Isolation Drills: Grant Pavol

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.

Pavol: Like everyone else, the pandemic has been strange and often difficult for me. However, I’ve managed to keep myself together by trying to build a consistent and productive schedule. 

One of the nice things about quarantine is that it provides me with plenty of time to read. I’m currently a student at UPenn, and it is very difficult to for me find time to read for pleasure amidst my daily study load during the school year. The spare time I now have due to COVID has given me an opportunity to work through my reading list. I’ve set a goal to read 50 pages of something every day, which gives me a regular task to complete (and a reason to slink out of bed). So far during quarantine I’ve finished 19 books, and I’m currently on my 20th, if my count is correct. I think my favorite books I’ve read so far are Ulysses by Joyce and The Mooring Of Starting Out, a compilation of early works by the poet John Ashbery.

This intake of media has provided me with substantial creative fuel. I’m trying to settle myself into rhythms of regular creative production, with a goal to to make some work of art every day. So far following this schedule, I’ve written two books of poetry and 42 songs. 

Musically, during this quarantine, I’ve gotten much more interested in the mechanics of electronic music, and I’ve been trying to teach myself the formulas and structures that undergird instrumental dance genres. To explore this, I’ve been making many instrumental pieces and experimenting heavily with sampling. The works I’ve made in this mold have covered a wide range of styles, from industrial to noise to bubblegum pop to bossa nova.

One of my key artistic goals with this undertaking is to better understand the process of programming and mixing drums, so that I can take more autonomy in my production and recording process. In a strange way, the isolation has taught me the real beauty of communal dance experiences, and I would like to make my singer/songwriter music more danceable moving forward. This opportunity to really tinker with drum elements ought to be very helpful with that.

Beyond that, I’ve tried to get into some general self-improvement behaviors to keep myself healthy and functional. I’ve taken up running, which has been a great meditative excursion amidst the COVID chaos. I listen to an album I’ve never previously listened to every time I run, so it’s also an excuse to expand my sonic palate and take in artists and genres which I am unfamiliar with. I’ve also been teaching myself how to cook; before all this, my skills in the kitchen were pretty abysmal. I’m very happy to say that this is also improving greatly with time (thankfully). 

Finally, I just completed a move to a new house in West Philly. (The accompanying photo shoot for this piece was done two days after we moved in.) I’m in love with the new spot and very excited to have a new home from which to create; we have a spare room that we have converted into a shared studio space. Previously, I have primarily recorded in my bedroom, and it’s honestly thrilling to have a dedicated spot for musical enterprises.

That’s a rough overview of my quarantine experience up to this point. If you’re looking for something to pass the time, I’d suggest listening to my new single, “Men Who Taught Me Chords,” out everywhere now through Accidental Popstar Records. (It also has a lovely music video up on YouTube.) I also have a full album due for release on September 4, so mark your calendars.

I hope all of you are doing well and staying sane amongst the chaos.