The Descendants of Erdrick Rock the Gaming Music Scene

embedded by Embedded Video

GDC Online is more than an excuse to hit up the bars in Austin, look at graphs about Farmville, and schmooze with developers talking about “game theory.” The town has a vibrant music scene as well as a game development scene, and now thanks to The Descendants of Erdrick, the two can mix and make sweet, sweet love to your ears.

The Descendants of Erdrick play all the mainstays you might expect – Mario, Zelda, Megaman, and Chrono Trigger. They’re always on the lookout for new, obscure, and technically challenging pieces like the theme to T&C Surf Designs and Dave’s Theme from Maniac Mansion.

“Chris [Taylor, Bassist] and I kind of have this general list of songs that we have wanted to play for a while – stuff that we both like,” Guitarist  Amanda Lepre said. “We love Megaman, we love Zelda, we love Final Fantasy. I learned some obscure songs at the beginning because I thought they were so cool and I wanted an excuse to learn them. We’re kind of basing it off our original intent – games that everyone recognizes. Everyone seems to know Megaman, Zelda, Mario of course.”

Bassist Chris Taylor admitted that they really didn’t even set out to have a Mario medley. It just sort of happened.

Mario we almost went after grudgingly. She and I did the underground theme and we literally made it up on the fly,” Taylor said. “Then we did the Mario 3 version with the beat, and I would just do the beat by deadening the bass strings and hitting it. It was really ramshackle at that point. But when we decided to do Mario, that’s when the ideas came. What if we did the castle – the whole procedural thing – and what if in the castle we run out of time so we speed it up halfway through.”

This became the band’s process – settle on a game and just evolve it from there with crazy ideas.

“Whenever someone mentions a game, there’s a maelstrom of ideas about how we can approach it, and then we just check with everybody – Can you do this? All right, let’s do it,” Taylor said.

embedded by Embedded Video

Lately, a lot of the band’s new content comes from Guitar Soloist Mike “Lobos” Villalobos.

“I just go ‘Hey, look what I learned,’” Lobos said. “That’s how I get the songs I want. I just learn the really hard parts.”

And those “really hard parts” are exceptionally hard.

“I don’t mean to shine a light on Lobos as the shining star of the band, but that’s where we start with a lot of things,” Taylor said. “It adds that impossibility element that musicians appreciate. A lot of our comments will be like ‘Holy crap how can you do that on a guitar.’ Those composers weren’t messing around.”

This is a sentiment shared by the rest of the band.

“I’ve been on stage since age 18 but I’ve never really performed with an electric guitar in such complex music before,” Lepre said.

This is because the composers were inspired by some of the most compositionally complex music in existence.

“They’re usually inspired by the two hardest styles of music to play in modern times anyway – classical and progressive rock,” Taylor said. “Progressive rock doesn’t mess around.”

So how did the band even form? As told by founders Bassist Chris Taylor and Guitarist Amanda Lepre, the first contact occurred because of awesome tattoos.

“I met Chris and somehow we started talking about video games, and he’s all ‘I know everything about FF6!’ and I’m like ‘Really? Check out my [Final Fantasy] tattoo and look at my Chrono Trigger tattoo!’” Lepre said.

embedded by Embedded Video

Taylor can’t remember exactly if the conversation started on tattoos or video games.

“Either the conversation about tattoos arrived out of the conversation about video games or… It’s one of those things lost in the annals of history. Anyway, you go ahead, you’re doing so good!” Taylor explained, encouraging his bandmate.

“I have to make it exciting! And move my hands around!” Lepre said, wildly gesticulating. “That was it – he just played the Chrono Trigger bassline and I said ‘Oh yeah, I know how to do that too! Do you like Mystic Quest? I love that music!’ As soon as anyone starts talking Mystic Quest with me it’s over.”

“It’s true!” Flutist Lauren Liebowitz agreed.

That initial conversation planted an idea in Lepre’s mind.

“So many months pass and Chris and I hung out a little bit. I decided a few months later to go stalk him at one of his band’s shows downtown because I had a plan. I had a purpose in mind. I said ‘Do you have a minute to talk? Would you like to start a video game band? Like a cover band? Why is it that this doesn’t exist here yet. You and I could totally do this. I could play guitar, I could learn a little bit better electric guitar than I know now – cause I was kind of an acoustic guitarist – and you play bass, and maybe we can start this giant band and go around playing in rock venues but playing video game music. I haven’t heard that yet here, and this is Austin, there’s music everywhere, and there are games everywhere.’” Lepre said.

embedded by Embedded Video

The idea was not without precedent, and the pitch was even timed around a video game concert.

“The mission statement she put to me exactly, was that video games live was coming through town. That thing sells out and it’s like $50 a ticket. Why can’t we provide the same show for $5 right here in Austin on electric instruments?” Taylor said. “At the time there was no limit, we could just do anything. We could have so many musicians and stuff. By the time we played out first show, sure enough, it was just me and her and the drummer. Not him [Drummer John Pike] but another drummer.”

“He was kind of a temp,” Lepre explained, “he was a borrowed drummer.”

“And the same thing with the keyboard player,” Drummer John Pike added.

The band lost their keyboardist due to Lepre’s aggressive hunt for gigs.

“When we started doing it, we just had maybe three practices, and she started going off finding gigs. She contacted David at Game Over Videogames, which is the best local store. They had a yearly show and they were like ‘You guys can totally play this show.’ We were like ‘All right! Let’s do it!’” Taylor said. “This guy who just had us over to his house a couple times, we were suddenly trying to rope him into a gig, and sure enough he scattered, so we re-learned the stuff again. It didn’t help that by this time I was living in the Dallas area so I had to commute down here just for practice.”

Due to re-learning all the material and not having a tight group, the first performances weren’t exactly top notch by the band’s own admission.

“The first few shows were rough and there’s video evidence of that. You can’t get rid of anything off the internet no matter how hard you try. HA HA,” Taylor said, forcing a grudged laugh.

embedded by Embedded Video

The group, such as it was, continued to play at Game Over Videogames.

“The third show was there, and it was just me and Amanda by that point,” Taylor said. “We played in September, outside in the drizzle, and it was just her and me. We just had a good time. It wasn’t until we met Lobos that we took it all seriously – like we can actually make this sound like something that will fly.”

Like any good musicians, Taylor and Lepre recruited the rest of their members through the infamous internet service.

“Craigslist!” Taylor and Lepre exclaimed simultaneously.

“Like a lot of bands in Austin and a lot of frustrated musicians on Craigslist, we put out the call. We said ‘We’re looking for a guitarist to join a video game group,’” Taylor said.

“I don’t even think we said guitarist,” Lepre said.

Flutist Lauren Liebowitz corrected, “You just said musicians. I wrote in saying ‘I’m sure since you’re a rock band you don’t want a flute, but tell me when your shows are, I’d love to come and listen.’”

“I thought ‘Flutes are awesome.’ What rock bands have a flute? Seriously?” Lepre said.

According to Taylor, it was Lobos that really filled out the band.

“Probably the moment the band really turned around was when Lobos showed up for that first practice. We gave him a few pieces to learn, and he learned them. The first song we’re going to play tonight is T&C Surf Designs – the one minute song from that game. It’s pretty much the only music in that game that I know of besides the little victory fanfares. He learned the solo from it which I’d gotten from a friend who asked me to learn it. He wanted me to learn it so we could play it in Shy One Horse,” Taylor said.

“He wanted me to learn this guitar solo and I couldn’t. I’m just not a guitar soloist by nature. But we got him into that living room and within 15 minutes he had it, just listening to it, he could pound out that solo. We thought ‘I think stuff’s about to get serious. Will you please, please join us.’”

embedded by Embedded Video

From there the band went on to record a CD (purchasable on their website) and even play at some exotic locales.

“We played at Richard Garriot’s Castle,” Liebowitz said. “He had his official royal crew following him around. He has this recreation of a medieval village with a smaller recreation of The Globe Theater, and that is where we played. It was amazing.”

Merely playing there wasn’t all the band did.

“When we ran into him, he gave us instructions on signing this placard that they keep in the back for the bands,” Taylor said. “We were given a quest by Lord British.”

Of course, it being Texas, the band has also played in some odder venues.

“We played some shows that were weird for us,” Taylor said. “We went up to Round Rock and played at a honky tonk for approximately three or four people. That was our first show with John. We go about this all wrong. We record CDs and then we play shows, and then we practice.”

“We didn’t play our first show with him until our first CD was done,” Lepre added.

But despite playing in “normal” bars and honky tonks, the band finds that the more popular music is well received.

“‘We play at a fair number of bars around town,” Liebowitz said. “You’ll have completely normal people. One of my favorite moments, we were playing at some bar and people were around just being normal. We started playing Mario, and this ageing biker with a leather jacket and long hair, looks up and says ‘YEAH!’”

That’s not the only amusing reaction the band has noted.

“This huge guy once started doing ‘The Mario,’” Taylor said. “Like the actual dance. I was so excited. I was trying not to look at him so I wouldn’t laugh and mess up.”

embedded by Embedded Video

Those that aren’t as familiar with game music tend to react strongly to the more popular tunes.

“It’s actually inverted,” Taylor said. “When we do live shows, we’ll go around playing our obscure, technical stuff. People are ‘Eh, I dig it.’ Then we get into Zelda and Mario and they’re like ‘AAAAH Mario and Zelda in person! I can’t believe it!’”

Gamers on the Internet operate by another standard, though.

“Online, some people have been ‘Oh they’re doing Mario, that’s just a drop in the bucket.’ But then they’ll be ‘Oh! They play Dave’s Theme, or they play this other obscure thing.’ Then we’re legit on the Internet because of our rare stuff, and the crowds enjoy the popular stuff,” Taylor said.

Ultimately, The Descendants of Erdrick do well because they’ve settled into an unfilled niche.

“Everyone in Austin’s been really supportive because we’ve found a place that doesn’t have a video game cover band, but does have a huge development population,” Taylor said. “There’s a lot of studios over here, so there’s a lot of people in gaming, and there’s a lot of people in music, but the two hardly ever cross over.”

But that doesn’t help venues spell the name correctly.

“We were called the Sons of Eden once, that was getting out there,” Taylor said. “We usually have The Descendants of Edrick, or Erdick. Lots of typeos, we usually take pictures of the typeoed ones and collect them. They always get the ‘a’ version of descendants. I’ve never seen them call us the descendents, which is a punk band. It’s the ‘Erdrick.’ There’s two Rs around that D.”

2741

The name may not be the easiest to spell, but it was always the only name to use for Lepre.

“I actually patented the name back in 2007 by creating a myspace account. Because that’s what you did back in 2007,” Lepre said. “I always thought ‘Oh my god, if I’m ever in any video game band, or if I’m ever in anything that had anything to do with games, I want that to be the name.’ It’s obscure but not quite. If you’ve ever even played the first line of dialogue in Dragon Warrior you’d know where that’s from, but that requires that you’ve actually played Dragon Warrior.”

So go to the band’s website, check them out, and if you have any input, feel free to drop them a line.

“We’re very very willing to talk to anyone who wants to talk to us, even if they just want to suggest a game,” Taylor said. “We’re really open about people suggesting us new things to play.”

  1. I LOVE THE DESCENDANTS OF ERDRICK!!!

    I fall asleep with your shirt as my pillowcase.

    …seriously, though – you guys are fantastic…if you didn’t know ;)

    <3

  2. Nice read! It’s about time D of E gets some attention. This band is awesome and they are even better live. If anyone gets a chance to see them don’t miss out!

  3. Hey, thanks for the writeup. Just FYI for readers, this was the party organized by the Austin chapter of IGDA, in association with the Texas Film Commission and the Digital Media Council.

    We like Descendants of Erdrick.

  4. This is awesome guys! Congrats and keep it up!

Tell Us How Wrong We Are

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *