One of the most creative artistic projects arising from Nashville these days is the synthesis of graphic comics and music under the originative eye of Vian Izak. Graphically and musically he cherry picks cultural influences ranging from Chinese propaganda to manga to early Egyptian motifs. Check out this interview.
Vian, you synthesize music and graphic animation, bomb shelters and romance, animals and the arctic, the collaboration of you and your brother, Hein. Where do all of these wonderful merging worlds come from?
My brother and I have always built worlds. When we were younger these imaginative places took the form of castle forts that we protected from giant monsters with wooden swords. Now that we’re a bit older we use music and art to convey the worlds in our heads. Hein is the mastermind behind a lot of the universe sculpting. He spends hours going over every detail from history to politics to religion. I think these worlds largely manifested themselves early on as a way for my brother and I to cope with moving to the US from South Africa. We were isolated from others as we did not know English and so used the worlds to escape and dream.
One of the things that seem to mark all of your artistic projects is fusion, marrying these different expressions as you create so that they don’t oppose one another. Intentional?
Absolutely intentional. I think most of life is fusion. For me the most powerful art has always been showing patterns or similarity between seemingly disparate ideas. Taking inspiration from Greek philosophy, we try to find the most basic building block of an idea or group of ideas and show a universal truth through that basic block.
It’s almost as if you seek the music to create a certain peace or resolution. I’m especially thinking of “World of Trouble.” Where did the Arctic Polar Concert idea come from?
The Arctic Concert was our first attempt to involve people in the art. I also feel that art ought to be an interactive process. So early on we involved people in this way and had quite the response. Now we are taking what we learned from that and coming up with other ways to connect with people.
I am grateful for people’s reaction to ‘World of Trouble.’ I felt like that song has some interesting opposing ideas between the verses and choruses. It’s a song about imperfect love I think.
In posing yourself as a virtual band with this animated alias are you looking to kind of relocate your persona away from the art so that art carries its own sort of gravitas apart from the artist?
Yes. I feel that there is a sort of idolization of musicians that has always seemed a bit strange for me. I find myself sometimes putting my self worth in how many people like our music or listen to our songs. I have come to believe that this is not a healthy way to live for me. So the animated alias is sort of a daily reminder that I am not my music or my artist project. So when people fall in love with the project they fall in love with the characters and songs themselves and not with the person behind it all. Also as we grow I’d love to still be able to get a coffee without being recognized
Which creative spark comes first the graphic world or the music that inhabits it?
As Hein creates the graphic world and I create the music world they have always been happening in tandem since we started over a decade ago. But today we have intentionally fused them together. So Hein’s work influences my music and my music influences his art.
Your family immigrated here when you were young. I know you have worked with Ladysmith Black Mombazo. I have to ask. How do your Afrikaans roots influence your art?
The more involved I became with music the more I realized that the typical musical foundation that most Americans have, I lacked. I didn’t listen to the Beatles, for example, until I was 18. I knew very little about the music from previous generations as my parents listened predominantly to Afrikaans music growing up. Needless to say I’ve taken the last few years and dived into all the hits from the 70s and 80s and I’ve been blown away by it all. I feel like I probably draw inspiration from either contemporary acts or from South African acts like Ladysmith Black Mambazo. As English is also not my first language I’ve been told that there’s something slightly different about the way I say things which I believe has probably helped me approach universal ideas in slightly unique ways.
I know you have a fruitful relationship with Spotify. One of the ways Spotify categorizes your music is “Feel Good Indie Pop.” Does that make you feel good?
Spotify has been a huge blessing and I’m very grateful for their support. And concerning labels for our music, I’m not too concerned. I suppose we use 808 snares so that makes it poppy. And I always try and write with a sense of optimism so perhaps that makes folks feel good. But I’m happy to be called Feel Good Indie Pop! As long as the music makes people feel something that’s great!
You are just completing an on-line comic/music project, Vian Izak’s Adventures, with a print version due out in the new year. What has the response been like? What’s next?
The response has been wonderful. We’ve had huge support from Spotify in the form of social media shout outs on Facebook and Twitter and playlist placement. And the fans, more importantly, have been commenting and emailing us every month so I am so grateful and excited that people are enjoying it!
I can’t say too much about what’s next with that project but all I can say is our top fans will be rewarded with something really special. We have a big finale that we’ve coordinated with Spotify and a few other large companies so I am beyond excited for early 2018.
Ok! You’re running a very successful Indie label but you are also an artist and producer. Do you find a lot of tension cropping up between the artistic side of your life and the business side of your life? How do you manage that?
I don’t really actually feel any tension with that. My thought is art ought to be a selfless act of creating something that makes others feel something. So my goal is to create something valuable for others.
A tension I do feel is sometimes taking on too much. I am in a current season in life of focusing in on what’s important. I feel like the more focused I become the more effective and focused my art becomes. So 2018 is hopefully going to be a time of laser focus.
Another tension I do feel often though is the tension between time and vision. There is never enough time! So I am hopeful that as I grow I can become better at using my time wisely.
You have created a market that fuses comic installments with music installments. Fascinating? What are the chances of a musical graphic novel in the future?
Oh my goodness the chances are good! We have been talking more and more about graphic novels, tv shows, movies. Our goal is to create a world where people can get lost and dream and love. So the more real we can make the worlds the closer we’ll be to our goal.
It’s SO worth checking out the incredible Comic Book adventure: http://vianizaksadventures.com/
And their latest single that was mastered by our very own Steve Corrao. It was released this past Friday and was added to Spotify’s New music Friday Canada playlist along with Indie All Stars in Canada, Indie Shuffle in the US, and Homebound in Japan.
Sage Audio – Wise. Sound. Matters.