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For the vast majority of you, Northlane’s new album Mesmer has existed for about a month. We announced and released it at the same moment worldwide, which is something neither Northlane nor UNFD had ever done; the impact was instant and undeniable, and we’re still seeing ripples even today. 

 

But Mesmer’s roots were planted way back, both musically and in terms of the release plan. By the time the Equinox Tour took place across Australia in June 2016, Northlane had already spent some time writing new material in the German countryside in Ghost City Recordings and the rough plan for a surprise release had been floated by Josh Smith and Luke Logemann, even though it took another couple of months for everyone else who needed to know the plan to come on board. From that point, we could start having fun.

 

Getting the band to the USA to record with David Bendeth had to be done more or less in secret, even though Josh lost the memo and posted some album details on Reddit a couple of times, which was awesome.  The first time we as a label really started working Mesmer was at Unify Gathering in January – the plan was to debut Intuition there as a gift for the fans on the occasion of Northlane’s first festival headline set, and ahead of that, the UNFD Twitter started posting ‘Wander’, ‘Question’, ‘Find your obsession’ in December, and then following up with German, French, Spanish and Japanese translations. 

 

The single cover leaked over the weekend which was a bit of an annoyance, but didn’t really bother us in the long run. What was slightly more frustrating was that we’d also painted MESMER in UV lights across Northlane’s stage cabs, which would only show up under the right lights which would be used in the performance of Intuition… but they didn’t really work. Other things that we hid at Unify: lyric posters, a cocktail named after another unreleased song, a teaser video on the big screen and an Instagram post with the song’s lyrics.

 

Then, more silence. While this was happening, the manufacturing side of things, the actual production of thousands of CDs and LPs, all had to be done in secret too. We had planned all shipments of music to be sent out under a fake name (Southway, ha) so they didn’t raise suspicion when they arrive at stores worldwide.

 

(Funny story – when the LPs were delivered to 24Hundred in Melbourne it was a 32-degree day [about 90 for you, America] and the entire staff of the label had to unload dozens of boxes and then hide them in the warehouse so the attendees of an event that weekend would have no idea that they were partying next to a few thousand albums they didn’t even know existed.)

 

 

The Mesmer video was something we’d worked on for months, as we wanted to do something that would be awesome in and of itself, and also engender discussion. The idea of doing an audiovisual sampler came about, and so Jon Deiley stitched together a series of electronic moments on the album, and we then shot a whole bunch of new footage, including the then-forthcoming video for Citizen. Hidden in the footage were all sorts of Easter Eggs in the form of songtitles – Zero-One, Solar, Veridian etc… The track itself was served up like any other Northlane track, so it was available on iTunes, Spotify etc, but with no one from the band or label commenting on it. 

 

At this point, we went into overdrive. The Citizen chatbot surfaced on Facebook, and immediately started enticing and confusing people. We’d be watching people discuss what the responses they’d found were, worked out the most popular ones, and then changed them every day or so. In retrospect that was kind of cruel, but we knew that we were about to deliver this absolutely amazing piece of work to the band’s fans out of nowhere, and our rough rule is that you can mess with people as long as you’re going to reward them with something worthwhile. To this day, though, there’s still stuff that no one found.

 

We also hid the numbers 24 03 (as in March 24) in a post on Facebook featuring Northlane’s upcoming tourdates, blanked out the band’s Instagram with three almost-white posts and uploaded some weird studio footage to nl6633.com. It was fun watching people try and work out what DINGUS and DONG WRANGLER meant when they appeared in the video.

 

The plan was always to have nl6633.com as the hub for introducing new music – that URL had been hidden in the booklet for Node as a braille code in the first press of the Australian CD and remained dormant and unfound for 20 months. We are all connected – everything Northlane do has a thread running through it, so being able to start the next chapter of the band’s life by looking both backwards and forwards at the same time was a neat bit of symmetry that we knew no one would pick up on, but which fits the band’s message perfectly.

 

At this point, we assumed a leak would come. We’d compiled a library of fake stuff to flood the internet with just to confuse people – fake EPs, fake Amazon pages, lurking Reddit and Twitter usernames to spread disinformation… but we ended up not having to use any of them. The news of Mesmer’s existence was leaked by stores in England and Germany a few hours upfront, but was quickly contained (inasmuch as anything can be) – but the music didn’t leak. This was the most important thing for the band and the label, for the world to experience Mesmer as a surprise. 

 

And if we screwed with you all along the way, then… not sorry.

Get Mesmer here.

 

UNFD Central

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