Coronavirus sends rock band home after SXSW gets canceled

Sweet Pill performing at a 4333 collective show. Because of coronavirus, future concerts are canceled; however, Sweet Pill will be performing during a Twitch livestream tomorrow, Friday, May 1. Photo / Julia Conner

Sweet Pill left Glassboro on March 7, traveling south in their blue bus with excitement for their first tour. While on the road, South by Southwest (SXSW), one of the largest music festivals in Austin, Texas, canceled to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The tour, featuring 17 appearances, ended prematurely, on the way to a show in Houston, Texas on March 12, as the country braced for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The money from the shows and merch sales were supposed to cover the cost of food, gas and bus repairs. Sweet Pill ended up 1,400 miles away from home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with no income to help cover bus repairs. It cost them over $1,200 to fix the starter, change the spark plug and other expenses. Zayna Youssef, the lead singer, said jokingly that they would all eat each other if they were stranded on a deserted highway.

“We did cover the cost of bus expenses, but we could’ve made an additional $3,000 off these shows that would’ve payed for some of the bus and buying the bus and covering our merchandise costs. We’re out of money,” said Jayce Williams, senior business music industry major at Rowan University who plays bass.

Currently, the band has two T-shirt designs for $15 each (with the option to name your price) and all the sales go directly to the band. One of the designs includes the iconic blue bus. Both designs can be purchased here. However, Designer Wraps is unable to print anymore shirts because they are closed due to the virus. Sweet Pill said on Instagram they will fulfill orders as soon as possible.

This Friday at 8 p.m. Sweet Pill along with Regrown, Elephant Jake, Carly Cosgrove and James O’Shea will be live streaming on Twitch, which is the last night of Quarantour in New Jersey.

They also created an OnlyFans account where fans can listen to exclusive demos. Venmo donations are also being accepted.

While reading this article, you may be wondering “who is Sweet Pill?”

The pop-punk-emo group consists of five members. When Youssef is not singing, she does graphic design at Designer Wraps in Pitman. She graduated Rowan University last year with a bachelor’s degree in arts. Williams, the bass player, created the 4333 collective, a music venue located in Glassboro. Chris Kearney, the drummer, is the only member from Pennsylvania. Then there’s Jack Meidel who plays guitar and Dylan Walker, the newest member who plays bass and vocals.

In December, they released two new songs with Know Hope Records called “Miss This” and “Tell Me.”

“’Miss This’ is pretty much miss this. You miss what you don’t have, so you take for granted the things you have,” said Youssef. “’Tell me’ is someone telling you a secret and you kind of feel special when someone’s telling you a secret like ‘oh they told me’ and that’s not the point of a secret. The point of a secret is someone’s confiding in you — they’re being vulnerable. It’s like being selfish and manipulative like ‘this is all for me’ when it’s really not.”

One of their older singles “Best of Me” is about the hardship of cutting someone out of your life. When Youssef writes lyrics, she thinks about a mishmash of specific experiences that share the same feeling.

Sweet Pill is gaining recognition as local artists through the streaming of their music on Spotify.

“Top Nachos did an Australian tour and now Sweet Pill has 60 monthly listeners from Australia on Spotify. That’s because they like Top Nachos and they see us touring with them, so now they listen to us,” said Williams.

Top Nachos helped set up the majority of shows with Sweet Pill on the way down to Texas. They are also driving back home.

While the band didn’t get to finish their first national tour, they are grateful for the shows they were able to put together such as the Original 13 show in Philadelphia and the DIY Prom in Glassboro. Later this year, Sweet Pill aims to release a full length LP with 12 songs.

“When you’re living in a small area with five people, they’re your family. It’s unlike anything that I’ve experienced,” said Williams.

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