Eli Tostado and Tanner Nicholls of BedTime found themselves full of new ideas in 2020 but without a place to deploy them thanks to COVID-19 shutdowns. And with central Oklahoma in the grip of catastrophic cold and unreliable power in February 2021, even doing an interview requires the world to just let up a little with its cascading crises.
“Yeah, I’m here in Norman, or like at the edge of Moore and Norman, and mine was totally out for two hours,” Nicholls said during the duo’s February 17 interview. “Maybe three hours, but at least two.”
Such conditions do not mesh well with the warm sounds of a digital bedroom-pop duo, but BedTime is persevering. Nicholls and Tostado have released two songs so far this year, the ebullient power-pop collaboration with Florence Rose titled “Someone New” and the ethereal laptop ballad “Roses,” and they will play a live stream at 7:30 p.m. March 12 on Circle Lotus Media’s YouTube channel.
Music and filmby George Lang
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The duo met at Norman Music Festival two years ago during a set by the deliriously melodic synth-pop trio The Ivy, inspiring Nicholls and Tostado to make dream-pop that works well in headphones but hits new heights on the stage. Like their friends and their fans, BedTime wants a live gig desperately, but only at the right time.
“I know that some places are doing applications to do, like, outdoor festivals, and I know that there are some bands that are currently doing gigs for Heyday and stuff like that, but I don’t know,” Tostado said. “It still feels like it is maybe not the right thing to do. There’s this weird guilt, I think, of having a live show and knowing that there’s going to be people there and, like, you’re bringing a crowd … I don’t know, it’s this weird line that you can cross. We both kind of want to just wait until it goes away, you know?”
That level of responsibility weighs heavily, not just on BedTime but so many of their fellow Oklahoma musicians. Not everyone can do hermetically sealed bubble shows like the Flaming Lips will perform this spring.
So young bands like BedTime must be strategic, responsible and focused on the things they can do for now while waiting for a sign that it is OK to come out again.
“They’re all in the same boat where they’re just creating and holding their stuff,” Nicholls said. “They’re really just holding their cards until the right opportunity to play them, and I don’t think that right now is the right time. What we’re really looking for and what I really think everybody’s looking for is that thing, or that person or that event, like a leader to go back out to the old venues. Until somebody has a festival and everything kind of goes smoothly, you know, we kind of need to see something happen before everybody else feels comfortable to do such a thing.”
In the meantime, BedTime has found its creative sweet spot. With Tostado on vocals and lyrics and Nicholls programming beats and textures, BedTime has found inspiration in similarly inclined artists like Billie Eilish, Charli XCX and Clairo, all of whom have used their quarantine downtime to create bright new music.
“I think we’re still working on new singles right now and waiting to release a big project whenever it’s a good time to release a project,” Nicholls said. “We want to dedicate some time to it. We want it to go over well and be received well, So we’re still working on a current single right now to be released in March.”
“If we did come out with an album right now, I feel like I would want to perform it already, but I kind of just prefer to wait, to just keep releasing singles.”
BedTime does not yet have a title for that next single — Tostado often names their songs just before they get sent to the streaming services. So while they wait for the all-clear sign, BedTime will keep their options open for late-quarantine opportunities for creativity.
“Like, we recently had a couple of other people DM us about wanting to collab, so we’ll be focusing on that, too,” Tostado said.