319 Creates: The Quarantine Sessions with Devin Alexander

On today’s episode of Quarantine Sessions, we check in with Devin Alexander of Quad Cities band Giallows. We reached Devin at his home studio by phone. 

You can listen below or find 319 Creates on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher. You can also follow on Facebook and Instagram.

Podcast Transcription

Mike Weber: Welcome back to 319 Creates, I’m your host, Mike Weber. On today’s episode of Quarantine Sessions, we check in with Devin Alexander of Quad Cities band Giallows. We reached Devin at his home studio by phone. 

Alright. Devin Alexander, welcome back to 319 Creates. 

Devin Alexander: Thank you so much for having me back, man. This is great. 

Mike Weber: So I will say that the episode that you were first on has not gone out yet. It was actually going to go out about two weeks ago when all this started happening, but I’ve put all the other projects on pause for 319 Creates until the world resets back to normal. 

Devin Alexander: Yeah it’ll be a little bit.

Mike Weber: So Devin, how are you holding up in quarantine?

Devin Alexander: Well, I’m working from home and, the band is still jamming for the time being. I know we’re not supposed to be, but the drummer and guitar player are relatively quarantined in their day to day lives as well. And I’m working from home now, so it is not too bad of a deal. 

Mike Weber: Well, it’s good that you’re still able to see your bandmates and do a little bit. I know the other day you guys did a live stream. You want to tell me about what made you decide to do that and getting it set up and how you feel it went? 

Devin Alexander: Well, we’ve been talking about doing live streams since, boy, at least last June when we played at the live from Factory of Fear Haunted House event. And, at that particular time I couldn’t do Facebook streams with high quality audio for some reason. They just said your profile is not updated yet, so you can’t do this. So we were doing YouTube. But just last week I figured out that Facebook now allows you to select a wide variety of input sources now. So we were just like, alright, let’s just start streaming practices because we’re not gigging. And if people throw us a little bit of tips through our PayPal account, then we can at the very least, be slowly working towards, you know, vinyl money or whatever. 

I thought it went pretty well. From a technical standpoint, I’m basically just micing up all the sources in the basement and then mixing them in Logic. And then, Logic by itself won’t be a source for Facebook to look at, but I have another program that sort of like coalesces all sources on your computer into one assignable output source. So that’s the only reason why it works the way it does for us because I already have that piece of software.

Mike Weber: Interesting. And that was actually the question I was going to ask is how that all shakes out with making that work. That’s something that I’ve definitely, I’ve been kind of keeping an eye on all the local bands that have been trying to do livestreams. And some of them sound better than others. But I think it’s really cool that we’re now at a point from a technology perspective, at least, that options like this are available. 

Devin Alexander: Yeah. And I think people who are waiting to jump into it now have a reason to. You know, if you’ve got live gigs, you’re probably like, “Eh, streaming.” But now that we don’t have anything better to do, it’s like, “Hey, I guess I’ll figure out the streaming thing.”

And for us at least, it has worked out really well. I’m very happy with the overall sound quality. And you know, even though it’s basically like a low bit rate MP3 over Facebook, it still sounds relatively listenable. It’s not, you know, a single microphone on a USB camera pointed into a big basement. It’s, individual sources, and I’m giving it some mixing love here. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. I didn’t have a chance to watch your livestream. I was actually on one of the last shoots that I’ve had to do at the time, but Nicole watched it and she said that she was actually really impressed with just the audio quality that you were able to achieve through the stream. Because you’re right, some of the people that we’ve seen doing the livestreams – they don’t have the type of equipment that you do and they’re just throwing up their phone and doing what they can do. Which is still really cool and it’s still a way to be able to experience some local music. But when you’re able to take it to that next level and be able to have the fine tuning that you can do in Logic. I think that’s really cool. I mean, the next step of course, is trying to figure out how to get a better camera attached to it. That’s something that I’ve actually been looking into. Nicole and I were talking talking about –

Devin Alexander: The one that we’re using is just that Logitech C 920, which actually looks really good if I light the basement well enough – which I can, but I’ve been keeping it really dark. I found that in general, an audience will forgive a low video quality if the audio is good. But the other way around it’s not the same. If the quality is gorgeous, but the audio is garbage, people are like, no. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. And that’s one of the reasons, like we were talking a few weeks ago when I invested in this new audio recorder. But that’s like when I do video. You know, I have a higher end camera and I can get really good quality video, but that’s not the end all be all. And people will rather look at a poor video with good audio than a good video.

Devin Alexander: Yup, exactly. Exactly. They’ll forgive video quality a lot, but if they have to listen to garbled stuff or stuff that’s really crushed by like, you know, bit rate compression, or like I said, like a single microphone in a room when people are actually trying to play music and the microphone is not in the right spot. It’s just all symbols. Usually it’s all symbols. 

Mike Weber: So I’m going to bring us back to – you mentioned that you’re working from home now. Was that something that you had ever done prior to this? Is this a whole new experience for you? How has that working out for you? 

Devin Alexander: I have never worked from home. Today was day five of working from home. I started last Thursday. And it’s a fucking nightmare because… For a variety of reasons, it’s a fucking nightmare. I don’t have any kids and I don’t have any dogs or whatever, so there’s nothing in my house that’s distracting to me. But, the place that I’m working wasn’t quite ready for the entire establishment to start working from home all at once. So the only thing that’s a nightmare for me, I should say, is just inability to interact with customers the way that I normally do, you know. Which is quick, efficient, get them what they need and get them on their way. But, that might be resolved tomorrow, we’ll find out. They’re doing some infrastructure upgrades. But anyways, that’s boring. But, I don’t mind working from home. I actually like everything except not being able to do my job. 

Mike Weber: Well you can’t have everything, I guess. 

Devin Alexander: Yeah. Right. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. I’ve found it very interesting that it seems to me like there’s a lot of different opinions on this. Like Nicole works from home on a pretty regular basis. Before this all happened, she was working from home three or four days a week, so this is nothing really new to her. And some weeks she just wouldn’t go into the office at all if there wasn’t a need. And now her company has gone full on. I don’t think that there’s anybody that’s actually in the office at this point.

Devin Alexander: Well, good. 

Mike Weber: And for her it’s like it’s another day. She feels like she’s way more productive when she works from home anyway, so this is all good news for her. But it’s interesting seeing some of the other people, kind of like you were saying, that just they’re not used to that and it’s such a jarring experience. Going from getting up, getting dressed, going to the office, working, coming home – to you just kind of roll out of bed and you sit at your desk.

Devin Alexander: Dude. It’s so good. That is like my favorite part. 

Mike Weber: You and Nicole will agree on that. 

Devin Alexander: Yeah. It’s like set my alarm for five minutes before I have to get on the computer. Done. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. That’s what Nicole does on a pretty regular basis. But I also find it interesting, people complain about losing the trip. Like it’s no longer work. It feels weird. I’m still at home. And I’ve also been really surprised, how there are a lot of people who just don’t have a desk at home. 

Devin Alexander: A what? 

Mike Weber: A desk. Like just a place to sit your laptop down and work. She was telling me how some of her coworkers have had to like go and buy a desk because they had nowhere in the house to set up a laptop. And I’m like, really?

Devin Alexander: That’s so weird. I mean, people like myself who do a lot of audio stuff where like I have already got a desk. It’s got all my stuff on it. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. We were talking to somebody and they were like, “So Nicole, how are you doing working from home?” You say that like this is a new thing.

Devin Alexander: Yeah. There’s no difference there. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. And for me, with the little work that I still have, I mean, I always worked from home anyway because I’m a freelancer, so that’s not really a change on my part. But I think it’s interesting and I really wonder in the longterm if this whole large social experiment, as it were, is really gonna change the way that people and companies think about work habits. Like, are we going to see that most people tend to be more productive working from home than coming into an office? And will that cause a shift in the way that businesses and organizations allocate their resources?

Devin Alexander: My favorite thing about it is that they have no – not a single leg to stand on – now saying that the internet is not a utility.

Mike Weber: We were actually talking about that a little bit earlier today 

Devin Alexander: It’s like, yeah, it’s the real deal. So you either, you know, make it the real deal for people or you better not expect them to work from home because at this point, just about everybody has the internet, I’m sure. And if they don’t, they probably don’t work for, you know, a tech industry or something like that. But I think everybody who sits at a computer is expected to be able to work from home. What about those people who don’t have that? 

Mike Weber: Yeah, and taking it even broader than that – we’re starting to see, not necessarily here in Iowa, but in other states and other bigger cities that some of the school districts are opting to finish out the school year remotely and are actually asking students to do stuff like via Zoom and other types of video conferencing to still finish out the education that they’re supposed to get for the rest of the year. And it seems to me it’s really difficult to put that onus on, especially lower income people when they might not have the internet. And even if they do, I think a lot of people don’t necessarily realize the amount of people who their only access to the internet is via their smartphone. 

Devin Alexander: Yeah.

Mike Weber: Which in a lot of cases is not capable of doing the things necessary to facilitate any type of teleconferencing or video conferencing or anything like that.

Devin Alexander: Yeah, exactly. So we’ll see what happens after this. I hope that what it really does is, you know, helps make the argument that the internet is just like water, is just like electricity is just like plumbing, etc. 

Mike Weber: I feel like a lot of people in the tech sector have vocally been trying to push for a broader understanding of what access to the internet really means in recent years. And I feel like this is just spelling out their case word for word for them. Showing just how important it is to have reliable internet in every home. And moreover – this was something interesting that I was listening to on NPR the other day – beyond just that, we’re also now opening up this conversation to, this job which you as an employer said could not be done by somebody who is disabled. We are now proving that it can be.

Devin Alexander: Eat shit, you fucking idots.

Mike Weber: Yeah. Like if you’re saying that you can’t hire somebody with disabilities because they have to come to the office and you can’t make accommodations and now that same job is being done remotely.

Devin Alexander: By people, at home, on the internet. Yeah, it’s like eat it guys. Start hiring people who can do stuff. Hopefully when it comes back – like I’m exceptionally lucky to still be employed during this, but I have many friends who are now unemployed and collecting unemployment as a result of what’s going on because they work in a very public facing situation. I hope that when they get hired back, it also draws a lot of other people into the workforce who maybe weren’t in there before for exactly the reasons that you were just talking about. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. And talking about people who don’t have the luxury of just shifting over and working from home and have been furloughed, fired, laid off, what have you. I’m hoping that this is creating more of a understanding of the nature of the way large portions of our economy work. I feel like in the past we were very flippant about like the need of service workers and to watch how overnight that entire industry can just be shut off.

Devin Alexander: Yup. And now we’re like thanking our grocery store workers and thanking our fast food workers. Not that I didn’t before, but now it’s like, Jesus, thank God they’re here. Before, you maybe take it for granted because things aren’t about to go down the tubes. But now it’s like I go to Hy-Vee and I’m like, “Hey, thanks for working. I appreciate it.”

Mike Weber: Yeah, I’ll tell you that I went to Hy-Vee earlier today and I was very happy to find toilet paper.

Devin Alexander: Oh, you had some, huh? Interesting. 

Mike Weber: Yeah, I had some to begin with. You know, I usually go to Target.

Devin Alexander: I’ve been wiping my butt. I’m a modern man. 

Mike Weber: But, you know, I usually go to Target and I get the big package. That’ll last me like two months. So I still had a bunch when this thing started. I’m like, “This’ll last like a week or two. People are going to stop losing their minds and the stuff’s going to come back into stock.” And with every day that went on I ended up like, “Okay, I think we need to get some groceries.” And I go to Hy-Vee thinking they’ll totally have toilet paper today. No. Yesterday I ended up going to like three different stores. People are still hoarding this stuff. I just, I don’t get it. 

Devin Alexander: So stupid. And selling it on eBay per roll. I didn’t see this personally, so I could be full of shit, but I heard from a friend who was like, “Have you seen people, they’re selling it by the roll or the selling it by the, you know, by the square?” It’s like, dude, come on guys. 

Mike Weber: Yeah, I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised. I think I read somewhere that, I want to say it was Facebook marketplace was actually proactively looking for people who were trying to sell toilet paper and removing the listings. You can’t do that. 

Devin Alexander: Good. They should get the shit kicked out of them – with no toilet paper to wipe it off, I guess. 

Mike Weber: Yeah, probably one of the funnier things I’ve seen recently – we have a couple of local bars that are still trying to stay open and do like carry out only service. And one of them was doing a giveaway promotion. It was like, the 20th or 30th customer that came in also got a couple of cans of beer and two rolls of good old bar toilet paper. 

Devin Alexander: A couple rolls. That’s awesome. 

Mike Weber: Yeah, it’s interesting. It’ll be interesting to see, as all of this kind of moves forward and passes on, just what things are going to stick around from this period? Like as we go six months down the road, let me say that again. Six months back into normal life. Like once things get back to normal, once this is fully in our rear view mirror, what things that we have learned in this period are we going to look back at and hang on to? And how much of it are we just going to basically instantly forget as we move on?

Devin Alexander: I hope we don’t forget too much of it.

Mike Weber: I hope not too. And I’m seeing a lot of positive things that people are doing. That, you know, they didn’t do previously. For me, I miss my friends a lot. I can’t go see them, or at least I shouldn’t go see them. So we’ve been doing a lot of video hangouts, which is not something that I would have done previous to this. I think that opens up a lot of possibilities for, you know, having closer  connections with your friends. I think it’s really easy on a Friday night when your friends are like, “Oh, we’re having a couple of people over. You want to come over?” to be like I don’t want to leave the house and just not have that interaction. And when it becomes more acceptable to do those types of video based hangouts, I think it’s going to allow more people that access to do that personal interaction that I think we all need.

Devin Alexander: Yeah, for sure. As an example, I was talking to Al’s wife today, by the way, he had a little girl in February. Congratulations to them. 

Mike Weber: Oh, wow. Awesome. 

Devin Alexander: She was saying, they were thinking about reaching out to people this weekend to play that, “You Don’t Know Jack” online trivia game where you can just log into it with your phone. So it’s like exceptionally easy. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. You know, Claire and Larson from Dead Emperors, right? 

Devin Alexander: What’s his name? 

Mike Weber: Matt Larson. 

Devin Alexander: Did he used to play bass in, um… Is he a bass player now? 

Mike Weber: He’s a little bit of everything. He was a bass player. He originally was bass in Dead Emperors. Now he’s guitar in Dead Emperors.

Devin Alexander: Okay. No, I haven’t met those guys yet. I feel like when this is all over, we’re due to have a gig with them here at some point. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. But, so we’ve been trying to do hangouts with them and they found, I think it’s Jackbox Games or whatever. You get a room code you put in and you can just do it all online. That’s been, 

Devin Alexander: And it’s like, you put in your stuff and you can follow along on a TV. Or on your computer or your smart TV or whatever. And it just, you know, it just works. It’s like, “Oh, all right, cool. Very cool.”

Mike Weber: Yeah. And I think if we hang on to that extra layer of social interaction, I think it will be a nice thing for us to take away from the situation. 

Devin Alexander: I think it would be a very… Like I’m perceiving this whole situation, sort of in the analogy of someone pinching the garden hose closed. As soon as we can get back together and start doing stuff, I feel like there’s going to be a pretty awesome explosion that first weekend when they’re like, “Uh, actually I think we’re pretty good.” That first weekend is going to be insane. It’s going to be live music everywhere. It’s going to be live comedy everywhere. It’s going to be live entertainment out in the world, and people are going to be – at least for a little bit – they’re going to be like, “Man, I missed this so much.” I hope, you know, I hope. 

And then I hope, like you said, we retain some of those other avenues of staying close with our friends when we don’t feel like going out to bars and we don’t feel like whatever. We can just be social in the privacy of our own homes. Isn’t that strange? But that’s my hope. That’s my desire is that when all these events that got canceled get rescheduled, I hope that the entire, you know, the entirety of humanity comes out in full force to support those things. Beause that’s the other thing that people were sort of taking for granted is entertainment. It was everywhere. I mean, it’s still technically all over the internet, but as far as like music, art, comedy, performance, movies, all that stuff. It’s like you can’t take that for granted anymore because what would we be doing right now if we didn’t have that stuff?

Mike Weber: This will lead me into my final question. So if you had to pick one thing. Like right now, we’re thinking forward. We’re thinking to when all of this is going to blow over and life is going to reset back to normal. 

Devin Alexander: Sure.

Mike Weber: What are you looking forward to doing again the most?

Devin Alexander: I don’t think you’ll be surprised to hear that I’m just looking forward to playing live again.

It’s going to be, you know, by that point, I bet it will be over a month. If not, you know, six weeks, seven weeks or something of pent up being able to rock out really loud with a bunch of people who are ready to be rocked on. That’s what I’m missing. Second to that will be being able to just have people over and watch a movie or, you know, I got a birthday party coming up that is going to definitely going to be rescheduled. I like to cook ribs and, you know, cook stuff for people.

This year it went from being, you know, sixth annual and no big deal to, “Oh, this party’s going to get f’n real this year.” Because when we finally get to reschedule it, it’s going to be out of control. In a good way. But yeah, I’m looking forward to just being able to play gigs because I think – not to belabor the point – but I think I was taking… I think local bands, you know, bands that play mostly in their home towns, and even bands that tour constantly. I think bands in general maybe start to take live shows a little bit for granted. I don’t mean that in a negative way. But I mean to be able to capture the excitement of those first few live gigs. Like I kind of remember my first couple actual live gigs in front of an audience. I kind of remember them, but after a while it kind of goes away. I don’t really get nervous. It’s a pleasant feeling to jam out live. But to pinch that garden hose shut like that, and then eventually let it fly and just, you know. Just spray it all over the audience is going to be terrific. 

Mike Weber: Yeah, I mean, I’ll piggyback off that real quick at the end here. But I feel the exact same way. I’d have to sit down and figure it out, but we are really close to the longest that I’ve ever gone without shooting a live show since I got real serious about photographing live music.

So it’s going to be a very interesting experience when we’re finally at a point where it is safe for me to grab my cameras and go out to a bar and experience live music again. Like it is going to be something really exciting. And also, you know, by that point it’ll be like, “Oh, do I remember how to do this right?”

Devin Alexander: You miss going out to a bar and having every band look exactly the same because the lights never change?

Mike Weber: Yeah. I mean, I just like getting out of the house.

Devin Alexander: Oh yeah. Totally.

Mike Weber: I like listening to the music and I like experiencing it. So for me, I think that that is… I mean, if you would’ve asked me last week, I probably would’ve said, I just want to go out to a Mexican place and get a margarita and sit down.

Devin Alexander: Dude. Right?

Mike Weber: But as the days go on and the days turned into weeks, it’s becoming more and more like… no, the thing that I miss the most is being able to get out of the house and do the photography that I want to do. 

Devin Alexander: Yeah. Get out and connect with humanity on that level in an artistic and an expressive way. Yeah. 

Mike Weber: Well, all right, Devin, thanks for taking the time and talking with us today. We’ll catch you later. 

Devin Alexander: I appreciate the invite, man. And I look forward to hearing this one. And the other one as soon as you’re ready to put them up. 

Mike Weber: All right, we’ll catch you later. 

Devin Alexander: All right. Thanks. Bye. 

Mike Weber: You can find Devin’s band on Facebook, Instagram, and Bandcamp. You can find more information as well as the transcription in the show notes. 

You can subscribe to the podcast on most platforms, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Play. Thanks for listening and we will catch you next time on 319 Creates.