Earlier this month, he launched the self-funded company, Mini-ShieldUSA, which sells the washable and reusable face shields (though de los Reyes points out, they are not constructed to replace N95 or medical-grade masks). The shields are made of polycarbonates, similar to the material from drum heads; a portion of their sales will benefit MusiCares.
De los Reyes will also take the stage himself, when he performs with Slim Gambill, the guitarist for Lady A, and keyboardist Latavius Mulzac at the Velvet Note on Oct. 16.
Checking in from his home in Fayetteville, where he lives “in the woods…like suburbia-country living,” the affable musician explained the genesis of his new company and shared his motto: “At the end of the day, it’s not just about you. It’s about protecting your neighbor.”
Q: How did you wind up creating your own business during the pandemic?
A: You’ve got to always look at things as a moment of growth. It’s a moment for us as individuals to look at things we haven’t taken care of — whether it’s learning to cook better or organizing or taking care of yourself — so when we come out of this, we shine. I’ve gone in the direction that I’m just grateful to be here. One of the things that brought meaning to me was to do something for your fellow neighbor, so we feel like we’re doing something substantial just to make this world a little better. I live by that. It’s not baloney. Giving back is crucial to me. With everything going on and the division we have, the good thing about it is that we now know we have a division. One of the priorities of our leaders should be to listen to everybody across the board.
Q: You started making these face shields early in the pandemic and provided them for the Fayetteville first responders. How did you get from looking at your drum heads to that point?
A: I donated (face shields) to them and different people working, like beauticians. At that time there was such anxiety because there were no masks to order. The a-ha moment was watching the news and seeing the emergency health care workers and seeing their shields, and I thought, those look like drum heads. When I go on tour, I stock up on them. So, I had ordered them, and now I didn’t need them. I believe in moving forward, but with precautions and smarts, so I started trying to do events and gigs and realized there was something missing. As an artist, I understand how important it is to see facial expressions, and I wanted to create something that allows us to be seen. I realized that wearing the mask onstage, people couldn’t see me, and I felt a huge loss of energy.
Q: How do you hope this helps musicians?
A: The way I approached it was, what do we need to do to get our entertainment industry back in the right direction to have performances in a safe manner? What would the singer need versus the drummer versus the guitar player versus the fan versus the security guard? The first mask is called “The Social,” and I have five other products waiting. I feel that not only is it a great product, but it comes with a statement and mission that is equally important to make sure you wear something to take care of your neighbor because you don’t know how they’re going to fare if they catch [COVID-19.] You know don’t know their home situation.