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Tumblr IRL Heads to SXSW, Teaming Musicians Like Twin Shadow, Courtney Barnett with Visual Artists

From March 18-21 during SXSW's Music Week, Tumblr will take up residence at Ironwood Hall in Austin Texas as it brings its ongoing Tumblr IRL music and art series to the festival for the very first…

During SXSW’s Music Week, between Mar. 18-21, Tumblr will take up residence at the Ironwood Hall in Austin, Texas as it brings its ongoing Tumblr IRL music and art series to the festival for the very first time.

Tumblr IRL SXSW poster. Courtesy

Since its launch in May 2013, Tumblr IRL has become its own franchise. Now with 15 different events under its belt, the initiative has become a cornerstone for Tumblr and what the platform does with musicians.

“The idea is for bands to create an emotional experience around their music and all of the art they create around their music,” Nate Auerbach, Tumblr’s music evangelist, tells Billboard. “Similar to how bands can customize the look and feel of their Tumblr web pages, Tumblr IRL will grant artists a similar level of creative control over the physical space at Ironwood Hall.”


Twin Shadow will kick things off in Austin on Mar. 18, followed by Courtney Barnett, ODESZA, Tobias Jesso Jr., rapper Travi$ Scott, and Houndmouth. Past notable IRL showcases include Little Dragon, who collaborated with graphic artist Brian Butler to create a comic book-style experience, and Flying Lotus who premeired his latest release You’re Dead to his biggest fans through an Oculus Rift. Other participants have included Charli XCX & Claire Boyd, Wiz Khalifa & Uzi, Banks & Kate Moross, and TV On The Radio & Julian Gross.

Tumblr SXSW

Festival attendees should arrive at Tumblr IRL with an open mind, ready to experience something new. “No two are going to be the same, in fact no two are going to be similar,” says Auerbach. “We’re a different format because we’re not doing crazy branded corporate showcases — we’re doing six totally different shows that are each focused around one artist, and each artist is given control to create their own vision of the space.”

For the event’s opening night, Twin Shadow is collaborating with Milan Zrnic, the same artist who designed all of the visual around his forthcoming album Eclipse.

“We want to basically take the Twin Shadow show, where we collaborated on everything from merchandise to the actual stage presentation around Eclipse, and create a heightened concert experience that’ll showcase a behind the scenes look into the imagery that went into creating the album,” says George Lewis Jr. in a phone interview with Billboard.

“This tour is definitely our most ambitious, — it’s important to never get your ambition confused with what it’s all about… which is the music. I think you’ll see a dichotomy of light and dark, that’s very much what this record is about. The whole theme of Eclipse is like these two different worlds and the crossing of those two worlds.”

For Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett’s IRL experience, she’s paired up with Matthias Brown, a known Tumblr animator that goes by Traceloops, to create “a complimentary collection of collaborate chair caricatures.”

“I’d say the boundary between what is online and real world is blurred when people have constant access to the internet and will be even more blurred in coming years since people are now growing up never having used a dial up connection and don’t have an experience of that obvious gateway that separated online and offline,” says Brown in an email to Billboard.

“Tumblr has connected me to established brands/agencies/institutions that I wouldn’t have otherwise had any connection with for years. Because of that, I’ve been able to do much more interesting and fulfilling work that has legitimacy in the eyes of my aunts and uncles. I made GIFs of the president at the White House and shook his hand afterwards, that wouldn’t have happened without Tumblr.”

The Tumblr IRL blog will be the central hub for all of the creative content in preparation for the Tumblr IRL events, reblogging posts from both the bands’ blogs and the visual artists’.