by Broose Tulloch
Have you ever caught yourself humming a tune from a videogame? Or worse, from a level you can rarely achieve? Oh, the humanity! Where will you get your fix? SuperFX has what you need, videogame music played on real instruments by live musicians.
The fan friendly band not only plays requests but plays because of requests. After the dissolution of their previous videogame band, Mode 7, four of the five members were coaxed by their fans into reforming as SuperFX. Preparing for a late summer album release, SuperFX is playing the Park Theatre on July 19. The quartet is comprised of bassist Rob Burton, drummer Chris Mapes, and guitarists Dario Montanino and Tristan Rivers. Stylus recently sat down with drummer Chris Mapes and asked the questions on everybody’s mind.
Stylus: How would you describe the SuperFX sound? What can folks expect to hear at one of you shows?
Chris Mapes: We are a tribute band to the music of video games, and we try to put our own spin on the songs we play, while remaining true to the original spirit of the music. We arrange our music to make our band sound as huge as possible. That doesn’t necessarily mean being deafeningly loud, but we want to sound like there’s eight of us. Our individual influences are all over the board, but the centre of the Venn diagram would include Pantera, Mute Math, Muse, Dream Theater, Opeth and Thin Lizzy.
Stylus: What about visually?
CM: We make an effort to put on an engaging show. As we are an instrumental band, and there is no lead singer to interact with the audience full time, we tend to move around a bit more and do wacky things to keep things interesting, like playing a guitar solo behind your head or backwards. We also share microphone duties when talking to the audience. We have run synchronized video on a huge screen in the past, and are looking at ways of integrating it back into the show.
Stylus: What’s on the set list?
CM: Generally we try and play what people want to hear, like Mario, Street Fighter 2, lots of MegaMan and occasionally some personal favourites. If the song fits our style and instrumentation, we’re more likely to play it, but we have made special exceptions, like the Halo soundtrack, for instance. We’ll play anything melodic.
Stylus: Is SuperFX a group of musicians who play video games or gamers that play music?
CM: I think we’ve all been involved with music somehow since roughly the time we started playing games, but we’ve probably dedicated more time towards our instruments and music in general over the years than to gaming. We’re musicians who love and appreciate video games.
Stylus: When did videogame music go from jingles to actual songs?
CM: For us, it’s always been actual music. We spent our childhoods trying to figure out the tunes on our instruments. The awesome music has always been there, but the technology hasn’t been. On the older systems that relied on game cartridges, they relied strictly on programmed music. When systems with CD drives came about, developers started recording actual soundtracks for their games and it became much more practical to record the soundtrack and put the audio on the disc.
Stylus: Has the gaming community been supportive or suspicious?
CM: Pretty positive! We’ve been invited to play a few local events and conventions, and it’s been really very fun. It’s gratifying that we can get the reactions we do when someone recognizes a song we’re playing, or when someone comes up afterwards and says something like, “I always knew that song was awesome; I just had now idea HOW awesome!”
Stylus: Who’s the champion gamer in the band?
CM: It’s pretty even. Everyone has their game or game type that they excel at; Dario is the Street Fighter champ, Tristan is really good at sports games, and I’m kind of a first-person shooter guy.
Stylus: Do you get many odd or funny requests?
CM: Not as such, but we’ve had multiple calls for Battletoads in much the same way as that one guy at the show will yell SLAYER!!!!
Stylus: Fun music, fun shows; so tell me something fun about the band.
CM: We’re very distractible! Every rehearsal, we tend to go off on a tangent and just jam on a riff that someone brings. It keeps things fresh and fun, it keeps us creative, and by the time we’re done, we’ve written an entire song… that will never be played again!
SuperFX brings the video game tunes to life Friday, July 19 at the Park Theatre. You can also connect with them online at superfx.com.