The Pasta-Themed Soundtrack We've All Been Waiting For

[Graphics: Vicky Wasik]

For those of us who are healthy and employed right now, one of the hardest things about social distancing restrictions is that it can be hard to know how to help those more directly affected by the pandemic. Many volunteer operations, though well-intended, may actually be playing a role in spreading the virus. And if you're worried about job security yourself, ordering lots of takeout or making large donations may not be in the cards. Though sanctioned volunteer opportunities abound in certain sectors (particularly healthcare), those of us with limited qualifications and/or finances may be struggling to find ways to support those around us.

Which is why, with the restaurant, hospitality, and entertainment industries hit especially hard in these last few weeks, I've been grateful for the work my friend Sophie has been doing on her Instagram account, TheGoodKindofViral. She bills it as "the good corona news you’ve been looking for: where to donate, community tips, and what the coolest artists are doing while quarantined," and it's quickly proved an uplifting directory of the remarkably creative ways in which the more precariously employed members of affected industries are banding together, finding new sources of income, volunteering their time, and more.

When I saw that a woman named Jaclene Sini had posted an offer to write custom songs to deliver some joy while earning a few bucks, I was immediately taken with the idea that Serious Eats should hire her to write a theme song for Starch Madness, our new pasta bracket competition. So taken, in fact, that I decided we should do the same with five additional local artists.* Each has a different musical style and background, but all six are facing similar financial challenges and career derailments due to the pandemic.

* Disclosure: I know (and am eager to support!) two of these artists personally.

My instructions were brief: I asked that each artist shoot a 30-second music video about pasta that includes the words "Starch Madness." You can read more about each artist and view the utterly delightful results of this challenge below.

Jaclene Sini

Can you tell me about yourself?

I live in Brooklyn, NY, and work a true gig lifestyle—food service, design freelance, ID check at music venues, and playing music on the side solo and with my band, Bugmouth.

How have you been affected by COVID-19?

The pandemic has basically removed all sources of income for me aside from the few hours a week I still get from the bagel shop! And that comes with mixed feelings because breaking quarantine even for work stresses me out!

What can our readers do to support you and others in your industry?

PLEASE join mutual aid funds if you have money to spare. There are tons of places online to donate money to people lacking income during this time, and there are a lot of resources to donate time doing grocery delivery for immunocompromised people. Here are some links to sign up to or for help:

Can our readers commission songs from you?

I'm absolutely available for more commissions! Please message me at @jaclene_ on Instagram with your song ideas!

Ronnie Lee

Can you tell me about yourself?

I’m born and raised Newburgh, NY. I work in retail and do hair to make a living, but I'm also a performer, comedian, and filmmaker.

How have you been affected by COVID-19?

My primary job is at a The North Face outlet in Woodbury Commons, a mall that's now shut down. Because of social distancing, I also can't do hair, so all my sources of income have dried up.

What can our readers do to support you and others in your industry?

Share this article and my work, or just support it with likes or comments!

Can our readers commission songs from you?

Yes! I'd love to write you a personalized rap! Pasta Mobstas are here for all your quarantine entertainment needs!

Sean McVerry

Can you tell me about yourself?

I’m a professional musician and producer. I’ve spent the last few years pursuing my music career as well as freelancing for ad agencies, musical directing, and touring with a handful of bands.

How have you been affected by COVID-19?

I’ve already had to cancel about four shows, as well as a trip to South By Southwest. Luckily I’m able to work remotely, but any sort of live opportunities/gigs have gone to the wayside through all of this.

What can our readers do to support you and others in your industry?

I think for musicians and artists, supporting them through streaming, buying records on iTunes, and any merch sales are invaluable right now given that we can’t play out. You can find all my stuff under Sean McVerry on all streaming platforms, and just spread the word! I know everyone looks forward to the day when we can all be together at a show.

Can our readers commission songs from you?

I’m usually just working on songs all day as it is, would absolutely be open to being commissioned for folks who want some custom tunes!

Alec Stephens III

Can you tell me about yourself?

I live in Bushwick, Brooklyn, where I'm an actor/singer/bartender. I love collaborating on creating new works, plays, shows, and music, and I host a podcast called Bushwick Variety Show.

How have you been affected by COVID-19?

The restaurant I work at, Ed’s Lobster Bar, had to lay off pretty much everybody. Most actors and musicians I know in New York work in bars and restaurants for survival jobs, so I know a bunch of people who are without work. My wife owns and operates a lingerie boutique called The Rack Shack, and she, along with a bunch of small business owners, has been pretty much shut down.

What can our readers do to support you and others in your industry?

People can contact their representatives and try to support the work of musicians and actors they love. Ask your local small businesses what you can do to help them make it through. Money helps for sure, but also communicating, being kind, letting people know they’re appreciated helps.

Can our readers commission songs from you?

Sure, if people want to commission songs from me, I’d be open to that idea.

Wilson Flores

Can you tell me about yourself?

I live in Bed-Stuy and I am a bartender/musician. I work For Larina And Aita in the Clinton Hill/Fort Greene area. I'm currently playing drums for a metal band called Blackest.

How have you been affected by COVID-19?

Well, I currently have no job. I went from working five days a week to zero. It's strange to flip the switch just like that, to be honest. Bartending allowed me to be creative musically in my free time and my band is in the process of releasing a new record. We have the record ready to be pressed, but the timeline is a bit blurry now given the current situation.

What can our readers do to support you and others in your industry?

Buy music/merchandise from artists you enjoy. Every show and tour has been canceled and that's $$$ right there. Show some love, because without them, you'd be going nuts at home right now. If you have the means to do so, then please donate to any organization supporting restaurant/bar workers, or any place that has a fund set up for their employees. Donate to any relief fund, really, but if your Tuesday night consists of getting a few drinks at your favorite happy hour spot, keep the bartender who no longer has that income in mind.

Can our readers commission songs from you?

Sure thing, and the weirder the better.

Christoph Carr

Can you tell me about yourself?

I live in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in the famed McKibbin Lofts, and I am a multi-disciplinary artist, curator, advisor to a start-up, and I run a DIY community art space. I also volunteer at a high school running the "philosophy room" and lead discussions on equity.

How have you been affected by COVID-19?

This pandemic has stopped every source of income that I have. As a performer, the venues are closed. The website that I work for helps people organize events in non-traditional spaces and I had spent the past four months preparing for our annual trip to Austin for SXSW—we had over 50 bands scheduled to perform at the Artery.is house in Austin, which is now cancelled. The site has had to cancel over 100 events that were scheduled for late March and early April. We have had to shutter our community art space, Gamba, where we would normally host at least four events a week.

What can our readers do to support you and others in your industry?

Readers can support me by supporting my Patreon page, directly donate to the Venmo account @bkwidllife, or PayPal to [email protected]

Can our readers commission songs from you?

Yes, I am totally open to making jingles, commission work, or customized songs.

Bonus: Flauvius, a.k.a. Daniel Gritzer the Court Musician

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