up with sets. It’s just been like, ‘We’re ready.’”
Photos by Jeremy Elvas.