If there’s one winner of the COVID-19 pandemic (aside from Zoom), it’s Nintendo. Their low-stakes social simulator game Animal Crossing: New Horizons came out on March 20, just as Americans’ lives started to radically change, and it has scored the third-highest launch sales of any Nintendo game ever. Animal Crossing, with its customizable islands and placid mini-quests (chop wood; talk to neighbors), is the perfect time suck. And who among us have the most gaping schedules at this point? Musicians and other artistic folks, whose work often depends on others’ presence (and whose side gigs have tended toward food service). Me and The Current’s multimedia associate Helen Teague asked to drop by a few locals’ islands and say hello.
Puffy, a Minneapolis make-up artist and drag performer, has been staying home since March 8. But they’d be crossing animals regardless of a pandemic – they’ve been awaiting New Horizons since it was announced in 2018. Their island is easily the most deluxe of all the ones we visited, complete with a bathhouse (“I’m gay! Sooo…”), a Satan-themed room, and a lover’s lake. In the real world, they’re out of work, but they’re hoping digital drag shows and Animal Crossing Twitch streams (about five times a week at 7 p.m. Central) will earn them a bit of dough. – Cecilia
Shana, previously the maître d’, artistic director, and florist of Grand Cafe, has been using Animal Crossing as a calming design outlet. One of her key room inspirations has been the TV show Twin Peaks, which she “always ends up watching when life comes to strange transitioning periods.” She is also volunteering time to film IGTV videos for the Grand Cafe Instagram page, to show people how to arrange flowers or make perfect pancakes at home! – Helen
“I’m so excited. This is basically like the modern version of MTV Cribs,” jeremy told me the morning of our Animal Crossing encounter. But his island is no glitzy celeb palais! Inspired by a meditation cushion that fellow musician John Mark Nelson sent him, jeremy has turned his island into an ode to zen, featuring cherry blossoms, bamboo, and minimal landscaping. He even encouraged one of his more “diva” animals to move off the island. Aside from his Monday night Bad Songs with jeremy messersmith series, he’s not playing too much music, hoping not to bother his real-life neighbors. Instead, his morning routine consists of tea, haiku, and Animal Crossing. – Cecilia
As you can see by the photos, Shelby has been busy on their Animal Crossing island. Work has been slow for them as a layout editor at City Pages and a member of the band Prim Woes: City Pages issues are smaller, and all Prim Woes shows have been canceled. Recording of their full-length album has also been pushed back. Luckily, Animal Crossing has given them something to look forward to every morning. They’ve been trying to stay socially active by “visiting friends’ islands and exchanging gifts as a cute way of checking in with each other,” and taking the game day-by-day rather than time traveling. – Helen
Mad Radtke’s island is among the cutest I’ve ever seen. They’re a furniture designer and propmaker by trade, so you can bet their decor is colorful and carefully plotted. They’re still employed part-time, but they prefer to avoid social media (“a huge downer”), so Animal Crossing has come in handy. Their favorite villager is Chevre the goat, whose elegance (and grand piano) have dazzled Mad. Here’s some news that dazzled me: It turns out Mad and I live only a few blocks away in real life! Virtual and physical neighbors. – Cecilia
Lex, the main voice behind 4th Curtis and the 4th Curtis Twitter, has also had their music come to a screeching halt. 4th Curtis’ tour has been cancelled, and Lex is worried that the She Rock summer program, where they work most summers, will also be cancelled. Now, they continue to draw in their free time and take on freelance graphic design/illustration work, while keeping up with friends over FaceTime. They’ve been appreciative of the meditative quality of Animal Crossing. They say, “Being surrounded by bright colors and animals and getting to dress up and live in an idealized world is so much fun.” Their main focuses for their island at the moment are vistas, pathways, and flowers. – Helen
Kathy Callahan is missing her band. Gully Boys were supposed to be touring with Heart Bones and playing Rock the Garden over the next few months, but for now, they’re grounded. Instead of hanging with the Boys, Kathy has been playing around on Animal Crossing, planting yellow flowers and decorating her house (and visiting with Ro from Static Panic!). She loves running around the island and exploring. She started time-traveling from the get-go, but the one date she won’t change is the one in her island’s name: “90s music.” – Cecilia
When not staying in his home of Minneapolis, Luke, otherwise known as LUKDLX, resides in Los Angeles with his partner Jane, and they’ve been quite the tag team in designing their island! Luke has also lost work, so he’s been relaxing with AC and using it to exercise his creative flow! His favorite part of his island so far is his house (seriously, each room is like another universe) and his government control site. Also peep Jane’s house! A splash of contrasting colors. – Helen
Nelson Devereaux (Bon Iver, Har Mar Superstar, solo) is one of the few musicians with plenty to do right now. He’s handling arrangements and sax for the next Culture Abuse album, and he just bought a 12-track mixer for his own projects. Plus, he practices for three hours a day. But while he’s lucky to be working, he’s suffered some recent personal losses – including a death in the family and the death of a close friend. Through it all, he’s finding solace in music and Animal Crossing. A longtime Nintendo fan, he says video game music is part of what inspired him to pick up instruments himself – and his ACNH island is named Hyrule, after the Legend of Zelda fantasy land.