Anamanaguchi: "Chiptune Isn't Really A Genre, It's A Medium"

Ananmanaguchi is pretty cute. For guys, anyway.
Ananmanaguchi is pretty cute. For guys, anyway.

Remember in high school when mom pawned all your old video games 'cuz you never played them anymore? Then, as soon as you got to college and first felt homesick, you ended up buying a used SNES and had to start your cartridge collection from scratch? Thanks a lot, mom.

Brooklyn's Anamanaguchi have felt that pain, and they're coming here to share their futuristically nostalgic chiptune classics with you. Using actual old Nintendo Entertainment System hardware (plus a Game Boy), this driving electronic rock music will stretch your ego back into itself until you feel six years old again. Can I get a fuck yes?

We wanted to find out more about what makes Anamanaguchi so pleasurable, and ask them about that slice of pizza they launched into space. Luke Silas, the band's drummer, filled us in and gave a nice little shout-out to local Phoenix music, too.

Up On The Sun: What's your favorite NES game? Or, I guess first of all, do you guys play a lot of NES games or just use it in your music?

I really like Contra. My first memory of video games is me and my brother playing Contra when I was very, very young. My parents just thought it would be a cool thing for us to have and went for it.

Do you think modern video games suck? Why would I think that?

I don't know. I'm just asking. I mean, do you prefer the nostalgic ones? I think it's papayas and gumballs. There's no reason to say modern video games suck. It's grown into a completely different medium, 100 percent different. If someone says video games suck today, then I'm not really sure what they're looking for in a game that they couldn't get out of something.

No matter what, there's still people making games today that use similar dynamics and feel similar to games people used to make. They've just expanded. Someone that played Mario and loves Mario is gonna love Braid.

I've actually read a few articles recently that deal with gaming entering mass media as a new medium. There's some interview with George Lucas or Steven Spielberg where they're talking about how gaming is not a conducive medium for storytelling. And there's this overwhelming reaction from gamers reading it, saying, What. Are. You. Talking. About?!? It seems like if someone says gaming today sucks, they don't really understand that gaming today goes past Call of Duty.

Even if they play another fucking top-selling game, they're going to be in for a world of story, right? If someone thinks games are only Call of Duty or only murder simulators, but haven't played something like Bioshock--not that I'm a huge Bioshock fan, but it's something that's renowned for being compelling--or The Last of Us or Heavy Rain or anything. If they need thousands and thousands of years of mythos behind it, then they're missing the point. Gaming doesn't suck, games are fucking great today.

Have you played The Last of Us yet? I haven't. I don't own a PS3. I would be playing it on my roommate's, but it's crapped out. I was playing the new Dark Souls game and it just died mid-fight, so that was fun.

You know it's funny, you were talking about that director saying video games are hard to make cinematic, but it's so hard to make a video game into a movie that actually is good. Yeah, it won't translate and shit. Obviously a movie is to tell a story. A video game is telling a story, too. No matter what. It's not the medium for them. They have to reconcile and relearn the language.

How do you feel about your Kickstarter being the second most popular in its history [for music]? Surprised is a generous understatement. Before we put it up, in the days leading up to us putting up the Kickstarter, we were having meetings amongst ourselves saying, "OK, if this doesn't make it to the $50,000.00 goal, what are we going to do?"

That's how uncertain we were. We were coming out with contingency plans if this didn't work out. To see that level of support and not just the immediate, but huge. It was so much more than we could actually fathom. It was beyond humbling and anyone who donated was incredibly insightful and super nice.

Did you donate to Amanda Palmer's Kickstarter, because she was number one... No, I did not.

OK, I just thought that would be an interesting coincidence. I was aware when it was going on, but I didn't have anything ... I didn't touch it. I don't know.

I didn't either. Whatever. Yeah, whatever.

What attracted to you to chiptune? Do you dislike that label? The label has nothing to do with it. Like I said, I grew up playing low-bit consoles. I mean, they were the brand new, awesome shit at the time, but at this point they're low-bit consoles. I formed a very strong connection to those sounds, and they have a very direct, aesthetic response. We have a strong, strong synthetic response for anyone who had that kind of relationship to them.

So, naturally, when I started going to music high school in Los Angeles, they had a full-on electronic music program, so naturally I started taking those classes. I wanted to make music that sounded like the 8-bit, 16-bit stuff that I really loved. And I wanted to move that into a new, fun context.

Then, I started going out to shows that same year. That's when I found out you could actually use hardware for that, instead of synthesizing it. Like, oh, wow, I can be playing this off a Commodore instead of faking a Commodore. It was a very natural progression. A huge percentage of people that make chip music will admittedly tell you that they got into it from a perspective of playing video games, but a lot of them will also tell you, like I'm telling you, while that may have been a catalyst for learning more about how to make music, it definitely didn't stay their main factor. It becomes in and of itself.

It's my language. There's grammar and syntax to it and manipulating these sounds for way more than they're supposed to do. They're all just basic and raw. For Anamanaguchi, for me and the band, it's really just a case of taking this sound and this feeling and recontextualizing it completely. It's thinking back on what this was and moving it toward the future. It's future nostalgia.

That's a great term for it. I like that. Yeah, people talk to us about our music and have said, your music makes me feel like I'm a little kid playing video games. That's cool, but we want to do is take that feeling, that exuberance, that joy, that hope and that fondness for life and move into to everything that's beyond that. We want you to feel that way about your past for the future, if that makes sense.

After the jump: "Chiptune isn't really a genre, it's a medium."  

What about dubstep? Are you a fan of that? Why do you ask?

I'm wondering if you think there's a relationship between chiptune and dubstep. Not any more than there's a relationship between dubstep and rock and roll. I mean, chiptune isn't really a genre, it's a medium. The same as you would call the Decemberists a fucking guitar band. They're a rock band, and they use rock instruments.

To say that something is a chiptune project really doesn't say much about their music. There's so many different people all over the world doing what we do, but making different stuff. Not that it really has anything to do with chiptune, but dubstep is cool. I like it. It's fun. I'll listen to a lot of Scream and Burial and it's all good dude, it's all fun.

Whose idea was it to launch the pizza into space in the "Endless Fantasy" video? I think was Ary [Warnaar]. We started plotting all of this out, that whole video thing, going well, we don't want to spend too much money here. What's a fun, cheapish, low budget thing we could do? We went through a lot of different ideas and arrived at, we can send the pizza into space.

People do that all the time. We had just drastically underestimated exactly how much effort it takes to do that. It's just funny because we were like, oh, it looks easy and casual and low budget and funny. And oh my god, it was so much planning and work.

I'm pretty sure it was Ary who was like hey, check this out. We'd all seen videos of that stuff before, but it ended up being a fun little project.

What else have you seen shot into space? There are a lot of videos on YouTube of people doing like beer, someone sent a Bud Light into space or a bobblehead, a baseball toy. Pretty sure we're the first pizza slice though.

I haven't seen any videos like that so, I thought it was pretty original. Are you friends with Kitty Pryde? This is your first tour with her, right? It's our first tour with her, yeah, but we know her. We heard her music last year, I guess. I first met her through our friend Hot Sugar, so yeah, we're homies.

We're very excited to tour with her. I think it's gonna be a good mix for a crowd. A good overlap because not everyone who knows one of us will know the other one. Also, when she plays live, it's just good, fun vibes. It's just awesome, who-gives-a-fuck fun times. So I think it will mesh pretty well.

I'm excited about the show, dude. It's gonna be really good. The other band we're playing with, Roar, is fucking great.

Yeah! Do you know them?

Yeah, I do. Not personally. Yeah, dude, I was a big fan of [Owen Evans'] old band, Asleep in the Sea. So obviously I was very stoked on Roar. It was actually between him and this other dude from Phoenix, Treasure Mammal.

I love Treasure Mammal. All those people are fucking awesome. Yeah, it's such a good group. I've seen those bands, Asleep in the Sea, Treasure Mammal, obviously this was years and years ago. Whenever we'd come to L.A. I'd be there and I'd be very, very psyched. I'm super excited to play with Roar. We're psyched to play Phoenix for the first time.

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