By Linda Smith
My roommate Taylor Garcia turned to me while we waited for a friend at Tom Thumb, showing me a short story written by one of the actors in her senior studio, senior Joseph Quinlan. The magnitude and honesty in his words affected us both, and she told me that he also wrote a soundtrack to accompany the story. The journalist in me immediately wanted to write a feature on him, and we set up an interview the next week.
I was shocked to find a tall redhead in cowboy boots with a guitar and a Ziplock bag of Nutter Butters at my door that Wednesday evening. But as I listened to Quinlan, I discovered the influences that make him a multimedia artist in every sense of the title.
Quinlan began his artistic life with classical training on the piano. He branched away from that and began creating comics as a child, turning his siblings and neighborhood friends into superheroes. As that began to take over his free time, his mother took away the comic books he used as inspiration.
“That was probably the most important as far as my creativity because now I absolutely love branching out and trying new things to the point where I will just get bored with one thing,” Quinlan said. “I will do music, and then I will do something else, then I will come back to music. Nothing gets old that way.”
Quinlan picked up painting in his childhood, and started teaching himself graphic design in high school. Upon transferring to the University of Dallas, he started teaching himself to play the guitar, found opportunities to direct and formed the band Raccoon Jay when his sister, now-sophomore Mary Grace Quinlan, was accepted to UD. Quinlan is a business major, and wants to pursue work that would combine his business knowledge and his multiple artistic hobbies.
“I could not decide between abandoning everything and just becoming a songwriter, or getting a band together and getting people so committed that we could just really pursue that as our own performing act, or a marketing assistant, or a manager, or an events coordinator,” Quinlan said.
Quinlan aspires to create a business that would service all artistic needs of businesses in-house.
“I want to do everything creatively, but I also do not want to just be creative and that’s it,” Quinlan said. “I want to own the business aspect. If a company needs a logo, advertising, a jingle, all of that can be done in one company. So the message of this marketing push is so focused because it will be done by all the same people. And it will be cheaper, because it is all in-house.”
Quinlan noted that his experience with the adventure scavenger hunt Treasure Quest was one of his first tastes of managing a large art-based project.
“I find joy in managing myself and others, like in Treasure Quest,” Quinlan said. “Treasure Quest was a lot of organizing people, creating a budget, managing a budget, buying supplies, marketing for participants and I enjoyed every aspect of that, even though those aspects were not necessarily creative. It was all part of one big creative project. I like to do it all, if I can.”
He was also able to bring his passion for horror and suspense into his endeavors.
“I tend to favor the horror and suspense genres because I think it has the most power to stir the human emotions within us,” Quinlan said. “I am generally opposed to plotlines or stories that glorify or sensationalize evil. Fear is very much a part of all of our lives, but if you can use that fear to illustrate human beauty then the horror genre can reach new heights.”
Quinlan has finished several large projects recently. He finished a novel called “The Kin,” and he created and submitted a black-and-white short film called “Sleeperdust” to the 2015 Tower Film Festival. Raccoon Jay also finished a four-and-a-half year endeavor in their debut album, “…At A Rich Kid’s Party.” The album will be available for presale on iTunes on April 22, and will be available for listening on May 12.
Quinlan describes the band’s genre as “catchy pop punk.” The band members’ writing process is unusual in that their songs are written as slow country songs, but recorded as pop songs. While the members of the band have eclectic tastes, they all enjoy blink-182 and Ke$ha, and bring those influences into their music, despite the serious and meaningful nature of many of their lyrics. They also wear characteristic masks on their faces. Quinlan joked that they are “hopelessly ugly,” and the masks serve to make the focus on the music.
“I like the dynamic we have,” Quinlan said. “We like to just have a lot of fun. I am the one that [sic] is super serious with the craft, but I can handle that and I write the songs with that in mind. But once the song is set, I like to have as much fun with it as we can. It is just a really fun band. We care about the writing process but once we go on the stage, we just party and we just want to have people dance and sing to the songs and have fun.”
“The Kin” was a three-year project that Quinlan recently completed and is now sending out to publishing companies. Quinlan incorporated his love of horror into the novel, but made it much less about scares and more about the fear that we can carry with us daily. The novel focuses on two brothers who discover a cave system and, as Quinlan describes it, “horrors beyond their imagination.” Quinlan also hopes to make “The Kin” into a film, describing it as “the pie in the sky” and something he “really want[s] to do” one day.
“I was always miffed that there were not many horror classics in our English curriculum,” Quinlan said. “It has become this nasty genre. It [‘The Kin’] is very much an epic of characters of symbolic parallels. I hope it is something that people will want to read over and over again, and it will kind of stand the test of time.”
His most recent completed project was the short film “Sleeperdust.” Quinlan worked with former UD student Rob Bridge, with whom he had collaborated on Treasure Quest. The film stars seniors Brian Ahern and Annie Zwerneman, and the filming was done after their first dress rehearsal of “Candide.” Filming was not completed until 4:30 a.m. the next day. Their hard work paid off, and Quinlan received third place in the Film Fest.
Quinlan will also be acting in Garcia’s senior studio, “Lone Star,” playing the role of aloof Cletis. Acting is the newest medium to him, as he has only acted briefly in some Treasure Quest videos.
“I’ve loved it so far, and it has been a great experience,” Quinlan said. “It is really different, and I get so excited when I find an artistic medium that is truly different from other things, and really gets me engrossed in it because it is so new.”
All of Quinlan’s work can be accessed through his online portfolio, at www.jquinla6.wix.com/josephquinlanmma. Tackling this many projects takes a lot of Quinlan’s time, but in the end, they are all endeavors he wants to dedicate himself to.
“It is something I love, so it is easy to work hard at it,” Quinlan said. “It does not feel like work. They are all projects that I am so excited to do. I just keep myself busy with the things that are important to me. I just like being totally immersed in something creative.”
Quinlan listed three multimedia artists as his major inspirations in ascending order: Orson Welles, Shel Silverstein and Hugh Laurie.
“Orson Welles went from being a playwright to acting to directing to writing screenplays,” Quinlan said. “His vision is something that really had an effect on me. [Silverstein wrote] children’s poetry, like ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’ and ‘The Giving Tree,’ but he also wrote humorous stories for Playboy magazine and he wrote the song ‘A Boy Named Sue.’ Hugh Laurie has written a couple of books, and has released two jazz albums. He can sing, he can play guitar, he can play piano, he can dramatically act — as [is] evident in ‘House’ — he is a brilliant writer of comedy and his mind is just so complex and incredible. He has influenced my drive to do everything. He has very much influenced my idea of ‘I can do everything.’ It is rare, there is not really a job for it, but you can do everything. If it is something that really brings you joy to do, you do not have to worry if there is a job for it. Just do it, and see what comes of it.”