Masked band-its Just when you thought the music industry was safe, some bad apples in masks have come to cause trouble in the scene. Could these up-and-coming masked musicians be the concealed crusaders we’ve all been waiting for? Or are they just a bunch of thinly veiled villains? Donald Finlayson investigates. Illustrations by Felicity Case-Mejia.
emember when you were 13, and Slipknot seemed like the coolest, scariest band in the whole world? But then you got a little older and thought, “Why are these grown-ass men wearing clown masks?”, and, “Are these guys distant relatives of Insane Clown Posse?” It’s confusing stuff. But whether you see a disguise as a stupid gimmick or a fascinating artistic statement, you’ve gotta admit, the masked musicians are here to stay. From MF Doom to Daft Punk to The Aquabats, there are countless incredible artists who choose to conceal their identity for one reason or another. Imagine you had prodigious musical talents that you want to share with the world. Should that then mean that you have to give up your right to pop down to 7/11 without being hassled for selfies or autographs? We reckon not. And just to show you how much we care, here are six of our favourite upand-coming acts who perform in incognito mode.
Phantom Panda Power Wizard Master Smasher
If you ever feel like giving your granddad a good scare, show him a video of a Phantom Panda Power Wizard Master Smasher gig. Dressing like Gwar under the influence of Skittles and Wizz Fizz, these Melbourne oddballs play wild, horn-infested doom metal that’s heavy on the lasers. It also used to be choreographed to the visuals of old Bugs Bunny cartoons, but after receiving a cease and desist, they’ve been working on their own animations. How we got to this point in music and culture is really anyone’s guess, but we reckon it’s some kind of glitch in the matrix.
Punk rock with a masked-band gimmick? Whoa, how original! Just kidding, Masked Intruder are alright. With a heavy-pop punk influence, these nice Wisconsin boys play fast songs about love and romance while sporting different coloured balaclavas. Sounds kinky, but you’ve gotta wonder how sweaty it must get under those ski-masks once the tempo really ramps up. Best not to think about it. Their music is fun, quality stuff, even if it does sound like ScoobyDoo chase music most of the time, so check it out if you’ve got a tattoo of a pizza slice or any other form of novelty ink.
Looking a bit like a clumsy high-end smelter, Sydney-based artist Golden Features is yet another producer in the longstanding tradition of making noise while wearing something silly on ya head. This time, it’s an eerie, featureless metal face mask, obviously. Where the hell do these people get custom headgear like this made anyway? Shouting over their sets down at the club, we’ve tried asking a bunch of local DJs if they knew where to get ‘em, only to be met with bullshit answers like, “If you have to ask, you’ll never know.” Typical!
Alongside potatoes and Built To Spill, Boise, Idaho can now officially say it’s got three good things going for it thanks to the electronic trio Magic Sword. A mysterious group that plays cool synth-wave music under some expensive-looking LED masks, the music of Magic Sword carries a strong science fiction and video game fantasy theme along with it. In the same way that dungeon-synth music appeals to hardcore D&D players and dudes who own more chainmail than T-shirts, the sci-fi synth-wave of Magic Sword is bound to appeal to folks who genuinely believe that we live in a simulation. Which we do.
With a Pussy Riot-esque hypercolour balaclava and a rap name that sounds like your old Hotmail account, Brooklyn’s Leikeli47 is an artist that deserves the attention of any hip hop head. Lyrically, there’s a great contrast between her aggressive sentiments and the light, sugary flow she delivers them in. Kind of like being choked to death by an ice cream cone — delicious but deadly. Leikeli47 believes that concealing her face gives her a greater sense of courage, like “the Dark Knight, or one of those superheroes” saying that, “The mask, it represents freedom. I’m free with it on.” Let’s hope the rap equivalent of Bane isn’t right around the corner then.
Unlike most masked artists, we’ve all already seen what old mate Jonathan Bree looks like. How can that be? The dude was the fresh-faced poster boy of NZ twee pop during his decade-long tenure with The Brunettes. With his cutesy image behind him and a successful solo career now underway, Bree’s gone from softboy to Slenderman by performing behind a spooky white mask. And with a song like 2017’s You’re So Cool cracking the 10 million view mark on YouTube, he’s clearly onto something. Let this be a lesson for all young artists, never be yourself if you can be a mannequin instead.