The MNKD’s debut EP It’s Nothing opens with a beautiful swell—joined by swirling synths, pittering guitar and repeated lyrics fading in the background. You wouldn’t guess that these sounds are being produced by a three-piece group. Therein lies the magic that singer Steven Sware, multi-instrumentalist Chad Pankiw and drummer/producer Max Pankiw have found together.
The Fort Saskatchewan band began as a four-piece in 2013 with a more traditional rock sound. However, they parted ways with their guitarist in the summer of 2015, and the three chose to create a soundscape of their own.
“We figured we might as well take the opportunity to make a new sound that’s a little bit different from kind of what you hear out of Edmonton,” says Chad Pankiw. “We didn’t want to sound like your geographic location.”
The result is an pop/alternative “wall of sound” that covers a vast amount of sonic ground. Max Pankiw is tasked with producing and mixing hundreds of tracks into one smoothing backing arrangement for each of their songs.
With help from Hands Up! Music’s Dan Davidson and Ari Mastoras, The MNKD’s first EP is an ear-pleasing journey. Sware’s voice floats above the orchestrations, providing a compliment for the pop-tinged tracks.
“Elate Me” is the EP’s first single and was inspired by watching plenty of ‘80s films, love, and vulnerability. The MNKD began practicing as the soundtrack to scenes from these ’80s movies. One particular scene gave them an immense amount of inspiration.
“It was an over dramatic scene between a teenage guy and a teenage girl,” Max Pankiw says. “We decided to write around that scene because we all work really well with visuals. After that it was just a matter of coming up the vocal melody. We decided to focus it all around that concept of the phone.”
It’s difficult for a three-piece band to perform these intricate songs on stage. The MNKD manage to compliment the sound of their EP and still add surprises while performing. The trio wanted to add bigger vocals or different drum sounds that would create a different experience from the EP and the live show.
Logistically, the band has a lot of room to work with while on stage. At first it was a learning process to figure out how best to use the space.
“Because we’re a three-piece, there’s a lot of room to occupy on a stage now,” says Chad Pankiw. “We’ve noticed that in order to occupy that space you have to be moving a lot more, taking up the space that you’re given. A large part of the performance side is that interaction.”
Their goal is to influence the crowd to put down their phones and get lost in the music, bringing back the essence of what music was about when they began playing. Sware will go out into the crowd to engage the audience.
The MNKD started the year opening an arena show for Marianas Trench. Playing for thousands of people was something they didn’t expect at this time last year. The band’s constant growth and musical maturity has set them up for an exciting year while supporting It’s Nothing..
“I think 2017 for us is going to be a growing year, trying to create that fan base that isn’t just local,” Sware says. “In smaller cities even if it is just fifteen or twenty people, it’s still a start.”