Isolation Drills: Scantron

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.

James Everhart (guitar, vocals): I work as a graphic designer in the music and events industry, so when I was temporarily laid off from my job at City Winery, I was forced to get creative. After being a full-time touring musician with Low Cut Connie for six years, being constantly home is wonderful, but I can get start feeling cooped up very quickly. Add a pandemic into the mix, and you have a recipe for acute anxiety. Thankfully, I’ve refused to embrace that negative energy by remaining positive and taking on a host of new projects and freelance clients.

When I’m not playing guitar, I’m writing new songs for the debut album by a new psych/folk project, Cosmic Guilt. Having the ability to access recording equipment has been a wonderful distraction and reason to keep moving and to keep looking forward. As I write this, we are within our 11th week, and I’ve written 14 songs. Suffice to say, I’m happy to have had the time to compose a full-length album, something I always say I’d never do. With the continuing of free time comes the opportunity for new projects, and added to the list is a new puppy and carpentry lessons. That should keep me busy.

I’m determined to come out of this quarantine on top. I look forward to playing music, eating at a bar, traveling and hugging friends. Remaining safe, healthy and vigilant is the only thing that is going to get us through this, and I look forward to the things that lie around the corner.

George M. Murphy (guitar, vocals): In early February, I came back from a short vacation out west with my wife, pretty much directly into quarantine. I think if it hadn’t been for that trip, we both may have lost our minds by now. A few big projects that were on the docket for this year fell through, including scenic design for a major summer tour. Despite how bleak it seemed at first, I feel like we fell into the groove pretty quickly and found the silver lining in being home.

Usually, I spend four or five days a week working out of our office in Newport, Del., with a good hour-and-a-half or more of commuting every day. It’s been nice to trade driving for walking—exploring our neighborhood and getting myself a bit healthier. Normally, March is the height of my seasonal depression, but looking back on it, I feel like this whole situation let me hit the “reset” button a bit. On the other hand, my productivity has been a rollercoaster. Some weeks, I’m through my to-do list by Tuesday. Others have seen me rewrite the same to-do list five days in a row. I’ve come to terms with it and learned to be a bit easier on myself where I can.

I was in a pretty bleak spot for musical creativity in the second half of 2019. We played a lot of Scantron shows last year, which meant we weren’t even practicing all that much—just sorta walking onstage. The shows were some of our best, but I found myself less inclined to pick up an instrument other than to carry it out the door. In late January, after 15 years of searching, I found a Melodigrand apartment piano (a miniature upright with 64 keys) on Craigslist. Having that around has been immensely therapeutic. I’ve spent many mornings learning songs and composing ideas for future projects. I think my neighbors are over it, though.

Interestingly enough, the playing field has been completely leveled without touring. While the livestream bubble is likely going to pop a bit as people start going out again, there’s a huge opportunity to build some habits around connecting with fans across the country, even the world, in ways we haven’t been able to as a band that hits the road very little. We’re working on something very special for Scantron fans, as soon as it becomes a little bit more feasible to be in the same room together.