Crown the Empire guitarist Brandon Hoover didn’t think much of the scratchy throat he got earlier in March when the band returned from a tour of Asia and South Africa, even though his timeline was beginning to fill up with reports of bands cancelling or postponing tours because of the coronavirus pandemic.
After all, he’s a fit 27-year-old Los Angeles resident who goes to the gym five times and week, and he figured it was just a bad cold. But over the course of a few days, he began to feel sluggish, achy and noticed he was running a fever. After fighting with the hospital to get tested for COVID-19, Hoover found out several days later that he had contracted the novel coronavirus that has killed more than 10,500 people and sickened nearly 260,000 across the globe.
In an exclusive interview with Billboard, Hoover describes his fears about possibly infecting his bandmates and other attendees at L.A.’s popular Emo Nite club event, and why he took to social media to share his diagnosis in hopes of averting any further spread of the virus.
What was the band doing in the month or so leading up to your positive test?
Crown the Empire was playing headlining shows in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, Hawaii, and South Africa all in the month of February.
Were you paying attention to the news and seeing that coronavirus was starting to be a larger issue?
We were touring all around Southeast Asia at the beginning of February. That’s when we started to hear that China was hit with the coronavirus (COVID-19). It was such weird timing because we had a headlining show in China coming up a week later (Feb. 5) and didn’t know if we should play or cancel.
None of us took it seriously because at the time, there wasn’t a lot of information about it. A couple of days later we found out some of the members of the support band had flown over there and couldn’t leave the country because of this virus. They were basically being detained. That’s when we knew this was legit and canceled our show in Hong Kong.
After our tour across Southeast Asia, we flew home to Los Angeles for a couple of days and then flew over to South Africa to play some more headlining shows. I could tell that news about the virus was starting to spread like wildfire at this point.
Did the band ever considering coming off the road due to the coronavirus?
We didn’t consider it until we got home from South Africa and were planning our headliner here in the United States. That’s when we started noticing other tours getting canceled and rescheduled. Before you knew it, everything was being shut down.
I was thankful we had nothing booked yet besides a couple of festivals in late April/early May. I felt so bad for a lot of my friends’ bands who had to reschedule their tours they were already on. Dance Gavin Dance were starting their huge headlining tour on March 13th across the United States and had to cancel and reschedule the whole thing the day it started. My other homies in Palaye Royale were on a sold out headliner in Europe and had to cancel and reschedule their tour as well. It sucks man … I feel bad for the fans.
Can you describe how the symptoms first came on, what it felt like and what you thought was going on?
I started to get a scratchy throat and some congestion at the beginning of March. I didn’t think it was anything serious, just the common cold. I’m an active person and in the gym five days a week, so I thought I could fight it off fairly easy.
On March 6th, I went to this event called Emo Nite in Los Angeles and partied until the next day, so I was hungover and in bed all weekend. This is when my immune system s–t out on me. On March 9th (Monday), I woke up more tired than usual. I noticed I had some chills and body aches, but nothing too severe to stop me from having a productive day. I went to the gym, grocery shopped, cooked, nothing out of the ordinary. By late afternoon, though, I felt exhausted. That’s when the fever kicked in and I was immediately in bed and could barely function.
I drove to an Urgent Care the next day and got tested for the flu because that’s all I thought I had. The test came out negative and the doctor told me to pick up some over-the-counter medicine and self-quarantine. After a day of doing that, I realized I needed to get tested for COVID-19. The entire world was talking about the virus at this point so it made sense to just do it. On March 12th, I called my health insurance and they directed me to the emergency room at a hospital here in L.A. At first they didn’t want to test me because my symptoms were fading away at that point.
But I assured them it was necessary because of all the countries I had traveled to the month before as well as all the symptoms I had been experiencing. They tested me and told me to self-quarantine for the next four days until they got the results back. On Sunday (March 15), the hospital called and told me I tested positive for the coronavirus. I was kind of shocked because this was headlining news around the world and somehow I had gotten it. I literally don’t know anybody who has it. By this point, most of my symptoms were gone so I remained calm. The next day (March 16th), I announced on social media that I tested positive for COVID-19.
At what point did you realize it might be a more serious issue?
The fever got up to a little over 102 degrees. I knew at that point that this wasn’t normal. My throat was extremely sore, lots of congestion, my body was aching like crazy, and every time I would go to bed I’d wake up a couple of hours later drenched in sweat. My bed sheets and comforters were so soaked that I had to flip them every couple of hours so I could sleep on the dry side. Basically I was sleeping in a puddle. I repeated that cycle for three, four days. I’ve had the flu multiple times throughout my life, but this just felt way worse.
Were you worried about possibly infecting (or having infected) anyone else?
It just felt like the flu times 10. I hadn’t been sick in over a year, so it hit me pretty hard, honestly. I was definitely worried that I had infected others because I was just at Emo Nite a couple of days before the virus hit me. From everything I’ve read online, you could get the coronavirus and not have any symptoms for weeks. That’s why I knew I had to make a statement on all my social media. I wanted everyone to know, including the people that had been around me over the past couple of weeks, that I tested positive for it and for everyone to take the proper precautions so it doesn’t spread even more.
How are you feeling now and are there any lingering effects?
Currently I’m having very little symptoms, just a slight cough and some congestion. I did notice a couple of days ago I tried to have a long conversation over the phone and was out of breath instantly. I’ve been talking with the Los Angeles Public Health Department every day and giving them updates so they are informed and we can make the proper next steps.
Have you been in touch with your bandmates? How are they doing?
My bandmates are doing fine! None of them are experiencing any symptoms. I actually live with my bass player (Hayden Tree) and his wife. Since we live together, the doctor advised that they also self-quarantine just in case the virus spread to them. As of now, they haven’t experienced any symptoms.
Has this experience changed how you feel about playing live again (eventually)? Do you think you’ll be more cautious about interacting with fans (high-fives, fist bumps, etc.)?
I think once a vaccine has been created and time has passed, everything will go back to normal. I’m going to worry about it till we have more information over the next couple of months. I can tell you right now I’m NOT going to let this stop me from anything I do in the future.
Are you looking forward to touring again?
Yes! Honestly I just can’t wait to be able to leave my room again. We don’t have anything planned as of now. We’re just taking this day by day like the rest of the world.
What’s your message to your young fans out there who might not be taking the warning about COVID-19 seriously?
It may not seem serious if you don’t have any symptoms and are just reading information online or listening to the news, but I assure you … you DON’T want to catch this. Everybody has been affected differently by the coronavirus, some worse than others. Be sure to stay isolated for the next couple of weeks until we have more information on what to do next. Wash your hands, eat healthy, stay hydrated — basically, use your common sense. Stay safe out there!