For a year-old band that just started hitting its stride when COVID hit, Mediaslaves sure has kept busy, all without the thrill and spotlight of playing live.
The Surrey-based trio got going in December 2019 and soldiered through a tough 2020 by recording songs, making videos for them and promoting their music through social-media channels.
Three of four music videos were made without spending a dime, according to Johnny Papan, singer/guitarist in a band that also features bass player Sean Tanner and drummer Jono Delivuk.
A “silver lining” of COVID, Papan says, is the situation challenged the band to think outside the box and get new content and music out. The pandemic also forced the three to get creative online, with no live gigs to help amplify any promotional push.
“It’s crazy to think our music reached 43 countries last year,” noted Papan of a band that plays “punk” the way Nirvana and Deftones do, or did – sometimes drowsy, sometimes fast, slightly angry and definitely loud.
Comparisons aside, Mediaslaves aim to do things their way.
“We call ourselves a punk band, even though some of our songs stylistically deviate from the punk style, but we follow the whole DIY, do it yourself thing,” Papan explained. “And in today’s online landscape, it’s almost easy to do it DIY, in the sense that there are no rules anymore, because there aren’t a lot of rules when it comes to the internet. You don’t have to tiptoe around things. For example, using already-available clips to make a really cool looking music video with them.”
Case in point, the new video for the band’s “Fear and Loathing in Outer Space” song, recorded with Tim Neuhaus at North Delta’s Ear Art Studios and released Friday (Jan. 29) on a four-song EP that also includes the tracks “Fleeks and Geeks,” “Manipulate Me” and “Anxiety.”
The slightly psychedelic, stoner-vibe video for “Anxiety” was filmed at Vancouver’s InFocus Film School, where Papan works.
Earlier, “Manipulate Me” was shot without a crew or budget. “We just said, ‘Let’s wear a bunch of weird costumes and see what happens,” Papan recalled. “We took turns filming and used a tripod when all three of us needed to be in the shot. That was a super fun day.”
The newer “Fear and Loathing in Outer Space,” meanwhile, was created by Papan using royalty-free clips he found on the internet. “I put them through iPhone apps to make them weird and different,” he said. Likewise, when the video shoot for “Fleeks and Geeks” was cancelled when COVID hit in March, he used “weird Instagram filters” and cut them into a music video.
Such video-making skills come in handy for a band that has played just two shows so far, due to the pandemic.
“It’s killing us,” Papan sighed. “We just want to play (live) so bad, especially because we have these new songs we want people to hear. Our original plan was do to 12 shows last year, one show a month, but everything got derailed. We had four shows booked in April and none of them happened. That’s the thing we all miss the most, I think, playing live.”
The three seem to have great chemistry, judging by the recorded songs.
“It’s a great dynamic,” agreed Papan, who has reluctantly become a singer, not a guitarist/lyricist he initially sought to be. “We like what we have right now.”
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The Mediaslaves band name sounds inherently socio-political, but the three aren’t all serious-business types.
“We’re not afraid to experiment with our sound, and we have fun with things – we poke fun at ourselves too,” said Papan, who has worked in screenwriting, music journalism and film, in addition to his musical pursuits.
“When we started people wondered if we were this big socio-political band, because of the name, those connotations,” he continued. “It was inspired by the idea of people being glued to their phones, slaves to media that way, that kind of thing, and lyrically we do touch upon those things. Our whole drive to grow the band and make music is very serious, but in terms of execution and output, that’s all very tongue-in-cheek, very funny and lighthearted, having fun with it.”
“I’m not really a social-media guy and I don’t like being on it too much, but it’s something we have to do, to get the band out and the songs out,” Papan admitted. “We have had some inquiries about merchandise, to get shirts out to people who want them, so those are next steps. And we’d like to go back in the studio and record some more, but that might depend on COVID restrictions, how the next announcement goes, so right now it’s kind of keeping people engaged. What’s worked for us is always having something on the horizon, something new, something happening, if it’s a new song or new video, whatever.”