Party in the [USA] – the ANAMANAGUCHI [USA] Tour

- Posted March 19th, 2020 by

Boy, 2020 has been a long decade, am I right? It’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that just over a month ago, I was attending the Richmond, VA stop of ANAMANAGUCHI’s [USA] tour. As you may have read in the past, I always love checking out them ‘guchi boys when they’re in town, and this was to be no exception. However, unlike in years past, this concert was preceded by something completely unexpected – ANAMANAGUCHI’s press folks apparently read one of my old event reviews and wanted me to interview the guys! Obviously, I wasn’t turning that down.


For ease of reading, I’m splitting this into two sections – #Interview and #EventCoverage.

#Interview

Adam: A number of years ago, some folks in the scene sat me down and had me watch Reformat The Planet. It was surprising to see so many people I’ve come to know over the years so much younger – but you guys were practically kids back then! I’m sorry for the obvious joke, but looking back now with 2020-vision, do you think the kids you were back then could have imagined all the success and amazing things you’ve had and done since then?

Peter Berkman: Those years really fill me with so much happiness, and I’m so grateful that 2 Player Productions captured its feeling so vividly. It’s funny because even though things have changed so drastically ‘for the better’ it doesn’t really feel like ‘success’ — even though we’re as happy as we were then. I remember Paris’s saying that we’d be the ones who ‘make it’, and it always filled me with dread! I think we’ve been cautious about how we operate and it’s served us well haha.

Adam: Speaking of your success in general, I’ve found that (at least in my opinion) the folks in or adjacent to the chiptune community don’t achieve the same kind of commercial success you all have unless they’re involved in music in other ways (like glomag originally being a horror movie soundtrack composer, for example). What do you think helped you grow to where you are now and helped you keep your staying power?

Pete: I think it was a real cultural moment that we were lucky to strike upon. The Scott Pilgrim game was obviously a breakthrough moment, but even that would not have happened without our EP Dawn Metropolis, and being invited to perform at the Penny Arcade Expo. There was a big feeling of the ‘internet nerds getting out of the house’ and really meeting each other, and I like to think we were a good part of that. We’d love to do more soundtracks — video game and otherwise — Disasterpeace is another great example of someone who’s applied their skill to other aspects of culture. The moment has to be right. Miku was another — who knows what the next will be? All that I know is what helped us to grow is our friends and our love of music, as for any staying power, I’d credit it to us being such good friends who want to try new things adapting to a changing world. Living not boring!

Luke Silas: I think there’s a lot of strength in the decision to make this band our shared focus, and allowing it to grow with us as we have grown as people, artists, and friends. We strive for things that we are able to do as a group, while the majority of chip artists have to take on the challenges of making art by themselves, navigating the music industry and taking on every burden alone. We are able to support each other, help to feed each other’s creativity, apply our unique skill sets to round each other out, and grow this band in a way that makes sense for all of us. There’s no real divide between us and anyone else, just the fact that we have been lucky enough to dedicate our shared time, resources, and energy in pursuit of our art! There are so many chip artists that I wish would be afforded the same opportunities as we have.

Adam: You’ve gotten the chance to collaborate with some fantastic people over the years – some flesh and blood, some virtual. I’m curious to know what each of you feel the coolest or most interesting collaboration you’ve done is!

Pete: The Miku collaboration is still difficult for me to believe haha. It was such an exciting and perfect match at the time. It’s still developing too, very much outside of our control — which was kinda the point I think. We’re finding out what happens when the avatar takes hold. 

Luke: I’m still especially proud of the remix we got to do for Dan Deacon’s song, “Feel The Lightning”. We tried a lot of new and different things, and it feels like a very complete journey to me. We love his music and his approach to art in general, and it was really satisfying to create something out of his work that excites me so much!

Adam: I’ve seen you guys a number of times over the years and it seems like each time you aim to outdo yourselves with your stage set up – going from your “average” chiptune act to your custom light equipment to performing with literal holograms. How do you guys come up with what you’re doing stage-presence wise to go along with your music?

Ary Warnaar: Production wise, James is the legend to talk to. Conceptually— I think “outdoing ourselves”, or at least trying something different, or adding something new, is the only way we could enjoy doing this. What we like always stays at the core of everything we do, both musically and visually, but we keep expanding and adding to those things Katamari style.

Adam: I’d been reading up on this new tour you’re kicking off and saw that you’re doing [USA] Expo events that are supposed to be more geeky music festival-esque with an emphasis on actually hanging out with your friends and playing games while you guys play [USA] front to back. I remember running into Luke a while back at the second LWLVL festival and being really happy that you guys were still interested in helping facilitate festivals like this – do you think this kind of thing might be something you invest more heavily on in the future if they go well?

Ary: Our good friend Will (Baths) has this podcast called 2.0 where they talk and joke about how they can make everyday things better, or more interesting. In many ways I think that’s sort of how we approached these Expo events (if the topic was “an Anamanaguchi [USA] concert”). Like any idea for making it better was an option on the table lol. 

Luke: I’m not sure if it would escalate in scale, but I do really love the vibe of these expos. Over the years, Anamanaguchi has been an incredible means of meeting amazing people everywhere we go, and I really enjoy bringing everyone together for this unified idea of a very fun time. There’s also the DIY aspect of it that remains extremely fulfilling. I like being part of a community and bringing people together! For now, I’m down to just see who wants to come hang out with us and take it from there.

Adam: I know there are a lot of gearheads who read this blog – would you mind sharing what the modern Anamanaguchi instrument/DAW/vintage gaming console set up is versus, say, what you were working with a decade ago?

Luke: To be honest, it’s sadly been a long while since we had a real NES on stage with us :^( We want to use them, but they’re both ridiculously unreliable and near-impossible to fully sync with visuals! Not to mention, our production has since grown out of the limitations imposed by a few monophonic channels (even with expansion chips lol). Our tracks are running from an Ableton Live session on a laptop next to me, which has each song stemmed out into a few groups (vocals/leads, synths, bass, percussion), and also sends timecode out for visuals and lights. It’s pretty streamlined and isn’t quite as vintage, but it’s still a lot of programming! :p

Adam: I know right at the start of a tour isn’t the best time to ask this, but what are you guys up to in your spare time? Any good games holding your attention?

Pete: I play a lot of Smash Ultimate (Mega Mang), and over the past few years when I’m not fuckin around on Twitter I am reading a lot lot lot lot.

Luke: I’ve been spending a lot of time cooking things that take a long time. There’s a lot of Smash Ultimate in my life, and I also just hit 190 hours in Fire Emblem: Three Houses; I’d say that’s more than enough attention to video games from me for a while haha

Adam: What are you most psyched about for this upcoming tour?

Pete: Definitely playing [USA] live. It is always a treat for us!!

Luke: I’m having the best time ever getting comfortable playing our new material live. We’ve been touring together for 12 years now, and we’ve reached a point with older songs where I’ve played them so much that I don’t need to think about them as much on stage, and can just have fun with them; I’m starting to approach that point with [USA], and I am super ready to be completely comfortable while playing the album.

Adam: What does it feel like now that ‘[USA]’ is out after all this time?

Pete: We’ve said before it’s like ‘sending your kid to school’. We’ve been living with that body of work for so long and now it belongs to the audience just as much as it belonged to us. We’ll see how it changes!

Adam: Speaking of ‘[USA]’, I feel like it runs the gamut of being everything from a high-concept piece with tracks like ‘Lorem Ipsum’ to being somewhat of a return to your earlier sound with tracks like ‘B S X’. I like it a lot for that reason – you really cover a lot of ground, musically speaking, and at least on my side of things it feels like a deep exploration of who you all are as a band – where you’ve been, where you are now, and what you’ve wanted to be. I know that you all had had a vision for what you wanted ‘[USA]’ to be, and when you’d written things you didn’t feel fit that vision…well, that’s how we got ‘Capsule Silence’. Do you feel that what we now have as ‘[USA]’ finally delivered on the vision of what you’d had?

Luke: [USA] is absolutely what I wanted it to be, and I’m really glad we took the time we did to shape it up the way we did. CSXXIV felt like a great place to put things along the way that clearly didn’t fit in, and really helped to inform more clearly how we wanted to present the record. It took a lot of hard work and self-examination over a long period of time, but I couldn’t be happier with where it ended up <3


#EventCoverage

Like the previous show I attended, this one was at The Broadberry, which is basically the only place left in Richmond that can accommodate ANAMANAGUCHI that still has that intimate feeling that is so crucial for their shows. They were accompanied by Baths (referenced above in the interview) and none other than the Prom King of Vaporwave, Skylar Spence. There seems to be a recurring theme with these concerts where I won’t know one of the opening acts and all of my friends will be horrified because they’ve all been fans for years and it turns out the artist is actually amazing and I’m just super late to the party – in this case, that’s Baths. I was immediately in love with his voice and his simple beats. His heartfelt lyrics made me feel things I wasn’t expecting or prepared to feel at a public concert. ‘Human Bog’ destroyed me.

Skylar Spence was phenomenal. I saw him perform last summer at 100% Electronicon, which was probably the highlight of 2019 for me. I thought I’d never get another chance to see him live, but here he was! He played a healthy mix of his Skylar Spence tracks along with some S*n*t P***i (name redacted for copyright reasons) hits. The crowd absolutely lost their mind and the night had barely gotten started at this point.

I mentioned in my interview with the ‘guchi boys that every time I see them live their setup has expanded and become even more intense. This time was no exception – they had scrolling tickers broadcasting lyrics and art, they had visuals, they had amazing lighting cues. While all of their shows have been amazing, this is probably as close to a proper religious experience as I will ever get. They played most of their new album, but they interspersed it with some of their biggest hits throughout the years – it was honestly the best crafted live performance I’ve attended, and as someone who has averaged about 6-10 live shows a year (excluding big game festivals) and has crewed many myself, this is not a small sentiment.

The [USA] Tour has been temporarily interrupted due to the Coronavirus pandemic, but the guys still look like they’re planning on keeping up with the tour as the summer hits (if possible). Keep an eye on their website and social media for more details. And if you can make your way to one of the [USA] EXPO shows? Do it. Do yourself a favor and just do it.

[Editor’s note: While you’re here, feel free to check out Aydan’s January review of ‘[USA]‘ as well! -Bran]

ANAMANAGUCHI
anamanaguchi.com | Bandcamp | @anamanaguchi

Baths
bathsmusic.net | @BATHSmusic

Skylar Spence
S*n*t P***i Bandcamp| @skylar__spence

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