Isolation Drills: Madalean Gauze

Like the majority of you, all of us in the Philadelphia area are staying at home, learning to adapt to our “new normal.” MAGNET is checking in with local musicians to see how and what they’re doing during this unprecedented time. Photos by Chris Sikich.

Hey everyone! My name is Madalean Gauze, and I am a musician from Philadelphia. Since the stay-at-home order, I feel like we all have been experiencing a crazy wave of emotions. It’s kind of wild to be pursuing a career as a musician, only to have it be taken away by a pandemic. Even though things feel somewhat lost, I want to share a bit of my experience in the hopes that it can maybe help someone else.

I know I’m not alone in anything I’m feeling. The news is hitting us all, and at times it seems unbearable. It’s crazy how walking outside, touching a door knob and pumping gas brings on uncertainty and fear. With all the chaos going on all, I wanted to do was stay inside and hide, but that only left me staring at my phone or television in disbelief. When you are stuck inside, you really have nothing else to do except examine your life and its direction. I would lay on my couch questioning all of my life choices, and I was longing for some sort of sign to lift my spirits. After spending a lot of time quietly agonizing over every aspect of my life, I realized something about myself. If music went away, I would survive; if I could never release a song again, I would be fine. But if I did not find a way to help during all of this, I would feel like I failed. 

One afternoon, I was watching the news and they mentioned how hospital workers were eating their meals out of vending machines. The idea that I was sitting on my couch eating take out while an essential worker did not have a warm meal was completely unacceptable. I did some research, and I found the charity Fuel The Fight, a partner of Front Line Foods. This organization provides meals to hospital and essential workers in Philadelphia. When I learned about the charity, I knew I wanted to help. I had the idea to create a compilation album of local musicians called Fuel The Fight, and all proceeds would go to help out the charity.

As soon as I had this idea, I felt like I got a giant kick in the butt from the universe. Every second of every day was spent trying to get musicians onboard. In my heart, I believed that everyone wanted to help, so I did not limit myself when asking musicians to join me. I had no fear, and no band was out of my league—every musician was equal. Musicians who were depressed from canceled tours or forgotten album releases were now being encouraged to get to work and create music. I gave everyone a deadline, and they all hustled and got to work. Originally, I was hoping to get 20 song submissions, but in the end, I received 61 songs.

The album is full of new music, old singles and demos created during quarantine. I received songs from musicians like Eric Slick (Dr. Dog), Joe Jack Talcum, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Lotus. On this album, you will hear songs from musicians who tour the world playing sold-out shows, but you will also hear songs from musicians who have never played live. A very powerful moment on the album is the last track submitted by John Swana on behalf of jazz musician Bootsie Barnes. Barnes sadly passed away on April 22 from COVID-19. The recording is a live performance at Ortlieb’s, and the song is titled “I Want To Be Happy.” It really is an honor and completely moving to have this song as the final track. 

In the end, the album raised almost $2,000 in a week, and we fed so many essential workers. I’m happy to announce that there is a second compilation album, Fuel The Fight II, and it’s out today only on Bandcamp. It has song submissions from Goat Mumbles (Rob Grote from the Districts), The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, Laser Background (Speedy Ortiz), Narcos Family Band, Andrew Lipke and many more incredible musicians. Check out the album here.

We’re adding Philadelphia Bail Fund as a charity that will receive proceeds from Fuel The Fight II. What is going on in the world right now requires us all to jump in and help out in any way that we can. By supporting Fuel The Fight II, you are supporting a local restaurant, feeding essential workers and providing support for individuals who cannot post bail. Here are other charities that you can donate to as well:
Black Lives Matter Philly
Youth Art & Self-Empowerment Project
Pennsylvania Prison Society
Amistad Law Project
New Sanctuary Movement

Isolation Drills: Rachel Icenogle

Like the majority of you, all of us in the Philadelphia area are staying at home, learning to adapt to our “new normal.” MAGNET is checking in with local musicians to see how and what they’re doing during this unprecedented time. Photos by Chris Sikich.

Icenogle: I’ve been doing a lot that’s not music, but my imagination has been running wild. It’s like I finally have the time to let my mind go, without all the little details of negotiating, commuting, navigating every different freelance project. My dreams have become really boring, but I feel like a kid again while I’m awake. It’s exciting to have that energy. I’m worried all the time about everything, and at the same time, I have a lot to enjoy.

The days seem endless, but they’re so full of things to do. I’m hanging on to an intrinsic, unconscious reflex to maintain a certain work ethic, something that’s ingrained in many of us. The idea that hustle will be rewarded with success seems so ridiculous right now. Most of my career evaporated practically overnight, but I’m still hustling anyway inside my house. I guess that’s a difficult habit to quit.

I didn’t realize before this how tired I was. I had a really tough winter and had stepped mostly back from live performances for a few reasons. I’d been booking a tour for right now that would have been my return to playing shows. I didn’t feel relaxed, though; I wasn’t even listening to any music because it made me think of work. I’d become someone without hobbies. I was really proud of that when I was younger, music was the only thing I lived and breathed. But it becomes a feedback loop after a while: You forget what’s good and unique and inspiring and special about all of it when you’re not experimenting with other forms of creativity, too. Now that I’m actually taking a break, some of that excitement is coming back again.

I’m feeling impossibly lucky. I’m feeling distressed. There’s long-distance work filtering in for me, and I’m overwhelmed by and grateful for it. I have to learn what my new boundaries are, how much I’m capable of taking on. I’m feeling lucky that I have a choice, that I can say yes or no. I feel lucky that people remember who I am even if I haven’t updated my website in six months.

I have so much love coming in from my community of family and friends, all of whom I’m especially grateful to have lately. I’m paying that love and support forward as best I can, same as the income I am lucky to still receive. I’ve had beautiful creative moments with others; I’ve been getting more in touch with my body. I’m taking yoga classes and voice lessons. I would never have picked either of those things for myself a few months ago, but they’ve been good for me. I am outside my comfort zone in both, supported by the friends who teach me. It’s the kind of discomfort that becomes an adventure. Those hours bring me to the present moment; they are what I look forward to most. It’s good practice, and one of the truest joys of practicing is to recognize that everything you can ever do is the same set of skills that learning your instrument was and is and will be. Practice is a language common to every single thing I’ve done. It’s a language of listening to yourself.

In the weeks since I wrote this article, our city and country have seen some old ugly tensions inflamed past a breaking point. But we have an opportunity and an obligation to fight together for the changes we want to see in the world. Be active, support your neighbors who are in the streets working for change, buy from black artists and businesses. Defund the police. Black Lives Matter.

Isolation Drills: King Azaz

Like the majority of you, all of us in the Philadelphia area are staying at home, learning to adapt to our “new normal.” MAGNET is checking in with local musicians to see how and what they’re doing during this unprecedented time. Photos by Chris Sikich.

Christo Johnson (guitar, vocals): It’s been pretty difficult to be able to sit down and write about how I’ve been doing over the past couple of months. It’s really been quite a mixed bag. On one hand, I’ve been super relieved and have been reveling in the fact that I was pushed to leave a job that was a really shitty environment for me but that I was too exhausted to leave. I am super fortunate in that government money has been coming through and that I’ve been able to use this time to get some much needed rest and reflection. On the other hand, the length of this isolation is finally starting to activate the anxiety, malaise and depression that I knew was coming. But I’m trying very hard to stay ahead of all of that.

While being far apart has been our reality as a band for the past few years, this has been a particularly jarring stint of time for us to not be creating together. We’re currently finishing up a full-length that’s been in the works for about a year now; it’s the thing that I’m most proud of having made thus far, and it feels like we’ve both been endlessly pouring ourselves into it. While a lot of our plans for this spring and summer have been cancelled or put on hold, I’m trying to see the positive in this and thinking about how we can strategically rework those plans to put us in a better place once we’re ready to release the album and are able to tour.

I’m trying to see the positive in everything in general right now. I recognize the privilege in being able to say that, but it is one of the few things that has been keeping me from completely spiraling out mentally and emotionally. This pandemic continues to amplify the extent to which capitalism, sexism and racism have stratified and so deeply damaged the world that we live in, how what has been forced upon us as “normal” for so long is so fundamentally violent. The positive that I’m hoping for is that through this fucked-up time, the anger and resistance will grow to be so loud that a sea change is inevitable. Here’s to hoping.

Sarah Schardt (drums): The last show we played was Two Piece Fest back in February, and we came away from that show feeling really energized and looking forward to a really fun summer. Since then, we haven’t practiced together once, had to cancel all of our planned shows and have had to put our album release and tour plans on hold. I spent the first few weeks of quarantine feeling really bummed, scared and just adjusting to a new kind of normal. It’s been really inspiring, though, to see musicians adapting and continuing to support one another. I initially thought livestream shows would be pretty unfun, but they’re actually a really unique and cool experience. I’m constantly reminded of how innovative, creative and supportive the DIY music community is, and it gives me hope for the future of music in the time of Covid-19.

Christo and I haven’t really talked much about a livestream set yet. It’s something you may see from us in the future or may not—we’re not sure. We do have a new single out that you can hear at The Key, and we are continuing to work on mixing and mastering our new album, which will be out this summer. Despite having to hit the pause button on some of our plans as a band, we’re both thankful to be weathering this global crisis as best we can and hope to be back playing live for you all as soon as we can

Isolation Drills: Nik Greeley

Like the majority of you, all of us in the Philadelphia area are staying at home, learning to adapt to our “new normal.” MAGNET is checking in with local musicians to see how and what they’re doing during this unprecedented time. Photos by Chris Sikich.

Greeley: This whole period of time has felt like one giant rebirth/reset for me. I was coming out of a very difficult time in my personal life, and in a bizarre way, the timing of all of this couldn’t have been more perfect to get myself together, and to start feeling like myself again. After spending months and months feeling like I was losing my edge and consistently stockpiling creative and artistic ideas on the back-burner, I began to wonder If I would ever be able to get back on track as an artist. The constant “there’s not enough hours in the day” or “I’m just too damn tired after work”—I became very hard on myself, for several reasons, and once we were told to lock down essentially, I already felt pretty prepared to spend time alone after my own self-induced isolation from being depressed.

But what I was not prepared for was to actually take steps to finally get out of that dark hole. Each day, I began slowly but surely take those ideas off the back-burner. I began practicing singing and playing guitar again regularly, finishing songs and making recordings, writing and reading each day, catching up with family and friends, regularly having FaceTime and even reconnecting with some I had felt I had lost touch with. But most importantly, I started to actually like myself again, and started to feel a focus come back in to view I hadn’t let myself see for quite some time.

Needless to say, I still know there will be tough days ahead, and moments of uncertainty, but I know if we can all truly lean on each other for love and support, and persevere through all the obstacles ahead, we will get through this, one way or the other. I can’t even imagine what it will feel like to be at a show or play my first show live again for the first time. All I know is that I will be hugging and singing with every single soul around me, and letting them know how happy I am to be sharing that moment with them—to be alive, and to have music in my life, every day. 

Isolation Drills: Coping Skills

Like the majority of you, all of us in the Philadelphia area are staying at home, learning to adapt to our “new normal.” MAGNET is checking in with local musicians to see how and what they’re doing during this unprecedented time. Photos by Chris Sikich.

Rachel Dispenza: Tour management and merch selling are my full-time jobs. I was two weeks into 10 weeks of planned touring when we had to cancel all the dates and come home. For a while, self-isolation felt normal. I’m used to some time at home without a job to go to between tours. I dove into projects. I made my space look and feel more like a home than I have in the year that I’ve lived here. In the beginning, Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie was live-streaming every day at the same time—I tuned in for that entire two-week stint as part of maintaining a routine. 

But lately, I’ve been all over the place. I’m not used to this much time at home. I thrive on the road, and I really miss the time my bands and I spend together. They are my other families. I’m just trying to find ways to be kind to myself. I’ve gotten pretty into Yoga With Adriene on YouTube, and I also obsessed over beating the first three Spyro The Dragon games. I read quite a bit and work on making new music when I can focus. Coping Skills has done a few livestreams as well, and those concrete deadlines—prepping for performances—helps get me focused. 

We released a podcast called More Talk Less Rock in early April. We’ve been working on it for about a year at this point, and I’m really excited about it. It’s a variety show with music commentary, interviews, etc, and it highlights the banter and fun Lauren and I have together. The whole first season was done before quarantine even started, so I’m amped to start making season two ASAP. 

Lauren DeLucca: I am lucky enough to be able to work one of my jobs from home, which is not something many can say right now. While I am thankful to still be able to hang on to some structure in my day, it is difficult to watch so many people and places I love struggling. It’s tempting to want for things to return to “normal,” but the reality is that the normal we’ve grown familiar with was already failing too many people, and it’s absolutely not a place to which we should return. 

Rachel and I have still been able to continue to create and collaborate while quarantining ourselves and staying safe. We have done a few Coping Skills livestreams, including one on the Home Outgrown Presents Instagram account, and one on our own Instagram for the fourth anniversary of our first record, Relatable Web Content. Rachel played most of the songs from the record while I dyed my hair blue, because absolutely nothing will stop us from commiting to the bit, even a global pandemic. We have also started releasing episodes of our new podcast, More Talk Less Rock, which we started recording months ago before the pandemic and will continue to record remotely and release while at home. Having a project that is fun to make and takes a decent amount of time to produce is truly invaluable right now, and I am excited that we have found ways to keep collaborating creatively while being physically apart.