Like 9/11, the coronavirus pandemic has triggered fear, shock and a sense that life will never return to normal. Nova Social’s “Holed Up” perfectly captures the essence of isolation, separation and fear that many of us experienced then and now.
Singer and multi-instrumentalist David Nagler and guitarist and sound artist Thom Soriano of the band Nova Social arranged and produced the previously unrecorded song (written by Nagler shortly after 9/11) and submitted it to NJArts.net’s Songs to See Us Through series. In the exceptionally haunting video below, filmed in Nagler’s Brooklyn home against a stark white wall, Nagler’s expressive face and gorgeous voice create a serene and intimate mood; the interjected images of two hands creating sound on a sampler give the film an eerie quality.
Nagler said that “Holed Up” was inspired by the fear and despair of the 9/11 era, but he considers the lyrics “more relevant than when first written.”
As he and Soriano perform, time stands still, as it did when the Twin Towers fell and as it does now, with everything closed. Nagler solemnly sings:
The last time I heard from you, you were holed up in a room
I could hear water running from within that little room
And you sighed. I heard that, too
And you said you’d come home soon …
This will be the way that I remember you, holed up in a room
Saying that was just your stomach rumbling and you’ll be home soon
But you don’t know how many other people there are just like you
Afraid of the daytime, afraid of the nighttime and holed up in a room.
“I started thinking about the song once this pandemic really started to hit in early-to mid-March,” said Nagler. “Being ‘holed up in a room’ might have been metaphoric or hyperbolic in 2001, but now, it is so many people’s actual situation — one that is, in some cases, a matter of life and death. Also, certain references in the song (coming home, coughing) feel unsettlingly timely.”
He added that after 9/11, “I remember walking around in a bit of a haze. I remember a feeling of unity for at least a few weeks or months, but I also remember a lot of isolation. Today, there’s also a feeling of unity, one that’s similarly inspired by sadness and loss, and many people now have to deal with their personal trauma in either partial or complete isolation. Though it’s probably more acceptable to be open about depression and trauma than it was in 2001, we also have social media, where you’re expected to put your best, most idealized self forward when possible.
“The song was inspired by what someone close to me seemed to be going through at that time. Living, working or just being in Manhattan in the fall of 2001 could be a difficult, somewhat triggering experience.”
Similarly, it is surreal to observe the changes in New York, now, with no traffic, Times Square empty, and cafes closed. There are no college students or tourists; the deserted city looks like it’s sleeping.
Nagler says he sang over the main keyboard part “and added a couple synths, and Thom added bass guitars along with assorted synths and sound textures.
“We’d played the song live a few times back in 2002 with a larger band, but there weren’t any essential elements besides the lyrics, melody and chords. So apart from those, it was almost like starting from scratch.
“My vocals in the video were filmed at my apartment in Brooklyn. It’s the actual vocal take from the recording. Thom sent me video that he made while recording his parts to the intro and bridge of the song at his house in Essex County, and I edited it together.”
Nagler, who hails from Wayne, is staying connected during the lockdown through his work (as a writer and producer for Comedy Central’s social media) and by checking in on friends and family.
“My experience has been, relatively speaking, okay,” he says. “My close family and friends are all healthy, I’m still employed and working remotely during the week. I try to make music when I’m feeling up to it — I recently did a virtual benefit show for Sid Gold’s Request Room and I occasionally work on new material — but I’m not overly demanding on myself. My main focus is staying healthy, getting lots of sleep, and being helpful and supportive to my family and friends.”
“Holed Up” affirms the connection of people like so many of us, right now, “holed up in a room” during this solitary time. The song also serves as reminder to check on friends and relatives who are isolated, to make sure they are not suffering from mental health issues.
Nova Social, a stylistically eclectic band formed in New Jersey in the late 1990s, has recorded three full-length records and three EPs, available at novasocial.bandcamp.com and other digital outlets. “Holed Up” is the band’s first new recording in six years.
Nagler also recorded the recent concept album Carl Sandburg’s Chicago Poems (featuring Jeff Tweedy, members of The Mekons and other artists) and The Appointees, Vol. 1 & 2 (songs about Trump cabinet members), plus his latest EP with his band The Legislation, Songs of Advice & Adversity. To support him, visit davidnagler.bandcamp.com.
Soriano records under the name The Kendal Mintcake. His latest release is the CD (always in a straight line, from centre to edge). He is the proprietor of the band’s imprint Big Sleep Records, which focuses on short-run records and cassettes of experimental sounds and songs. For information, visit bigsleeprecords.bandcamp.com/album/always-in-a-straight-line-from-centre-to-edge.
NJArts.net’s Songs to See Us Through series is designed to spotlight songs relevant to the coronavirus crisis and encourage readers to support the artists who made them (and won’t be able to generate income via concerts at this time). Click here for links to all songs in the series.
We encourage artists to email us submissions (newly recorded, if possible) at email@example.com. Please include links to sites such as Patreon and Venmo. Readers can also make suggestions via that email address.
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