5 bloggers, 5 questions, 1 band, hand-picked by the MWA writers. Welcome to FIVE x FIVE. This week: chiptune-rock group, I Fight Dragons.
Just a year after the release of their self-produced debut EP in 2009, Chicago’s I Fight Dragons were signed to Atlantic Records. Two years and one album later, the group left Atlantic and raised an incredible $115,000 on Kickstarter to record and release their upcoming LP, The Near Future. Now, in the final weeks of recording, lead vocalist, guitarist, and chiptune programmer, Brian Mazzaferri, was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few of our questions for this week’s FIVE x FIVE.
Last June, you ran a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, raising $95,000 more than your initial goal. For some campaigns, that much success can be a blessing and a curse. Were there any struggles from raising so much more than you expected, and did your expectations for Project Atma change after the campaign? | Alyssa Welch
It was absolutely a blessing, and while I wouldn’t call it a curse, our project expanding so far beyond its original scope has certainly brought its own challenges. Honestly I was going in really really hoping that we would get to make the big triple-gatefold packaging with the companion art booklet / graphic novel, and that was as far as I thought about it. When we passed $40,000 (the point at which all of my planned stretch goals were achieved) I was completely flabbergasted and started making up new goals in very short periods of time.
That was tricky, since we just kept adding on new rewards for everyone as stretch goals, and in the end fulfilling the rewards for the backers at the $20 level is costing us more than $20 each, since we threw in the incredibly huge deluxe vinyl package, the flexi-disc and the custom picture-disc single.
That said, it’s 100% worth it, and I think people are going to be really blown away when they get the final package, which is the most important part to me.
The physical release for The Near Future is very ambitious – 180g transparent blue vinyl in a triple gate-fold with a companion graphic novel and 7″ picture disc. Why was such a major physical release important to you? | Dan Fiorio
You know, my biggest goal with this album was to create something people could hold in their hands and go “wow.” It seems like lots of art these days is being digitized and streamed, delivered instantaneously and on-demand, to the point that it can feel disconnected from the real world. I wanted to create a physical experience that draws you in and keeps you there from the time you drop the needle until the record is done (with a brief interlude to flip it over, of course). Something that can’t be completely recreated digitally. Also, we could never do something this crazy when we were on a label, and there’s definitely a part of me that embraced that angle and went as far as I could possibly imagine into the “not-commercially-viable” zone.
You guys seem to have successfully made playing music with Nintendo gear more than just a gimmick, but an integral part of the music itself. Was that an obstacle to overcome or did it just happen naturally? | Dan Jarvis
Why thank you. You know that has actually been a huge obstacle to overcome. Depending on how you view us, we can easily come off as either a rock band with a video game gimmick or a chiptune act that doesn’t use enough chiptune. Finding our balance between the two worlds has been a huge challenge, and honestly I feel like this album is the first time that we’ve absolutely been able to blend the two sides of what we do seamlessly.
You have had success in different areas of the country and played venues of all sizes, how would you say Chicago/Midwest stacks up to these other places? | Patrick David
Well, we’re all from Chicago, and we’re all midwestern boys at heart. I think this place will always be home for the four of us, there’s no other place in the country or the world for that matter quite like it. Tour is fun, adventurous, and exhausting, but for me it always makes me appreciate Chicago even more. There’s a song about this very concept on the album 🙂
A lot has happened to you as a band since the release of Cool Is Just A Number in 2009. With five years and two releases between them, how do you think your music has progressed from Cool to The Near Future? | Eric Slager
Wow, that’s a big question. In my heart of hearts I hope that each release has gotten better and better, and that I can keep that up for my entire life. Realistically, that’s probably an idealized view of things, and most of the time I’m just slogging it out in the trenches trying to make the truest, best music I possibly can with the resources I have at any given time.
Sonically, I’d say there have been big leaps. Cool Is Just A Number was basically an experiment. Nobody had any clue what we were going for, and even most of the people that played on it just sort of looked at me funny when I told them it was going to be a Nintendo Rock record and we were going to use it to launch a new Nintendo Rock band. I felt like Welcome To The Breakdown was basically a warmup to what we were going for on KABOOM!, which I think can best be described as the most commercially viable major-label-type album a band like IFD could ever make. I feel like we did everything we could on that album to make accessible, well-crafted, pop-potential Nintendo Rock, and I’m really proud of how it came out, although obviously it didn’t really end up making any waves in the larger music industry.
When it came to The Near Future, honestly I just wrote what I wanted to write. I did a ton of co-writing on KABOOM!, I had some great experiences and some crappy ones, I learned a ton and I grew a whole lot, but I also got pretty beaten down creatively, and by the end I didn’t really like my own writing voice any more. From a writing perspective, The Near Future is me rediscovering what I love about songs and songwriting and music. From an arrangement / production perspective, I also have to say that this is the first time that every single band member had a very influential voice in the creative process, and (after a pretty big false start last fall) the record finally ended up finding its voice and its sound through the extended and heartfelt efforts of all 4 of us. Not to mention the complete badassery that Noam Wallenberg at Rax Trax Recording has brought to the table. We’re in the final weeks of recording now, and I truly couldn’t be happier with how it’s all coming out.