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Bit Brigade, the rock band that plays classic NES games on-stage

Bit Brigade is not taking advantage of the speedrunning or antique online game craze. They’re musicians first, and NES gamers 2d, this means that they do not care about web status. It’s all about the degree.

“We’re a rock band,” bassist Luke Fields stated. “You need to come see us play a rock show.”

If Fields seems like your dad making ready to rant about youngsters and generation at the moment, it is for excellent reason why. Bit Brigade shaped seven years earlier than Twitch even were given off the floor, and 6 years earlier than Games Done Quick held its inaugural charity speedrunning marathon. The band has been in combination for 14 years, and it is all the results of a late-night pun.

Guitarist Bryant Williamson used to be putting out with buddies in 2004 when any individual steered they play Contra, however as a band, and they would name it Contraband. It used to be so simple as that.

“Bryant known as me at like 2 or three AM and used to be like, ‘Hey, you wish to have to play Contra?'” Bit Brigade speedrunner Noah McCarthy recalled. “I used to be like, ‘All proper, yeah, positive,’ and went again to mattress. And then I realized Contra and we began enjoying it.”

Most three AM concepts between buddies do not if truth be told get off the floor, however this one caught. It labored, partly, as a result of the folks concerned had the talents to make it occur. They had been musicians, already in different bands, and so they shared a lifelong love of classic NES games. McCarthy, specifically, grew up enjoying video games for an target audience: His older brother would carry buddies over and they would watch McCarthy tear thru titles like Mega Man X, Metroid Prime and The Legend of Zelda. As he were given older, his personal buddies would watch him play those self same games.

“I’ve just always been good at video games,” McCarthy stated with a shrug, hesitant to gloat about himself. “In a weird way, I’ve just been doing this thing my whole life. I’ve been just playing video games and having people watch me.”

“I’ve just always been good at video games.”
– Noah McCarthy

Today, Bit Brigade contains Jace Bartet and Williamson on guitar, Mike Albanese on drums, Fields on bass and McCarthy on the NES. The measurement of the band naturally limits the sorts of games it may well play — classic NES songs are fitted to a four-man team, whilst post-NES soundtracks have extra voices, making them tougher to effectively emulate. Besides, Super NES games have a tendency to be considerably longer than their predecessors (even right through a speedrun), and band individuals are already pushing their limits by means of enjoying for an hour immediately every display. There’s quite a few supply subject material in the NES generation, even though, and Bit Brigade tries so as to add a brand new recreation to its repertoire once a year (the subsequent addition must be introduced quickly).

On-stage, McCarthy plays on an NES that’s been changed to do away with the games’ soundtracks however stay the sound results, which pour thru the audio system along the reside guitars and drums. The gadget looks as if an NES Classic Edition, the mini model of the NES that Nintendo launched in 2016, however Bit Brigade has been the use of a customized console for years.

At the Tulsa Pop Culture Expo in November, Bit Brigade performed the unique Zelda — that’s the complete recreation, from begin to end, entire with a reside, dynamically responsive soundtrack. They pulled in songs from next Zelda games to stay issues contemporary and appease an target audience desperate to take pleasure in as a lot nostalgia as imaginable. It took McCarthy about 50 mins to overcome the recreation, with the 4 musicians taking cues from his playthrough, and vice versa.

McCarthy stated he perspectives Bit Brigade games like sheet tune, and he is simply some other tool in the band.

“All the button presses, all the jumps, all the attacks, I’m trying to do them in sequence, basically the same thing every time,” he stated. “Because for me, it’s more important to be consistent then it is to be fast.”

Though McCarthy can keep watch over the float of the display together with his speedruns, there is no unmarried conductor or chief of Bit Brigade. Fields, the bassist, handles maximum of the crowd interplay, however even he is not in price when they are all enjoying in combination.

“It’s less like an orchestra and more like a jazz ensemble,” Fields defined. “Everyone’s kind of playing off each other, but at one point in every song someone’s kind of in the lead.”

Bit Brigade won’t have a devoted presence on Twitch or YouTube, however movies in their performances have racked up masses of 1000’s of perspectives, together with one recording of a Mega Man 2 display at MAGFest X in 2012 with just about 600,000 perspectives on my own.

“I mean, that’s nothing compared to people who are YouTube famous,” Fields stated. But on the other hand, Bit Brigade does not essentially need YouTube status — and part one million perspectives is not unhealthy for a band that is not even attempting.

“The amount of time we spend practicing together before we play a show is actually kind of frighteningly small sometimes,” Fields stated. “We just figure it all out on our own and then come in knowing the game plan. …It’s also been happening since 2004. It wasn’t that easy back then. Now, these days, if we learn something new it’s like we all know what we’re supposed to do and how it’s gonna work.”


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