Bet you’ve never heard a sick Gameboy solo.
As part of its July Gameplay Festival, the Brick Theater is playing host to the quirky boy-girl music duo called Br1ght Pr1mate, where she’s the singer and he’s the — we’re lacking a better term here — Gameboyist?
“I’m literally on stage with a hacked version of a Gameboy,” said James Therrien, a professional Gameboy musician. “One of the tricks during a show is not trying to look like a stupid kid playing Pokemon on stage.”
Br1ght Pr1mate, which consists of Therrien and singer Lydia Marsala, is a fair example of your typical chiptune band, a highly innovative, if extremely bizarre genre of electronic music that synthesizes beats and melodies by sampling sounds from old-school, 8-bit video games.
Perhaps the most recognizable aspect of a chiptune performance is that, in lieu of a guitar, keyboard, or synthesizer, most, if not all of the musical magic happens via the four simple buttons on your average Gameboy, that big, grey, and ugly handheld gaming device from the 80s, which is now enjoying a second renaissance more than two decades after it was released, as an instrument of all things.
Therrien describes the chiptune scene as something utterly contemporary, filled with a small, but extremely dedicated fan base that literally could not have existed before the internet spawned things like forums and online fan groups.
“It all stated online,” said Therrien. “There are two main chiptune forums, where everybody hangs out on, and the concerts became these places where you could meet the people you only knew from online.”
Funny enough, many of Br1ght Pr1mate’s biggest fans are actually video game designers, who discovered Therrien at one of his shows and invited him to compose music for their games.
“I went to school for composition and studied conducting at a conservatory, so music’s always been my interest, but getting the video game gigs actually came out of chiptune,” he said. “We’ go to these shows and then I’d have all these emails from video game companies.”
The classically trained Gameboyist probably won’t be involved in the chiptune scene forever and, after six albums, fears he may be exhausting the potential of his portable, 8-bit, battery-powered instrument.
“That’s what I’m known for, its sort of sad,” he said. “I’ve done so many chiptune-esque sound tracks, I’m trying to explore new things.”
However, in a world where everyone is struggling find there niche, there are worse things than being trapped in what is perhaps one of the world’s smallest, strangest, and most unique of all niches.
“We’re perpetually relegated to the nerd ghetto,” said Therrien, “but we love it.”
See Br1ght Pr1mate in concert at the Brick Theater [579 Metropolitan Ave. between Lorimer Street and Union Avenue in Williamsburg, (718) 285–3863, bricktheater.com] July 20, 10:30 pm. $5.Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cn