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The First Ever Record Label Cinematic Universe is Very ’80s (Exclusive)

The First Ever Record Label Cinematic Universe is Very ’80s (Exclusive)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has accounted for biggest paradigm shift in the way we consume films in the last 20 years. Duh, right? But hindsight is 20/20. If you think about the way audiences have grown into binge-watching habits, Marvel making viewing experiences interconnected and less disposable before the onslaught of streaming content was a brilliant move. In other words, if you build it, they will come.

That is exactly what Franki Chan over at LA’s IHEARTCOMIX is hoping to do with the world of music videos at his brand new label IHC 1NFINITY. Over the course of the last year or so, IHC has worked with a swatch of electro-pop musicians to tell one overarching story via several music videos that, much like Stranger Things, tip hats to John Carpenter, The GooniesIndiana JonesTerminatorIt, and countless seminal films from that period. Although Chan says that he wants the interconnected stories to have a “timeless” feel, he acknowledges the powerful nostalgia that each new music video bears.

Although artists like My Chemical Romance and R. Kelly — is he still trapped in that godforsaken closet? — have opened up their music videos to recurring characters and story arcs, no record label has involved several members of its roster with the goal of telling distinct stories in a connected way quite like this. The idea began in earnest in 2014 with Australian singer Chela’s music video for “Handful of Gold,” in which Chan, Chela, and co-director Jesus Rivera,began forming some of the recurring characters that would go on to highlight the strange, post-apocalyptic, horrifying world that 1NFINITY would build in music videos with singer Gavin Turek, producer Pictureplane, and now j-pop inflected DJ Mark Redito.

With each new music video, we uncover the horrors of the evil N.O.M.A.D.I.C. mega corporation, and how all of their products are slowly ripping the known universe to shreds. Their energy drink, Hyper Real, literally causes a guy’s face to melt off, Raiders-Of-The-Lost-Ark style.

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Once a physical record label that packaged and distributed albums in the mid-2000s, IHC has shifted their focus in a way that makes you wonder if they are onto something bigger, signifying yet another shift in the ever evolving music industry. To get some more answers about the ambitions behind a music video cinematic universe and where it could go from here, we caught up with Chan and Rivera to pick their brains a bit.

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Nerdist: What inspired the idea of a cinematic universe for music videos? 

Franki Chan: The idea of the shared music video universe was inspired by Marvel’s cinematic universe and other continuity based shows like the X-Files or LOST. I’ve been a huge comic fan my whole life and the idea that characters and story can overlap has always been one of my favorite parts of the medium.

When we decided to start a new record label, it was important to me to come up with a concept that was different and spoke to our interests and audience. I’d already run the gamut of a traditional record label and didn’t enjoy the basic brick & mortar sales experience. I wanted something that was fun and simple, less strings, more creativity. We settled on digital singles and came up with the shared universe concept as our way of working collaboratively with the artists and creating a universe of our own.

Jesus Rivera: Basically, our ideas were getting too big for our britches and we decided that it would be more fun and timeless to stretch a narrative across multiple music videos so that we could tell one big giant story. Regardless of artistic integrity and quality, most music videos have a short expiration date and sadly fall into the vast vortex that is the interwebs.

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N: Do you think cinematic universes could be viable in the music industry?

FC: I doubt it, at least to the extent that we are attempting. More than likely you will see thought out mini-universes and concepts throughout a single artist campaign. These things have been attempted by a bunch of folks like My Chemical Romance or Aerosmith or even as recently as The Weeknd or PUP, but most fall short of telling a cohesive story (except PUP, worth the watch).

As mediums blend and artists are empowered to experiment (from any side of the aisle) I do think it’s inevitable to see larger developed ideas. Whether utilizing social media to enrich the depth of a story (like Rick & Morty) or creating a fully realized comic book world to accompany an album (like Lights), the best part about now are the possibilities.

We are in a unique place in that ours is cross-artists, but that opens it’s own can of worms as music videos also have to serve as a marketing vehicle for a song, so we need to strike a balance and it requires the artist to play as much in our sandbox as we are working to promote them. That only appeals to some and takes a lot work to manage. We are doing our best to keep all of our continuity ducks in a row, but it could end up being more like LOST in the end, we’ll see!

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N: How did you decide which artists you wanted to work with for this?

FC: I sign artists I love and that IHC are working with. Each has their own story, but usually starts with me discovering them in some way and then I track them down and beg them to be a part of the label. I look for artists with strong personalities that define their own lanes and make great tunes. It’s important we get along and that each have a unique voice and share our vision. We really view a new artist as a member of the family, so it’s often more than a financial decision in making sure they are the right fit and a strong representative of the IHC brand.

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N: How did you decide on the visual aesthetic which pulls a lot from ’70s-’80s?

FC: These are the kinds of films we’re into and grew up with. That era is a big influence for us, both on the horror and the teen comedy side. Throughout the history of IHEARTCOMIX that look and mindset has seeped into almost everything we do, so it made sense to bring it to a reality with this concept. It’s been a ton of fun to reimagine that aesthetic in a modern context and also attempt to recreate the effects to the best of our ability.

JR: Personally, I am a junkie for the warm blanket that is cult cinema. The 1970’s & 80’s were the dawn of the psychotronic cable TV era. It’s part of my visual vernacular now. It has and in some way will always affect my filmmaking and artistic sensibilities.

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N: Where do you envision this project going long term?

FC: My wish is that the 1NFINITY universe can develop it’s own fanbase over time and evolve into something greater. Worst case, we make a bunch of cool music videos and attempt something new. Best case it becomes it’s own series, feature or merch line. You never know!

We are still in the early days and the concept needs to be proven. We are at video #4, I want to get to video #10 and see what we’ve done. People will either get it or they won’t. Breaking the idea publicly is the most challenging part, so we are def looking at what Marvel did marketing wise and making things like this doc to help explain the idea.

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N: Do you envision a live element attached to this idea?

JR: ’1NFINITY on Ice’ with giant mascot heads could be cool.

Images: IHEARTCOMIX

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