By ROB DUGUAY
I could go on for days, even weeks, about how vast music is these days. There’s so many styles, so many aesthetics, so many genres and so many subgenres that it’s understandable for the casual fan to have trouble keeping track. There’s even times where another creative medium will cross over into the sonic landscape, like video games for example. When this happens it creates a genre called chiptune and Battlemode from Boston are an underground example of a band exhibiting this style. The duo of Biff & Kris will be performing at the News Cafe on 43 Broad Street in Pawtucket on November 20 with Somerville, Massachusetts artist Sam Mulligan, fellow Bostonians Your Friends In Hell and Providence coffee fueled electro punks The Electric Dugans.
I recently had a chat with both Biff & Kris about how this band came to be, making music with a Game Boy, a single they put out over the summer and an EP that’ll be following it up.
Rob Duguay: What inspired the both of you to start this project in the first place? What made you want to make a band like this?
Biff: We play video game music like what you’d hear on a Game Boy and you can play it on a computer. We each started off as individual artists, Kris as Astrologic and I was Simple Cup. We started playing solo shows and then we kind of started collaborating.
Kris: We’ve played so many shows together that we decided that we’d start our own band and at first it started with just us making beats but we wanted to push the genre of chiptune a little further because there’s not a lot of bands that abide by the style, it’s mostly just instrumental music.
K: We wanted to combine our love for ‘90s pop music and ‘90s synth pop with our love of chiptune while bringing singing into it and rapping.
RD: Do you literally take a Game Boy and make it into a musical instrument or do you just take samples of things from the internet that are eight bit recordings? How do you make this all into a sound? How do you put this all into your music?
K: It generally starts with me. I have a Game Boy that I make the beats on and there’s a cartridge you can put roms on to. Someone made a rom that’s a program you can make beats on through the four sound channels on the Game Boy. It all starts with this program called Little Sound DJ that someone made for the Game Boy on a flash cartridge and then I kind of make a beat on there while Biff jumps on with his melodic classical expertise. Then we work it out into a song after that.
B: I always kind of explain it as if you’re a little older like Kris and I, not that we’re super old, there was a game called Mario Paint and it had a function where you could write music on the game itself. It’s similar to that if you’re more familiar with that reference.
RD: I am, I remember when that game came out during the ’90s. What are some of your favorite video games? Do you guys like the 2-d eight bit games or do you like games that span all sorts of systems, graphics and all that stuff?
K: We love all the games.
B: My personal favorites are the Mega Man series and I started getting into chiptune through the Scott Pilgrim vs. The World game which features a soundtrack made by Anamanguchi, they’re a cool band.
K: It’s a newer game but it’s made in an eight bit format so that old style is still being made to this day and it’s newer content. I love the eight bit games but my favorite system is Nintendo 64, I love The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time and I love Gamecube as well but we still enjoy a lot of the classics.
RD: When it comes to flash games on the internet there definitely seems to be an eight bit revival where you find a lot of old school games or games that are directly inspired by the eight bit format, which is pretty cool. Back in July, you guys released the single “Midnight Blue”. Is there a certain vision behind the track? What was the experience like recording it?
B: We actually were transitioning from one band to another, we kind of rebranded. We used to be known as Try Hard while being focused on rap chiptune and I played the violin so it was kind of like a hodgepodge genre. Then we shifted into something a bit more structured and this was the first song to kind of lead us into that direction. We did a lot of editing and a lot of sculpting down from our original sound to something that would help us reach more listeners. Not sell out but just reach more people and be more understandable. “Midnight Blue” is about Kris’ cat Smoki and it’s our entrance into a new sound.
RD: Can we expect an EP or a full-length album to follow up the single at some point in the future? Do you just plan on putting out singles on a timely basis? That seems to be something a lot of bands are doing these days.
K: We hope to release a full-length album with “Midnight Blue” being the first single from it. We have a lot of songs written and it’s about an album’s worth.
B: Our goal is to have a five or six track EP out by the spring and we have a song called “B.F.F.” that’ll be out later this month with our friend Sam Mulligan. We plan on releasing singles up until our EP release.