brian mantra has released his futuristic, sci-fi romance-inspired single, “BUGS R US” today. The new track is accompanied by a music video, directed by Evers, which finds brian mantra getting sucked up into an alternate reality, where faceless figures linger near walls of TV static. Written about how it feels to be again trapped by the sheer weighted emotion of a newfound crush, “BUGS R US” takes us on a lime-green-tinged nightmare of sorts, where we’re confronted with the feelings of drowning, of loneliness, of falling, of wanting.
Of the new song, he explained, “Writing ‘BUGS R US’ at the beginning of lockdown was a form of escapism and the result of wanting to travel within borders of love and friendships while being in insolation. The solitude taught me lessons about adaptation and transformation, and this track was an ode to finding peace through the process. The timeline from writing the first lyrics to receiving the final cut of the music video spans over two years, but the record’s meaning is still relevant to me today.”
brian mantra’s musical journey is particular and vast – having once been scouted for a Seoul-based KPOP program, he turned it down as it didn’t align with his own personal vision for his voice as an artist. As a producer as well as a songwriter, his songs are big, otherworldly landscapes, hinting at the elements or some alien planets with big booming echoes and grinding static, giving way to chimes, carefully-laid vocal harmonies, and the plucky reverb-laden pulse of it all.
Being a 1st generation only child with parents from Korea, musicality was not at the center of his upbringing, nor was it really a true career option in the eyes of his Asian-American parents. It was the pianos and drums at his church band, and his aunt’s introduction to the music of Celine Dion that was all he needed to light the musical spark in him. Those influences helped him hone his pop and melodic sensibilities, while seeing Destiny’s Child on MTV introduced him to RnB, and to how he wanted to perform.
He began filming YouTube covers at the platform’s peak popularity, catching the eyes of The Messengers (Justin Bieber, Christina Aguilera, Shakira, Halsey) and then getting scouted for a Korean singing competition that brought him to Seoul, where he’d complete schoolwork during the day and compete by night. Also offered a spot in another Kpop program, it’s clear that his mind for hooks and velvety voice are a winning pairing. With his hands on the production as well, brian mantra’s music is explicitly his own. The modern stresses of being an artist and the battles of worthiness as an Asian-American in the music industry has taught him to not stress so much when he’s not writing, but to accept it and be grateful for how far he has come today.