With summer right around the corner, we can’t help but be totally stoked for Warped Tour. In case you haven’t heard, we’ll be sponsoring our own stage for twenty-two dates and bringing twenty-three artists out to perform on it. Twenty-two acts will snag a performance at their local tour stop, and one lucky artist will get to perform on every date (tour bus included). In addition, there are a handful of other OurStage artists already booked to play various dates of the tour. We decided to catch up with them to get the scoop on their summer plans.
Chicago natives I Fight Dragons are favorites in the modern pop rock scene and will be playing every single date of Warped Tour 2012. With fun and fresh songwriting chops, dedicated fans and a kickass live show, we think it’s safe to say that this band is poised to be the next big breakout act. We caught up with IFD frontman Brian Mazzaferri to talk about video games, rock shows and why he’s looking forward to a very Warped summer.
OS: You describe your sound as “Chiptune-Pop-Rock.” Can you explain what that is and how you incorporate chiptune elements into your music?
BM: Sure, well Chiptune is basically this: new music created using “obsolete” video game soundcards. It ends up sounding like it was made on an old Nintendo or Game Boy, because it often was. In our band, we integrate those sounds with a more traditional four-piece rock band (drums, bass, guitar, vocals)…to create an unholy beast of sonic majesty.
OS: You’re from the local scene in Chicago, which is represented in modern rock by bands like Fall Out Boy and The Academy Is… .Were there any local acts that you guys really looked up to growing up?
BM: I’d say Wilco is the favored hometown hero amongst our bandmates. I really enjoy Fall Out Boy as well actually, but I went to high school with Patrick Stump so it’s hard to say I looked up to him growing up, I definitely love his songwriting though.
For I Fight Dragons, all those years smashing buttons in mom’s basement may have finally paid off. Faced with the task of standing out in an increasingly crowded sea of pop rock acts, these Chicagoans channeled their childhood love of video games into a truly unique sound. Billing themselves as “Chicago’s finest (and quite possibly only) NES-Rock band,” the members of I Fight Dragons incorporate old Game Boy and Nintendo Entertainment System sounds into their catchy, impeccably written rock tunes. So far, it seems like their formula is working. I Fight Dragons have toured with national acts like 3OH!3, Cobra Starship and Travis McCoy, and are set to release their debut full-length album Kaboom! this fall. While the band is surely influenced by many different video game songs, it’s possible that the antics of a certain pixelated duck had a profound influence on how the group’s sound evolved.
Based on the popular animated TV show DuckTales, the 1989 DuckTales video game was a classic 8-bit, side-scrolling adventure for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Though the game’s bright graphics and intuitive gameplay were its main selling points, the true star of the game was its music. Composer Yoshihiro Sakaguchi, who had already worked with Capcom on the first two Mega Man titles, made his most lasting mark on 8-bit music with the creation of DuckTales‘ “Moon Level” theme. While some video game themes were atmospheric (Metroid) or orchestral (The Legend of Zelda), Sakaguchi’s “Moon Level” theme was a straightforward pop rock gem. The song is so well-loved that fans created a Facebook group to honor it, and a YouTube search for “DuckTales The Moon” results in scores of instrumental covers of Sakaguchi’s composition.
Bleep bloop. What’s that sound? Rippling melodic riffage mixed with the sounds of our electronic youth? A sense of nostalgia wrapped up in a coating of fun? Anamanaguchi traffic in a sound that has more depth, is more multifaceted then what one might expect. Currently one of the premiere 8 bit/chiptune groups performing today, they recently had their greatest flirtation with the mainstream after providing the soundtrack for the video game adaptation of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World.
We got to sit down with lead songwriter Peter Berkman and talk about his bands approach to releases, what it’s like scoring a video game and playing a benefit concert for Four Loko.
PB: I just like awesome melodies and that comes from a whole bunch of different worlds…Weezer, obviously is a big influence in terms of like the musical side of things. Basically anything with…an awesome melody I totally love whether it be like Weezer or Dragonforce or Andrew W.K. Or, you know Jackson 5 o … some Japanese Pop music or anything like that. Even…pop music on the radio. I… like expressive melodies…especially instrumentals that’s what I kind of do with sounds that express something. Basically I grew up listening to a lot of punk…when I was in middle school and high school but…then I just started to open up to everything.
Photo: Ethan Saks
OS: How did you guys scoring the Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World video game come about?
PB: Basically we just got contacted by one of the producers of the game who knew who we are and thought that it was a really good fit for the project which I think it was especially because Paul Robertson was doing the graphics.…we just sort of let it evolve…we just kind of went on tour and got a phonecall saying, ‘”Hey guys, do you want to do this?” And we were like, “Uh, fuck yeah! ….
OS: Do you guys have any more plans to do video game soundtracks in the future?
PB: Well right now we’re trying to kind of to move away from that just for the time being and put out something comprehensive of our own that’s like a legitimate album. We’ve been around before, the soundtrack stuff, and we kind of want to put up a new catalog of music that’s kind of where were at musically right now. In terms of soundtracks, I love doing soundtracks. Like I said some of my favorite music is soundtrack stuff… from like the ’70s that use electronic elements.…Down the line, if in a year from now, if someone contacts us saying, “Do you guys want to do another game,” if we had an album out by then, I would probably say “yeah”.
OS: ”Airbrushed”, this first single from your online Summer 2010 singles series just got a physical 7″ release. Are all of those singles getting a physical release?
PB: Well they’re all going to have their own thing. We have plans for a skateboard logo. Well, I don’t know if I can say that. But yeah we have plans for to revitalize each single with its own special thing.
OS: I saw that you guys put much of your material out for free. I got your first LP from 8bitpeoples.
PB: Yeah, yeah. 8bitpeoples is the shit. Luke, also, our drummer he has a solo project called Knife City and he’s aiming to hopefully release it in the next month.
OS: What’s your motivation for releasing a lot of your material online for free?
PB: Basically it’s just to get so that you get people to hear it. I am down for people to hear music. I don’t really like the process…I don’t like any extra step, basically.…it’s the Internet anyways, so once someone has it, everyone will have it. So it’s better if… we put it out there in the best way that we can as opposed to people just finding it themselves. It’s a way that we can control. So yeah, we’re down as fuck. And I download free music all the time. I don’t understand why we wouldn’t do that, basically.…we want to put everything out and makes it so that… the fans aren’t working against the band. People should be able to get our music because people are free to do whatever they want. That’s our philosophy.
OS: So you guys are touring with Peelander-Z right now? Have you guys toured with them before?
PB: We’re about to be in about a month. But that’s gonna rule, I’m so excited. They put on the best live show I’ve ever seen. We’ve played with them a couple of times but we’ve never been out on the road with them for an extended period of time. We’ve played a show here and there with them and it’s always amazing. I think that being on the road with them for as long as we are is going to make so that we have to step up our game for our live show because they’ll jump on the ceiling. They’ll go crazy so if we’re not going crazy then we’re not doing a good job. I mean they have human bowling. We have to be able to step to that.
OS: Now I’m not much of a music tech person and I saw one or two articles about your live setup and the “hacked NES” that you guys use. How do you use the NES in your music since 8bit is such an important part of your sound?
PB: I program it on my computer originally and that data gets put onto a chip and that chip gets put into the cartridge. It tells the NES, through the code, what notes to play and how to play them. It’s basically like having an electronic player piano onstage with us.
OS: Related to the touring question that I had, you guys and all the bands in the 8bit/ chiptune scene seem very close even though it doesn’t appear that you guys don’t really share any geographic closeness. What do you attribute the tightness of your scene to?
PB: It definitely has its roots in the Internet and all these Websites that started popping up in the early 2000s that basically were hubs for people from all of the world like the UK, New York, Sweden, Tokyo. Just people who were trying to learn how to do this music in the first place and how to discover it. I mean that Internet acted as a place for these people to communicate and because no one in their nearby radius had any idea what this kind of stuff was. Now that it has a solid base thanks to those people on the Internet and they’re communicating. Freedom to have monthly shows that people would go to and then people would follow that model and be like, “Oh shit, we should do that, too!” And that basically turned the Internet into real life and now these actual real life scenes that are coming up in bigger cities and even smaller cities now. And everyone’s super tight knit because we all obviously share the same interests and have a way to communicate. The Internet’s amazing and it definitely wouldn’t exist without it.
OS: Do you think there’s a scene starting to grow up in Brooklyn where you guys are based?
PB: Oh yeah, there already is. There are four monthly shows here. I think we have probably, I wouldn’t say the highest per capita of chip or 8bit musicians but we have a ton. There’s always something going on; if you really wanted to. you could go to an 8bit show three times a month. Definitely more than that if you really wanted to. If you wanted to see some not that great stuff you could probably go to, like, 20. But I mean 8bitpeoples is based here. The Blip Festival is also based here, it’s an annual three day festival that’s all 8bit music. It already exists, I’d say probably since 2004 even.
You can check out Anamanaguchi’s spring tour dates HERE and place a preorder for the “Airbrushed” 7″ HERE.
Well, it’s that time of year again to celebrate a great summer birthday. Today (coincidently) is that wondrous day that I was born on, so what better way to ring in a new year than a birthday playlist! So that’s the idea behind this week’s iRock post, a playlist of bands that I’ve enjoyed and listened to on OurStage over the past 6 months that I’d want to play at my “Big Birthday Bash!” or simply artists that I think would have a great time partying with and hanging out with for a day.
Since I’m a huge fan of the rock genre (and all of it’s sub genres for the most part) there are many greats that I’d love to have play my party like Foo Fighters, Third Eye Blind, The Clash, The Strokes, Michael Franti, Green Day, The Offspring, maybe even a little Tommy Lee drum solo… well you get the point I hope. Since I’m not made of money and don’t have one of those awesome money trees to afford huge names like that, I’d love to gather a group of underground independent artists that hold their own just like the aforementioned heavyweights.
As you listen through the playlist you’ll see many of the artists that have a lot of influence from many large rock acts over the decades. Begin with a group called Europa who feature a vocalist that is a chip off the shoulder of Dave Grohl, don’t believe me? Listen to it. From there we’d keep the momentum moving with some I Fight Dragons (awesome Nintendo rock group) to The Days The Nights who hit hard with a punchy guitar riff and excellent vocal melodies. Throw in The Worsties in the mix for some feisty rock n’ roll that blends many decades of punk rock together into a glitter glam explosion. To add some variety to the mix next few artists Junebug, Brantley, City City bring in many varities of indie rock with breakdowns that’ll get your head bobbing and feet moving. For some fun I threw in Gills And Wings who share many influences of the previous bands but with a twinge of Queen and The Killers to their sound. As the night comes to an end, Shotgun Crackers track Runner Runner is right on target to bring the momentum back up, (and of course as we know closer to the end of parties we like to “have some fun”). And to end the night with one of the most fitting songs for the occasion, The Girlfriend Season with the song You Gotta (Live While You’re Young). How true that is!
Well there you have it, my Big Birthday Bash playlist! Maybe one day this will actually happen and you better believe you’re all invited to partake in the festivities.
As we all know, music is a roller-coaster of a business. Bands are hot one minute and cold the next, and the same holds true for music festivals. But one fest in particular has latched onto a genre and held tight, evolving to meet the needs of its audience in multiple ways. This year, The Bamboozle festival is taking place May 1st and 2nd, and we’ll be there in the heart of New Jersey to give you all the juicy details. But first, let’s take a look at the development of a festival that caters to a very dedicated yet hard-to-please crowd.
In 2003, The Great Bamboozle was born at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ. Acts included The Roots, Keller Williams and Dark Star Orchestra and featured 4 stages. The Great Bamboozle called the Stone Pony home for the next 2 years and brought on bigger players like Sonic Youth, moe. and Galactic, as well as adding 2 more stages. In 2005, the event was reborn as The Bamboozle. Brand New was originally scheduled to headline but was forced to cancel and Thrice took over. This baby festival hadn’t yet found its footing.
Fast forward to 2006. The Bamboozle solidifies its place in emo history after moving just over an hour to the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford and then clear across the country to Pomona, California for The Bamboozle Left. With stages like the “Hurley/Hot Topic Stage,” “Riot Squad/Macbeth Stage” and the “Smart Punk Stage” and added talent like Fall Out Boy, Taking Back Sunday and My Chemical Romance, the festival committed itself to its new found niche .
Video games, superheroes and infectiously catchy power pop are the fuel behind Chicago’s I Fight Dragons journey from obscurity to the national spotlight as this week’s Needle in the Haystack featured artist. Armed with Game Boys and guitars, the group spearheaded their way into the OurStage and CMJ charts this past summer with tracks off their stellar Cool Is Just a Number EP. However, the band isn’t just a treat for the ears — they’ve earned quite the local rep for their live show playing old school video game controllers, like the beloved Nintendo powerglove, alongside traditional tools of the trade. After a recent signing to Photo Finish Records, the Nintedo-crazed six piece is gearing up to share the bill with 3OH!3, Cobra Starship, and Travis McCoy of Gym Class Heroes on the Too Fast For Love Tour starting in April. Give a listen to this week’s free track, “Heads Up, Hearts Down” and see what all the buzz is about for yourself. Keep your eyes peeled to OurStage and the MTV Music blog to get better acquainted with the I Fight Dragons crew.
Last week, “Punk On The Rocks” rounded up some of the best tours hitting the road this Spring. For fans not content to simply let the fun come to them, we’ve got the scoop on the start of the upcoming festival season. Grab your lawn chairs, cameras, sunscreen, and bowling balls and read on.
When the first 8-bit version of Nintendo Entertainment System was dethroned by the slick, 16-bit Super Nintendo in 1993, there was plenty of cool gear left to gather dust in the basements of teens all over America: the zapper gun from Duck Hunt, the Power Pad from World Class Track Meet and countless controllers with their tiny microphones. It was the end of an era. Or was it?
Enter I Fight Dragons, a band from Chicago with a penchant for video game nostalgia. The group, fronted by singer-songwriter Brian Mazzaferri, repurposes vintage NES parts and churns out irresistible power pop. They scavenge old soundchips, dance on the Power Pad and work the controllers, festooning their songs with cheerful bleeps and blips. Ostensibly, they are dorks. Their shtick is kitschy. But it’s also full of passion, intelligence and big juicy hooks.
“Heads Up, Hearts Down” and “Money” are radio-ready salvos of distorted guitars, swirling electronic chirps and emotive vocal harmonies. But even in the most action-packed video game, things can’t always be on warp speed. I Fight Dragons also turn out some lovely and languorous slow songs like “With You.” Even if the ballad is inspired by Princess Toadstool and not a real girl, who cares? I Fight Dragons make their video game rock appeal to the masses. And in that regard they score big.
Home of: Miles Davis, Buddy Guy, Cheap Trick, Kanye West, Allison Krauss, Fall Out Boy, Alkaline Trio, Walt Disney, Richard Pryor, Touch & Go Records, Oprah Winfrey, The Chicago Cubs
Fun Facts: State flower; violet, state song; “Illinois,” state bird; cardinal
The Venues: The fourth annual Pitchfork Music Festival takes over Chicago’s Union Park from July 17th to July 19th. In addition to a stellar lineup featuring Built To Spill, the Flaming Lips, Beirut, Grizzly Bear and more, the festival boasts a record fair, handmade goods market and the Flatstock poster show. Chicago non-profit Rock for Kids will also have a presence at Pitchfork. Rock for Kids is dedicated to providing free music education for underprivileged children in the Chicago area. Stop by their tent to learn more about how you can help and maybe win some swag from your favorite Pitchfork artists!
The Metro has been a Chicago music staple for over 25 years. This former Swedish community center is dedicated to providing Chicago music fans with the best local, regional and national emerging artists. The White Stripes, Kanye West and Alkaline Trio have all played the Metro on their way to the top. Schubas is another favorite Chicago venue. Many of the tracks from Jason Mraz’s 2006 live, online only album Selections For Friends were recorded here. With live music seven nights a week and acts ranging from indie rock to americana to jazz, Schubas is great for catching a show or just grabbing a drink with friends.
Cobalt & The Hired Guns – Taking first place in channels as diverse as Punk/Ska/Psychobilly, Folk and Singer/Songwriter (Male), Cobalt & The Hired Guns is one of those rare bands that can play any genre of music well. “You Left Your Sweater…” is an uptempo, alt. country boot-stomper with hand claps and gang vocals.
I Fight Dragons – Love old school video game music? Chicago’s I Fight Dragons is the band for you! The band combines sounds from old Nintendo game sound cards with a serious dose of pop rock. Currently entered in the MTV VMA Best Breakout Chicago channel, “Heads Up, Hearts Down” is a great example of the band’s signature superpower pop.
Zoser – Some rappers can only rap about how good of a rapper they are. Zoser is not one of them. While he certainly has swagger, he is also a gifted storyteller. Checkout the track “Wind Blows (feat. Mela)” from Zoser’s record Day 3: The Science.
Daphne Willis & Company – Whether her Berklee and Columbia pedigree band is playing funky grooves or uptempo rock, it’s Daphne’s smooth, soulful vocals that steal the show. She’s been compared to Norah Jones and Jack Johnson, and you can see why on the track “What To Say.” With three Number 1 Channel Prizes and a feature on AOL Music, Daphne Willis & Company is going places.
Check out these acts and other great Illinois artists in the playlist below!
Who are your favorite OurStage Illinoisans? Where do you like to see live music in Illinois? Let us know in the comments!