Independent record label making history with first electronic visual album



Zaena Cherif and Jason Sizer will drop the first–ever electronic music visual album released by an independent label on Oct. 6. Viewing parties will be held at colleges around the world to honor the release.

By Assistant Arts & Culture Editor

Jason Sizer and Zaena Cherif, electronic artists with the Chicago-based independent record label Maek, are gearing up for the Oct. 6 release of their collaborative visual album, Maek Pandamonium.

Visual albums are out of reach for most independent record labels because of the amount of time and budget it takes to create one, Sizer said. The most notable visual music album, on which every song is accompanied by a video, is Beyoncè’s self-titled album released in

December 2013. Maek Pandamonium is the first electronic visual album of its kind and the first to be created by an independent label, according to Sizer, who performs under his pseudonym, Jason Maek.

Sizer, founder of Maek, launched the label officially in September 2013. All music released by the label is free.

“Beyoncè and Coldplay’s releases are the last few visual albums that came out [recently], and those had seven-figure budgets,” Sizer said. “We had to figure a way to do a visual album within our [budget] constraints and our time frame.”

Tiffany Lee, vice president of Maek, said this album was a crucial step for  the musicians’ success, providing exposure for them. 

“The visual album/LP was the perfect next step after Zaena and [Sizer] released their introductory EPs in March,” Lee said in an email. “We needed something with fire power to push the label and them as artists to the next level.”

Lee said the album will raise visibility both for the artists and the label as it grows.

“[Maek Pandamonium] shows that independent labels and artists can do things on the same level as major labels and mainstream acts,” Lee said. “It’s representative of Chicago and its place in the music industry.”

Sizer and Cherif began collaborating on Maek Pandamonium after they both released their first individual EPs. 

“I didn’t want to do a full LP, and I don’t think Zaena wanted to either,” Sizer said. “I don’t think it was something we were ready for in relation to the scope of [furthering our careers]. But we knew if we came together, we could make something really awesome and really different.”

Sizer and Cherif gutted Sizer’s apartment and turned it into a recording studio with equipment from Guitar Center, a music store, and a vocal booth made from a tent. The recording process for the album took the duo a total of 10 days, Sizer said. They then shot the videos, which took 15 days, he said.

“In the end, [we were a lot happier] because we were able to do everything exactly how we wanted and place everything exactly where we wanted,” Cherif said. “[We were able to] redo any little part that we were not 100 percent happy with, so it turned out much better than if we had recorded somewhere else.”

Instead of an overarching story line within the videos, each is abstract and tells a different story, Sizer said. 

“Every video is different, but they tie together with different media clips from television,” Sizer said. “The abstract storyline is how television and pop culture is this huge influence.”

More than 40 colleges across the world will be hosting visual album viewing parties to honor the release of Maek Pandamonium. Harvard University and Lincoln University in New Zealand are two among the many that will participate in celebrating the album release, Sizer said. 

Both Sizer and Cherif said they want their fans to enjoy the album and for people to recognize the intersection of its musical and visual aspects.

“I’m really confident about it,” Cherif said. “I want everyone to experience what I’ve experienced, which is enjoying something fully. Watching it, hearing it and seeing something that’s different because there aren’t a lot of visual albums out there.”