Jovan Matić, Gift: We can’t wait to rock the audience with new songs and gigs!

Novi Sad-based Gift is a music band, led by its frontman, the charismatic Jovan Joca Matić, who has set the Belgrade club scene on fire in the last few years with one-of-a-kind remakes of the best indie hit songs but also with their own songs. The ongoing pandemic has hit the club scene and club cover bands the hardest, while everything has been put on hold until further notice. We have talked with Joca about the band and the pandemic.

Photo: Szilard Antal

How did you organize your activities during the pandemic? 

We really miss performing in concerts and our audience. Our heavy addiction to live performances now makes us all perhaps a little darker and more withdrawn, but by looking inward we have been maturing and learning during these past few weeks of the imposed abstinence from concerts. New feelings are emerging, and the old ones are refreshed. We are used to our fans often telling us that our music is healing; that it combats stress and makes days and nights more beautiful. Now, we need to creatively outsmart the situation and reach our already eager audience in a new way. So, the other day, we were checking a couple of applications to see whether performing in an online concert was possible in these circumstances, because we, the band members, live in two different cities. But unfortunately, no application has a fast enough signal, i.e. comes with no sound delay, to make the music accurate. That is why we have decided to devote our time to working on new ideas created during this virus crisis. Another idea is to make videos for the two new songs (“Mon Amour” and “A Step Ahead”) as soon as possible, as a kind of victory over the current troublesome events, which we are going to release after all this chaos is over.

How are you spending your private time during the pandemic?  

Our daily rituals have not changed much since the pandemic’s outbreak, so my wife Dragana (Gaga) and I wake up with ease, indulge in a cup of coffee and laze about a little bit, waiting for the daylight to enter the bedroom. That’s a sacred moment for us that will never change, regardless of the situation – a pandemic or a perfectly normal day. Then we make breakfast which is a staple before we leave our home. Gaga generally likes a stronger savoury breakfast, while I opt for cereal with fruit. What may have changed compared to earlier times is the timing of everything we do. Now, we do everything earlier than usual, so after breakfast, we immediately shop for fresh food for lunch, maybe pop up to a pharmacy, in an effort to find rubbing alcohol for disinfection. Every third day we bring groceries to my mother, right outside the entrance to Petrovaradin, since Gaga and I are pedestrians (we do not have a car by choice). In this situation, walking has healing properties for us. When we get back home, we first sterilize everything like pros. Once we do that, a big chunk of our day already went by.

After a short break and having one more cup of coffee, we generally do an online fitness class with our wonderful instructor Maja. Then we have a nice lunch and then everyone uses their part of the day for creative endeavours. While I do music, Gaga is painting or reading a book. Sometimes we do an online yoga class with our favourite yogini Mima. Evenings are mostly reserved for watching series and movies. Honestly, our day goes by fast! I feel like there is less time now than when we are living the regular life, travelling and playing music. One thing that I think is quite beautiful in this situation is that I talked to dear people whom I have not seen in a long time via Skype. I would like to mention my friend John from London, with whom I had conversations about various current topics that lasted well into the night. We also touched upon the wonderful time he had when he came to visit us. John told me that London was not the way we remember it and that it has changed for worse. I would also like to mention my friend and a fellow musician Zlatomir Gajić (who played the bass guitar in GIFT for a while) from Novi Sad. Even though we live in the same city, we just didn’t get to hang out as much as we wanted to.

What are you going to do first after the state of emergency is lifted?  

The first thing that comes to my mind is recording a video. I picture the following – I am leaving my flat, and as I go down the stairs, I take my clothes off until I am completely naked when I get to the ground floor. I open the exit door of the building naked, only wearing a sock on my hand, so as not to touch the door, and run barefoot down the street. I see police car lights in the distance, in a haze, and as they are approaching me from behind, I begin to frantically run. I move out of the way, and the cars passing me by are rushing to get to the end of the street where there is an old man with a walker and bags in one hand. The cops jump out and arrest the poor old man who is wearing nothing by a coat and a pair of socks. The last scene… The old man and I exchange glances as he sits in the back seat of a police car. I’m not sure a film crew will say ‘yes’ to this scenario, but in these times, one can imagine.

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