Upon listening to an Anamanaguchi track, ‘80s and ‘90s kids will hear a strangely familiar sound: the unmistakable “doots,” “bleeps,” and “boops” of the classic childhood gaming console, the Nintendo Entertainment System. The genre, commonly referred to as “chiptune,” has been around since the ‘80s, but what makes this Brooklyn-based band unique is their live instrumentation.
“Anyone who’s been to one of our live shows can see the connection [to punk music] can become a lot more clear,” said bassist James DeVito. “We’re all very much connected to playing live music, not just electronic music.”
Their underpinnings to punk music goes beyond their fast-paced songs and high-energy live performances; the DIY mentality from the punk scene also leeched into chiptune.
“Everything comes from the community and the ability to take the hardware apart and re-purpose it and get it to do what we want it to do,” said DeVito, who took their Nintendos apart and modified them himself in order to make them functional for their live performances. “[In the community] everyone’s willing to help each other out. No one’s holding anything back to screw over another band. Everyone’s totally there for every other band.”
So to say they play video game music would be an insult to their talent. After all, DeVito and lead songwriter and guitarist Peter Berkman, who have known each other since middle school, both played in what DeVito calls “traditional bands” since they were teens, and they both studied music technology at NYU, where they met fellow guitarist and LA native Ary Warnaar, who wasn’t even allowed to play video games as a kid. They picked up drummer Luke Silas through another now seemingly “vintage” technology—MySpace.
Silas, also an LA native, sent them a MySpace message after noticing that they had recently parted ways from their original drummer and said he wanted to play a set with them when they came to the area. Berkman, DeVito and Warnaar obliged, and the rest is history.
Their debut album Dawn Metropolis (2009) earned them major cred and got them a gig composing the soundtrack for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game (2010). After releasing a series of free downloads on their website during the summer of 2011 (which are still available), the band is gearing up for their Canadian tour and then buckling down to start recording their next studio album.
DeVito and the boys are throwing around a few ideas for the new album, including producing it in a rap album style, which means having a different person produce each song. And though the ideas are all hypothetical at this point, they’ve already started working on their vision, which DeVito says they’ll be sticking to. However, fans shouldn’t expect too much of a preview at their upcoming Canadian dates.
“We’ve sort of learned from our mistakes in that we’ve gotten overly excited with new songs in the past and played them all live before even releasing them,” admitted DeVito. “Then by the time we get to recording [the songs] we end up getting kind of bored of them and end up wanting to play even newer stuff. We do have one song that will most probably be on the new album that we’ll be playing at the shows in Canada, but we have a bunch more down the pipeline.”
In fact, DeVito says the band members don’t even know what to expect at each show. “We write the setlist generally five minute before we go on stage, so anything can happen. And we get bored doing the same thing over and over, so it’s pretty rare for two sets to be the same.”
Anamanaguchi plays with Extreme Animals and Moon King at Il Motore on Jan. 20. Doors open at 8 p.m. and tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door.