Music and Comics Collide in NERO and Somehoodlum's Interactive Series Fragments of 2808

We talk to NERO's Dan Stephens and Somehoodlum all about their new sci-fi post-apocalyptic comic series

The worlds of comics and music are colliding in a new interactive comic series from the minds of Grammy Award-winning trio NERO and top-tier artist, animator, and designer Somehoodlum. Together they have created Fragments of 2808, which continues the narrative and post-apocalyptic Blade Runner-esque world established in NERO's previous albums Welcome Reality and Between II Worlds. Now a new chapter is being written as NERO returns with their much anticipated new album Into The Unknown. The first single from that new album, titled Truth, launched earlier this year to kick off this new chapter, which can be seen as it develops on ComicBook had the chance to speak to Dan Stephens and Somehoodlum (aka Adam) all about the new comic, and with NERO set to launch their new single Too Many Questions, the world is only going to get more interesting from here.

Origins and Inspirations

(Photo: NERO/Somehoodlum)

"Well, I'll talk about the music and the background of Nero in terms of, we always had a really sci-fi world that we created around us from the first album," Stephens said. "I mean, for me, it's things like, I guess visually we were always somewhere between Akira and Blade Runner as where we kind of put ourselves and a lot of our, we did an animated music video, anime style for one of our singles called, 'Into the Night'. I've always been a massive anime fan. I used to read a lot of mangas when I was a kid, and then I think I'll let Adam take it now being an illustrator, I think that's what drew Adam to us, the visual side of the world that we kind of built."

"Yeah, so I hopped on this project. I come from the more hip-hop world, the more street wear stuff. I produced two seasons of Fairfax on Amazon Prime, which was kind of a rambunctious young adult animated series, a comedy. So I came from packaging shows and really getting into that from my career as just being a visual artist to seeing what happens when you package a show and tell a narrative. So when I started becoming friends with the NERO guys, just as a fan, luckily they were fans of my art and we had some friends in LA and just we had wanted to work together for a long time," Somehoodlum said.

"And when album three started, I just really hard pitched their manager, Harvey. And I said Nero needs a social media strategy that is unique and different from any musician out there. And I kind of just came up with this idea based on the world that they had already been creating in the first two albums, and then when Harvey said, 'Well, it's funny you're bringing this up, Adam, because Dan has a whole narrative and a whole movie script for this universe.' And so then I said, 'Okay, let's talk.' And there was a lot there," Somehoodlum said.

Comics Meets D&D

(Photo: NERO/Somehoodlum)

Part of the vision is that this story is not just being created by the team, but also by the fans and readers who are along for the ride, resulting in a sort of combination of comics and roleplaying games. I've posted and DM'd a lot of campaigns, so it's kind of like a comic book meets Dungeons and Dragons. I say, instead of roles, there are no roles. I wish there was, I wish it was like Baldur's Gate. You could do freaking roles as a community. That would be so sick, but again, it's kind of like what happens next? It's a really open-ended question. It's kind of like those Goosebumps stories. At least that's what I read when I was a kid," Somehoodlum said. "The one where you go to different pages. So it really is a great way to just keep folks engaged. And it's also really fun because there's places that we don't really... It's kind of getting from point A to point, B, kind of let the community do this, but we'll always end up here. But the community gets to put some fun stuff in there."

The foundations for this larger story and narrative have been in place for a while, but this new chapter is really starting to bring those together in a new way, building off the ideas of good versus evil planted in their past two albums. "There's a rough story arc and people get to pitch in and fill in the gaps essentially, and it came off the back that we had these very subtle story arcs in our first two albums where the videos, it's this kind of metropolis that's got a dark side, the sort of good side versus, I don't know the man," Stephens said. "But it's like we noticed that we would just put these small nuggets out and the artwork and the music videos kind of led into that, and people were starting to make their own stories up around the albums and that kind of led us, it was kind of like we just gave people a few little things and people have really filled in the gaps. And so this album is so why don't we really actually do that and let people directly get involved and help with the story."

Interactive Storytelling

(Photo: NERO/Somehoodlum)

The tech behind the story and platform allows a new level of interaction and instant feedback that enriches the story and the world, and that will only become a better experience over time. Even right now though, you can immediately start affecting the story by leaving comments that suggest where to go next. "I mean it's kind of like when you're working on a new tech platform, we're kind of figuring that part out. It's as simple for me as, it's literally leave a comment below," Somehoodlum said. "It's that simple. It's leave a comment below and I just respond and just say input received. And I just keep that in mind when I'm creating the next thing. So it kind of stresses me out because it's like a long run on sentence, and every morning I wake up and I'm like, 'Okay, how am I going to get from here to there?' And I'm like, 'Okay, yeah, I think I got it.' You know what I mean?"

"And I also do this thing as well where if you sign up up, I create these little ID badges for each person. So dare I say kind of like NFTs, I hate using that phrase, but it's like your collectibles. It's like say Matthew, if you signed up and you put a username in, I would go on Photoshop and I would make a passport for you in this universe. And then we would message it to you and be like, thanks for signing up. So we're really putting the time in and really trying to reward people," Somehoodlum said.

"And I'm like, if we can get a community of folks on this website and populate it with something that is engaging, that's what this comic book is. So us messaging each freaking fan right now is so important. And I'm like, what gift can we give them? Again, a passport into this world, and sometimes someone will have a name that's like a cyborg and I'll change the race instead of human, I'll make it say cyborg. There's only a handful of people that have that though, so it's like if people notice. Then the VIPs get a passport and each one gets a unique thumbprint. I've generated all these different thumbprints. So it's like we're trying our freaking best to make something really special," Somehoodlum said.

Full Circle

(Photo: NERO/Somehoodlum)

Going full circle in a way, Stephens also said that the comic is now influencing the story in the music and music videos as NERO moves forward. "What's happening in the comic is also influencing what the story is in our head and how that will tie with the music and the concept and the artwork and the music videos," Stephens said. "The music video, it's been quite a long time in the making. It's very CGI heavy, and I mean already just the scenes we're getting, it looks f****** awesome. And it's very much about what we're doing in this final part of this first chapter of this kind of mass extinction event in the year 2808, surrounding this matter called Dark Flow, this kind of new semi-sentient matter that's been discovered. And it's just been so fun then figuring out, well, how does that look in the video."

NERO is now set to release their next single Too Many Questions, and it all leads to the anticipated release of NERO's third studio album Into The Unknown. NERO is also heading out on tour later this year, and you can find their upcoming tour dates below.

Into The Unknown Tour Dates

(Photo: NERO)
  • September 27 – Uptown Theatre – Minneapolis, MN
  • September 28 – Concord Music Hall – Chicago, IL
  • October 10 – Royale Nightclub – Boston, MA
  • October 11 – Echostage – Washington, DC
  • October 12 – Webster Hall – New York, NY
  • October 17 – Studio at the Factory – Dallas, TX
  • October 18 – Emo's – Austin, TX
  • October 19 – House of Blues – Houston, TX
  • November 1 – The Showbox – Seattle, WA
  • November 2 – 45 East – Portland, OR
  • November 14 – Ogden Theatre – Denver, CO
  • November 15 – Sunbar – Tempe, AZ
  • November 16 – The Depot – Salt Lake City, UT
  • November 21 – AREA15 – Las Vegas, NV
  • November 22 – 1015 Folsom – San Francisco, CA
  • November 23 – The Novo – Los Angeles, CA

NERO's Into The Unknown releases on August 16th. You can find their latest single right here.