Months ago, up-and-coming Long Beach band Wargirl mapped out a 14-performance tour that included stops in England, France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. As it turned out, however, the eclectic indie band flew unwittingly into the heart of a pandemic.
As the band's shifting itinerary crisscrossed Europe this month, the novel coronavirus outbreak worsened with each passing day. The stunning scenario in Italy -- the country hit hardest by the outbreak outside China with 20,000 cases and early 2,000 deaths -- sent shockwaves through its continental neighbors.
"Originally we were supposed to leave from Hamburg on the 21st, and had to change plans because Germany has closed their borders," said musician/producer Matt Wignall, who pulled the sextet together a few years ago. "We (were) on pins and needles about what kind of new laws can happen."
The band, whose urgent/soul-steeped sound has been described as where garage rock collides with world music, has a strong European following and cut its debut EP at Clouds Hill Recordings in Hamburg. A frequent collaborator with Long Beach's chart-topping Cold War Kids, Wignall owns Tackyland Studio, where the Kids recorded early tracks.
Wignall said that during the tour's first two weeks, the band delighted packed houses in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. But with each new day came more frightening international news. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases grew across Europe -- as did the death toll -- triggering new, stricter restrictions aimed at slowing the flow of the deadly virus.
"Any of the shows that have gone on, we have closed out the venues, with people out and having a good time," Wignall said. "We played in France ... but the French president (Emmanuel Macron) said they were going to lock down the borders, so we rushed to England."
They played their last show in London on Friday. The band hastily booked a flight home from London's Heathrow Airport on Tuesday, the same day Germany became the latest European nation to shut down its external borders.
Upon arrival at LAX, bandmates Wignall, Samantha Parks, Enya Preston, Tamara Raye, Erick Diego Nieto and Jeff Suri face enhanced, CDC-designed screening for the virus. The airport was designated by the Department of Homeland Security as one of 13 airports at which Americans returning to the U.S. from restricted countries will be assessed. Long lines were reported over the weekend at LAX as the new layers of security kicked in.
After returning to Long Beach, the group aims to comply with CDC restrictions and remain in self-quarantine for at least 14 days, as well as strive for a period of emotional recovery.
“Everyone is just tired and stressed out," Wignall said. "It feels like the world is falling apart ... so far from friends and family."
On top of that, without being able to complete the tour, they weren't paid all the money they were owed. Wignall bemoaned "spending the money we have made on hotels or food."
But the rigors of the tour, financial and emotional, will likely fade, as Wargirl lands back home.
"We're just excited to get back home," Wignall said, "and for our families to see us home safe."
Senior Editor Tom Bray contributed to this article.