This is Essential: Pierce Jordan and GG Guerra of Soul Glo - WXPN
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During the coronavirus pandemic most people have been forced to work from home or, worse yet, they’ve been laid off or furloughed. But not everybody. We decided it would be interesting and important to shine a spotlight on some of the essential workers who are also members of our music community for a new series we’re calling This Is Essential.

Being in a band, especially a DIY band, never pays the bills. At the same time it’s almost impossible to commit to the band while also having a “real” job. You know, a 9-5 sort of thing where you need to show up on time, have long-term responsibilities, and can’t just randomly take off for a couple week tour as many times a year as possible. It’s why so many musicians work in food service, at bars, and at a slew of other positions that are either temporary, contract, or these days what’s known as “gig” jobs. That’s driving for Uber or Lyft, doing deliveries, shopping for other people, and a whole lot more, all tied to apps.

While the immediate association with the term “essential worker” might be a nurse or a mail carrier, somebody whose job is so necessary that they couldn’t stay at home – or work from home – over the past few months, it actually encompasses a lot more than that. Gig workers very much continued working because Ubers were still needed, a lot more people started using personal shopper apps like Instacart, and with restaurants still partially shut down, food delivery became both even more popular and also quite necessary.

Pierce Jordan and Gianmarco “GG” Guerra from the band Soul Glo have been working as bike couriers for the past few years and have continued at the job throughout the pandemic. They both currently ride for Caviar, which was recently bought out by DoorDash. Jordan plans to continue on with the new company while Guerra is trying to get hired with a different delivery service.

As they both explained in this interview, the job allows them the freedom to tour and really just continue to play music on a regular basis. Even taking that into account, being a courier is certainly not without faults. You have to rely on tips – sometimes that’s great but lots of times it’s not – and the job itself is inherently dangerous. Numerous couriers are injured or even killed every year. In 2018 a member of the city’s punk and activist communities, Pablo “Barbanegra” Avendaño, died after being hit by a car while delivering food on his bike.

Jordan and Guerra are one half of Soul Glo along with Ruben Polo and TJ Stevenson. The two live together along with Mitch Esparza from Love Club / Chronic Anxiety who was profiled for this series back in May.


The Key: How long have you both been working as bike couriers?

Gianmarco Guerra: For me it’s been three years.

Pierce Jordan: I’ve been doing this for five years.

TK: Why’d you end up doing it? Is it just cause it’s an easy job to do while being a touring musician?

PJ: Exactly. The freedom to schedule [work] and not have to answer to anybody. If I don’t want to work, I just don’t work. If I want to work, I can work. That’s just how it is. It’s pretty much how all of these gigs are.

TK: Would you consider this sort of thing an ideal job to have as a touring musician?

PJ: No, I think the ideal job to have as a touring musician is to just be a touring musician. [laughs] That’s my ideal job!

Having to work while having a passion is very, very normal. I don’t have a problem with that. To me that’s the trade off with living in this world. But then when you find out that there are musicians who aren’t doing that, who don’t have to do that, who never have to even think about doing that and were able to get a lot farther in this world…

Working for Caviar and shit, it’s not a great job but it does allow me to do my thing. So much of it is [figuring out] what you can get away with and finding all those loopholes.

GG Guerra and Pierce Jordan | Photo by Mitch Esparza, courtesy of the artist

TK: What is a typical day or night or whatever when it comes to delivering food? How many hours are you working? How many miles are you riding?

GG: I’m not sure of the exact miles that we ride, but we typically make our money [between] 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and at night it’s between 5 p.m., maybe, and like 9 p.m. Sometimes it’s really good.

PJ: People have been [ordering more] because of the pandemic but I think that’s going to shift because people are starting to eat out more now and also because unemployment is running out.

GG: Having a job as a courier, you don’t really engage with the customer too much, especially right now because people just want no-contact delivery. It’s really shitty knowing that your job and the way in which you make money is at the hands of a rating or just something like that where you can’t really show the work you’re actually doing. It’s just what people say, really.

TK: It’s not like with a normal job where if you get in trouble you can ask a supervisor or co-worker to back you up. There’s nobody there to back you up.

GG: These people are so fucked up and they don’t give a fuck about you.

PJ: We’re literally just numbers to them.

GG: I’ve been trying to get a job with Black & Mobile. I just applied last week.

TK: What makes something like Black & Mobile better than another company?

GG: [In the application] I told them that I didn’t want to be part of something that doesn’t serve me as a person. I feel like Black & Mobile they give a fuck more about you and your autonomy. I’d rather work for them than these corporations that don’t give a fuck about me.

TK: And being a bike courier, you’re dealing with so much more than just bringing food from point A to point B. You have to deal with cars, you have to deal with bike maintenance. There’s a lot!

GG: For sure. In the past month and a half I was hit by a car three times. Right now I’ve been out for a week and a half and have been trying to find a new bike just so I can get back to work.

TK: Speaking as someone who has done a lot of freelancing and gig work: it’s great in a lot of ways but it’s also absolutely terrible.

PJ: Yeah, there’s no security. I can work as long as I’m healthy and all my shit works and everything, but as soon as something goes wrong I then have to pay to fix it. If I hurt myself I have to pay to fix myself. None of the wages from these jobs can pay that.

GG: Like any worker in the service industry we live off of our tips. Then we have to pay taxes on top of this shit.

TK: How did things change when the pandemic hit?

GG: Initially it was very hectic. There was a point where restaurants were shutting their doors on couriers who had been waiting there for long periods of time. It was kind of frightening to be honest because I was so confused and everyone was so confused about what was going on. I went to this one restaurant and the manager, she was pushing people out of the hallway. It was a lot. I was just trying to get people their food and I was getting pushed away.

TK: Have people been tipping more?

GG: Yeah? I guess. It hasn’t been bad. People have been ordering out more so it’s been better and the work has been more consistent. But like Pierce was saying, people’s unemployment is running out, people are starting to eat out more. I don’t really know how long this can last, doing our job as couriers. Before this shit happened we were making money but we weren’t making a lot of money. I feel like now people want to tip their servers more, but it might just be because of how much money they’re getting.

TK: Do you think of yourselves as essential workers?

PJ: Let’s be real: the term “essential worker” to me is a literal fucking void to make the most mistreated people in the working class feel less so. You ever work at a restaurant where they call you a “rock star”? To me being called an “essential worker” is just an attempt to placate me. Sometimes I feel super paranoid and insane with how much shit is intentionally done to acquire my silence or my cooperation.

Literally all I’ve seen is that essential workers are all of the people who are absolutely the most vital part of society and [necessary] to keep the cogs turning but also we’re not willing to make it better or pay them more. That’s why they’re essential. [laughs]

We talk about resources a lot but I think people miss a couple key natural resources that really make the world go round. One of those is time. Time is a very, very valuable resource. It’s not really about how much money you make, it’s about how much money you make in how short of an amount of time.

TK: That’s the essential nature of being a gig worker, too.

PJ: Exactly. If it takes you your entire lifetime to become a billionaire what does it fucking matter? If you hit that billion when you’re 90 years old, who gives a shit? Congratulations. But you don’t have any real power because you’re old as shit. Yeah, there are some old ass people doing crazy shit with money but it’s because they’ve had that money for a long ass time.

TK: What have you both been listening to over the past few months to try and maintain?

PJ: The Weeknd. This dude named Foogiano. There’s this rapper that a lot of people should know named Shay B. We’ve been fucking with dembow a lot. Do you know that stuff?

TK: I do not!

PJ: Dembow is basically Caribbean club music. It’s a Dominican permutation of dancehall. It’s closer to modern day reggaeton than anything. If you’ve heard the trap en Espanol stuff, dembow is like the next step after that.

[At this point Pierce and GG started arguing away from the phone about if dembow has any comparison to bounce.]

GG: Anyway, you need to check out Bulin 47 and El Alfa.

PJ: Chimbala. There’s a lot of dembow artists out there right now crushing it. It’s great.

TK: Have you started a house band yet?

PJ: Nah. We’ve just been recording shit for Soul Glo songs, and then GG and Mitch have been recording stuff. Mitch has been recording a bunch of music that I don’t even know if I can talk about.

TK: When’s the next Soul Glo release coming out?

PJ: For the EP, the pre-order info is probably going to come in [August] and that’s when we’ll be able to start talking about it. Everything is set up, it’s just a matter of us being told that the vinyl is done and that we can just start putting pre-order info out. But that shit is very imminent.

TK: Are you’re working on an album?

PJ: Yeah but that’s probably not going to come out for two years. We’ve been working on it for four years. [laughs]

TK: Considering everything you’ve been listening to over the past few months, that next LP is going to sound wild.

PJ: You have no idea. It’s not just about us getting into dembow. You have no idea what we’ve been fucking with in the crib. The influences that have been going into Soul Glo are literally from all genres. We don’t leave anything off the table. We’ve just been working it all in. Anything we’ve been talking about liking – regardless of genre – is going into Soul Glo songs. That’s where we’re at.

TK: That’s what I appreciate about punk in 2020: it’s a big umbrella that anything can fit under.

PJ: As time goes by it’s harder to recreate what’s already been done. Yeah, you can try and make something entirely new. That’s cool. But I feel like there’s multiple schools of thought with how that can be done. For us it’s going off of what we already fuck with, what we already admire. It’s bringing the way that other people’s music affects us in our lives into our art.

Ruben’s mentality is that whatever you think you sound like, you’re actually the baby version of that. So no matter how hard you think you are, you have to subtract like five percent. [laughs] I honestly really appreciate that mentality cause it’s a way to stay humble.

TK: I feel like the stress of being a courier for the past few months is probably also going to show up in this album.

GG: Real shit. What am I worth? What am I worth to my sense of being? What am I worth to these people who employ me but don’t know me? What am I worth?

PJ: We know the answer. The answer is shown to us every day. It’s not a rhetorical question. I think a big part of life right now in 2020 is people reckoning with the truth of what they want to be their existence and the truth that have been fed versus their own common sense and their understanding of the situation. It’s also how much they have to start leaning on that for survival because otherwise they’re just going to get killed and then the story will be that they enjoyed it, like Zora Neale Hurston said.

TK: Where do you go for information these days?

GG: You just gotta read Twitter.

PJ: You really do. I’ve been trying to get my parents on Twitter for so long.

GG: For real. Sometimes I’ll be watching NBC 10 or whatever the fuck the nightly news is and I’m just, like, “You’re altering the narrative.”

PJ: Obviously. That’s their job, it’s not even surprising.

TK: So we talked about the music you’ve been listening to and where you get your news but I also know you’ve been playing video games throughout this whole interview. What are you playing?

PJ: Mortal Kombat. Yes there’s a lot of senseless killing, but to be honest with you … [everyone starts laughing]. Okay, so literally as I’m saying this Mitch did this super gruesome fatality on me. But yeah, we’ve been playing a lot of fighting games. For me I just feel like with all of this senseless violence [going on in the world] I feel very much like I want to be violent in my own ways. That I want to commit acts of violence right back. And, you know, obviously, kids that’s not the way.

As a human being watching people who look like me get slain every day, watching people complain about asinine shit, watching people protest over asinine shit, watching people try to put Band-Aids over real ass problems and act like it doesn’t matter: that shit really makes me want to commit an act of violence. I feel like any reasonable person living through these times, I don’t feel like I’ve lost any understanding of who I am as a person. If anything I feel like I’ve gained it.

But yeah, to answer your question: we’ve been playing a lot of fighting video games. Also watching this television show that I love called Psych. I feel like we’ve been watching a lot of television.

TK: Let’s try and end this on an optimistic note: can you imagine what that first show back is going to feel like?

PJ: Whatever is the best bill. We ain’t got shit.

GG: I can’t even fathom it. We got offered two [future] tours and we were, like, how? Let’s be real.

PJ: Honestly, planning tours for 2021, that’s cool and all but what makes you so sure? I saw something about how Google was telling its employees to expect to work from home until summer 2021. You can really get an understanding of what’s going to happen by looking at major companies and what their plan is.

GG: Who the hell knows.

TK: What do you miss about performing?

GG: Everything.

PJ: What I miss most about performing is living every day feeling like I have a physical space to put my anger and all of my energy. That’s what I miss most about shows. Every single day of my life is a constant test because one of my ways of coping with my world is performing.

GG: Same. I feel the same way. There’s nothing that I can really look forward to.

PJ: Finishing the album. But again it’s hard to know what that will be even once we’re done writing it. There’s going to be a whole bunch of stuff we’ll have to figure out. There’s a lot of uncertainty still.

TK: The whole world definitely feels very confusing right now. Nothing is normal.

PJ: The best of what we have right now is a medium day in what existed before. This trauma is going to be encoded in all our DNA. People talk about wanting to get back to normal but fuck that. I don’t want to get back to normal. Normal is whack. I’d rather just peel it back layer by layer and deal with that bullshit.

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