Isolation Drills: Yikes The Zero And Osevere (Grand Mantis)

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.

Yikes The Zero: We’ve been conscious and putting in work creatively and really just trying to keep each other’s heads up. I think it starts with the people you are close to and the people you live with. If you live alone, that’s another challenge in itself.

Depression is real, and it’s dangerous, so you have to check up on people and make sure they’re good. Before you do that, you have to check in with yourself and make sure you’re making the right adjustments and taking this pandemic seriously without letting it bring you down.

So, this thing is happening. It’s unprecedented in our lifetime, our parents’ lifetime and pretty much everyone’s grandparents’ lifetime. People are dying, people are sick, people are out of work, and there’s still bills to pay. You don’t want to touch anybody, you don’t want to touch anything. You don’t want to get sick, you don’t want to know what it’s like, you don’t want to get anybody else sick. You’re bored, you’re single. What are you going to do?

The first thing that came to mind for me was looking back at the challenges I’ve faced in my life. The people I’ve lost and how it affected me: what I was able to do to keep pushing through and how it influenced me to become the person I am and the methods I’ve used to cope. It starts with belief and understanding that anything can happen, for better or for worse, but let’s focus on the better and see what we can do to outweigh the negatives.

Luckily, at this time, I don’t live alone. I’ve been blessed by having good roommates and neighbors. One of them happens to be a band member and long-time friend. We have all this time to get music done, and that’s exactly what we did and are continuing to do. We miss performing live, getting loose, interacting and releasing that energy onstage, but before you can do that, there is a process, right?

You have to take what you can out of a time like this, and few things have put a smile on my face like working on something I love to do with friends who I consider brothers. Whether it’s the banter between me and Jay (Osevere) writing and deciphering the layers, or that moment when TC (Cole) comes up with something to place on the landscape, or hearing something we already thought sounded good sound better when Skipmode sends us his cuts. The experience has definitely been my biggest weapon to combat the stress and uncertainty of these times. It keeps me from going ballistic with all the social injustice and, obviously, provides a little bit of a sense of purpose and reason to look forward to time spent at home. We can’t wait for people to hear what we’ve been doing.

Aside from all that, I been up here feeding my brain, taking master classes and learning new skills that are relevant to the the things I want to get done. I’ve finished the first draft of the written part of my graphic novel, too.

I’ve been staying away from from family due to the pandemic and am anxious to see everyone, especially the little ones. There’s no better fix than seeing their faces and hearing their voices. I’ve finished my vaccination, and most of my family are close to getting that done, too. So, hopefully, we get to catch up soon.

Osevere: Experiencing this pandemic and being caught off-guard and completely unaware really helped me exercise my mental toughness as well as reevaluate my preparation for scenarios such as these. I had to think of my own health and safety as well as my family’s; some of them are out of state, older and have preexisting medical issues. That caused me to check in with family more and fully realize the severity of the situation we all were in.

Things I thought I was managing well in my daily life, like anxiety and worry, became more prominent, and I had to find better ways to alleviate those feelings through creativity, meditation, communication and reassurance that family and friends were consistently taking all preventative steps seriously.

The Grand Mantis squad was nothing short of amazing by continuing to come up with creative concepts, sounds and song designs and push each other to open the boundaries of not only our own personal lives but in the music as well. 

I began to look deeper at myself in terms of where I was in life and where I wanted to be and what I needed to do to cross those bridges and fill those gaps. The solitude forced me to respect how gentle this balance that life has given us really is.

Everyone was caught off-guard by this pandemic, which caused a fair amount of hysteria, but I knew that a more pertinent choice of action was to get prepared for whatever was to come. So I found myself doing more research on nutritious recipes, healthy practices, changing the way I utilize my time and retraining myself on skills I had let fall by the wayside. These things helped me to see clearer that I needed to push myself harder to increase the focus of my daily life as well as the art and music we were creating together and separately.

It also helped me to reconnect with a lot of people who were going through the same things that I was: emotionally, spiritually and mentally. That helped me to feel that I wasn’t alone and that feelings of uncertainty and the doubt of what the future would hold were not illogical or abnormal. I began to feel connected again and realize all the commonalities we all experience in this struggle.

It also help me to see what other artists, musicians, poets, actors, directors, editors and DJs were doing, while confined to their homes, to add content to the world. Much of it was extremely inspirational and just entertaining as a whole.

I began to return to the things I loved in terms of art and music, and evaluating, finding and creating. As well as finding new lanes and mediums to express all of the ideas I have constantly floating around in my head.

Though it was a struggle to stay creative and inventive at the same time while dealing with depressive emotions and pessimistic fears of what the end of this lockdown would look like, it helped me look at my finances, more intricate plans for the future and how to learn more skills to meet the goals I had set, personally and professionally. So I enjoyed the time off in that aspect. At the end of the day, we are all humans and had to stop and transition to living life on different terms. 

Since quarantine happened, I’ve been doing nothing but prepping and planning what my next move will be artistically, as well as a father, a black man, an educator and a musician.

I started refreshing my skills in art, bringing out sketchbooks and ideas of concepts, stories and lyrics I had written before, reaffirming how much time had passed since I had revisited this portion of my creativity. I also found a way to start a new exercise routine to keep me motivated during the day.

I even picked up a few books that were laying around the house that I’d never got to finish or never got to start. I started writing freely again, journaling, even doing a few affirmations. Small things like that, which I felt like I had no time to begin before quarantine and the pandemic. So this time away has helped me redefine how to manage time and what things are of most importance.

With the intensity of the already tumultuous political climate we were experiencing, I was also able to educate my son on exactly what was going on and have real heart-to-heart talks about the reality of the life I had brought him into. None of it was easy, but it was all very important, and I’m glad I had the chance to do it. He seemed receptive in understanding the injustices that we face today. Which was a lot for someone who hadn’t reached double digits in age.

Luckily, we both got to be around family in quarantine together while this educational process was happening. I think it brought us all closer together as a family and helped us to understand what our necessities are as a unit.