As co-owner of Seattle’s popular independent venue Neumos in Capitol Hill, Steven Severin has been a staple in the Seattle music industry for more than 20 years. Roughly 10 years ago, he helped create the Seattle Nightlife and Music Association to bring together the area’s live event insiders, and for the past 16 years has helped run Neumos with its sister club Barboza and the accompanying Runaway bar.
As part of Billboard’s efforts to best cover the coronavirus pandemic and its impacts on the music industry, we will be speaking with Severin regularly to chronicle his experience throughout the crisis. (Read the last installment here and see the full series here.)
We are coming up on almost a full year of this series together.
Every time I think of the full year, I get so exhausted. It’s been a year, a whole year. I remember three weeks out thinking, we’re not going to be able to make it. We need to do something. Now months have gone by of just being stuck inside and working way too hard. I am jealous of the people who got to bake bread or knitted. I don’t know what people did. I just don’t really go out…at all.
Is it taking any sort of toll on you?
My back has been out for three weeks straight now. I have only made it downstairs on four days. It’s been really annoying. I can’t get it to let go. I slept 15 hours the other day because I took muscle relaxers just to try to get my back to let go. I woke up today and thought, it’s 11am but I could go back to sleep.
This is probably a stupid question, but are you extra stressed about something right now?
I am just trying to get through the days. I lost my mom and three friends in a two-week period. It’s just too much to handle. After a year of this pandemic, this just broke me. Losing my mom, it just hits at times. I will just be sitting here and just get so bummed and so sad. It’s been too much to take. I had to step back from a lot of my responsibilities for a week and some change. Between being bummed and frustrated, the actual pain…it’s been too fucking much.
I’m really sorry to hear all of this.
I could handle my mom, eventually. It was something that was going to happen. She was in a lot of pain. It really was a good thing, but it was different with my friends. I feel like I weight about 500lbs. But I am still trying to do stuff. Some days it is possible. Some days, it’s not. We’re finally launching our from the vault event.
Can you explain the event?
It is called Band Together Washington. We announced the “save the date” last week and it is going to be hosted by Sir Mix-a-Lot and Rachel Flotard. You know Rachel? She is Neko Case’s manager. She works for Red Light Management. She was in Neko Case’s band for some time. She is hilarious. She is one of those people who everybody loves. The two of them are going to be amazing hosts. March 18 is the day we are actually having it. We got Pearl Jam. It is all archival footage. A lot of good stuff has come together. I am really psyched about it. That is our last big event that [Washington Nightlife Music Association] will do in terms of fundraising.
What happens to WANMA after this?
We are discussing how to keep WANMA going. All the time and infrastructure went into the Keep Music Live campaign because that’s what we needed to do. We needed to raise money. But that made it so WANMA has less infrastructure, at least not what Keep Music Live has. WANMA is only venue people. Nothing has been set in stone, but one of the things we want to do is more educational events. We want to find a way to remove the barriers for people to get involved in the music industry, particularly BIPOC and female contingent. One of the things I have learned over the years is that you hire the people you know. When you reach out about jobs, you do it with the people you know. If most of the people in the music industry are white dudes, then they are going to tell other white dudes. That’s not going to change anything. That has been unanimous decision with the group, that we are going to work on changing those barriers so we can become more inclusive. It’s got to change and we needed to have our asses kicked because we were just comfortable.
What have you heard anything new about the Shuttered Venue Operator’s Grant?
Nothing. We’ve heard nothing. The new Small Business Administration administrator hasn’t been confirmed. We’re waiting. [Keep Music Live] did our distributions of our grant money here in Washington. We helped 77 venues get a little further down the road, but everybody is just sitting and waiting. I can’t imagine the task the SBA has in front of them. I really wish they wouldn’t have made it sound like it could happen so soon. If they had said the grants will be ready in six months and then they get it out in four months, we would have been stoked. But when we think applications are going to happen a month after, we’re not stoked. People are struggling and it’s causing a lot of stress.