Tweetcore: Notes from a Scene

First, apologies for the title of this post. I was trying to come up with a name for a movement that doesn’t have obvious stylistic and/or geographic boundaries like the Seattle Grunge scene in the 90s or the Sound of Philadelphia in the late 60s/early 70s. And since I met most if not all of the musicians in question on Twitter—not to mention the fact that “core” seems to get appended to a lot of genres these days—I figured “Tweetcore” would get the job done.

Given its lack of traditional boundaries, Tweetcore is somewhat difficult to define. If pressed, I’d say it’s a term that applies to any group of musicians, songwriters, and recording artists who find and support each other on Twitter. It isn’t necessarily a single, focused movement, then, but a massive and ever evolving continuum of movements, each with its own ever-shifting center of gravity.

I happened into my own corner Tweetcore sometime in 2020 or 2021. I had recorded an EP called Introvert’s Delight and was looking for people who might enjoy it—and who might also be making similar music that I might enjoy. The only problem was that I didn’t know exactly how to classify my music. Bedroom Pop? Lo-Fi? Indie? Twee?

Somehow or other, I ended up following a band called Thee Rakevines on Twitter. It wasn’t exactly the same kind of music I was making, but that was the cool thing about it. I heard elements of what I was doing, but Thee Rakevines were doing something else. And they were often mentioning a lot of other bands that were likewise doing something similar but not quite the same: Fuzzruckus, the Negatrons, and the La La Lettes.  

And each of those bands started mentioning other bands and artists that I might also like. What I found especially meaningful about the interaction was that nearly everyone was discussing not their own musical output, but (for the most part) the music that other people were making. It was a fairly wide range of music, and my circle of online friends was growing exponentially with each new band or artist that I followed:  the Kintners, Eric Linden, Triangle Rain Club.  

The bands and artists come from far and wide. There’s Phil Yates and the Affiliates from Chicago, Laini Colman from Tasmania, Mikey J from Shanghai, and Scoopski from my own backyard in Philadelphia. They tweet about music and world events. They tweet about their lives, the challenges they face, the setbacks and victories. But most of all, they—or we, I should say—support each other.

Of course, it’s not just bands. I’m continually amazed at how many people support indie musicians out of sheer love of discovering new music. Jeff Archuleta’s Eclectic Music Lover blog springs immediately to mind, as does the entire You Haven’t Heard This Music Yet network along with Martin Holley’s wonderful Indie Musicians Talking Music YouTube series and the playlists curated by the ultra-talented Todd & Karen and the simply incredible Martina Dörner.

Along similar lines, Mike Five’s Lights and Lines music label is an inspiration. Lights and Lines Album Writing Club—open to all genres, free of charge—provided musicians from around the world a chance to complete and album or EP in the space of month, all while offering plenty of guidance, encouragement, and opportunities to chat with likeminded folks.

Brian Lambert and Marc Schuster — aka The Star Crumbles.

It probably goes without saying that all of the above inspired me to start interviewing musicians on this blog. It also gave me an opportunity to work with a handful of musicians that I really admire. I’ve played synths on tracks by the electronic music producer N Pa, keys on tracks by the aforementioned La La Lettes and Eric Linden, and I also added some keys and vocals to a track called “Kids” by Brian Lambert—and that collaboration blossomed into our full-blown project, The Star Crumbles.

I’m not the only one meeting and playing with a wide range of musicians across vast geographical boundaries. The Kintners’ amazing album, Collaborations, is a testament to the magic that can happen when people play together, as is their side-project with Mikey J, The Cheeky Mermaids. Likewise, Brian Lambert has been making some cool music with the Junior Mozley Collective while also doing a remix of Scoopski’s “Elon, Send Me to Mars.”

Speaking (again) of Scoopski, being part of our virtual scene has also given me an opportunity to get out of the house to see some live music in person. When Phil Yates swung through the greater Philadelphia area on his recent East Coast tour, Scoopski was the opening act, so I got a chance to see two of my favorite Tweetcore bands in a single show—and got introduced to two more acts: Bees and Graham Repulski.

Which is to say that the scene isn’t just virtual. It’s making ripples in the real world. Phil Yates played with Scoopski in Philadelphia. Brian Lambert played with Matt Moran in Denton (coincidentally, home of Rock Philosopher Dave Crimaldi). The Kintners played in NYC with Charu Suri.

All of this is happening in just the small corner of the Tweetcore universe that I’m privy to. Everyone I’ve mentioned above has probably borne witness to similar events—teaming up, sharing music, talking about recording techniques, pointing the way to new discoveries—in their own corners as well. It’s a wide-ranging, fluid, borderless movement with a horizon that stretches out into infinity.  

I suppose the point I’m making is that music is alive and well. And, I would argue, it’s a point worth making, particularly given the near-constant handwringing over the alleged death of the music industry. We’re still here. We’re still making music. And perhaps most significantly, we’re listening to each other, forming communities, and creating a supportive environment where music can flourish.

That last point is definitely worth emphasizing. I often hear that Twitter is a partisan cesspool of bickering and ad-hominem political attacks. While I do see a little bit of that when I’m on the platform, my experience has been overwhelmingly positive. Maybe it’s karma—the algorithm’s way of rewarding positive activity with a positive Twitter feed. Whatever the case, I’m incredibly happy to have found a community on Twitter, to be participating in an ongoing discussion of music, and to be a part of a diverse and far-reaching scene.

Some People Say I’m Pop: An Interview with Art Block

London-based singer-songwriter Art Block has, in the space of a few years, released an impressive trove of tunes that run the gamut from bare and minimal to lush and cinematic. Marked by a hypnotic blend of acoustic guitars and electronic instruments, his 2020 EP, The Basement was curated by the sound archives of the British Library and featured on Amazing Radio, international podcasts and music blogs. More recently, Block’s White Horses EP appeared in two editions – one with vocals and one as a purely instrumental that highlights his intricate and moving orchestrations. Curious to learn more about the artist, I reached out with a few questions…

You have an excellent voice! How did you learn to sing?

Thank you! That’s very kind. It was a rather long process, starting from not having a clue how to record my voice properly to having lessons with a French singer, Eve, based in London but now in LA. I just let it all out, errors and all. Gradually I improved although I believe that it’s more interesting to be technically imperfect.

Along similar lines, who are some of your influences in terms of your vocal style?

Thom Yorke and Jeff Buckley have been long term inspirations. But maybe there’s a bit of Tom Petty in there somewhere too. I quite like female singers like Sharon van Etten and PJ Harvey too. I guess I should mention Richard Ashcroft too.

I’m also curious about your name. “Art Block” is the perfect name for anyone engaged in creative pursuits. Is it your given name, or is it a stage name? Or is that something you’d rather leave up to your listeners’ imagination?

It’s a stage name which is pretty convenient as people like to call me Art!

You’ve recorded – and released – a lot of music over the past few years. Am I correct that your first offering appeared in 2015? And how many songs have you released since then?

Gosh, I’ve lost count but I think I had over 50 songs released! I’m planning to compile some of them in my debut album in 2023.

Do you see your music evolving over time? If so, how?

Yes, I’ve been lucky to have worked with some amazing musicians and producers. Ian Barter, Amy Winehouse’s former guitarist, really helped with developing my sound adding some retro electronic elements. Another producer, Jay Chakravorty, also incorporated some interesting cinematic type arrangements and I worked with Shuta Shinoda a top rate mixing engineer, originally from Tokyo, who has had Mercury Prize winners. Recently I’ve been co-producing stuff myself with a lot of help from William Robertson who I recorded my acoustic sessions album with in one day at Hackney Road studios! Using synths and mixing with more organic sounds has been quite cool. I had the opportunity on my latest EP to use a Moog One synth which is a very powerful and inspiring instrument.

You cover a lot of territory in your music. As I mentioned in my intro above, there’s some spare acoustic music, but there’s also the lush feel of White Horses. Somewhere in between, I suppose, you manage to sprinkle in some electronic and rock elements as well. What accounts for this variety?

I’ve sort of covered this in my answer above. I enjoy intermingling electronic and more organic elements. My aim is to create music I would like to listen to and rock is very much an influence. But I also have diverse music tastes, so Wu-Tang Clan, Kraftwerk, Sharon Van Etten, Beethoven, Depeche Mode are all in there!

Does the degree of stylistic variety in your music make it difficult to market? I’m thinking about those annoying little boxes artists need to check when they submit their songs to streaming services and music review sites. How do you describe your music, and do you ever think about genre?

That’s a great question. With “The Basement” I wanted to experiment with a more electronic sound and then interspersed it with folkier elements. I definitely found there was a wider audience once you enter the electronic music sphere. Alt-folk is a very narrow and specific genre and definitely harder to market. Then again, some people say I’m “pop” so I never know quite where I stand! I’d like to think of my stuff as in the classic indie alt-rock acoustic tradition ultimately. I think that’s how a promoter once described my live music!

You’ve worked with a wide range of musicians, producers, and engineers. What is your musical network like? How do you meet the kinds of people you work with?

Another brilliant question! I often research the producers who have worked on songs I really like. When I first contacted Ian Barter, it took a year until I had written the songs to work with him and then we did two Eps in a row! I literally just emailed him and then we chatted for a long time about music and it seemed we were on the same page. It’s important to work with producers who are encouraging and allow artists to breathe – Ian has worked with some very big names in music but he is an absolute joy to work with and treats unsigned artists in the same way as those who are signed to major labels. With Jay, again I admired his own music so I just contacted him and he was interested in working with me.

Specifically, folk guitarist Ben Walker produced your EP Borderline. What did he bring to the process?

Ben is an amazing musician to work with. I literally just recorded the acoustic guitar parts and vocals in his house in North London and he did all the rest! I was thinking about reconnecting with him at some stage. In fact, he did some guitar work on Seagulls – we didn’t use it all but there are some subtle segue elements we incorporated.

More recently, you released two version of your White Horses EP. What was behind that decision?

As you say, I like to show off the work that goes behind creating the instrumentation for the songs which I really enjoy. Raphael Bouchara’s drum work for example is superb as is Sandra Brus’s violin parts and some of William Robertson’s intricate acoustic guitar parts. I’d also love to have my music synch licensed one day – although all musicians dream of that!

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a couple of more songs to complete my first album in 2023! I’m hoping it will be a fair reflection of my efforts over the years where people can chill over a longer piece of work.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me!

Thank you for the interview!

The #Tweetcore Radio Hour, Episode 5

In the latest edition of The #Tweetcore Radio Hour, I chat with Brian Lambert about cleaning out the junk drawer and with Scoopski about the underground indie bands he’s been listening to lately — plus the usual mix of great tunes by Greg Gallagher, Megazillin, Art Block, Unlucky Mammals, Jackson Vincent, The Hollow Truths, Modern Amusement, and the Paul Sanwald Quartet.

I Love the Classics: A Conversation with Alex Genadinik

Alex Genadinik is a singer-songwriter who lives in the vicinity of Hoboken, New Jersey. As his website notes, Alex’s songs are written to “make you think about life,” and his musical influences include some you might expect—like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Neil Young—and some you might bit even be familiar with—like 20th-century Russian poet-songwriters Bulat Okudzhava and Vladimir Vysotsky. A quick glance at his YouTube page makes one thing clear: Alex loves fine art in all of its forms, and his songs touch on topics like Johannes Vermeer’s painting Girl With A Pearl Earring and Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam.

You have some interesting musical influences. Can you say more about Bulat Okudzhava and Vladimir Vysotsky? How would you describe their music? How did you learn about them? What is it about their music that touches you?

Since it’s 2022 and some of my poetry and music influences are from what was the Soviet Union, I should say that I was born in Ukraine. But I liked these artists long before the events of 2022. Furthermore, if they were alive today, they would be some of the most vocal voices against the likes of Putin.

I would think of Bulat Okudzhava as the Bob Dylan of the Soviet Union, and Vladimir Vysotsky as Johnny Cash of the Soviet Union because of his harsher musical tones. Okudzhava was active a little earlier, and Vysotsky often mentioned him as his inspiration.

Soviet singer-songwriters put a heavy focus on the quality of their poetry. Their poetry was humane, real, wise, and brave. It was brave because many poets literally went to jail for saying the wrong things about the government. But my inspiration with their music wasn’t because of politics, but rather the humanity in their poetry.

How does their music complement the likes of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Neil Young, particularly in the context of your music?

I look at Bob Dylan’s poetry as in large part having political and social commentary. And Leonard Cohen has much less of that, and more focus on love, life, and the humanity of it all. Of course, Dylan has that too, but a lot of Dylan’s work focuses on social class issues.

Something similar can also be said about Bulat Okudzhava and Vladimir Vysotsky. They oscillate between love, life, and politics. To learn more about the work of Bulat Okudzhava in a way that’s accessible to English speakers, here is a page of where I put together translations and covers of Bulat Okudzhava’s music into English with my commentary: Bulat Okudzhava Poems And Songs In English.

What do you like about Dylan, Cohen, and Young, and what are some ways that their influence shows up in your music?

In simple terms, I love music that gives “the feels.” In ancient Greek terms, it would be music that gives a catharsis.

The topics I often gravitate to aren’t political, but humane. It’s a great experience when I can identify my own experiences in something an artist is describing, especially when that artist offers a unique perspective, especially when it’s in a beautiful song.

Clearly you have an interest in what many regard as classic paintings. Why is this a topic that appeals to you? What do you see as the relationship between painting and music?

I find most art mediums enriching: music, visual arts, theater, etc. It’s actually a coincidence that my music focuses heavily on paintings. Or maybe I didn’t realize how the imagery in these paintings affected me.

Especially the song about repainting the Birth of Adam by Michelangelo – the original painting has such strong imagery that I guess it lived in my mind much more than I realized. For reference, here is that song:

In the song about The Girl With The Pearl Earring, the opening line of the song is “I passed a painting as if dreaming. It was The Girl With The Pearl Earring.” It’s actually true. When I was young, I had a boring job at a dormitory of an art college. They had a copy of the painting of The Girl With A Pearl Earring on the wall. The first time I walked by that painting, I had to do a double take. That girl made a tremendous impression on me. Her beauty was really something else, and the lightning-bolt-strike of that experience stuck with me. For reference, here is that song:

Do you do any painting yourself?

I was always horrible at drawing. So, no. I am just a fan.

Shakespeare and Beethoven also make their way into your music. Can you say a little bit about that?

Just like the visual arts, I love the classics both in music and literature. Both Shakespeare and Beethoven are so enriching, so it only makes sense that I’d riff off and build on top of their work. They are both inspirations.

It seems like you have a vested interest in preserving the past—or at least memorializing it in your songs. Is that fair to say? What accounts for your love of history?

I think it’s natural to do that. All the paintings, classical music, and writing we discussed so far have been so enriching to my inner life. Life would be many levels emptier and worse without them.

It’s probably accurate to look at it less in terms of me preserving history, and it’s probably more accurate to look at it with appreciation to them for doing the work that they did. They left tremendous gifts to humanity.

And, of course, if you are active in any field, it only makes sense to learn about the great people in your field who came before you. Not doing that is probably called ignorance. So in my mind, I am not doing anything too out of the ordinary.

Of course, none of this is to say that your music is stuck in the past. How do the works inspire your music translate to modern experiences?

I guess my feeling is that the deep human experiences are universal, whether it’s the touch in Michelangelo’s paintings or Shakespeare’s ideas about love. They don’t get outdated through time, and are still relatable.

But if you ask younger people, they will likely frown on the fact that I don’t talk about the same things that Drake does. So perhaps, I am a little outdated (let’s say rustic) in my tastes.

The New York City skyline features prominently in your video for “Nobleman.” Is there a “New York influence” on your music?

I just happen to live in an area where there is a nice view of Manhattan, so I chose that background for the video because frankly I am not great at creating music videos. The song itself is a translation and a partial re-write of one of Okudzhava’s songs. The song has nothing about actual New York.

Although New York can use a little bit of the hopeless romantic. It prides itself on being so tough that a little vulnerability would be welcome.

What are your plans for the future?

I plan to re-release a few of my older songs with better vocal performances, more interesting musical arrangements, and more interesting production.

I am also currently writing a song that riffs off a topic from a Socratic Dialog in which the question “What is beauty?” is explored. The Socratic dialog doesn’t provide a definitive answer to that question, so I try to do that in this song. My definition to “what is beauty?” is “something is beautiful if it inspires” which is perhaps also fittingly vague. The song will likely be released around December 2022 or January 2023. It will be released on my website and my new YouTube channel onto which I plan to post my upcoming music.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me!