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.
We wrote the following check-ins a few weeks ago, in the simple days of the world just worrying about a global pandemic. For too many people, though, the scars that have reopened in recent days have been there for way too long. The latest unspeakable tragedies have at least developed new levels of unity and strength seen in the protests across our city and the world each day. The Frank Rizzo statue finally coming down was a beautiful—and long-overdue—moment. However, so much hard work remains to change the systemic inequities that permeate—not just policing, but so many other aspects of our society. We’ll do our best to listen, learn, support and fight for this change and for a future that is brighter and more just. In the meantime, here’s a simple little update from us:
Becca Todd (vocals, guitar): Our band dispersed across the country a little more than a year ago but recorded an album together just before parting ways. After holding off on the release for quite a while, it seemed there was no excuse with the newfound time. The release has certainly been a nice distraction from everything, and I’m grateful for the time spent launching the album with my bandmates. I live on the West Coast now, but over the past few weeks, it’s felt like we’re all in the same South Philly rowhome basement together, where the majority of the album was written.
I’ve been working as a graphic designer at a small arts college for the better half of a year now. As soon as this all started, everyone was ordered to work from home. It’s been strange working completely remotely at a relatively new job, but the community has been really supportive—everyone is going through the same thing, to some extent. The time at home has brought a lot of introspection and excitement to work on creative endeavors. I’m currently working on an album for a new project and have also become obsessed with tinkering around on BeepBox, composing fun chiptune jams. I’ve been teaching myself the violin (very unsuccessfully so far, but whatever!). And one of my housemates and I have devised a plan to outfit our garage with a myriad of musical instruments. The other day, we responded to a Craigslist ad to pick up a free piano, but it didn’t work out so well—we couldn’t even lift the thing a centimeter off the ground. It was so freaking heavy, but we’re scheming for other instruments.
Ben Hughes (guitar, vocals): I’ve been working from home since March 13, and the fact that I’m still employed at this point feels like more than enough for me. I’m proud of my wife, who is serving our community as a public-health nurse. It’s been great to see all of our essential workers receiving the praise they deserve, but it’s not enough. We still need to do our part to put safety first. I’ve been leaning into the menial tasks to pull me through. I don’t know if it’s the distraction or the fact that it feels the same as it used to. Either way, everything artistically has slipped away. I haven’t tried to write. I’ve hardly played music at all. I’ve gone through old journals and started a few different projects I’ve been meaning to get around to for years, but I keep moving away from them. In the grand scope of things, it all feels silly.
Off the clock, my “new normal” goes as follows. Grow a beard. Shave the beard into a mustache. Shave the mustache. Grow a beard again. Give myself a haircut. Eat snacks. Try not to eat snacks. Walk the dogs. Take a jog. Do yoga. Plant a tree. Cut the lawn. Clean the gutters. Try to make chickpea curry. Try to make snickerdoodles. Try to figure out how the snickerdoodles ended up kind of tasting like chicken. Watch a Netflix series. Read and read. Listen to records, old and new. Do an unbelievable amount of dishes. The dishes, they’re never ending. Do laundry a lot less frequently, and it’s all socks. Miss friends. Miss family. Phone calls. Zoom hangs. Watch and identify birds in the yard. You get the idea. I’m sure that, artistically, I’ll come back around again at some point, but for now I’ll stick with the things that make a visible difference, like sweeping the floor.
Adam Smith (bass, keys); pictured: I’m pretty lucky. Really, our whole band is. We’re all still able to work in various ways. I’ve commandeered the kitchen table as a desk and work from home. Eating dinner on the couch is more fun anyways. My wife still has to go into work. She’s doing well, but we’re extra careful about staying away from folks just in case. Days get a little boring, but sometimes I play records while I work to force myself to not zone out for too long at a time. I also try to coax our dog into running around the house with me a few times a day. The rest of the day, he just takes turns sleeping on different pieces of furniture. I’m trying to figure out a pattern to it. There’s definitely not a pattern to it.
This past year, it’s been tough for all of us to be spread out, and we haven’t always stayed in touch the best. Getting this record together has been a great excuse to fire up the ol’ group text and get on video calls together. I’ve struggled to do much of anything creatively so far, but Becca has shared some demos that have me excited to shift my focus back to making tunes again. Music is such a great release. I hope our fellow musicians and all the great independent venues around Philly come out the other end of this OK. I know it’ll be a while, but can’t help looking forward to the simple pleasures of cramming into a small room to see a great band and the simple complaints of all the tall people inevitably standing in front of me in that small room.
Edward Everett (guitar, vocals): Wearing softer clothes to work and working hard to stay connected to friends and family. Feeling grateful for the basics. Being creative in the midst of a global pandemic/depression reminds me that I’m lucky. And privileged. That said, there are no “safe jobs,” so that should be incentive to those with big dreams to go ahead and follow them. Hopefully the “new normal” will be a new perspective on how fragile our comfort is and a complete re-evaluation of what we want out of life.
Our drummer, Tad Lecuyer, is a frontline medical worker and either working a long shift right now or resting up to do it again. He works at a hospital, mostly in the adult emergency department, but it generally sounds like he’s pulled to wherever the need is greatest as they deal with the pandemic. We’re all super proud of him and super worried about him. We’re also proud to have a song on a new compilation that was organized by Madalean Gauze to raise money for Fuel The Fight Philly, a charity providing meals for essential workers on the front line. We’re also passing along 100 percent of the sales of our new self-titled LP to Philly Music Fest’s micro-grant program, which deploys funds to local musicians and staff of independent venues. Given the new bicoastal reality of our band, we aren’t really sure what’s next for us, but hope we can at least make a little bit of a positive contribution during these crazy times.