The music genre in video games has absolutely exploded over the past few years, and innovative developers like Harmonix have led the way. Thanks to the likes of Guitar Hero and Rock Band , not only are musicians able to cater to a wider audience, but millions of gamers everywhere are quickly turning into hardcore music fanatics. In this way, it's a very positive phenomenon from the standpoint of both the artist and consumer.
On top of it all, music has become more crucial than ever in the video game world, so the benefits of this entertainment industry fusion are far-reaching. We touch on this, along with several other subjects, in our chat with the two founders of the band, Bang Camaro. An indie rock band out of Boston that has enjoyed a rapid rise in popularity, partly thanks to one of their songs appearing in Rock Band 2 , Bang Camaro has already performed on The Late Show with Conan O'Brien and are quickly turning heads. Many hard rock and metal fans have certainly heard of the Troubadour, which has been another stop on the band's path to mainstream popularity.
If you've taken a gander at the preceding video (and you should), you will notice that Bang Camaro is quite unique. They've just recently signed on with EA Artwerk – EA's new studio constructed to deal with music in upcoming video games – and they've got a very bright future ahead of them (perhaps in both music and games). The following are PSXE's questions and the combined replies of founders Bryn Bennett and Alex Necochea.
PSXE: How many total members are in the group, and how do you keep everyone on the same page?
"It varies when we play live; I think it's between 20 and 25. We have our own message board that acts as intercommunications for the band. We also split the band up into 2 different camps – the instrumentalists and vocalists – that kind of rehearse separately sometimes. Like, Bryn and myself and just the drummer and bass player will start, then we’ll schedule another round with the vocals and then hammer out all the different harmonies later. Getting from Point A to Point B is a completely different animal.
As far as keeping everyone together: we’ll be on the road for 6 weeks hanging out as a band and the day we get back, we call each other up to figure out what we’re going to do for the day. So we'll hang out together all the time, and we’ve just lucked out with good friends."
PSXE: You’ve cited Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly as influences in addition to hard rock/heavy metal bands like Skid Row, Iron Maiden, and Dokken. That’s quite the combination…talk a little about your unique style.
"That influences list started as a way to name-drop; you know, tell everyone about the bands that we listened to when we were younger. But the list has been fleshed out since then, due to the large number of people in the band. We run the gamut of the history of rock and roll, so you’ll find all sorts of different fans in the band; yeah, we’re all huge music fans and we’ve all done our research on the history of rock and roll. Because we have so many people, that list gets pretty long.
When we started out, everyone was playing in different indie rock bands in Boston, then we came up with this idea for Bang Camaro. We said, 'how awesome would it be to start this huge rock band?' See, there's a postmodern touch to this, and there's actually an Art Professor in Savannah who teaches a course on postmodern art, and he actually singles out Bang Camaro as the epitome of "postmodern!" This all comes back around to me and sometimes I just say, how did we get here?"
We at PSXE are big fans of old-school metal, and we’re noticing a resurgence in that genre these days. Would you agree that the hard rock/metal scene is on the rise, or is it more of a struggle?
"I don’t think it’s on the rise; I just think there are two decades of nostalgia kicking in. But still, you don’t see bands playing the type of music that we’re playing that are our age. When we're out on the road, promoters willl decide they need a hard rock band to open for us, and we're like, 'no, we want a cool indie band.'" Instead, we sometimes end up playing with 45-year-old guys who butcher Kiss covers. Finally, after a while, the promoters understand that what we're doing is a different take [on music]."
How did you get into doing music for video games? How did that opportunity come about?
"Right situation, right time. When we were putting the band together, Harmonix was developing Rock Band 2 at the time and Harmonix is staffed in Massachusetts where we’re from. So a lot of the programmers there are local musicians and luckily, the Boston indie scene isn’t that big. At that point, when they were in the process of developing the game, we were playing around a lot. We're just really fortunate they asked us to submit a song.
Then, we had only been a band for like two or three shows but somehow, things took off really fast in Boston; we were playing to like 700 people at our shows! The video game angle wasn’t something we had planned on, but as soon as we heard we’d be in Rock Band 2, we just went crazy. We knew how many people would see our song. And then we thought, if everything goes well, we have to go on tour. Just the exposure alone from those games has been tremendous; as soon as those games took off, it allowed us the notoriety to get on the road and we could travel. We went on to play at the Troubadour and other sold-out crowds."
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PSXE: With games becoming more and more cinematic, do you agree that music is more important than ever in the industry?
"I do think music is far more important in games than it used to be; six or seven years ago; all soundtracks were just these weird little electronic songs made in-house and now, you'll find your favorite bands in games. We’re definitely going to have more songs in games. We just signed a deal with Artwerk and they’ll be placing our songs into a bunch of games from EA this year; the Sims 3 will have 'Revolution' (the song we performed on Conan), but besides that, nothing is really for sure yet so I can’t really talk about it."
"Gamers still rage against archaic stereotypes. Do you guys encounter colleagues who just think you’ve produced music for kids, or do you come across fans who think they can play music because they can play your song in Rock Band 2?
"These days, most people now know how important gaming is for music; maybe way back we would’ve had a different response. One thing I want to point out, though: what I’ve noticed when we play shows and I might meet someone standing in the front row; they’re embarrassed they discovered Bang Camaro by playing Rock Band. It’s just really weird because more often than not, somebody will come up to me and apologize for seeing the band in a video game. I'm like, why?
Yeah, we'll get kids who come up to us who think they can play the music because they played it in the video game, but they're all like 9. The 19-year-olds don't do that; they understand the difference."
PSXE: Do you see more bands following in your footsteps, and will you keep touring and going out on the road?
"Oh yeah, there are a number of other bands that deal with Harmonix; like Freezepop [a band that has appeared in the likes of Amplitude], for example. A lot of indie bands have gotten into the games because of Harmonix; and games have definitely bumped up the notoriety of all the bands involved. Across the board, these games have helped all bands.
Touring is something we’ve done for the past year and a half and we will continue to do it. I’ve found that when we get the Rock Band fans out to see our show, they’re not necessarily big music fans. A lot of times, we’ll greet them and talk to them, and we realize it might have been their first rock show ever. The gamer audience has been crossing over to check out new music; there hasn’t been that much cross-pollination between those two groups in a long time, or ever. Sometimes, Bryn would go up for big solos and we'd catch fans; they’d be air-guitaring along with him, but they’d actually be mimicking the notes from Rock Band.
What I do see, and I think it’s really cool: a lot of people who have started loving this kind of music because of these games. They played something like Rock Band, and then they went out and bought a real guitar."
To learn more about Bang Camaro, head on over to the band's official website , and don't forget to find more of their music on places like iTunes and YouTube. They may also be coming to a venue near you soon, and they mentioned a new radio initiative is underway. Pictured here is their new CD, which just released in stores on January 13; it's "Bang Camaro II," and you can always snag it over at Amazon.com . If you're looking for something fresh and intense, look no further, and for more information on EA's new Artwerk studio, check out this great interview with president Steve Schnur. Video games and music…such a wonderful and promising companionship.
For my part, many of our readers are probably aware of my history interviewing musicians in the past, so this was kind of a walk down memory lane. Bryn and Alex did remind me of one thing above all else, though: it's always much more fun to interview guys on the rise, who haven't yet become tethered by the red tape of agents, managers and other "handlers." They may soon be forced to take that road if they continue to rise, but for now, let's just say it's very cool to talk to a couple guys who simply love music and wanted to try something new. I applaud ambition in all forms, and to stay grounded in both your passion and personality is a rare thing to find in the world of media interviews.
So, we appreciate their time and we wish them the best of luck in the future. We're getting Guitar Hero: Metallica this year…who's to say that in 5 or 10 year's time, we won't see Guitar Hero: Bang Camaro ?