Not That Bad: A Look at DIY Band Life During the Pandemic

Interview conducted by: Josie Stahler

Hailing from Long Beach, the land of acts varying from Snoop Dogg to Sublime, Not That Bad seeks to bring a modern punk performance to a post-pandemic world. WLUW had the opportunity to chat with the lead vocalist of Not That Bad, Isaac Foster, on the challenges posed by COVID-19 on music life and the excitement of moving on to the next chapter in the performance world.

So, tell me a little bit about how your band first formed, and how it’s probably changed over the course of the pandemic. 

So, we actually have been a band for a while now. I mean, Graham and I started in high school. I think I was a sophomore, so we’ve been doing Not That Bad, at least me and him, for four or five years. We started because me and Graham were introduced through a mutual friend, and then we just started playing music in his garage ’cause I played guitar and he played drums. We were just a two-piece band for a while. We did our first show at Millikan High School, where he went to high school, and then from there, we added a bass player. It wasn’t Sofia who we have now. So, we were a three-piece at another point, but then about two years ago we added Chris and Sofia, the band that we have now. It’s a four-piece. We got me, sometimes on rhythm guitar and other times singing, and then Chris is lead guitar. Sofia is bass and then Graham on drums. 

From left to right: Isaac Foster on vocals, Chris Murillo on guitar, and Sofia Amores on bass.

Photos by: Abbey Casarez @abbeycasarez

That’s cool, so your band has developed over the course of a couple years then. What has it been like to be a band in the pandemic? Have there been challenges or maybe little blessings that you didn’t realize? 

It was a weird time to be a band ’cause I also throw shows too. I actually threw this show on March 13th, 2020, which was the first day there was a stay-at-home order, so that was like the first day we realized it was over. There was definitely a noticeable less of a turnout and then after that live music was destroyed completely. During COVID it was just no live music of any kind. We also didn’t practice for a really long time because Graham’s parents were really strict about social distancing, and we practiced at his place, so we couldn’t really meet up ’cause we were four people, and you’re not supposed to meet up. We just kind of didn’t really practice much, at least through the chunky part of the pandemic, where no one was doing anything. I think we started practicing…I actually made up a song the day we returned, which was November 4th, so it’s like from March 13th to November 4th we really didn’t do anything, but we slowly started getting back into it and then we had time to write a bunch of new songs. Once we did get back into it, we didn’t have the pressure of like, “Oh we have to get this song done before we play this show.” We just had time to write and we got a few new songs done. 

That’s cool! Obviously, I’ve noticed you guys are starting to do some live shows. You guys have a house show coming up. How exciting is that for you? What’s your favorite part of performing live? 

Well, definitely it’s not just performing live, but going to shows and being in this tight knit community. Just going to shows every weekend was something that me, Graham, Chris, and Sofia do in our free time, so it’s really exciting to play shows, but also great just to be back in. You know the last show we played at the skate park I saw a bunch of people that I just haven’t seen in a year and a half, so I think one of the most exciting things is to see all the people that I missed over the course of the pandemic. 

How does it feel to finally return to that performing aspect? 

Well, it’s definitely cool. I mean, we’re a punk band so I feel like a lot of it is the energy that you get from the audience reacting to you. It’s really nice to get back, especially ’cause we get a lot of people that come out and dance to our music, but it’s nice to see people you know move around and just have a good time, because there’s nothing worse than being in a punk band with a wall of standing people. 

Yeah exactly. It’s totally about the energy the crowd brings. I know a bunch of kids who keep watching your videos over and over of the live performances and think, “Man, I wish I could just be there!” 

Yeah, well you guys totally can see us live now. 

Yeah, hopefully soon. I have to find a way to get to California. Have you learned anything throughout the pandemic as a band that maybe you’ll carry with you into this next chapter, into the new normal? 

Well, I mean, at least for me personally I kind of missed being in a band and really just doing the whole thing. It’s not like I ever thought, “Oh, I take this for granted” in any way, but it’s just when something isn’t there you really miss it more. It’s also because Graham, Chris, and Sofia are some of my closest friends. I just missed seeing them and being with them. I mean, we’ve always been really tight, But you know, it’s just like a newfound love for everyone once they’re gone.

Left: Chris Murillo on guitar, Right: Graham Wojcik on drums.

Photos by: Abbey Casarez @abbeycasarez

Yeah, absolutely, I totally get it. Distance makes the heart grow fonder. Now that you’re back, do you have any upcoming projects that you’re working on? Or maybe any goals? 

Yeah, we definitely are working on doing an album eventually. We don’t wanna just do an EP or just a couple of songs. We started off with a ton of momentum and then COVID happened, and now we started writing again. As we’re writing right now, I feel like we’re making better songs than we ever have, so we’re sort of just playing with that and seeing if we keep creating more and more songs, even if we have a surplus, we can just compile the best ones. We’re just writing a ton, kind of preparing for eventually going into a studio, the studio being my friend, Jacob’s living room, (laughs) but he’s like legit in his living room and then we’ll go there and eventually release a full album is the goal. 

That’s awesome. Are you thinking of putting it on Spotify? Apple Music? The full shebang? 

Oh yeah. Definitely, and we’d probably make little bootleg CD’s too.

Oh, that would be so fun. So in addition to writing music, have you been listening to any music? Any band recommendations for our listeners? 

I have a bunch, but I’m just going to throw local music out there. There’s Big Fun. They just released a really good album! Like they’re going to blow up and definitely be touring or something. So I say Big Fun is a big one. Wacko, I don’t think they’re going to be touring through Chicago, but they’re touring soon and they’re a local band, so I keep an eye out for Wacko ’cause they make really good music Also, Whaja Dew, and then also The Gems from Long Beach, they’re probably our favorite, so we have to shout them out ’cause they’re our favorites. Those are the bands that I would recommend for your listeners, and they’re all in Los Angeles, Orange County, and Long Beach. 

OK, that’s perfect. We’re always looking for new artists to play on the station. Is there anything else that you want to say? Maybe about the band or just to the readers on the blog in general? 

If you’re from Southern California, or if you’re not, we have one song on Bandcamp that’s on a pretty cool compilation with a bunch of other local artists! Always stay up to date with us because we’re doing more and more shows. We have one in Santa Ana, one in Los Angeles, and one in Long Beach coming up, but I know you’re in Chicago, so it would be pretty tough to get here. 

We can all just fly out. Take a WLUW road trip. 

(Laughs) yeah for sure. Alright, thank you so much for reaching out. 

Follow Not That Bad on Instagram and check out their song on Bandcamp here!

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