Rising Above the Ranks: ‘Chronically Zen’ on Conquering IAMUR’s Battle of the BandLab Bands

Every success story has its chapters of reflection, recalibration, and resurgence.  For IAMUR, a defining moment of introspection began in January 2023. This pause, lasting until September, was not indicative of an ending but rather a recalibration.  Established in 2021 with a keen eye on the bustling corridors of BandLab, IAMUR’s mission was clear: to spotlight artists often obscured in the shadows, those not found on the more commercialised platforms of the music industry.  We celebrate independent artists, producers, and songwriters, irrespective of their genre or status in the music industry. From amateurs to professionals – we are dedicated to sharing their stories, chronicling their journeys, and amplifying their successes. We’re interested in the narratives behind the melodies, the tales of passion and perseverance.  So… In this renewed chapter, where better to rekindle our commitment than at BandLab, home to over 50 million artists?

Our “Battle Of The Bandlab Bands” challenge was a manifestation of our ethos, a clarion call, inviting bands to step into the limelight, to be seen, to be heard… and they answered.  A total of 16 bands made the cut, each submitting their standout tracks for an exclusive IAMUR album, each vying for the top spot.  The album amassed over 2,500 unique plays reaching listeners across the globe who actively engaged, resulting in over 700 likes and hundreds of comments, each offering appreciation and support for the participants.  The thriving community and shared love for music within the community made this contest a resounding success.

But, before we turn the spotlight to our winners, let’s take a moment to recognise the other fifteen bands that stepped up to participate. For us, this contest was a celebration of diversity, talent, and the indomitable spirit of music that thrives within the BandLab community.  Each submission received was of outstanding quality and told a unique story.  Thanks to you all for making this contest a success, and resonating with music enthusiasts globally.

And with that… let’s turn our gaze to our winners; ‘Chronically Zen’ and their track ‘Need You’ – a track so well received by listeners, amassing an impressive total of 222 points. With 170 likes, 143 plays, and 50 comments. 

The band, comprising two distinct voices. Chronic Way, from from San Antonio, Texas, who embarked on his musical journey as a pre-teen, and Amal (a.k.a Zen), from Pakistan, who at just 15 years old has already found her footing with this early success.

So… what sets Chronically Zen apart? Is it Chronic Way’s seasoned experience from his stints with previous bands.  Or is it the refreshing energy Amal brings, balancing their passion for music?  Let’s hear from them both.

Check out the winning track ‘Need You’ by ‘Chronically Zen’

Firstly, thank you for participating in IAMUR’s Battle of the Bandlab Bands, and a huge congratulations to both of you on your remarkable achievement, and for captivating our audience with your fantastic track. To kick things off, can each of you share a brief background about yourselves? Where are you from, and how did you embark on this musical journey?

Zen: Hey IAMUR Magazine; this is Zen. My name’s Amal and I’m 15. I reside in Pakistan. I loved music ever since I was a kid. I taught myself the keyboard and guitar and it was only till April 2023 that I formally joined Bandlab.

Chronic Way: I am from San Antonio, Tx USA. I got my start in music at 12 years old with my first guitar and free trial recording program, I couldn’t really play well so I stuck to being a vocalist in various bands through middle school and high school. In my 20s I was a recording and performing artist around my city In two bands, one called Meltdown the Reactor and the other Wicked Disaster. After both bands break up in 2019 I went on to be a solo musician under Chronic Way.

When you’re not making music, what are your hobbies or passions? What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Zen: I record songs on Saturdays; otherwise song-writing and guitar are going on constantly throughout the week. My activities other than music would probably be high school assignments these days. My hobbies include cooking; art: painting, sketching, colouring and other mediums; or basically activities that get my creative juices flowing.

Chronic Way: When not I’m not making music , all I do is think about making music but I spent time as a cellphone technician and I am a hobby car mechanic fixing up my old cars, not as a business but just for fun. Honestly music is really the only thing I do in my free time.

We all have certain artists or bands that resonate with us, leaving a mark our musical souls. Tell us who have been your major musical influences? And in what ways have they influenced your own styles and approaches to music.

Zen: I’ve been a fan of Cher ever since I was a kid. In fact, “Believe” by Cher was the first song I ever recall hearing and as a kid, I’d listen to it every night before bed. I’ve always been fascinated by dark pop/ dance pop/ synth-wave pop type beats and in later years of my life, I got introduced to artists like the Weeknd and Ava Max, which definitely increased my love for pop music.

Chronic Way: I grew up in the emo era of rock and then later late 2000s hiphop , but my parents music from the 70s ,80s ,and 90s really impacted me aswell. I just like whatever ,almost any style influences me. I try not to get stuck in any genre.

Can you walk us through the process of how “Chronically Zen” was formed on BandLab? Was it a chance encounter or a deliberate search for members?

Zen: I remember a friend of mine reposting something about ‘Battle of the Bands’, which was my first exposure to IAMUR. So, I hit my friends up about this and at first, pseudo_&_the_nimz was formed. However, much later, Chronic Way agreed to do this too; so ‘Chronically Zen’ was formed. I participated for two bands. Chronically Zen was supposed to be a 4-5 member group; however some things happened that provoked us to remove the members and do it as a two member group.

Chronic Way: Well I got a comment from a relatively new account on Bandlab (Zen) saying she thought she could do some pop music, like one of the tracks I had posted. Once I checked out her work I knew she was a special talent that few have, so I had to invite her to my band. She then messaged me about this battle of the bands contest and at first I was reluctant but then agreed. She made a new band which she called Chronically Zen and we started making some tracks. A couple of days before the contest deadline we finished the contest track. Zen has a great musical ear and I believe we knocked out the track.

Have you met in person? If not, are there plans to meet up in the future?

Chronic Way: We haven’t met in person and as of now there are no plans , but maybe in the future if we ever have to perform for a big crowd that would be a possibility.

How would you describe your specific roles in the band? What instruments do you play or vocals do you provide?

Zen: We’re both vocalists. Chronic’s a producer too and does mixing. I can do quite a bit of mixing myself. I play the guitar and the keyboard. Honestly, we’re both in this together and contribute equally to the band.

Chronic Way: For this band I really wanted to do something different so I let Zen pick the tracks and after we recorded vocals we both had a hand in mixing.

Chronically Zen
Amal (Zen) of Chronically Zen

Outside of “Chronically Zen”, do you have any personal musical projects or aspirations you’re working towards?

Zen: I released an EP not so long ago and I release singles and covers weekly on my profile. For now, the platform I’m focusing on is Bandlab; however, in the future, I definitely want to join more mainstream platforms to get my music out there.

Chronic Way: Outside of the band I work almost full time on Chronic Way and I’m pretty much constantly dropping new tracks from original work to forked and free beats from various artists around the world. My aspirations are to keep making music until I die.

Can each of you share your favorite track you’ve collaborated on and why it stands out to you?

Zen: “Need You” has to be my favorite. The vocals, mixing and the beat was top-tier. Apart from that, it was well-written and I feel like our voices complimented each other’s quite well and I always love a track in the key minor.

Chronic Way: My favorite collab is definitely with Zen for Battle of the Bandlab Bands. I believe our voices are perfectly made for this pop music. Cant wait to make more music in our band.

What are the advantages and challenges of collaborating remotely on BandLab compared to traditional in-person band practices?

Zen: It is definitely much easier to work face-to-face; however, I see Bandlab as a great alternative. Of course, it’ll never embody that experience; but it’s still really great (apart from being really laggy at times). The real-time collaboration feature was cool; however it’s pretty laggy and we’re not going to talk about that…

Chronic Way: Advantages are being able to keep everything organized through Bandlab, and being able to work when you have time rather than having to meet up at certain times for in person collabs. Just way more convenient. I really don’t see any challenges working this way… I actually prefer it.

What motivated you to participate in the “IAMUR Battle Of The Bandlab Bands” challenge?

Chronic Way: Well that would be Zen, I honestly didn’t want to compete at first as I thought I had no chance of winning anything, (laughs). Zen is a great motivator and because of the positive energy she brought we got the job done. I’m real proud of this win for the both of us. I’m glad we could both show our talent.

Zen: It felt really exciting, new and fresh… and a battle didn’t sound half bad.

“Need You” has truly struck a chord with so many listeners. The appreciation and buzz around it are undeniable. What’s the story or inspiration that fuelled this track?

Zen: For me, I was really inspired when I first found the beat on YouTube and I knew I had to definitely make a song out of it.

Chronic Way: I just pulled the lyrics I put down from life experiences and let it just flow out me. I felt that if I tried to keep it real that people would resonate with the lyrics.

Chronically Zen
Chronic Way of of Chronically Zen

With the success of “Need You” and winning the “Battle Of The Bandlab Bands” challenge, do you feel there are bigger things on the horizon for “Chronically Zen”?

Zen: Definitely; we’ll keep this band going and will release more tracks. Maybe even add some new members…? If there’s a Battle of the Bandlab Bands again next year, we’d be most obliged to enter as Chronically Zen again.

Chronic Way: Most definitely. I feel like we could really take this band to the next level with consistent efforts.

What advice would you give to other aspiring artists looking to form bands on platforms like BandLab?

Zen: My advice would be to find your crowd. I know it sounds confusing; but find your type of people who respect you, have similar musical tastes and really connect to you. Bandlab has become such a big platform now that there’s accounts ranging from big-shot musicians to straight-up scammers. So, definitely be careful out there.

Chronic Way: Best advice I can give is don’t give up! I have been in many Bandlab bands that never got the job done but if you keep your willingness to keep trying , eventually you will find other artists who vibe like you and also have the same “get it done” mindset. Keep trying, ignore any negative people because there are lots of them… keep pushing.

How do you handle feedback from the BandLab community? Has there been any constructive criticism that led to significant growth or change in your music?

Chronic Way: Well I take feedback pretty well, but to be honest I don’t really listen to music criticism as much, only because I don’t like having to much outside influences on any track I’m working on. If someone doesn’t like what we have made then I just say ‘oh well, it’s impossible to satisfy everybody’.

Zen: I really appreciate honest feedback, especially constructive criticism. Since April, people have taught me so much about presets and mixing that now if I look back on my old work, I can see a very significant difference quality-wise.

How do you navigate and balance different creative ideas and visions within the band during collaborations?

Zen: I like to map everything out before recording; for example I’ll consult my bandmates and finalise the general theme, the vibe of the song and the lyrics. Doing this just makes the recording process much more comfortable.

Chronic Way: I try to not be a control freak. I value other artists input and I don’t believe there needs to be any disrespect or fighting in a band. Having someone as talented as Zen in the band really makes it easy though. I try to go with the flow and try all Ideas out.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in your musical journey so far – and, what personal achievement in your musical journey are you most proud of?

Chronic Way: That team work makes the dream work lol I no longer associate with anyone trying to push drama or beef. If they cant be civil then there is no point in continuing to work with them. Great music is the way to success not drama. Winning this contest is probably my favorite achievement I’m most proud of couldn’t be happier.

Zen: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. Music is an ongoing process. It takes time, effort and most of all, patience. I try my best not to rush myself when I’m going through a creative-block; because from what I’ve learnt, good music never comes if you’re forcing yourself. So, just take it slow, at your own pace.

The music scene is ever-evolving, presenting artists with daily challenges and opportunities. Given this fluid landscape, how do you both see your journey unfolding? How do you intend to adapt and flourish as artists in the digital age?

Zen: Looking at the music industry today, I just want to be a genuine artist who truly resonates to people all around the world, regardless of their gender, race or culture and just spread positivity through my art.

Chronic Way: Well I’m constantly experimenting with sounds , listening to what’s current and really just trying new stuff out. I love being versatile and trying different genres out. I believe doing that helps my music grow by learning as many musical techniques as possible.

If you had the chance to jam with any artist, from any era, who would be your top pick and why? And just to throw in a little twist, are there any artists outside your usual genre that you’ve secretly dreamed of teaming up with?

Zen: It would be a dream come true to collaborate with the Weeknd. But, these days, I’ve been really getting into Nickelback and I’d love to collaborate with them too cause I’m hooked to their classic rock-ish sound.

Chronic Way: I would love to collaborate with someone like Freddie Mercury from queen, the man’s vocals are other worldly and the whole band is talented. It would be a great learning experience. 

BandLab is such a treasure trove of talent. I’m sure during your journey, you’ve come across some incredible artists on the platform. Are there any fellow BandLab musicians you’d love to give a special shoutout to? Anyone our readers should definitely tune into?

Zen: Honestly, there’s way too many amazing artists on Bandlab for me to name each and every one. So, please try to check as many of them out as you possibly can. Also, a huge shoutout to MuseMine and Cereus Sounds, because their Battle of the Bandlab Bands entries were spectacular!

Chronic Way: Yeah, y’all go follow Zen she is the next big Bandlab star. Her talent is only getting better, definitely someone to watch out for.

Before we wrap up, I want to ensure we’ve touched on everything you’d like to cover. If there’s anything we might have missed, this is your moment to add final thoughts you’d like to share with our readers.

Zen: I’d just like to thank IAMUR for this incredible opportunity. It feels surreal to know that we can share our story with people from all over the world.

Chronic Way: Just wanna say thank you for holding the contest and thanks to all of the Bandlab community for showing out for our track “Need You”. We couldn’t have pulled this off without the very supportive community on Bandlab.

Well, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Congratulations once again to ‘Chronically Zen’, and thanks for taking the time to share your passion and stories. As we conclude this conversation, we invite you to check out their track, along with the other fifteen fantastic entries . The IAMUR Battle of the Bandlab Bands album, a culmination of dedication and talent, is available for streaming below. Happy listening!

Get in touch with the IAMUR team for coverage, reviews and interviews here.

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