Isolation Drills: Pete Rydberg (Studio 1935, Beretta76)

Like the majority of you, all of us in the Philadelphia area had been staying at home over the past year, learning to adapt to a “new normal.” MAGNET is checking in with local musicians to see how and what they’d been doing during this unprecedented time. Photos by Chris Sikich.

Rydberg: I couldn’t figure out where to start since it seems we’re at the end. There’s no easy way to sum up the past year. I’ve said this to other people over that time: We’re all in a rowboat, and somewhere there’s a distant shoreline, but we can’t see it and we don’t know when we’ll get there. So we just have to keep rowing.

Boy, that’s been fucking tiring, huh? It’s an incredible relief to see that shoreline begin to come into view. 

It was a terrible, awful, dread-filled year. Every facet of life uncertain, unknown, unsettled. We’re afraid to be alone. (H/T J.L.)

I was fortunate to keep busy at my studio, alternating between clients from different worlds of music, advertising and film. Working remotely has always been a built-in feature. So keep on rowing.

I tried my best to set aside time to make new music, but sometimes art and commerce meet in a dark alley with sharpened knives—and only one of them gets to walk out alive. 

Making something new was a challenge, but my band Beretta76 was able to capitalize on the time spent in the doldrums and finally release an album that had been completed for more than a little while. We’re looking forward to getting back together and making music again in person.

There were gut-wrenching social and political nightmares. Injustice. Intolerance. Insomnia. Doom scrolling. Keep rowing.

I remember the new sounds most of all. The eerie hushed stillness of the city in the early months. Like someone holding their breath, waiting. 

Random distant explosions. Endless droning helicopters. 

Avolition. Antipathy. Anhedonia. I don’t want to row anymore. 

The first full record I made in 2020 was with Susan Werner, with Mike Brenner producing. We got started in June, when it finally seemed like it was safe enough with the right protocols and precautions. It’s hard to describe what the first day was like, but it was a mix of adrenaline, endorphins and pure joy. Everyone left the studio that day feeling something different than despair.

Honey started their new record in October. It’s a huge blast of energy,—a perfect record to make in a perfectly terrible era. We kept pushing it further at every step: crazier, louder, faster.

In the middle of it: November 7. Doppler car horns. People shouting from the rooftops, shouting in the streets, shouting from their cars. Keep rowing; it isn’t over.

We began mixing the Honey record after the New Year, and I started mixing the song “The Insurrection” the morning of January 6, not knowing what we were all in for later that day. I’d take breaks to keep up with the insanity playing out on TV, then turn back to the mix and try to make it match the literal insurrection I was watching play out in real time. It was the most surreal mix session I’ve ever had.

Then it was January 20. There was a crack, and some light started to get in. (H/T L.C.)

In February, I packed up my studio from its Point Breeze location of 17 years and moved across Broad Street to the Bok Building. It’s been transformative on every level. Every session in the new space has had a new, different energy. I can’t wait to hear what happens next. 

Keep rowing, you’re almost there. See you on the shoreline.