Isolation Drills: Josh Kirwin (Tubey Frank)

Like the majority of you, all of us in the Philadelphia area are staying at home, learning to adapt to our “new normal.” MAGNET is checking in with local musicians to see how and what they’re doing during this unprecedented time. Photos by Chris Sikich.

Kirwin: “Hey there. Well, since you asked …

Quarantine has been eye-opening. Internally and externally. Not many things I say even graze the surface of what it’s been like since March.

I made a record, like many others, I suppose. I wrote and recorded, and screamed and recorded, and wept and recorded, and huddled and recorded. I admit that some of my new music hasn’t been as eloquent as some past work (admittedly, though, some has, in my obviously humble opinion), but I think we’ve all begun to peel a few old, frilly onion layers.

I’ve worked on an album, titled by default Quarantine Sketches, Vol. 1 (because it’s going to be a long year). I’ve really been happy being at the helm of my own record. Up until now, as Tubey Frank, I’ve had the next best thing, collaborating with and learning from Adam “Stehreo” Stehr. He has a very cool record coming out as well. But yeah, I took off the training wheels and did the thing.

I was inspired when an artist I really admire, Elizabeth Bergland, and I hung out just before all this, and she made this beautiful little drawing of me, which sparked how I wanted to go about my record: “demo”-style, super-embellished psychedelic production over simple ideas. Feel over frill. No idea is a bad idea. Just sketches.

I collaborated with some wonderful musicians who had a similar situation: Keaton Thandi, Melina Harris from Personal Trainer, Joe Michelini from American Trappist, Frankie DeRosa and Robbie Simmons of ThebandIvory, Paul Giess, my partner Caroline Oddo, Alix Leonhart, Brian Walker (A Day Without Love) and I might just throw on a demo from back in the day with Stehreo on top when we finishing masters.

Following the high I received from collaborating with Keaton, Frankie and Robbie on one of my favorite tracks on the album, we all, along with bassist/producer Erik Kramer and my favorite songwriter in town, Lauren Hawkins of Eleanor Two, filmed a concert to raise funds for RHD Morris Home at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. We played our own and each other’s music—some much, much, much needed jam time. We had such a romp, I’d like to find other ways to get that whole gang together again, maybe some other folks, too. That day will be the highlight of this past eight months—finally felt in my element, as a dashing but slightly over-caffeinated bossy pants director. (Side note: If we do another, we could prob use another director.)

We actually had to move during the first week of quarantine—interesting, to say the least, but we took advantage of the time to get used to the new surroundings, and I just plowed through the majority of a whole record in a few weeks. We were looking forward to living with my longtime friend, illustrator Jason Piperberg, but when he decided to stay back with his family, my brother ended up moving in with Caroline and me for a time.

We decided to pool our equipment together to make a walk-in demo booth for solo musicians who don’t have the ability to get high-quality demos. I bend over backward to do good work, since this is the life I chose, and I understand my fellow working-class hustler’s budgets—because they’re usually the same as mine. This time has shown the value of the barter system. I’m looking forward to a more streamlined album for myself here with a more organized studio area.

I do feel like we’ve been on this feedback loop, much like the way I’ve heard people describe seeing My Bloody Valentine, possibly the loudest band in history. By the end of the show, you have people vomiting, merely from their equilibrium being thrown so far off from the relentless noise assault, which gets in the way of some beautiful music. But what makes that music beautiful, if not noise? You literally need earplugs just to go to the damn show. Only in this case, we didn’t realize that we chose to pay the ticket to get in. One fiction book that really struck me during this time was called Qualityland, and I highly suggest, pertaining to this subject. 

I’m tired but wired, and I’m hopeful for some reason. I think that was something I attempted to express in this album—maybe minus the sensory deprivation (for the most part).

Thanks for checking in on me. I’m not big on writing books on social media, so this will have to do.

Black & Trans Lives Matter.