Twinki : Can Jacksonville’s Music Scene Save Itself?

Rix Rex

Rix Rex (Ricardo’s Recommendations) is a monthly music column focused on highlighting some of Jacksonville’s greatest bands, musicians, and anything music related you may not know about. This month, EU talks with Twinki and explores some of the difficulties musicians face while trying to make a name for themselves.

After 15 years in Jacksonville, drag queen rapper Twinki, aka Carl Cochrane, has packed up and moved to New Orleans, LA, to explore greater opportunities. Twinki explains that both the reserved nature of Jacksonville and the lack of places to perform, attributed to the move to New Orleans. Time after time, this seems to be an all-too-common problem for local artists who eventually leave the city to pursue their craft. Cochrane explains, “I love the people, but the city is just too conservative for me as an artist. I felt very limited by the small amount of venues that I could play, and I felt my fan base had reached it limit.”

Brooklyn born, Cochrane was no stranger to the limelight while growing up, often performing on stage in theatre and chorus productions. After moving to Norfolk, VA, for an extent of time, Cochrane was convinced by some friends to move to Jacksonville at the age of 21. 

Like with many creative passions for adults, work and life can take over, and performing soon took the backseat for Cochrane. After working in the River City with no creative outlets, inspiration came in the form of a drag queen named Siren at the Metro nightclub. Cochrane recalls being drawn to the unique style of the performer and her show, and, thus, Twinki the drag queen was born! After doing monthly shows at TSI, then the Norm, and eventually Rain Dogs, Cochrane knew that he wanted to expand and perform his own original music.

illustration by Ashley Chozas
illustration by Ashley Chozas

A lifelong fan of hip hop, rap battles, and free style, Twinki linked up with producer Jamerson Mix to create a few original tracks and merge the two worlds of hip hop and drag. Often paired with punk or indie bands in the past, Twinki would come as a surprise to unexpected fans at various alternative shows. After a few songs, most people would eventually warm up to Twinki and find appreciation for the performance.

Not only is Twinki a spectacle for the eyes, 6’6” in heels with a long, curly wig, this girl can rap. Her musical style can be described as mix between electronic, trap, and hip hop. Her shows are raunchy, memorizing, and extremely entertaining. Most importantly, Cochrane has fun with thought-provoking wordplay, and beats that keep your booty moving. Cochrane explains, “If you can’t dance to it, then what’s the point?” Some of Twinki’s major musical influences include Lil’ Kim, 40 B.a.R.R.S., Nicki Minaj, Foxy Brown, and Missy Elliott, all of whom rely heavily on their creative delivery and wordplay to set themselves apart from other hip hop artists, in a predominately male-dominated music genre. 

Although Twinki had become somewhat of a local celebrity, the lack of venues to perform at in Jacksonville made it increasingly difficult to depend on music as a primary source of income (a common problem for many of the city’s musicians and artists). “Sure, it’s great to have 200 friends and fans that support you,” Cochrane states. “But I need a movement. I feel I had reached my capacity in Jacksonville and hit the glass ceiling.”

When stubborn nightcrawlers won’t spend $7 on a cover charge to see local music, but turn around and spend $40 at the bar next door, a problematic cycle is created. If fans cannot support local artists, then neither can the venues that house them, and everything eventually crumbles. People in Jacksonville love music, but they don’t necessarily want to pay for it. Albeit touring does play a large role in an artist’s exposure to the world, many bands or performers do not always have the money for this when starting out. All the blame cannot be placed on the fans though, as former Burro Bar partner Jack Twachtman explained how many bands do not make it a point to support and connect with other artists in Jacksonville and those touring the area. In addition to this, if musicians cannot attract an audience, then maybe they are doing something wrong, and are in need of a revise. This of course, was not the problem for Twinki.

Twink, Illustration by Ashley Chozas
illustration by Ashley Chozas

In the past year, Jacksonville’s has lost a few music venues including: Freebird Live, Burro Bar, Underbelly, and the DIY space the Headlamp. All of which, at their own times, seemed to be doing well enough to attract local, national, and international talent. While there is still hope in spaces like Jack Rabbits, 1904, Rain Dogs, Shantytown, and the newly opened Nighthawks, there is still a void for artists and musicians, who cannot make a living playing at the same few venues every week.

With limited spaces to play in a city that’s also having trouble updating its Human Rights Ordinance, Cochrane’s frustration eventually evolved into the decision to make the move to New Orleans, LA. After touring numerous times, Cochrane explains that New Orleans made him feel at home. It was always a welcoming and accepting city, and there was never the need for Cochrane to explain Twinki. When interviewed, one of the first things Cochrane proclaimed was his love and appreciation for the people of Jacksonville. The decision to move was based primarily on being able to grow and expand as an artist, which was no longer viable in Jacksonville.

The well established and widely accepted LGBTQ community of New Orleans also contributed heavily to Cochrane’s choice to move there over other cities like Atlanta or Miami. Not to mention the ever-popular bounce music scene, where Twinki fits in perfectly with artists like Big Freedia and Sissy Nobby, while still having her own unique style.

twinkone
illustration by Ashley Chozas

Twinki is currently working on putting together recordings of new and old material, while still settling into New Orleans. Upcoming shows include Athens, GA, on 11/9 at Go Bar, New Orleans, LA, on 11/13 at Black Label Icehouse, Atlanta, GA on 12/15, and the possibility of a Jacksonville show in the near future, so keep your eyes peeled.

After spending a large portion of his life here, Cochrane will always have love for the people of Jacksonville, but we as a community have to support local artists like Twinki and the venues they perform at if we want to keep them around. If not, they may follow suit and leave Jacksonville like many musicians of the past. For now, you can check out Twinki and her music at www.twinki.bandcamp.com and facebook.com/twinkitwinkitwinki. Cochrane and his alter ego Twinki were unlike anything Jacksonville has even seen and will definitely be missed. Jacksonville can prevent these losses and learn to change if willing. Go out, pay for local shows, dance, party, get involved, and keep these artists in town. As for the aspiring musicians of the city, give people a reason to come out and see your shows. Although she may have left the city, this Twinki will not expire any time soon.

About Ricardo Maldonado

october, 2021

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