Interview: Anamanaguchi at Webster Hall NYC
Anyone who has ever played Nintendo remembers the digital-sounding music that gets faster as the game got harder. If you couldn’t get enough of that music, the band Anamanaguchi is your dream come true. Consisting of lead songwriter and guitarist Peter Berkman, bassist James DeVito, guitarist Ary Warnaar, and drummer Luke Silas, the band creates music using video game hardware from the mid-to-late 1980s. Their resume includes a performance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, a track in the popular “Rock Band” video game, and the second most successful album-funding project on Kickstarter. We caught up with the guys before their show at New York City’s famous Webster Hall to find out what video games they play, how they linked up with Green Label Sound, and more. Check out what they had to say.
What are the best shows you’ve seen here at Webster Hall?
Luke: The first time I came here I hadn’t moved to New York yet and I was crashing at Ary’s house. Me, Ary, Pete and some friends of ours came here to see Danger. That was a really fun show.
Ary: That was a really good show. I think my favorite show here was when I saw Skrillex a couple years ago. It was sick. We were all on stage and then I went to go to the bathroom in the green room. I ended up just watching most of his set from the window alone and was like, “Yeah, this is perfect. This is chill.”
Pete: I grew up in the suburbs outside of New York City, so I used to come here all the time in middle school and high school. I actually can’t pick because I saw Phoenix here in 2006 and The Hives here a while ago. I’ve seen a lot of shows here, so I don’t really know which one was my favorite. I wish I saw Cornelius here, who’s this Japanese artist, and he had this totally synced visual show for every aspect of his set. I didn’t go to that show and I’m jealous that Ary did. That would have been my favorite show since he told me what it was like and I saw footage of it on YouTube. It looked pretty amazing even watching it online.
James: I also grew up in the suburbs in Chappaqua, NY where Pete and I went to high school. Probably my favorite shows I’ve seen here, mainly for nostalgic purposes, were The Faint and The Hives. I think I also saw Jimmy Eat World here back in the day. Another good one was LCD Soundsystem. All of those were awesome. I’ve never been to a bad show at Webster Hall.
You guys are big into video games. What’s your favorite past and present video game?
Luke: My favorite past video game is Super Smash Bros. on Nintendo 64. It’s just great, insane, pretty fun no matter if you’re good at it or not. My favorite game now is Dark Souls. I’m excited for Dark Souls II when it comes out.
Ary: My favorite past video game is probably one of the Twisted Metal games, like Twisted Metal III and my favorite current game is Grand Theft Auto V. I got an advance copy and no one else has. It’s pretty good.
Pete: My favorite past game is Final Fantasy VII, but I just played it for the first time this year, so it’s also kind of current, at least for me. I don’t have time right now to play many current games, but I guess my favorite is Tokyo Jungle. You play as a Pomeranian and you have to fight your way through apocalyptic Tokyo, fighting up the food chain starting with little chickens and stuff and then dinosaurs and tigers. It’s real cutthroat.
James: My favorite old video game is PaRappa the Rapper or maybe even Seaman for Dreamcast. It’s this weird little fish you take care of. I recently got really into Sound Shapes on Playstation. It’s pretty cool just the way the music plays off of the obstacles in the game.
You all had pretty high-end internships at Armani, Prada, and Gucci. What are your favorite places to shop currently and what kinds of styles and trends are you feeling right now?
Luke: I’ve been on a really strong, solid black and white kick lately. Not tonight because you can’t dress the part all the time. I’ve drawn some stuff up recently on a whim and it’s always black and white, of course because I’m drawing in pencil, but it translates super clearly. I think that’s the style that’s pretty strong for me right now. I usually shop at Zara Men. It’s solid.
Ary: Half of my t-shirts currently come from Wal-Mart because they hired a bunch of amazing designers straight out of school who have been making the craziest t-shirts that are all perfect and gorgeous. I got really into oversized, so I rock a lot of 4XL Wal-Mart shirts.
Pete: I’ve been buying most of my clothes online on weird Tumblrs, like I’ll see a one-of-a-kind thing that has 5,000 notes and I’m like, “No one bought that?” So I will. I also really like this one artist Daniel Guerrero Fernandez who made the shirt I’m wearing. I also like this brand MILKBBI, which is made by Justin Wallace from Arkansas, so I have this backpack from him that is transparent blue plastic and it’s got chains where the straps are. I love it. It’s really cute.
James: I’m obsessed with Amazon Prime. I buy all my clothes off Amazon. You get half off, free two-day shipping, and $4.99 per package for overnight delivery. I buy everything there – socks, shoes, etc. I’m into low prices. Thrift is the way to go in this day and age.
You guys had a really successful Kickstarter campaign. Why do you think it was such a success? What do you think made you guys stand out from everyone else?
Pete: We always used to joke about doing a Kickstarter campaign whenever the process was difficult or we needed money for a studio. Then the record was actually done and we found ourselves wanting to do all the things that normally a label can help you do and we decided that part needs money. I think a lot of the time, people look at something like Kickstarter or other crowdfunding as kind of easy mode for doing what you want to do, but the truth is you actually have to put in all that hard work first and that’s why we had an album that we totally believed in and could talk about confidently and had it mastered, so it was all ready to go and totally done. We had all these ideas for music videos and a light show that James was going to build. We had a huge plan of stuff and all we needed was the money to do it. We felt like we could make a pretty strong case to our fans who come to our shows and who we talk to online all the time, so we said this is how much money we need to make our shows, our videos, and this album that much better, and they just happened to be down to support, way more than we anticipated, and it allowed us to do some crazy stuff. Tonight we’re going to be performing with lights that James built in his basement with our friend Andrew.
You guys recently started working with Green Label Sound. How did that start and what do you have planned with Green Label Sound?
Pete: Leia, who is part of our management team, was tour managing us while we were at South by Southwest. She was also doing photography for Green Label Sound at the time. We all went down to the Green Label Sound party that was going on and we all thought it was really sick. Then Leia told us that she had been talking to some people at Green Label about us and they were interested in getting us involved. We had heard stuff like “Daylight” by Matt & Kim and our friend, Andre a.k.a. RAC who did a remix for us a while back, had put out a single with Green Label Sound, “Hollywood,” and we were super impressed how they let you do what you want. It’s a pretty cool situation. We were down from the first second we heard about working with Green Label.