The music of video games has influenced millions of people who play them, and that's certainly true of Moiré Effect. This two-piece band, composed of Drew and Scott (their last names remain a mystery to all), offers a mix of original songs (including a full album) and inspired covers of video game music.
Over the past couple of years, Moiré Effect has written and released songs based on the music of Cave Story, Chrono Trigger, Deus Ex and most recently DuckTales. They took the beloved Moon Theme from the classic NES game, reworked it into an 80's power ballad and entered it into the January 2017 Dwelling of Duels; when played at MAGFest 2017, it was well-received by a phone-waving audience. We sat down with them and asked them a few questions about what they do, what they plan to do next, and how they're offering their services for video game soundtracks.
GEEKNIFTY: First off, can I ask who you folks are? Were you doing music before Moiré Effect, as a group or separately?
SCOTT: Drew and I have been friends since middle school. We started a group with a few other friends called No Solution, but they weren’t as sincere about writing music, so he and I split off and started Moiré Effect with Justin our freshman year (1999). No Solution was so short lived that I consider Moiré Effect to be the first band I was ever in.
Back then none of us had to courage to sing, so we were an instrumental band. Our only gigs in four years were a couple of battle of the bands at school and a street side performance downtown during a "First Friday" event. After high school we went our separate ways. Drew and Justin went to Georgia Tech. I stayed in Augusta to pursue a music career. It wasn’t until recently that we reunited and decided to do something with Moiré Effect.
I’ve been a part of several groups throughout the years and am currently in four bands. Each one serves a different artistic need. Bathe in the Fire (www.batheinthefire.com) is my own personal musical outlet. Broken Choice (www.brokenchoicemusic.com) is a band I do live performances with in the Baltimore area. Signate (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIHcnNZJL3I&feature=youtu.be) is an electro-pop group I have with another long-time friend. Moiré Effect started out as a nostalgia project, but has gone the direction of recording unique covers of songs we love and more recently taken the direction of VGM covers.
GEEKNIFTY: How did Moiré Effect come to exist? Where did the name come from?
SCOTT: I opened a dictionary and flipped through it. Moiré Effect had a visual next to the definition to better illustrate what the effect was. I thought it was cool and the band agreed. Unfortunately, it gets mispronounced a lot, so we tried changing the name several times, but we have and always will be Moiré Effect.
GEEKNIFTY: Your video game music thus far spans multiple genres - from power ballads, to what I think is post-grunge, and even some jazzy dance stuff. What inspires you to make a certain song in a certain genre? Do you have certain ones you prefer?
SCOTT: Our start with VGM really came with competing in the Dwelling of Duels (http://dwellingofduels.net/). The rules of the duel are the biggest determining factor on the style. The theme for the January duel was 80's vs 90's. We chose to do the DuckTales Moon Theme, and since the game was released in the 80's, Drew had the idea to make it a power ballad.
Of course, being who we are, the sum of our experiences adds a "voice" to everything we do. Making art should always be fun and that’s maybe the main factor that influences the music. We don’t feel bound to doing any one genre and I wouldn’t say I have a preference for any one style. We do whatever the moment or project calls for. It keeps things fresh and fun.
DREW: I believe one of the benefits of not relying on our musicianship to pay the bills is a certain freedom to make the music we truly want to. We're able to make the music we want, and we hope that people hear it and enjoy it. We don't have to chase trends or meet anyone's expectations. Our center of mass does seem to be the kind of post-grunge sound you've been hearing, but it's been fun trying other sounds just as they occur to us. Whenever I'm trying to come up with a song idea I try to consider what is the theme of the source and what type of music would best express that theme. So for example Tool's song "Forty Six & 2" is about transcendence, so it seems natural it could be a happy and joyous song. The UNATCO theme and Deus Ex are about some heavy topics such as corporatism and surveillance, so a heavy rock sound seems appropriate. The Moon Theme for DuckTales has such a soaring and epic melody itself, and I can't think of any genre that tries to be more soaring and epic than an 80's power ballad. Everything is pretty much case by case trying to figure out how to create the most powerful experience we can.
GEEKNIFTY: How did you put together a song like Moon Theme Remix in three days for the Dwelling of Duels?
SCOTT: It was a last minute decision to do a song for the Dwelling of Duels and we were really driven to make the deadline. The hardest part of writing a song is the vision. Luckily, Drew knew exactly what he wanted to do and got the main structure of the song put together. The rest was just sitting down and recording individual parts and then mixing/mastering the track. We’ve been doing this stuff for years, so that process is pretty streamlined. You can always spend time refining and that’s what we did with the Moon Theme. We added more backing vocals and refined the mix. But, even the version we submitted to the DoD isn’t much different from the final product.
DoD Version: https://youtu.be/_Xdo-H-wXag
Official Version: https://youtu.be/gxOLeizluxw
Even without a deadline I rarely spend more than a week on a song. In my world, if it doesn’t work, don’t force it. Move on. When writing music it’s really important to capture the moment of inspiration, so it’s almost necessary to make it happen quickly. If you’re still trudging along on a piece after months, you’ve lost everything that the song was originally meant to be.
DREW: We had actually started our song "God from the Machine" which is a remix of the UNATCO theme from Deus Ex (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_xI3Qs9kuk) prior to the announcement of the Dwelling of Duels theme for MAGFest month. I was hoping it would meet the criteria, but it did not. So we scrambled to put together a song to enter that would meet the theme. Scott suggested the Moon Theme from DuckTales and the thought of a power ballad occurred to me. Scott was reluctant at first when he read the lyrics I wrote. He thought they were too silly and people would be upset we were messing with such a beloved song. The day before it was due Scott sent over his bass part and said he couldn't do the lyrics. I sent back probably one of the more strongly worded emails I’ve ever written and but he had already relented and laid down the vocals. We weren't sure how it would be received, but we couldn't have asked for a better response when our track came up at the Dwelling of Duels listening party at MAGFest (people waving their cell phones back and forth with the song in true power ballad fashion: https://www.facebook.com/dwellingofduels/videos/1341461642542011/). On my end it was fun to watch Scott go from reluctant ass-dragging to authentic enthusiasm.
GEEKNIFTY: What are your biggest influences as a band?
SCOTT: That is such an impossible and loaded question, but I’ll try. There were some bands that were a big part of my life when I was developing as an artist and I think, therefore, have a permanent imprint on my style. For me, those bands are Incubus, Tool and Our Lady Peace. But, I love music and constantly find new bands that fascinate me. Currently, the soundtrack to No Man’s Sky by 65daysofstatic is my jam. Terrible game, great soundtrack.
DREW: I'd say our music takes a lot from bands such as OLP, STP, RAtM, AiC, and Tool (Only Mid-90s Kids Will Recognize These Intialisms!). I've been following the VGM and VGM remix scene for a long time and can't overstate the musical influence they have had with me.
GEEKNIFTY: Are you happy with the reception your music has gotten?
SCOTT: The feedback we have gotten has been positive. So, that’s encouraging. It’s just a matter of getting more people to hear our music. I know there are countless potential fans out there, we’ve just got to find them.
GEEKNIFTY: You guys are on many different streaming services now - Spotify, YouTube, Rhapsody and Tidal. How has that been going for you? Will you continue to publish music this way?
SCOTT: Yes. Distributing your music worldwide is easier and cheaper now than ever. Artists just a few decades ago would have killed to have this level of access, so why waste the opportunities and resources available? I want our music to be easily accessible to anyone that wants to hear it.
GEEKNIFTY: What's next for Moiré Effect? Songs, shows, albums, world conquest?
SCOTT: We’ve been asked to join a special Castlevania project and will be doing a theme for Trevor Belmont based on the beginning stage theme from Castlevania III. That’s our immediate focus. Eventually we would love to release another album of original material, but the current seems to be taking us in the direction of doing VGM covers. So, we’re gonna ride those waves for now and see where they take us. It’s a very natural place for us to be and I can’t believe we didn’t start doing this sooner. Right now we are seeking indie developers that would like to use our composing talents in their game. We are capable of many styles outside of the rock genre. You can visit the SoundCloud page I created specifically to showcase tracks that are geared more towards video games and movie soundtracks (https://soundcloud.com/bluumonkmusic). So, INDIE GAME DEVELOPERS, hit us up! A good game is hollow without a good soundtrack!
DREW: We’ve got a few musical ideas in the pipeline that we just have to get around too. Mostly VGM covers but also a mainstream cover or two. And as Scott said, later on down the line we’d like to put out another original album. We’ve also got another project in the conceptual stage that we’re hoping will have a big impact in the community, but more on that later.
GEEKNIFTY: Last question, for each member of the band: what is your favorite video game, and also your favorite guilty pleasure video game, if you have one?
SCOTT: Final Fantasy VI. My brother would always kick my ass in two-player games, so I preferred single-player games, especially RPGs. No one can deny that Nobuo [Uematsu, of Final Fantasy fame] is the absolute master of thematic RPG composition. I think FFVI is the penultimate FF game and some of Nobuo’s best work.
I don’t know that I have a guilty pleasure video game, so I’ll offer up a guilty pleasure artist. That would be Lana Del Rey. There’s something hauntingly beautiful about the music and I’ve got to respect her openness to sing about some pretty intimate stuff. I know the controversy around her being a manufactured artist, but I sense a lot of authenticity from her. The older she gets and more create freedom she acquires, the more of that we’ll see. I recommend her song "Radio."
DREW: My favorite game hands down is Chrono Trigger, which also happens to be my favorite game soundtrack. It's masterful and almost without flaw. Other games that maybe come close are the first Mass Effect and Dark Souls. \[T]/
Guilty pleasure: Marvel Puzzle Quest on my phone. Please don't ask me how many hours I've spent matching tiles with Thor, Iron Man, et al. It's kinda embarrassing.