Premiere: POP ETC’s Dreamy “Sleight of Hand” Begs for Balance in Chaos

Sleight of Hand © POP ETC

Like a magician pulling off some incredible trick, our world is full of wonder and mystery. So too, can our own lives feel like a mystery: We spend our days dictating our actions and behaviors, but how much of who we are and what we do is really under our control? Is there really any balance? POP ETC’s moving new song “Sleight of Hand” is a fresh, dreamily somber exploration of the chaos and order that drive our lives and rule our world.

Are we doomed to find our fate?
Is there nothing we can say or do to be heard?
I never learned to shut my mouth
And I think you’re crazy not to have your doubts
Watch: “Sleight of Hand” – POP ETC


Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering the music video for POP ETC’s single, “Sleight of Hand.” The genre-defying trio of Chris Chu, Jon Chu and Julian Harmon, POP ETC craft music with meaning, standing out “among the fury of indie pop/rock music makers for channeling an intimate connection with their own humanity into self-aware, universally relatable anthems and ballads.” (Atwood Magazine, 2016)

Completely independent and constantly in motion, POP ETC captured our hearts with their 2016 sophomore album Souvenir, whose raw, emotionally complex songs are as colorful as they are catchy. “Theirs is the kind of music that teaches you something new about yourself,” we noted in our feature. After touring Souvenir in the US and Japan and beginning to work on their next record, the trio recently decided they could have more fun with new music releases. “Sleight of Hand” is the second release off POP ETC’s Infinite Singles Collection, which finds the band releasing individual, standalone songs on a monthly basis.

Sleight of Hand - POP ETC

Sleight of Hand – POP ETC

Marching single file down this way
Theres no need to point out
all your mistakes

It’s all part of
somebody’s divine plan

Or did chaos use a sleight of hand?
Oh no, that same old road again
Oh no, that same old road again

“We’re just letting the songs come naturally and getting them straight out to the world,” explains songwriter and POP ETC frontman Chris Chu. “We didn’t want to wait around another year or two or three making and planning the release of an album. We make music so often, it just doesn’t feel natural anymore to wait that long. We love the idea of being able to put out new music every month. It just feels more natural to how we operate as a band.”

Released last week, “Sleight of Hand” is a far cry from Souvenir‘s energized pop/rock; similar to the band’s previous single “Fingerprints,” the song has an easy, pleasant acoustic vibe – a texture reminiscent to what you might find on an “easy listening” radio station. Light piano and drums round out a light background while a bright acoustic guitar strums a laid-back progression. Chris Chu’s voice is soft, almost to a point of sadness. He sings a subtle melody over the chord changes, evoking something deep within:

I’ll melt everything down
And I’ll feed the family one more week at best
Staring at a cloud
Imagining something more from less
Marching single file down this way
Theres no need to point out all your mistakes
It’s all part of somebody’s divine plan
Or did chaos use a sleight of hand?

“I’ve been thinking a lot about fate and the general order, or lack of order in our lives these days,” says Chris Chu. “With that line and this song I was kind of playing with the idea that through our understanding of how the world works we’ve kind of tricked ourselves into believing there is an order, that things always happen for a reason, but maybe at the heart of everything it’s still just chaos.”

POP ETC © 2017

POP ETC © 2017

The song feels peaceful, but underneath the melody lie much darker feelings. This duality is evoked in the music video, which finds Chris Chu singing in a television set while the world changes and moves around him. It’s like he’s stuck in time, completely disconnected from everything else, unable to control where he is or how he’s perceived. He’s just an image in a box.

According to Jon Chu, POP ETC “wanted to give the video the feeling of a testimony or confession, but against a chaotic backdrop, almost as if these are the images running through my head as I’m telling a story. There’s something about the song that feels restrained and we thought this juxtaposition of images would express that well.”

Trying to flag a ride on the opposite side
Looking like a prisoner out here I’m waving
I’m waving
Praying for a soul with a sizable heart
Looking for a way to make a brand new start
I’m waving
I’m waving
Sleight of Hand © POP ETC

Sleight of Hand © POP ETC

He continues: “I think as the world is becoming more connected, more global, the dichotomy between our very deep, personal understanding of ourselves is at odds with the impersonal nature of an increasingly populated world. I think in a lot of ways, and this is almost common knowledge these days, we’re victims of our own progress. We’ve become numb to the amazing technological feats happening around us because we’ve lost a personal connection to this progress.”

POP ETC will continue to release new music every month. What it will be is as much a mystery to them as it is to us, but if one thing’s for certain, it won’t be “the same old road again.” Their latest is a provocative reflection on the changing dynamics between the individual and the world at large – something we can surely all relate to, though we may not want to think about it every day. Dig deeper into yourself with POP ETC’s “Sleight of Hand”

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:: stream/purchase SLEIGHT OF HAND here ::

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Sleight of Hand - POP ETC

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photo © POP ETC

Souvenir: A Life Lesson from POP ETC

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Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York’s many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch’s words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing.
Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com