May is Music Month at SYFY WIRE and today we're taking a look at rock band extraordinaire Bit Brigade. The music group has been playing gaming soundtracks live on stage, synced up to a gamer's live gameplay by using classic Nintendo video games such as Mega Man 2, Contra, Ninja Gaiden, Castlevania, Zelda and Metroid.
The five piece group is made up of two guitars (Bryant Williamson, Jace Bartet), one bass (Luke Fields), drums (Mike Albanese) and gamer Noah McCarthy. Noah sits on stage with the band and does a full play-through of a classic Nintendo Entertainment System (aka NES) title. This is projected onscreen for the audience to see while the band performs the game's music in real time.
SYFY WIRE sat down with Fields and McCarthy, who shared with us their origin story. They also revealed how they go about tweaking the music and video game runs so that they all sync together when the time comes for the live performance.
"Basically, it all began just from us friends hanging out. It was a pun," McCarthy told us. "Originally, the first game we ever played was a video game called Contra on Nintendo and just the silly thing came up, 'What if we played music to Contra during the game and call it Contraband?' And it just snowballed after that, we ended up practicing that, performing and then just doing different games and it just kind of kept going."
Fields also explained why they mainly keep to NES soundtracks, at least for now. "For the time being we're trying to keep everything to classic NES mostly because the sound files, the format is really conducive to a four-piece rock band," said Fields. "Because you've got two square waves which are like two guitars; triangle wave which is like bass, which is me; and then you've got a noise channel and a PCM channel which are sound effects and percussive noises so that’s drums right there. So if you go beyond classic Nintendo sound format, you start getting more voices and more deeper melodic arrangements. And so classic NES is way more well-suited to what we do, but we definitely are open after we exhaust all our possibilities currently jumping up to 16-bit systems. There might come the day when we have to do Super Nintendo but right now we're not out of NES ideas yet."
The dynamic duo went on to explain how difficult it is to tweak video game soundtracks from both the music side and the gameplay side, revealing that some games are harder to adapt than others. They also talked about fan demands of game titles they can't cover for various reasons and a whole lot more.
Bit Brigade will go on tour later this summer and you can check if they will come to a town near you right here. They also plan to release their Metroid album on vinyl very soon and plan to record two more soundtracks they hope to release later this year. In the meanwhile, check out our exclusive interview with Bit Brigade.
Additional material by Nathalie Caron.