It may have seemed like Lorde appeared out of nowhere as a fully formed artist when she first dropped “Royals,” but even chart-dominating pop phenoms have to get their start somewhere. You can now add And They Were Masked to the list of groups like The Quarrymen to Fecal Matter who launched the careers of major stars while remaining totally obscure themselves.
Pitchfork reports that the Auckland, New Zealand band—the recording project of two friends, Morgan Allen and Toby Arrow—released an album in 2012 that features a pre-stage-name Ella Yelich O’Connor on vocals on two songs. The group cites The Mars Volta, Fugazi, and art-rock outfit Battles as influences on their Facebook page, and Characters, the album she appears on, is fittingly a proggy affair with lots of fractured arrangements and electronic flourishes. “Piece of Mind,” the one song that she provides lead vocals on, has a slanted drum part, a growling bass line, and a tense guitar figure that sound a world away from the lean, tightly focused, hip hop-inspired pop that would make her a star just over a year later, but it should work for anyone inhabiting the overlapping segment of a Venn diagram of Lorde fans and post-hardcore prog rockers.