The Gorillaz weren’t the first musical act to mix in comic book style graphics, and now the latest is here.
The South African-turned-Nashville music group Vian Izak are doing a modern kind of concept album graphic novel. Launching today via Spotify, Vian Izak’s Adventures is a serialized webcomic with tie-in pop music singles to each installment.
Vian Izak is a two-man group - brothers, in fact, named Vian and Hein. Vian takes the lead with the music, while Hein creates the stories and draws the webcomics and album art. Vian Izak’s Adventures is scheduled to run now through the end of 2017, with a print version planned for 2018. Spotify categorizes Vian Izak under Feel Good Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Indie Pop Chillout, and Fresh Electronic, and they currently have 182,000 monthly listeners.
Here is the first song from the concept album/comic, “Starlit Summer’s Eve.”
By using Vian Izak’s Spotify Follow Button below, readers will receive pages from Vian Izak's Adventures as they’re being released.
Newsarama: Hein, you’re the visual artist of Vian Izak, and have done cover art for past singles and albums. How did this comic come about?
Hein: The comic was sort of a natural progression of the overall artist project. In the beginning, I was working almost purely visually, not thinking too much about narrative and world building. We both just really liked the idea of African animals in the Arctic. Later, however, I couldn’t stand not having some sort of a narrative tying it all together. So, we started building a narrative around the visuals. I know that sounds like a sort of flip-flopped way to construct a narrative. However, the story just revealed itself as we looked back on the past year of images I had already produced.
Nrama: Vian, you’re the music part of this group’s equation - so what do you think of this webcomic that's being done?
Vian: I am pumped to combine my music with Hein’s art. We’ve been combining our artforms for most of our lives but never on this scale. I feel that the art compliments the music beautifully. We wanted to make the art and story the focus of the project. The artwork is inspired by an array of sources from Chinese communist propaganda to old 1940s radio dramas.
My brother has always created worlds in his head ever since we were young. Growing up, we’d play these fantastical adventure games based on what we imagined. So, I have a lifelong respect for the way that Hein’s mind works.
Nrama: What can you tell people about the comic and “Starlit Summer’s Eve”’s storyline?
Vian: I can’t give away too much about the comic plotline but I can set the scene.
Hein:The comic is about these two brothers who are commissioned to explore and map the Arctic.
Vian: Two brothers are given an ATV and artificial intelligence computer named ‘I’ to explore the farthest reaches of the Arctic.
Hein: While on their journey, things around them become stranger and stranger. Animals from warmer climates roam the frozen waste. Furthermore, the animals seem to have adapted to the cold weather.
Vian: As they travel further they discover monolithic Egyptian-style structures.
Hein: Further mysteries lead the two brothers on this ridiculously complex adventure that ultimately brings them to question the very core of our physical universe.
Vian: I love the ending. It’s got a cool twist. Hein plays with ideas on how time could potentially work based on concepts from string theory.
Hein: Similarly, the songs connect to the story in their sort of global, time-spanning feel. The lyrics and production consists of various samples from different time periods and societies all over the globe. Without giving too much away, each song might not necessarily pair with that month’s instalment of the story but once the truth of the entire situation is revealed, all the songs have specific moments they allude to.
Vian: “Starlit Summer’s Eve” focuses more on our growing up on a farm in Colorado when we first moved here from South Africa. We used to play on the hay bales and run around pretending to be elsewhere. I think the song is probably also about first loves and first heartbreaks. I’m not sure. Songs usually just sort of come out and then I only discover later on why I wrote what I wrote.
Nrama: How is this comic's story inspired by your own lives?
Vian: The two characters who adventure through the Arctic are directly inspired by us in appearance. The idea of two brothers being thrown into the unknown is also pulled from our lives. We were born and raised in South Africa and moved here when I was seven and Hein was six. When we arrived, we were quite isolated because we did not speak English. We may as well have been alone in the Arctic. I am close to Hein because we became each other's best friends out of necessity. He was the only one I could understand. A few months on, once we started picking up English, we had developed a unique bond that has now carried over into our adult life and into this art.
Nrama:And the comic will be released how often, and how often will there be new songs?
Hein: There will be a new comic instalment, about four-to-six pages, at the end of every month between now and December along with two new songs. So, folks can expect new content every month.
Nrama: When will the print edition come out?
Hein: Yes! Come December we are planning to print the entire 32+ page comic, and selling it online and elsewhere.
Nrama: How did you come to partner with Spotify? What are they doing for the comic?
Hein: Spotifyhas been extremely supportive. We have been doing music releases on their platform for a while now and they have always enjoyed the creative approach we take to visualizing our music.
Vian: We’ve been working with Spotify on releases for the last year or so through my record label Vohnic Music. With this new concept, we have used Spotify’s open source API to make the comic exclusively available to Spotify fans.
Hein: Spotify are extremely encouraging when it comes to artist projects that extend past purely musical content. We shared the starting concept of the comic with them and they suggested we use their web APIs to make something that is exclusively available to their users. They are helping us market it on their platform, and we are looking forward to future collaborations in the coming months.
Vian: We are debuting the first four pages exclusively withNewsarama, but for the subsequent 28 pages fans will need to log into the comic website with their Spotify account. Each month, we’ll release another comic installment and more music. We may integrate the music and art even more as the months progress, so this will be a great way for fans to have full functionality on the site. We may do an even larger collaboration later on, but at this point that is our involvement with Spotify. We are also marketing on Spotify’s platform to drive music lovers towards the comic book. This project is more of a multimedia project rather than a music-only project.