Loving Hyperpop and Ruining PBS Kids with Niko + Mikey of Bottled Up
April 19, 2022 @ 12:00pm
“It’s ironic you came out against mansplaining when you constantly get on my case on how to say Moog,” says Mikey to an already laughing Niko.
Mikey Mastrangelo and Niko Rao are two members of D.C. freak pop outfit Bottled Up, a band rooted in DIY post-punk ethos making heir way into the field of synth-based hyperpop absurdity with their upcoming album “Grand Bizarre.”
“A.G. Cook [of PC Music] broke the rules when it came to producing. He uses a software no one uses to make great sounds and I think that pisses people off,” states Rao.
Well-known bands like Talking Heads and DEVO had similar beginnings, taking the post-punk mentality and developing something new, but what’s iconic about Bottled Up is how their diverse sound brings new approaches to the hyperpop phenomenon.
“It’s weird to play guitar in a hyperpop way. No one really does. I spend a lot of time on guitar tech socials and that’s already intimidating as a person still figuring music out,” says Mikey despite constant encouragement by Niko and me suggesting #hyperpopguitar as potential SEO.
While many can’t begin to categorize the sporadic sounds of hyperpop, to have a band like Bottled Up approach this internet-forged hodgepodge with an art pop philosophy is revolutionary.
Whether they pull from punked-laced guitar pop or embrace micro-niche musicality with their Italo influences, this band plays hyperpop worthy of PC Music-level acclaim.
“We’ve really leaned into making songs around a beat. That’s a great first step.” states Rao.
Bright Horizons and a Grand Bizarre Visual
The amazing part of chatting with Niko and Mikey is that there was so much for us to be excited about:
A new album coming out on May 27, a kick-ass tour starting at 14th Street’s Black Cat and a music video whose artistic direction knows no limits.
If you never have a chance to hear just how groundbreaking and smart this group is in conversation, by all means take the chance to watch the spectacular visual that is “Heart & Soul.”
Inspired by Niko Rao’s brief yet obsessive fling with watching old PBS shows, this video touches upon a seemingly disturbed artist’s presence onscreen and off.
Animalism reigns in as this straight-laced kids’ show host becomes a part of some cult mentality that deviates from the program’s abundant positivity. It’s pre-school Keith Haring diving into a run of “Yellowjackets” (the show, not the drug.)
With masks made by D.C. visual artist Lawrence Kirk, influence and aspirations know no bound. It’s the kind of visual you’d expect from a self-confessed TV addict like lead singer Niko.
“If Bottled Up were to write a song for a tv show, the real answer would be “Yo Gabba Gabba.” But my joke answer has to be “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”
“Oh, and anime. Bottled Up would kill it on an anime opener.” affirmed Rao.
Punk Rock Anti-Colonialism
Although it’s clear that Bottled Up is not your typical guitar-drum-bass punk band, their willingness to explore new sounds is what affirms their punk identity.
“Punk music is incredibly colonized. A large part of that stems from those who look down on music that isn’t Western or doesn’t serve white supremacy,” implored Rao
Bottled Up performs at Black Cat on April 29. “Grand Bizarre” releases on May 27.
Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; blackcatdc.com // @blackcatdc
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