By Martin Cizmar If you’re not attuned to such things, you might be surprised to know how big a niche there is for bands interested in playing covers of classic Nintendo game soundtracks in today’s geek-friendly world. At comic, gaming, and computing conventions bands like The Advantage and Phoenix’s own Minibosses can draw pretty well covering classic Castlevania songs. As any bar band will tell you though, doing originals is always harder, which is why sBACH played to a crowd of about 30 Saturday night at Modified Arts.
sBACH – pronounced almost like the name of the Star Trek character – isn’t a chiptune band per se, though they certainly draw inspiration from the palette of sounds used to score the 8-bit Nintendo cartridges of the Golden Era of gaming.
sBACH’s mastermind, Spencer Seim, is the guitarist for Hella and the drummer for The Advantage, so he’s used to crafting compositions that sound like something spit out by a Tandy CoCo, but sBACH takes the sound further than either of those two acts. Tracks on the band’s self-titled release aren’t named, just numbered, and they’re wholly original, using synthed sounds along with fierce drumming and some traditional rock guitar.
Seim plays all the instruments on his album, but relies on Ben Milner, Justin Hunt, and Keith Daily to switch off on keyboards and guitar live while he drums. And does he ever drum. Throughout the band’s hour-long set, Seim worked up quite a sweat banging away on a scruffy kit, the more organic sound of live percussion taking his compositions to new heights. The rest of the band was loose and energetic, playing well off each other and finding the right places to go off script. I'll take that over a cover band any day.
Critic's Notebook: Last Night: sBACH and The Fuckin Kennies at Modified Arts on Nov. 15
Better Than: KOing Piston Honda in the first round.
Personal Bias: I’m a vintage video game geek who likes experimental music, so…
Random Detail: Spencer Seim was wearing the coolest hat I’ve seen in a long time before and after the show, a giant white stocking hat that stood tall above his head, looking like the tip of a condom... That actually doesn't sound that cool in print, but I assure you it was awesome.
Further Listening: Check out sBACH playing live in California back in September.
By the Way: The Fuckin Kennies, who I called the worst band in Arizona in my preview of the show, were a lot more palatable at Modified than they were opening for Vampire Weekend. I still went outside after hearing three songs, but I wasn’t filled with utter rage and contempt in the meantime.
Photos by Martin Cizmar