Producing in a pandemic: local artists release new music

Iowa City musicians Elizabeth Moen and Elly Hofmaier found time to create music during a pandemic-motivated break from performing due to COVID-19.


Photo Illustration by Megan Conroy/Photos by Wyatt Dlouhy

Megan Conroy, Arts Reporter

For Elizabeth Moen and Elly Hofmaier, finding down time to create while at home doesn’t happen often. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, both musicians have found themselves with ample time to write, record, and produce music.

Moen, having been on tour for the majority of the past three years, said she had the choice of affording rent or touring — so she chose to tour. The artist knew she’d eventually have to settle down, and the pandemic played a big role in that.

“I could feel myself needing some sort of moment where I said, ‘This year you’ve got to find at least a couple months where you don’t work and maybe figure out a plan of not sleeping on couches,’” Moen said. “And then the pandemic happened, everything got canceled, and I was like ‘Woah, guess I have to do this thing I knew I was supposed to do anyway.’”

The time at home has provided Moen and Hofmaier with more opportunities to sit down and construct new music.

With the assistance of Capel Howorth, bassist from Anthony Worden and the Illiterati, Hofmaier has been able to learn how to use recording software, which she described as a dream come true. Hofmaier finds most of her inspiration from live shows, but said that spending time at home has given her the opportunity to learn how to produce music on her own.

“Finally being able to take control of things like recording, then making a beat for the first time, and getting to be excited about it was so surprising and good,” Hofmaier said.

Moen said having the time to learn how to play instruments and to produce her own recordings is a privilege. Pre-pandemic, she would only record a few takes, but with the down time she said she can do as many as she likes until the song feels right.

RELATED: How Iowa based musicians are coping with the loss of their normal lives during times of social distancing

Her first single off of her new EP of the same name, Creature of Habit, will be released on Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, and Deezer Oct. 13. She said the EP is different, and even a little stranger, than her previous work. The EP was recorded at a combination of Flat Black Studios in Iowa City, her basement, and pianist Avery Mossman’s basement. She describes the EP as, “lofi, somber synth, country, R&B, and punk.”

“I played around with different parts of my voice,” Moen said. “Usually, I try to stick to the certain window that’s my comfort zone. With this EP, a lot of it was low, a lot of it is not trying to be controlled. I think it’s a strength to have control in your voice, but you have to let go and I think this EP is me kind of just doing that.”

Hofmaier’s new alt rock doom single will be released Oct. 9, from her EP titled Brain Gamez. The single is titled, “Wut Do U Want From Me.” The bulk of the single was recorded in her home studio, but the finishing touches were completed at Howorth’s. The end of the single is an impromptu guitar feature from Sam Farrell who was at the house at the time.

“It’s different than what I have put on the internet because it’s the only studio production I’ve done before,” Hofmaier said. “I’m still trying to experiment with things and learn different sounds and the vocabulary of music. What you’ll hear are songs that we’ve really taken time to experiment and hopefully get right.”

The time spent working on new music amid the unique state of the world has provided both Hofmaier and Moen room to experiment with new techniques and to grow as artists. Moen added that she probably writes one song per week during her downtime not on tour.

“I’m very proud of the upcoming EP. It shows that you don’t have to fit in one box. Don’t put yourself in one box, don’t let others put you in one box,” Moen said. “I think it’s showing the continual growth and changing, and that there’s always room to grow as an artist.”