Meet the Artists Behind Osmosis’s New Song, “Flatten the Curve, Raise the Line”
Published on Apr 15, 2020. Updated on Sep 15, 2020.
You’ve heard “Big Brains Matter More”, Osmosis’s song about the Cranial Nerves. We're excited to announce that the team is back with a new single! “Flatten the Curve, Raise the Line” is an anthem about why it’s so important to support healthcare workers in the fight against COVID-19. We interviewed the creators of the song and video—Evan Diem, John Maloney, and Pauline Rowsome—to give you insight into the process behind the video and song you’re going to be humming to yourself for weeks to come!
Thanks for taking the time to sit down and answer our questions! Can you start by telling our readers a little bit about yourselves?
EVAN: I'm Evan Diem, and I live in Syracuse, NY. I’m a Senior Video Editor, Senior Voiceover Artist and Music Director at Osmosis (you might have listened to my other song about the Cranial Nerves, “Big Brains Matter More”). I’ve been playing music in some form since 2000, but I didn’t really start writing songs and playing outside of school orchestra until around 2012.
JOHN: I’m John Maloney, a Front-End Developer on the team, and I’m living in Minneapolis MN. My cousin gave me my first guitar in the seventh grade, and I learned to play “Lightning Crashes” by the band Live and that was it—that was the epiphany.
PAULINE: I’m Pauline Rowsome, a Senior Illustrator and Content Manager at Osmosis. Since joining the team in late 2017 I’ve been based in the UK for the most part, but have lived and worked all over, from Latin America to South East Asia. After completing my degree in Medical Sciences I was left with 4 years worth of illustrated notes which made me realize I should probably pursue and merge my love of medicine and illustration.
What gave you the idea to write “Flatten the Curve, Raise the Line”?
EVAN: Well, I was approached by Shiv, our CEO, and Rishi, our CMO, to write a song focusing on these topics. I wasn’t really sure where they wanted to go with it, but they trusted me to go in a direction that’s comfortable for me and would end up somewhere good, so I went for it.
I was hesitant at first, but I usually am when I get somewhat vague instructions. So I just played around a bit and wrote the first draft of the chorus in a couple minutes just as an idea of what it could sound like. Turns out they liked it, so a few days later I built the verses around it.
JOHN: Well, I was approached by Shiv, our CEO, and Rishi, our CMO… Oh, no, nope, I didn’t write this song at all. This came straight from Evan’s mysterious and fecund brain.
Evan, John, this is your first time working on a song together: what was that process like?
EVAN: Well, it was really fun to basically say, “Hey, John, can you record the chorus vocals on this song?” and then wait to see what he came back with. The real challenge was mixing together 4–6 vocal tracks and seeing how that fleshed out the sound of the sung parts of this song. There wasn’t much interaction, honestly, but John gave me a lot to work with and that greatly improved the final product.
JOHN: Yeah, I thoroughly enjoyed passing the project files back and forth, and getting an inside look at just how thought-through and put together the backing instrumentation is. Though it made me realize the woeful state of my own recording technology (I really need to invest in a good vocal mic!)
Pauline, how was working on this video? Which lyric did you most enjoy illustrating?
PAULINE: In itself I illustrated this video just like any, but I have to say putting together visuals to this song was really great fun. To be honest, Evan did such an amazing job with the creativity in the lyrics that the video almost illustrated itself! The only challenge was making sure I didn’t overdo it in visuals and animations—I wanted to complement the lyrics and the message within them rather than distract from it.
I think my favourite illustration is the weightlifter raising the line during the chorus. I feel like the video does a great job at pointing out how easy flattening the curve and raising the line can be if everyone is willing to do their part by staying home, but I did feel it was important to acknowledge that even if in theory flattening the curve and raising the line is easy, in practice it takes a lot of strength, courage, adaptability and trust to do so. We’ll all be stronger for it!
How challenging was it to create something uplifting—and even funny at times—in the face of such a grave situation, without trivializing the subject matter?
EVAN: This was definitely my biggest concern. At the time before I wrote this I was starting to get really existentially upset and frustrated by our government’s handling of the crisis and I had just been thinking “What’s the point of writing a song at a time like this?”
But then when I got a couple concepts down that I liked, that thought turned into: “What are people already doing with songs about the pandemic? What can I do differently that’s both nuanced but also lyrically interesting and complex enough that it avoids being overtly cheesy?”
Honestly, the “Imagine All the People” satire was the concept around which I built the whole song. That critique is very important to me, as is the beginning of the second verse where we acknowledge that these “Stay Home” instructions and chastisements are not for the people who haven’t been afforded the opportunity to do so. I knew once I had that nuance established, I could work into the material that would be much cheesier if left unqualified.
John: I would have had a really hard time being part of some piece of toothless treacle that either minimized or tried to “uplift” the crisis we’re in. But Evan’s lyrics elegantly deliver the medically-appropriate advice being handed out, and at the same time offers an entire caveat like, “Yeah this is good advice if you can follow it—but some people just can’t.” Reading back, I see that Evan says as much and more, so I’ll just nod my head in agreement now!
PAULINE: I can only imagine that, from a lyrical standpoint, it can’t have been an easy feat to write this, but I love the balance Evan struck here, throwing in light-hearted humour within a serious message. The call to action here for those “who can and do, but won’t and don’t” is so well put. I particularly like (and relate to) the line, “Seems ridiculous? You don’t get to do fun things for a bit”—and the satirical way Evan sings that. I’ll be honest: it’s definitely a thought that has shamefully crossed my mind a couple of times. Hearing this part of the song really made me take a step back, re-evaluate, and put into perspective some of the more selfish complaints I’ve had lately, but also laugh at myself and how ridiculous these kinds of thoughts are amidst the serious situation we are all currently living in.
How is COVID-19 affecting your creative output? Have you noticed a change in your artistry since beginning isolation?
EVAN: It was really hard at first because of the frustration and sadness I was going through knowing what was going to be coming to our country. But once you process it, you’re just left with a lot of time and unexpended energy. I’m taking more time with projects and trying new things. I am taking full advantage of music as a way of getting energy out even without a physical audience. You can check out my other music on streaming platforms like Spotify.
JOHN: It’s been a lot harder to write lately, though some of that is just pressure from being kind of "always-together" with my family; we’ve been mentally just focusing on “being together” through this, and not much on like, processing or making sense of it. On the other hand, I’ve been communicating with other isolated-musician-types and we’ve been sending songs back and forth and collaborating that way, which I never did before. It’s been a good way to maintain an expressive outlet that’s not necessarily trying to be like, “Okay, now I’m going to sit down and Make Sense Of Things.” (Editor's note: Listen to more of John's music on Spotify.)
PAULINE: I always have ups and downs in creativity and general flow of ideas, but I have definitely felt more of the extreme ends of the spectrum since being in isolation. For example, I’ll feel completely overwhelmed and stuck some days and any creative task becomes near-impossible, whereas other days I’ll have such a clear mind that ideas are flowing and I find my creative brain naturally connects to my fingers—which is when I’ll do some of my best work!
What’s the situation like where you are? How are you finding isolation? What are the biggest challenges? What about silver linings?
EVAN: Things seem relatively normal. My housemates are both home most of the time, which is different but we don’t seem to be hit that hard as a community. A lot of things here appear to be relatively normal. I normally work from home and I’m used to it. I still have work to do and I’m staying busy. I just wish I lived completely alone so I had more control over my space. Silver lining is that I’m spending way less money on food and I’m connecting with friends I haven’t talked to in a while.
JOHN: I feel pretty immeasurably lucky to be able to say that our lives have not been completely upended. I already had a remote life set up, and the kids being home is much more positive than negative (except when trying to, you know, get an hour of uninterrupted time). For a while you couldn’t get eggs and stuff from the grocery store, but that seems to have leveled off a bit. Silver lining is the discovery that spending all day every day with my family is something I quite like and don’t really get sick of. I think the situation enables that viewpoint in me, in a way; it’s made me really consider what’s important to me on the deepest level in a heartbeat-like, constant way, not just in various moments.
PAULINE: I was actually travelling in Asia since January, and had plans to continue working and travelling across Asia and Europe until September. The unfortunate part is that as a result of having made the commitment to be abroad for so long I didn’t have my own place to return to so when lock-down and travel bans were put in place very suddenly, so I found myself returning to my childhood home with my parents potentially putting them at risk - but luckily I was symptom-free after my 14-day quarantine and am extremely grateful and happy to be safe, healthy and with family during this time.
The biggest challenge, however, is re-adapting to family life with everyone under one roof. It’s been patience-testing and character-building for sure, but a silver lining in itself! Another silver lining is I’m lucky enough to have come back from 7 months of amazing travel, so I have so many fresh memories to look back on, making me forget the isolation.
Do you have a message for the frontline workers out there?
EVAN: I wish there was more that we could do on a systemic level to help you. You deserve health care, sick leave, hazard pay, rent freezes, bill freezes and more. You should know that you are the most valuable people in our society. Medical professionals, yes absolutely, but also the people who we talk about in the song who “can’t stay home, those without a home to go to or the chance to be alone.” You are more valuable than this country shows and everyone will see it plainly.
JOHN: I’m sorry that COVID-19 has put you in the position you’re in right now. It sucks and there’s no way around that. Thank you for all that you are doing.
PAULINE: What to say other than thank you, thank you, thank you. It’s heartbreaking and frustrating that such a significant burden has been placed upon you and your families amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and I wish governments, and those still not taking isolation seriously, would do more to support you. You are the reason we can look forward to better times and stay above water in the meantime, and for that: thank you.