Isolation Drills: Another Michael

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.

Alenni Davis (guitar, keyboards): If your path has ever intersected that of a creative field or environment, you possess a firsthand understanding of the saying “expect the unexpected. Nothing about being a musician is usually a predictable ordeal, and there’s nothing about this pandemic that any of us could have prepared for. Naturally, our way of living was turned upside down for the indefinite foreseeable future. Live in-person performance, especially for lesser-known artists and venues, had been rendered impossible, and after a year of this new reality, the thought of “live shows” has become nearly inconceivable and unrecognizable, even in video and audio recordings and in my own memories.

I think back to some of my favorite gigs I’ve ever played, or watching friends and bands I really love perform, and I can’t help but want nothing more than to be transported back into those vignettes of a seemingly lost or suspended reality. But when I actually start to picture what going to my first show after this is “over” (whatever that may mean or look like) will be like, I almost feel frozen. Just the thought of being indoors with any sized group of people without masks is nearly incapacitating, and yet I somehow remain dreaming and yearning for it multiple times a day.

I feel forever lucky and thankful that just days before the world started to close, I was able to catch what would be the last show I’d see: Field Medic and Beach Bunny at the Vera Project in Seattle, on March 10, 2020. Another Michael had the true pleasure of touring with both Field Medic and Beach Bunny in 2019 along with other bands and friends of ours that we deeply admire. And we had plans to tour with Ratboys following the release of their 2020 LP, Printer’s Devil, which have been put on an unfortunately indefinite hold.

The business practices of the music industry, the work of being a musician and the experience of listening to music itself have needed to adapt and morph into something entirely new and unprecedented in the last year due to the absence of live performance, touring, in-person merch booths and social interaction between the artist and the audience. Navigating the ins and outs of each of these facets of being a band in 2020, while also surmising the promotion and release of our debut album, was an unexpected circumstance that none of us could’ve ever conceptualized until it was already upon us.

Our new record, New Music And Big Pop, means a lot to the three of us, as I like to believe any album does to most musical groups and artists out there. Especially seeing as we’ve been working on this album since 2017 and really since our formation as a group. It was already a completely foreign venture to imagine a record of our own invention being out in the world. But it feels totally haphazard to put out a collection of songs with no idea of when you might be able to plan a tour around its release, connect with listeners in person or give the songs their long awaited second-yet-parallel home in live instrumentation and performance.

Sure, we discussed and proposed the best courses of action with which track to release when and what color of vinyl looks best with the cover art, but otherwise, the process has felt like an endlessly evolving pool of unexpectancies, to be determineds and unknowns. As far as we connect with the music, we can only hope that others will be able to gather what we wish to contribute with our musical expression during this time of fully digital consumption.

We are immensely grateful to have released music in 2021 and to each person who has helped us and supported us in our journey to do so. And we look forward to continue our endeavors to uplift others in the ways that we are able whenever safe conditions for shows and traveling return in full bloom. Until then, we’ll keep creating and searching for sources of inspiration within this uncharted landscape.