London based electronic / technology collective Miro Shot are set to release their debut album Content in May and, ahead of the release, the collective have dropped their new jam “I Used To Say Things To Strangers”, a track which sees the collective exploring the dangers of technology overuse.
Speaking about the track, which we are premiering here, they say: “The song is about the way we share our data online, how our online personalities show who we are and who we want to be. It’s a look the way we share things online, the good and bad sides of what Marshall McLuhan called an “extension of our central nervous system”. The song references Cambridge Analytica, Instagram and Google’s “Right To Be Forgotten” case, and the way algorithms are being used to subtly alter our emotional states and opinions. Most of all this is a song about embracing social media and technology. It’s saying that we used to use them in a way that would destroy us, but now we can use them in a way that brings us closer together. As a band, we subscribe to the original dream of what the internet was supposed to be before it got Googled / Zuckerberg’d, as it was outlined in The Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace. Yes, this is idealistic, but it is our only shield against the nightmare of mind-control and rigged elections which we will otherwise fall into.”
On the subject of the album, they say: “Our album is about the end of the world, and the best way to avoid it. The band started in a broken-down old building where musicians, filmmakers, coders and designers could try and build something together- something new. It’s an album about hope most of all- that technology will free us but only if we learn more about it, that the gaps between reality and the digital world don’t necessarily make us less human- they can make us closer.”
The band’s meteoric rise has been well documented with Clash Magazine describing them as ‘truly breaking boundaries’ on their 2019 EP Servers. Renowned for their unique live experience, Miro Shot embrace virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence to present a new version of what a band is and can be. Alongside playing regular shows, the band also create multi-sensory mixed reality performances for audiences that are truly one-of-a-kind.
Starting in 2017, Miro Shot began staging DIY versions of their VR performances while based in an east London warehouse, but have expanded their remit to perform in art galleries and churches across Europe with BBC and Forbes calling it “Impressively ahead” and “the future of live music” respectively. Alongside playing regular shows, groups of up to 20 people are invited to an event earlier in the day to wear VR headsets while the band play one song. As the performance begins the band are seen on the headsets as digital versions of themselves. When a chorus kicks in they are floating above a lake. The possibilities are endless. “An amazing concert is transcendental so we wanted to look at how our notion of reality has changed and fractured as technology becomes more and more prevalent,” Roman Rappak, de facto leader of the group explains.
Stripped from the technology, Miro Shot are a band at their core. “We’re human and we play instruments,” Rappak says. However, saying Miro Shot are just a band would be deceptive. Their collective is open to anyone and currently features 450 members. “Before we even started playing live we’d have people getting in touch to ask how they could invest in our start-up,” Rappak recalls. At first he was wary but given more thought decided, “The most punk thing you could do would be to create a start-up and utilise the tools available to you in the tech world. What’s wrong with adding coders and designers to the band on top of drums and synths? It’s DIY on the most basic level.”
To find out more about this fascinating collaboration, we spoke to Roman, from the project to find out more:
Hi, thanks for your time, can you tell us how the collective came together?
Roman: “The collective is made up of filmmakers, musicians, coders, designers and creatives from lots of different disciplines. We had all been working on various projects from other bands, short films and VR apps. We rented an old run down building and moved the whole project there to see what would happen if we all worked on one central projecta which became the Miro Shot Collective.”
What was the idea behind the collective and what are your goals?
“The world has changed so much over the last ten years, the way we interact with one another, the way we learn and create is all mediated by machines and technology. The argument is that any honest statement about the world we are currently living in is really a statement about technology. How can you make a piece of art that captures as much of this as possible? The goal is to create a hybrid of art forms a music/film/interactive/design, and wrap it up in the greatest communication vehicle ever: a band releasing music and touring the world. It’s still the fastest way to capture a mood, idea, and atmosphere.”
How does the writing process work and how do you incorporate it into a live set?
“We change things up as much as possible. We use cutaup / distancing techniques we stole from the Surrealists and Situationists. Computers can be nightmarish tools to work with because everything can sound the same, or we all end up using the same plugins, sounds and presets, correcting every beat and vocal. The best way we found is to make what we started to call Sample Forgeries – we stole this idea from Portishead (its described brilliantly in R J Wheatonʼs 33 1/3 book – we mic up the room (badly, then we just jam over ideas in this big cloudy mess, after that we take the recordings and treat them like a classic sample, pulling out bits that feel right. Heres us working with this technique a few days ago. You never end up with the song you thought you were writing, which can be incredibly exciting.”
Given the lockdown at the moment, does the fact that you are a media-based collective give you the freedom to carry on where other acts can’t?
“We started playing our VR/AR live shows in 2017, and the tech startup we created for that has opened a lot of doors for us. We built our own virtual world where people can attend remotely – we drop new music ahead of the “Real World” release, we premier our videos and play live. We were supposed to play SXSW and found out it was cancelled as we were leaving the US embassy with our visas. We have currently moved to a studio in the middle of the Scottish countryside and we are running the band from there. You can check it out here.”
Due to the temperamental nature of technology, have you any good gear gone wrong stories?
“Things always go wrong. At our recent show in Paris our sound engineer Olivier heroically fought with a system that was, in his words, “the worst thing I have ever seen” – so we would have been doomed without him. As for our VR shows, there are often issues as its pretty complex and ambitious. For example, a regular live show will need amps, mics, power, maybe visuals. Adding VR/AR and multisensory effects like temperature and wind makes for a really powerful experience, but also opens up a lot of potential for errors.”
There is a new album out in May called Content, what can you tell us about it?
“As it’s our debut album we wanted to make it an honest start to the story, of who we are as people, the ideas we talk about within the collective, and the world we find ourselves in. The lyrics are about social media, machine learning, online bullying, virtual worlds and sometimes about how ridiculous it is to be in a band in 2020. There are noises we recorded in Parisian streets, a 65 piece orchestra from Macedonia, modular synths and a few guests that we will be announcing when the record is out.”
On the subject of Content, do you think the freedom to post content on social media is a good or bad thing given the current world lockdown?
“People having access to these platforms is a wonderful thing. There are obviously a lot of evil and stupid things that come out of the fact that this is a new way for humans to interact, but in the long-run I think technology will be the only thing that saves us, and that it will change our lives for the better… You just might have to scroll through some cat gifs and Tik Tok face filters first.”
I assume you’ve got your finger on the pulse of technology. In your opinion what will be the next technological breakthrough?
“With technological breakthroughs, the things to really watch out for are the convergence points between technologies. A good example is the smart phone, it wasnʼt simply that someone invented the iPhone X, it was multiple inventions and technologies that combined over almost a century a perhaps even more. Radio technology, audio electronics, the internet, television, processors, lenses & optics, batteries. All of these lead to the device that changes our lives in less than a decade. With that in mind you can look at machine learning, AI, quantum computing, and spacial computing as the technologies that will come together to give us the kind of paradigm shift that changes things. At the moment we barely understand them.”
Are there any areas of technology that you’ve not yet explored within the collaborative and are there any you’re looking forward to incorporating?
“We are working on something really special with a volumetric capture company, there are things happening in that world which are utterly mind-blowing – if anyone can understand how Voxels work please send us a message on Instagram, because so far it seems like witchcraft.”
Thanks for your time and good luck with the album. Just to finish, what are your plans once restrictions are relaxed?
“Thanks! We will leave this studio with lots of new material, and be preparing for our album tour, which we will announce soon.”