The Brooklyn bitpop band Anamanaguchi is off to a bustling 2016. In February, they released a custom NES cartridge containing classic and unreleased songs dating all the way back to 2006.
In March, Capsule Silence XXIV was abruptly and mysteriously released as a free download on their website. It is a one of a kind album-within-a-video-game containing a few dozen new tracks, a glitchy vapor-wave landscape and a fantasy house full of real and imagined objects, robots and bedrooms based on the four bandmembers’ lives that you can spend countless hours exploring. It is a wonderfully unique experience that is impossible to adequately describe with text, so go and download it if you haven’t seen it yet.
And towards the end of April, they embarked on a North American tour opening for Hatsune Miku on her very first American tour, in conjunction with a parallel Anamanaguchi tour which brought them through Austin on May 13th.
Anna Crain and Jacob Weiss of Austin chiptune vets Chalkboards sat down to talk with Pete, Luke and James before their show at the Mohawk. You can also listen to an audio version of the interview here:
Jacob Weiss for Ovrld: You just put out Capsule Silence the video game. What gave you the idea to put out new music and art in the form of a video game?
Pete for Anamanaguchi: Uh, we can’t really talk much about Capsule Silence, unfortunately.
Luke: It’s kind of an ongoing––
Pete: We can talk about anything else.
Jacob: So you’re on tour right now with Hatsune Miku, the international pop star synthesizer program, and you’re playing massive 5,000+ capacity venues. Sold out crowds. How is a show like that different than a show like tonight, where there’s a couple hundred people in a more conventional bar/venue setting. And then you also DJ on the side. What do you get out of all the different formats and how do they feel different?
Pete: Well, the scale defines everything about the show. So, like, playing to thousands of people with Miku can feel kind of a lot like playing to no one except for a crowd of glowsticks– which is cool. But it’s a super overwhelming experience where it really feels like a showcase of the music in the best possible, purest setting.
And then shows like this are shows we’re more used to, where we can jump around and get a little rowdy and not be afraid of destroying an amazing production. Also we’re playing to people who probably have a better idea of who we are, which is cool.
With the DJ stuff, it’s usually just to have a lot of fun, and we do whatever feels like the moment.
Luke: Yeah, it’s all different energy placement, I guess. I’m trying to think of the right way to phrase this…if we’re playing at a Hatsune Miku show, it’s very much like us putting forth when we’re getting a different amount back…because it’s you know, so wide, so spread out…
This is a very abstract way to talk about it. I’m not sure if there’s a non-abstract way to talk about it.
Pete: We put mad stuff forth, basically.
Luke: Yeah, like the focus has to be a bit different, I suppose.
[James walks up]
Pete: Hi James. Do you wanna pinch in for me here?
James: Pinch hit? Pinch you guys?
They don’t have any floor monitors on stage at a Hatsune Miku show, so we’re actually completely in headphone/in-ear monitor land.
Pete: Like jacking into the Miku Matrix every show.
Luke: That’s one crazy thing about the Hatsune Miku shows, is that in between playing a song I can’t hear a thing. Like I can’t hear anything that’s not being piped directly in. Feels pretty strange.
James: Not to mention we are also not within arm’s reach of each other. We’re like within…slingshot range. I think.
Jacob: Changing topics a little bit, Anamanaguchi has released in a lot of different formats: NES cartridge, CD, vinyl, video game, websites. Is there sort of media that you haven’t explored, but hope to some day? Like VR or VST or…?
Luke: I hadn’t thought about making our own VST. That sounds fun, but I don’t know how to do that.
James: I know a guy.
Pete: I think if we made a VST it would make the music louder. Or quieter. Depending on how you turn the knob.
But yeah we love to see how far we can take ideas. It usually comes from a spur of the moment feeling, so who knows.
James: We really want to make holograms, I think. Like it’d be really cool if we just had the opportunity to perform with a hologram.
Luke: We won’t get ahead of ourselves on it, but like if we could do that within the next…if we could do that tomorrow.
Jacob: Well, if anyone can do it you can.
Luke: Thank you
James: Thank you. Next question.
Jacob: Yes. Can we talk about the NES cart that you put out through Kickstarter?
Pete: Oh sure.
Jacob: So we got one.
Pete: Oh really?
Jacob: Yeah, it’s so great, we hooked up our NES to an old CRT and we listened to it all the way through. Could you kind of talk about what it was like making it? And if that’s something that you would ever want to do again in the future?
Pete: When we were putting together the cartridge, a lot of the songs I hadn’t heard in years, because I wrote them a long time ago, like in high school and stuff. And we had to listen back for any errors so we had to sit through and listen to the whole thing multiple, multiple times. And it was like, “Shit, this is pretty cool!”
So yeah, it’s definitely been a while since we’ve written in just chiptune format. We always have loved it. But yeah I don’t know, I don’t know anything about the future but I’m so happy with how this turned out and so delighted that people are enjoying it.
Pete: Right, Batsly Adams and Party Time! Hexcellent!
Jacob: Who else was kind of part of that team?
No, uh, tangentially some friends of ours over at Pioneer Works, which is really cool art space and educational space, let us use their laser cutter and their CNC Machine which is how we were able to get the iridescent window into the cartridge.
Jacob: Are there any easter eggs on the cart?
Pete: I don’t know, man.
James: If there are, why would we tell you? It would defeat the purpose!
Jacob: Do you think Batsly Adams hid some in there that even you don’t know about?
Pete: I’m certain of that.
James: He’s a sneaky man!
Luke: That would be pretty fantastic to find out.
Jacob: I was wondering-– to me, Anamanaguchi is very much, uh, sounds like New York. The few times I’ve visited New York, it’s very loud and energetic and colorful, and I was wondering if you think living in New York has any bearing on the music that you make?
Pete: Though I love New York City, I don’t think that the actual city itself has too much bearing on the music. But you know I’d say that a lot of our music is built around these kind of imagined landscapes, or fictional stuff.
Jacob: You’ve traveled a lot of places on tour around the country and around the world. What’s your favorite real-life landscape that you’ve seen?
Luke: The only two times that we’ve flown into Japan, there’s a very long train ride that goes from Narita Airport to Tokyo proper, and it’s perfectly timed out as the sun starts setting to where it’s just down. Let’s go with that for my answer.
Pete: Yeah, like the dark green trees and stuff like that. Yeah, it’s perfect.
James: I think for me, even though it’s so long ago, it’s gotta be the Redwood Forests and I’m blanking on the name of the city that we stopped in multiple times.
Pete: Fort Bragg.
Luke: Fuck! That’s gonna be my answer.
James: Fort Bragg California, like northern California. Just looking out into the ocean, beautiful cliffs.
Luke: But it’s like secluded enough from everything that there’s no light pollution, and you just walk out onto the beach and look up and see a stretch of the milky way above you. Pretty amazing.
Jacob: I wanted to ask a little bit about your songwriting and how Anamanaguchi started when you were a teenager, and as you’ve gotten a bit older do you feel like what kind of music you like to write about, or find easier to write about, or want to write about has changed over time? And is it still fun and enjoyable to make party music?
Pete: I think partying is really important and having fun is really important. We’re very serious about those kind of things. But we also are hyped on the dynamic that makes life what it is.
Luke: I feel like a big part of that is…it isn’t that things are getting more serious, but maybe that as we do more we start to understand more about ourselves in ways that we didn’t before.
Pete: That’s more like.
Luke: Like, one of my favorite songwriters / musicians ever is Mike Kinsella from Owen and Cap’n Jazz and American Football, and he’s still putting out records as Owen. And he’s been doing that for fifteen years now, maybe, and those songs used to be – you know as he was a younger person he was writing about, “all I want to do is like make out with someone, I’m so lonely, I swear to God I’ll die if I go home alone tonight.”
Cool, that makes perfect sense to be that kind of, you know, lonely.
Then he gets older and he gets married and has a kid, and he can’t write about that shit anymore. So he writes about himself and what he’s facing more on a day-to-day, and it’s stuff like, you know, his own identity, his own history. Little things like that. It becomes more introspective. But it doesn’t get sadder, it just changes that focus.
Luke: I didn’t mean to make that statement sound like you moved past an idea or an identity or who you are-– but rather you grow to understand it more so you can talk about it at a deeper level, but it doesn’t mean that it’s gone.
Jacob: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So, a lot of people and a lot of independent musicians and bands I think kind of look up to you a bit.
Pete: Well I would hope no one looks up to us. You know.
Jacob: Well, you know, you have managed to succeed in making music your career in a world that has stopped valuing a lot of things, like paying musicians for the work that they do.
Pete: There’s a lot of things in a weird place where people don’t think that they’re worth anything.
Jacob: Right, yeah, that’s fair. But is there anything that you might say to smaller bands or musicians that are trying to make music in the world as it is right now?
Luke: Take your time.
Pete: I mean we just keep it interesting by doing whatever is most interesting to us at the moment and it will always be something different. If it’s surprising us, that’s a good sign that it’s a good thing to do.
Luke: Yeah, I would say just take your time. And to the point that Pete is making, really understand what it is that you enjoy and why you enjoy it and that allows you to open yourself up to a lot of other things or ideas. Maybe you want to try a new fucking instrument, or you know, try to make a movie.
We’re able to do it because of the support of so many people that work in a community to push things in a direction that they think they could be. For instance, when I was in high school discovering 8bitpeoples, the collective and net label online, finding out that it comes attached with a real life presence in New York City and across the world and comes attached with this forum where people want to teach you how to learn things and stuff, and it’s not a closed system. It becomes really cool and it’s an opportunity to play around and that slowly turned into something that a lot of people seemed to take quite seriously-– much to our surprise. And it’s all very cool and everybody that’s involved with that world watching the progress that they’ve made as people and in art. It’s been inspiring for us.
Jacob: So, one last question before I let you go. Can you give me any little hints or little previews for your upcoming album USA?
Luke: It’ll be a full collaborative effort with Shania Twain. We have her locked in.
James: And Enya. We have her locked in our closet
Luke: We’re mostly on it for a producer credit. USA by these two powerhouses.
Pete: But we’re also going to film a very personal documentary that follows me through all my lives and watches how I do things and what makes me tick. Finally. It’s going to be a great experience, everybody’s going to feel real great about you know watching me do my thing. And checking out sweet music. Oh, and all these guys [motions to Luke, James and Ary] are going to be in there too.
Jacob: Fantastic, that sounds great. Pete, Luke, James thanks so much for answering my questions.
Pete: Yeah, thank you guys so much.