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.

Making My Own Map: A Chat with Steve Tipton

Steve Tipton is a musician from Hagerstown, Maryland, who makes all of his music using a cell phone and a guitar – and nothing else! In fact, the only instrument he owns is a guitar. His tunes offer a fun mix of rock and hip-hop, as well as both acoustic and electric guitars. You can find his music on YouTube and follow him on Twitter for all of his latest updates.

You take a minimalist approach to making music. What’s behind that decision?

I use my cellphone to make music out of necessity! Because I don’t have a band or the equipment to record. Just a guitar. 

How did you get into music in general?

My mother is a bluegrass musician. There were always instruments around growing up. She showed me a C chord on guitar and piano and after I heard Van Halen 1 it was all it took. Spent my teens in my room learning.

And what led you to start recording music on your phone?

In 2019, I found an app called Bandlab. It has every drum kit you can think of. But it doesn’t do samples or prerecorded beats. It lays the kit out across the phone screen. You play with your fingers and thumbs. But it also has a 12-track recorder in the app. I play drums, so I naturally have timing and knowledge of drumming. I just had to retrain my brain to use my fingers instead of my feet and arms. Same for bass and keyboards. They’re all done on the phone screen too. The guitars and vocals are multi tracked live against the tracks I lay with the app. It takes about 30 hours to make a 4-minute song and video. 

How would you describe your sound – beyond, of course, the idea that it’s all recorded on a cell phone?

I would describe my sound as Van Halen, Smashing Pumpkins, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Beatles, Foo Fighters, A Perfect Circle, all had an orgy and produced a baby!

I’m curious about your collaboration with the rapper Petworth Paul. Can you tell me anything about him?

Ah yes! The Petworth Paul questions! I’m always asked… He and I know each other through the AA, NA recovery community in Maryland. We’re both former users of bad stuff!

How did your collaboration come about?

I recorded all the music and chorus vocals on “Why da Haters,” our collab together. I knew my song topic and song structure, but I don’t write rap verses. I made contact with him, he came to see me in Frederick, Maryland. And in one day, he wrote and recorded the verses after I told him, it’s about the haters! The video was done a month later in Baker Park, Frederick Maryland. 

You actually released two versions of the track you recorded with him. The second was an unplugged version, with you on guitar on Petworth Paul rapping over it. What was the idea there?

The unplugged version of “Why da Haters” was done at a recovery cookout. 

Do you think you’ll ever record with more than your phone?

I would love to play and record with other people, especially in a studio. I found that most local musicians mostly want to play covers and aren’t thrilled about doing already wrote original songs. If you do covers, cool have fun. I feel like I’m not challenged by driving a road someone else drew the map for. I like making my own map!

What’s next?

Keep writing, keep making music, until someone hears it that can further me in the process of a wider fanbase.

I’ve been signed twice as a result of my cellphone songs. Atomic Records, and Clean Artist records. Atomic Records released an EP titled Cellphone Songs from the Stairwell. It’s on iTunes, Spotify, Apple, Amazon, and YouTube. 

I love the songs, but I was still learning to make a cellphone song, and I cringe at my production values on them. Since that record in 2020, I have honed my craft at this genre of song production. I call cellphone songs art. I may have made this an artform! Who else can lay down an entire drum track and bass track with their fingers on a phone screen!

We Are All Where We Are Supposed to Be: An Interview with David Budet of Teledeath

I first heard the music of Teledeath when WDNF Philly played one of his tracks on the same night as a tune by my band The Star Crumbles — and I’m quite happy for the coincidence! Despite a slightly foreboding name, Teledeath offers bouncy, 80s-inflected beats and chunky synth riffs that call to mind classic synth-pop acts like the Eurythmics and early Depeche Mode. Floating over it all is the soaring vocal of David Budet, who also happens to have played or programmed all of the instruments on his debut single “The Hunter” and its b-side, “Final Forum.” Curious to learn more, I dropped him a line.

Teledeath is a cool name. It sounds to me like the title of a David Cronenberg movie. How did it come to you, and what does it represent?

I love Cronenberg and never considered that; you’re right! Makes me like the name even more.

I wish this was a more pleasant story… I’ve always played music, but after getting engaged, I became very focused on my IT career. I hardly played for about eight years. I really started to miss being creative during the pandemic, so I decided to pick up and play. I was listening to a lot of electronic music at the time so I decided to work exclusively with synths for the first time in my life. I also play guitar and bass.

I began to consider names for my project. One night, I was reading an article about “telehealth as the future of medicine,” which amused me. I said to myself, “What will they think of next? Teledeath?” And it kind of just hit me – how about that for a name? it was different, catchy. There wasn’t anything death-related going on in my life for me to associate the name to, but the novelty of it stuck with me, so I decided to go with it for the time being.

Now, as insane as this sounds, a few weeks after coming up with the name, my wife was diagnosed with late-stage cancer. The diagnosis came from out of nowhere. She had no signs, symptoms or pains – she merely went for her yearly physical. The doctor was concerned about some of the numbers in the blood work and a scan revealed the cancer. She cooked and ate mostly organic, exercised six days a week, didn’t smoke, no hereditary issues. It made no sense and still doesn’t. Things accelerated very quickly and two months and two days after the diagnosis, we lost her. It was one of the worst horrors you can imagine.

During her illness and afterward, music became my therapy, and in the aftermath of her passing, I tried to balance work with writing and recording music, but after a couple of months, my workload increased dramatically, to the point that there was just no time for music. I struggled with this for over a year and finally broke down. I was overworked in the aftermath of a massive trauma. It was all just too much. I decided to leave my job and pursue music, and just take time to focus on being a dad to my girls. The corporate attitude is anti-human. It’s not something I’m able to fit into anymore.

Changing the name of the project never crossed my mind again. Teledeath literally means “death from a distance” and in hindsight, that all-too perfectly summarizes what I have been through. It’s not possible to come out of something like that as the same person, but you also can’t let it destroy you. I initially steered my life in a specific direction and it did not go as planned, so I think it would be madness to try again. Either way, we are all where we are supposed to be, even when it doesn’t seem like it. I have abandoned myself to that concept and it’s been one of the most liberating experiences of my life.

I’m sorry for your loss. I can only imagine your pain, and I admire your strength. I’m also struck by what you said about the therapeutic value of music. Looking at your photo on Bandcamp, I can see you’re wearing a Siouxsie and the Banshees tee shirt. What is it about her music – and, more broadly, music of the post-punk scene – that speaks to you?

Siouxsie is everything! I just adore her. I think the attitude, the clothes, all of it speaks to me. It’s the spirit of defiance in the style and in the music – to hell with what society thinks about how you look! If you’re happy, you’re winning. Even now when I go to goth or industrial night at the club, one of the best parts of the experience is people watching… everybody looks great!

What Siouxsie and the Banshees, specifically, brought to the table was the element of mystery. We typically associate mystery with dark as opposed to light and this is a common theme in many genres of modern music like metal, industrial, punk, etc. This is not the “Shiny, Happy People” crowd for the most part – and I absolutely love that. Are we not as deserving of love and art and wonder? We are all little colors on God’s palette, some of us are just more black and blue than others.

Mystery also plays a large role in the religious experience. That same feeling of transcendence is the most critical element of live performance to me. When I see an artist perform, I want to feel transported. I SHOULD feel transported. Terence McKenna argued that artists have a responsibility to act as modern-day Shaman, and that ultimately, the modern artist is failing spectacularly in that role, which I largely agree with (most of his vitriol was reserved for modern poets).

A side-note regarding the photo you mentioned: it was taken by Michael Benabib, who is a prolific hip-hop photographer. He’s photographed countless classic rap album covers, Tupac, Biggie, Dr. Dre, etc. It was his idea to have the shadowing around my eyes match the photo of Siouxsie in the shirt. He’s pretty brilliant. I found a photo agency on Google and filled out a standard contact form thinking some intern would call me back and it ends up being Michael Benabib who calls me. The next thing I know, we’re on a rooftop taking pictures. It was pretty crazy. 

How does the music you’re making carry on that tradition?

My music is always going to explore the darker and more mysterious side of existence if you will. I love to analyze relationships and emotions through that lens… its just who I am as a person. There’s also a limit to how much of that one can ingest, so its important to me to challenge the listener. I love to bring in elements unexpectedly. I want the flavor to change while you chew on it. I have lots of other influences that have really begun to come out in the newer pieces I’m working on. One in particular feels very much like an 80’s B-52’s song. Cindy Wilson is one of my favorite vocalists and I swear I could hear sing this song. Siouxsie is a big influence on me vocally, but I’d be remiss not to mention that my heroes are Annie Lennox and Jeff Buckley.

I’m curious about “The Hunter.” The lyrics call to mind “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran, but I imagine you’re taking on a persona or writing from a fictional perspective. Assuming that’s a fair assumption, what’s behind the story you’re telling?

It’s very important to me that my music be universally accessible. If you’re a drag queen in L.A. or a married mother of 3 kids in Oklahoma, I want you to be able to take my songs and personalize them. If I’m not creating in that manner, then I’m not communicating universally – which means I’m not doing my job.

Lyrically, “The Hunter” is from the point of view of an aggressor. That said, it’s not an endorsement of such behavior, its an analysis of it… musical criminology, in a sense. Studying crime isn’t an endorsement of crime. It’s an analysis – an attempt to understand. Well, the same can be done with a song. I can examine the world through the eyes of someone most would hold in contempt, but that’s not an endorsement. I want you to look at the protagonist in this song and figure out who they are and why they do what they do – for yourself. It seems to me that people don’t do analysis so much anymore. There’s a preference for emotional reaction and overreaction and righteous indignation, which all leads to really mid and mindless art.

Your Bandcamp bio describes your music as “mediumistic electronic” and also “dark medicine for dark times.” What do those phrases means to you?

My music jumps around a lot of electronic sub-genres… The thing is, I don’t really write songs. I can’t read or write music. I’ve never sat down and written out or planned a song in my life. I am responsible for my lyrics, but the melody and the beats, etc…, they come from somewhere else.

The best way to describe it is that I have a radio in my head that goes on at random… music just appears, usually a beat, melody or phrase, that unfolds over a matter of moments. I always have my phone by me so I can sing, tap, hum, whatever, into my voice recorder. I take that to the studio and build from there. Very little of it is conscious choosing, so I have come to accept that I’m not a composer, but rather, a channel.

There is a phenomenon called “Mediumistic Art.” There has been some research on this – people who can draw these incredible, otherworldly pictures, with no prior or proper training, it just comes to them. I believe I do this with music. I think a lot of musicians do this and don’t know it, but since my music jumps around so many sub-genres of electronic, I call what I’m doing “mediumistic electronic” as a catch-all for my processes and what I produce.

The whole idea of “dark medicine for dark times” goes back to McKenna. I take my responsibility as an artist seriously and believe it to be part of the shamanic tradition. I think I owe it to the listener to offer an experience that will leave them in a state where they feel healed, or stronger or validated or not so alone. The listener is coming to you to feel something. Artists should feel a sense of honor for that and they should seek to reward the listener’s faith.

I believe the world is improving in general, but let’s face it, we’ve just been through a pandemic… a lot of crazy has happened in a short amount of time. So I think there’s a lot of fear and hesitation to get back to life as we knew it. Ultimately, I hope my music can serve as a healing mirror. We’re all going through some nasty stuff, we’ve all been hurt, now let’s sit with it and let it wash over so we can get back up and fight.

You produced “The Hunter” and “Final Forum” on your own. What’s your recording process?

When I record, I typically lay down the music first. I do a lot of editing and looping. There’s a significant amount of sound design that goes on. I sing whenever possible. There are a lot of challenges with that. Despite a ton of help from my wonderful family and friends, I am still a single parent of two young twin girls. I also have a freight train that goes through the backyard 20-30 times a day so, yes, I have some significant hurdles to being able to record vocals; but I make it work. I  finish up with comping. I’ve started to employ less complex vocal arrangements. I initially did a lot of layered, breathy stuff and I think I’m over it now. I’m definitely experimenting with a more dynamic, and aggressive style, like 90’s house music, sort of along those lines. That’s really my vocal wheelhouse so I’m going to hang out there more. I’m not young and time is not on my side so the most important thing for me is to create a body of work. Without the music, there’s nothing. Social media, marketing, whatever, it means nothing if you don’t have songs.

Out of curiosity, what program do you use to make music, and why do you prefer that one?

I use Ableton Live 11 in Windows. It reminds me of MOTU Digital Performer, which is what I used when I first began home recording on a Mac, years ago. I adapted to Live pretty quickly. People crap on it a lot, but I think it’s a great DAW. I can do what I need to without too much trouble.

Is everything “in the box,” or do you use any outboard gear?

I have a ton of VST’s, but my primary synths are Carbon Electra, U-he’s Diva, Arturia’s Analog Lab and the Native Instrument’s Reaktor and Battery series. I rely heavily on Reaktor and Battery for creating my drum kits.

For outboard gear, I have an ASM Hydrasynth… it s a digital wave-shifting synth, kind of like an outboard sound design machine. That’s where that thick synth line for “The Hunter” comes from. It does a great job mimicking analog warmth. A lot of my bass lines are analog via a Moog Minitaur. I use Arturia controllers exclusively – I love them.

I see you’re from New York. Is there an electronic music scene there? Do you get to play out much?

NY always has a pretty vibrant scene. We clearly have not bounced back after the pandemic but I don’t think anyone has. I think what we have now is what it’s going to be for the foreseeable future in terms of attendance at shows and clubs, etc. As for me personally, I ‘m working on concepts for a live show and should start playing out by summer. I’m probably going to do some live stream events first, the first will be in February or March. I’m going to be very busy for Q1 of 2023.

I know you have a new project in the works. Can you talk about it?

Yes, I am releasing a single in early February for a song called “Adore.” I will say tongue-in-cheek that it’s my “Justify My Love.”

I mixed my first release and learned quickly that mixing and mastering are quite literally, sciences. I would never dissuade anyone from experimentation and learning, but the odds are quite low that you are going to create a final product that will sound like what a seasoned professional would do. I have accepted that I’m a producer/musician and that’s good enough for now. I will continue to learn as I go. I’m happy that I came to my senses and got professional help for this release. Jason Corbett from the band Actors is mixing and mastering this track,  which I’m super excited about. 

I’ll be putting out singles throughout 2023 and eventually will release an EP some time this year. I encourage anyone reading this to follow me on whatever music, video and social platforms you use via https://linktr.ee/teledeath.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me!

Thank you –  I really appreciate you asking me!