Overcoming the challenges of a virtual band

Creating a song without ever meeting was the daunting prospect for these three ambitious musicians.

When offered the unique project of creating a musical track without ever meeting each other in person, musicians Jayden Rando, Rowena Wise and Lucy ‘Leo’ Mills all jumped at the chance.

Based in Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, the three artists worked with the help of acclaimed musician, Harts, to come up with an original song.

The group relied heavily on the internet to overcome some of the obstacles to creating their track. With only a short amount of time in which to collaborate and deliver a finished product, there were several hurdles to overcome.  

Getting to know each other

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Having been pulled together from different parts of the country, each individual set out to get to know their new band members by jumping online.

“I hadn’t heard or met either Rowena or Rando before so I did some research to discover how successful they both are as individuals and driven people and musicians”, says Leo.

“I checked out Rando’s tracks on Soundcloud and had a look at Rowena’s latest video on Facebook and after meeting them I realised I was working with like-minded people.”

Rando adds that he felt challenged by working with two folk-based musicians for the first time. “I hadn’t ever worked with someone from that background,” he says, sharing that he had to remember not to just try to do everything his way.

Online chats involving mentor Harts helped the band members establish a connection. “‘We would go online and contribute our big ideas, which Harts would help to cut down,” shares Rando.  

Coming up with a concept

Initially communicating via messaging services like Facebook Messenger, the three artists found it difficult to get on the same page. In order to be able to communicate better, they signed up with Google Hangouts and chatted via videoconference.

“I had never had a reason to use Google Hangouts before,” explains Leo, who lives in Wollongong, NSW. “After our initial online meeting we had slipped back into using Messenger but that was where the confusion popped up. Eventually we decided to jump online and talk things out – communicating on screen meant our issues were cleared up in ten minutes.”

“There’s so much you can gain from reading someone’s facial expressions and tone of voice when you’re showing them an idea. And, you can show them on an instrument rather than try to put it to words. It made a huge difference.”

Of trying to arrange online working sessions, Rando said, “Being based in Western Australia made it a bit harder for me to sync up with the other band members, as I am three hours behind the East Coast.

"With all of us having other things on during the day, by the time I was ready to jump online sometimes the other guys were ready to head to bed! The video chat worked like our late night studio.”

Getting the right broadband package

A huge part of the musical process involves listening to samples. Each musician was able to work with their own laptop and access a music studio to make recordings. However, being geographically distant meant the group had to rely on fast internet to share files.

“I had connected to the nbn™ network a month before we started our project,” says Leo, explaining that she shopped around before connecting with a provider who understood her needs as a musician as well as her budget.

“I explained to the customer service representative that a big part of what I do requires me to be able to upload my own work and download musical content quickly from the internet. They recommended a high speed plan based on nbn™ 50 that allows me to do this in no time at all. The switch over to the nbn™ network was swift and seamless.”

For Rando, having fast broadband powered by the nbn™ network was an important part of his role as producer. “We were sending large files back and forth so that we could hear everything clearly. This kind of thing just wasn’t possible on a slower internet connection. The content that Rowena and Leo sent through to me was top notch and made it easier for me to pull it all together.”  

Jamming as a band

One of the most important parts of the musical process is working together to determine a sound. This is why Two Sense needed technology that allowed them to work together and hear each other in real time.

Rowena and Leo are connected to the nbn™ network via Fibre-to-the-Node (FTTN); Rando is connected via Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC). Differences in nbn technologies, and service providers didn’t mean the band had different experiences online.

“Once I upgraded to the nbn™ network, all of a sudden everything was so fast!” says Leo. “In the past speaking face-to-face via video call would get you nowhere. Having the faster broadband was so useful.”

“Using the nbn™ network meant we had fewer problems with latency, screen freezes or dropouts,” adds Brunswick-based Rowena, who had been lucky enough to move into a property with an established connection before starting work with the group.

“If you’re a touring musician and you want to collaborate, it’s really handy to have that instant connection.”

Working to deadline

Two Sense worked between October and December 2016 to come up with their original track, Firefly, spending time individually and then touching base once or twice a week. The group kept in contact between video calls, exchanging online messages and sharing files.

All they needed to stay in touch was their smart devices and laptops. While Rowena upgraded her laptop prior to the project commencing, Leo and Rando were able to leverage their fast internet connections with their existing equipment to hit the ground running.

Based in the regional WA town of Binningup, Rando says that connecting to the nbn™ network made a big difference to his involvement in the project.

“Before being connected, there’s no way I would have even been able to use Google Hangouts,” he explains, saying that the accessibility made not only communicating with his bandmates much easier, but that the entire project’s outcome depended on it.

“Before I was connected, I was in ‘struggle town’,” says Rando, “Now I can use it to do even more, which is great because so many of my other friends and collaborators are based overseas and across Australia. Being three hours behind the east coast, I can catch up with people from the comfort of my home”

Australia's virtual band, Two Sense, and their debut track: Firefly