Mars and Apollo were once just two students taking a class when one of life’s greatest gifts brought them together. No, it wasn’t music that sparked this friendship turned musicianship. Keep on reading on to find out what initially got these two talking. We covered their all-star beginnings that eventually led to In The Middle, the comic book that coincides with their upcoming debut album ‘Brain Games,’ and more in this back-and-forth exchange.
Kendra: When you signed up for a human geography class, what sparked that initial conversation between you two? Was there a singular band or album you two initially bonded over?
In The Middle: This is going to sound totally fake… but do you remember the 2010’s Shrek meme craze? That’s what did it. We were both so, so weird. I don’t remember any albums/bands specifically at that time, but any alternative music at the time and any blues-based music.
Kendra: Since then you’ve been working on music together and in 2019 we got to hear “Prologue” and now you’re on the verge of dropping your debut album, ‘Brain Games.’ The titular track gave me ‘Stranger Things’ vibes at the start but then headed towards this EDM meets ‘90s pop moment. I know the album is based around a comic book story you two penned, but who or what were some of your musical influences on this track?
In The Middle: For this specific track our inspiration came from a few things. The show Squid Games, the synths from the Stranger Things intros, and artists like Gorillaz, Twenty One Pilots, and some EDM acts.
Kendra: I want to talk more about the comic book aspect but first, with “Brain Games” you present a pretty scary question, at least to me, about whether or not you’d be able to survive your own brain. For me, NO. Do you think that we’ll ever fully grasp the human mind in our lifetime?
In The Middle: That’s really interesting that you say that because we never meant it to become a scary question. We wanted to really make people reflect on how their own mental health state can take on its own world.
To answer your question, absolutely not. We also don’t think we will ever fully grasp the human mind no matter how hard we try to.
Kendra: So yes, the comic book aspect. Was that an idea that spawned from the songwriting or did you have a few songs written and thought – this is turning into quite the story?
In The Middle: Well, we always wanted to have our first album be a concept album. We wanted to have some kind of visual storyline to go with it and we thought doing a comic book would be way different than what most bands are doing, and more cost-effective than 10 music videos. We honestly wish we could make a whole movie out of this album. From the beginning, the album was always about this world but it wasn’t until after it was written that we went back and edited it to all be a coherent story for the comic book.
Kendra: Without giving too much away, can you let us know a bit more about the story ‘Brain Games’ revolves around?
In The Middle: Yes! Brain Games is about a world where there are different classes of people who work for this overarching authority system called TIM (Technologically Integrated Minds), which is also an anagram for our band ITM. Our story in particular focuses on the most crucial people in the society called the puzzle solvers which Mars and Apollo are. They have to solve puzzles in their minds day in and day out where they only get harder and more complex each time. Doing this generates energy for society. In return, they are given “TIM coins” that they can redeem for neurotransmitters like dopamine or serotonin. The rest of the story talks about when they realize things aren’t what TIM made them out to be and fighting back against that system and helping everyone else get out. There is a huge twist in the final chapter that comes out with our last song, Shifting Timelines.
Kendra: Comic books always call for adventures that always seem wilder than our real lives but you two have done some interesting stuff. You split up and moved to different coasts to two of the hardest cities to make it; LA and New York City. Which have you felt was more opportune for artists?
In The Middle: Ever since we were 15 the plan was always to learn as much as we could and write as much as we could until we were finally happy with the songs. That took us 10 years of learning, hundreds of songs written, and thousands of defeats. When we realized we had the album finally, we split up from Florida. Mars went to LA and Apollo to NYC. Both cities are incredibly tough and will spot you out like you are nothing IF you aren’t willing to spit right back in its face. LA proved harder ironically enough, so this summer Mars will be moving to NYC.
Kendra: Lastly, with ‘Brain Games’ out this year, what else can the world expect from In The Middle in the coming months?
In The Middle: We decided to do something super unconventional with this debut. Every two weeks until June a new song from the album and a new chapter of the comic book will be out. So rather than consume a whole album and forget about it, this was more episodic and every two weeks is like a new episode to a show you like to watch. It gives us a chance to let every song shine and hope that one catches on enough.