Drug Hunt wants you to stay home (and make great art)

The members of San Diego-based band, Drug Hunt
(Courtesy photo)

The local band is committed to not letting the music die during a pandemic, starting with its upcoming quarantine project


Using women’s underwear as face masks. Wearing hazmat suits while drinking beer on the patio. Staying safe ... and staying the f*** home.

Since the beginning of quarantine in mid-March, Drug Hunt has been using its social media platforms to spread the word about stay-at-home orders. Rather than being preachy or corny, the local band employs humor and honesty in its online photos and captions when sharing this message to its audience.

“I feel like people panic and they have fear about the outcome, and I feel like if you can put a humorous spin on it ... then you can actually start a conversation, which is what we all (need) right now,” said guitarist Rory Morison.

Yet the jokes aren’t meant to downplay the gravity of coronavirus. Morison and his four bandmates — Jason Meyers (guitar and vocals), Nick Sinutko (keyboard), Jordan Searls (bass), and Ryan Schilawski (drums) — have been taking the pandemic seriously, staying committed to containing the virus, even when it hasn’t been easy.

“Definitely not being able to play music with my best friends at this moment is a difficult time,” Morison said.

Just like many local bands, the pandemic arrived at a less-than-ideal time for the five musicians. Drug Hunt — previously known as Bad Vibes — had gigs lined up for the next few months, and were just about to start recording a debut album in June. Though the canceled April and May shows were out of its control — both Soda Bar and the Casbah were forced to temporarily shutter in March — Drug Hunt also decided to postpone its in-person recording sessions.

To adapt with the times, a large number of musicians have swapped live shows with live streams. But Morison, who lives in University Heights, said he finds this trend a bit boring and generic.

“I feel like (live streams) are kinda contrived without an audience, so if it’s gonna be that case, might as well do something artistic and visual, like (have) some sort of artistic merit to the performance,” Morison said, adding that the band is balancing its reluctance to live streams with the persistent inquiries from its fans.

“At some point we gotta give the people what they want, at some degree, just under our own terms,” he said, laughing.

After some brainstorming and discussion — which one can assume was a spirited debate, as Morison describes the “brash” group of friends having an “egalitarian anarchy” approach to decision making — Drug Hunt determined to produce a special type of quarantine project. The band’s vision will come to virtual fruition on June 5.

Morison said the video project is representative of today’s reality. In a continuous performance, Drug Hunt will play two unrecorded songs. Though both were written before the pandemic, they ended up having similar themes to what the world is currently experiencing.

Under normal circumstances, Morison said Drug Hunt wouldn’t be ready to share these songs, so this quarantine rendition reveals the music (and musicians) exposed.

“We wanted to be fair in what this situation brings up, in musicians especially,” Morison said. “Like the physical need for connection in order to make music is a huge deal, so it will come off in the video as well. It’s grimy — it’s not by any means a pristine version of those songs.”

From setting up to performing, the band members followed as many shelter-in-place guidelines as they could. To prepare, they exchanged files virtually, but didn’t rehearse together before hitting record.

“(The project) is also an experiment of what happens when bands don’t practice in the same room,” Morison said, describing it as a humbling experience.

Morison doesn’t want to give too much away, but noted that the video will also feature candid voice overs, unusual social distancing outfits and other artistic elements to set itself apart from typical live streams. The pre-recorded show, which is donation-based, will premiere at 7 p.m. on its website and YouTube channel. After its premiere, the video will be available to watch throughout the month of June.

Some proceeds will go toward recording Drug Hunt’s album, and the rest of the donations will be split equally between various charities — PATH (People Assisting The Homeless), San Diego Food Bank, San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund — and music venues Morison said “were pivotal in helping us become the band we are today” which include the Casbah, Whistle Stop Bar, Soda Bar and Pour House.

Looking past the pandemic

The long (and indefinite) pause in the entertainment world begs the question: how will things shake out post-pandemic? Morison said he thinks it will cause a dramatic shift the music scene, but doesn’t know in which direction.

“(Post-pandemic) it will either be people are now interacting (primarily) through these live streams ... or people will be so hungry for physical contact that live shows will boom and people will wanna support artists.”

If the outcome turns out to be latter scenario, Drug Hunt’s music and art collective Bad Vibes and Good Friends will also flourish. Under this moniker, the band organizes and curates local events “to get rid of cliquiness in the San Diego music scene.”

Bad Vibes and Good Friends brings together a diverse group of bands and artists for genre-blending shows and mini-festivals, hosted at places like Whistle Stop Bar and the Casbah. Right before the city was forced to shelter-in-place, Morison was booking bands and scouting a Barrio Logan warehouse for an upcoming two-day music festival.

With concerts and festivals scheduled for 2020 being canceled left and right — even Wonderfront Festival, which was not happening until November — the future of live events in San Diego (and beyond) is looking bleak. But that doesn’t mean the creative process has to be put on hold.

“Hopefully people come out of this quarantine with great art,” Morison said. “Hopefully that’s what (the pandemic) is doing — cooking up a bunch of great art.”