By Nicholas Jason Lopez
With 10-plus years experience in the Philadelphia music scene as a part of pop punk/metal acts, singer-songwriter Brian Quirk has showcased a different side of himself with the release of his debut solo album ‘What Makes You Happy,’ out now.
Coming to fruition as a way to document his own journey to rediscovering happiness, ‘What Makes You Happy’ features a softer indie/folk sound, which he fully believes has come at an apt time in the world.
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with Quirk about ‘What Makes You Happy’ and more.
Music Bugle – What has been the most memorable moment of your life so far?
Brian Quirk – Oh man, that’s like asking what my favorite scene from “The Office” is. There are some winners for sure, but there’s far too much gold to say there can only be one. My entire life is like a sitcom, so what is normal to me might stand out to someone else in a completely different way. Just a few weeks ago, I was delivering for Uber and had two women open the door in their underwear in the same day. Two separate people in one day, nothing but their skivvies and they apologized. Like, I don’t really care that you’re half-naked, but don’t act like I just showed up at the door. You had, like, a half hour to prepare for this. This was your X Games. Also, this wasn’t like a seduction thing either. I’m in no way insinuating these girls were putting the moves on me, although after they saw my driver ratings, I wouldn’t be shocked, but they both answered the door in their undies and were like, “Sorry, I’m naked.” Maybe it was like a hidden camera thing. I don’t know. Far from the most memorable thing, but imagine stuff like that happening almost every day. There’s a lot of content to pick from.
Music Bugle – How would you describe the current state of the Philadelphia music scene?
Brian Quirk – I think that Philadelphia is really not crazy different from a lot of other scenes, be it music or just life. You have your big boys that everyone looks up to and kinda influence the game and there’s also a lot of outliers doing their own thing that is completely weird and avant-garde. I don’t know personally where I’d place myself in terms of following the pack or boxing my own trail in my area, but my hope is to bring people together. I think a few years ago, there used to be an awesome basement scene here in Philly that I cut my teeth on. It was great, but I feel that recently, the glamorous nature of spending your weekends in strangers’ basements drinking 40’s and becoming best friends with people you’ll never see outside of that setting ever again has gone the way of the dinosaurs. I don’t know if it has more to do with getting a little older or people just not being as fun. Probably the later as a result of the former, honestly.
Music Bugle – What was it like working on your debut album?
Brian Quirk – It was weird. I guess different is a good word. I have been involved with almost any kind of music you can think of, be it pop punk bands, bluegrass trios, rap groups, or even the occasional country song, but one thing I’ve never done is create a solo album. I dive headfirst into this strange, unknown abyss and all of a sudden, I find myself writing this weird blend of styles I never thought I’d write, working with people I never thought I’d work with and going places I never thought I’d go, but here I am, adoring every second of it. I like the idea of being able to express a different side of myself and explore something more personal, but it’s cool to find out that in a weird way, it seems to be very relatable with many people. I like that.
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your genre of music?
Brian Quirk – Dude, I don’t even know what I’d say my genre is, to be real with you. A lot of this side of me musically is still having a bit of a vision quest. I think when you’re working with other people, it’s easier to get reigned in to predefined genres, but when you’re left to your own devices, you can really get carried away. I like pop punk, let’s make some of it really pop punky. I also like folk, let’s make some of the album folky. I also love Migos and Posty – I get called “East Coast Malone” sometimes, so let’s make it a bit poppy too. Some Lewis Capaldi? Why not. It’s definitely a big smorgasbord of unrelated influences mixed into a big scuzzy and strange, yet oddly delicious milkshake musical milkshake.
Music Bugle – Which of your songs was the hardest to write or compose?
Brian Quirk – I don’t like songwriting to be hard. The honest truth is most of the songs I spend the most time on are the ones that never see the light of day. When I sit down and tell myself, “Alright Bri, time to write a banger,” I usually get frustrated and cry and hit things and binge-eat Swiss Rolls because nothing comes together. It’s only when I’m cruising in the middle of the night or just pulling up to the drive-thru and asking the lady to hold on so I can hum a voice memo that the songs pop into my head that stick with me. I think songwriting is a very natural thing and sometimes, a song I wrote three years ago will pop back in my head and totally rewrite itself. That said, the guitar on the title track is mad hard to play.
Music Bugle – What’s something you wish happened more in the music industry?
Brian Quirk – I don’t know if I’d say there’s anything I wish did happen more in the industry, but I can definitely think of a few things I wish didn’t happen as much. A few years ago – even sooner than that, really – I had this idea that being really obtuse and mysterious would be so cool. Like, no, man. Nobody is gonna spend their time digging into “the darkness behind Brian’s creative process.” They just want to relate. I want music to be an intimate experience and I feel that creating some veiled form of inaccessibility with the people who connect with your music takes away that intimacy and that ability to cultivate something human. I don’t think it’s anybody’s fault, but I guess we all have fallen victim to the idea that by being less transparent, we can be more mysterious and harder to read like the big names we look up to, but we’re all here. We’re all human, let’s have fun with it. It’s like if someone cooks a dish and you ask for the recipe. If they just say no, you’re like, “Okay, douchebag,” but even if you’re unwilling to share, let’s talk about it! What else do you make? That’s kinda how I view music. You wanna learn about someone’s creative palate and develop a deeper relationship with them and I think music is an awesome tool for that. I think all of us as musical creators should allow everyone along for the ride. It’s not about me, it’s about us.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Brian Quirk – Oh, dawg, I had that a few months ago in July. I was stuck inside and ate almost nothing for probably two weeks, which I was pretty upset about. I enjoy working and I enjoy creating music and content, so that really put a damper on that. I am grateful in a way though, because I kinda came back a lot more excited and motivated and I’ve been really excited to see what I can do for myself when I work harder. The lack of live music has been a crazy drag, although using the time to focus on exploring new avenues of creativity has been really cool. I’m excited to see how we all come back from this, because I bet you my kidney we’ll be a lot stronger than we were.
Music Bugle – Where do you go when you feel the need to escape?
Brian Quirk – Oodles of places. For a drive. My head. Taco Bell. It depends on the day. I feel like the most honest rendition of my songwriting occurs when I have that feeling though. “I need to escape.” What do I resort to when I feel unable to express myself? Music! Music is such a broad realm that no matter what you’re feeling, someone has likely put it into a song of some sort. That’s always been how I address something I don’t feel comfortable with – something I’m scared of, something I’m feeling nostalgic about, you name it. Put it in a song. The words just come out easier that way and that helps me create a place I can escape to. Through these songs, I’m placing myself in a location where I feel that I can dictate my own story and create my own scenery. That makes me feel safe.
Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do?
Brian Quirk – Adam Ivy said, “The key time maintaining forward progress – don’t take criticism from someone you wouldn’t take advice from.” I feel like as humans, we never take our own advice, so why would we take our own criticisms? Being self-critical is one thing, but when we’re constantly putting ourselves down about our own accomplishments, it’s like, you never listen to yourself when it’s practical, so why are you doing it now?
Music Bugle – Away from music, what’s something people might be surprised to know about you?
Brian Quirk – I found a dead body when I was in ninth grade. My friends and I went to 7/11 and I had to pee. 7/11 employees will not let you use their bathroom, so we went in the back. Some dude was there, dead as a doornail, right by the train tracks. Being 14, obviously, we panicked and ran elsewhere after a thorough examination of this dude for our own records. Then later, our guilt led us to contact authorities, which led to families identifying, controversies rolling in and a whole lotta weird attention from the law. Not that I did anything wrong, I just don’t really like to talk about it very often because it’s just not true. It didn’t happen. See how easy that is? I don’t know if there’s much you’d be “surprised” to know. Aside from that, I routinely fight with the cashier at Dunkin’ for trying to cheat me out of my free coffees on the app. I raise hell, dawg. Also, the thing about the scantily clad Uber women is true. I just never saw a cadaver. Thanks for the love, my friends! I had a blast gettin’ into it with you.