-By Joseph Dussault
The salacious reality TV buffs in us were delighted when VH1’s Dating Naked: Playing For Keeps returned to primetime last week. As an added bonus, the new season came packaged with a sunny, sidescrolling video game. In Love’s A Beach, players aim to take their clothesless companions on the best beach-strolling, river-running, ATV-riding date ever – all from the comfort of their browsers.
This au naturel adventure features a shimmering chiptune soundtrack from Ary Warnaar, of the New York outfit Anamanaguchi. The band rose to prominence in the early naughts, crafting punky 8-bit jams on outdated Nintendo consoles. Reared on special music programs called “trackers,” which emulate video game sound chips, they have since expanded their sound to include new sound palettes, hinting at dance music and electro-pop influences.
As we premiere three of his brand new songs, VH1 caught up with Warnaar to talk guilty pleasures, the future of apps, upcoming music, and GTA.
VH1: How did you get involved with the project?
Ary Warnaar: My friend Dan, who works at VH1 but also goes under the name dan2600, does a bunch of cool stuff in the New York music and art world. He was working on the project and I guess he needed music for it that fit the kind of stuff I make, so he hit me up. I actually don’t even know what his job title is at VH1.
Do you watch Dating Naked?
At my apartment it’s such a weird, guilty pleasure show. We definitely watched all of the first season. None of us even watch TV that much, but for some reason we totally attached ourselves to that show. The people that are on it are hilarious. I actually kind of love the show in a weird way.
It was hilarious when I came home and told my friends. They’re like, “No f-cking way you did that!” If there was one show I would do that for…
I was surprised when I opened up the game and it played out of the browser. I think there’s a lot of pressure to make everything an app right now.
Without going too deep, I feel like the concept of apps won’t necessarily last. Kids and teenagers and stuff, they don’t download music anymore. You don’t want to have music on your phone that takes up space – it’s annoying. I feel like apps fall into that category. It’s a thing that takes up space, that I have to have in my possession to show someone else. Having the game on a browser, my phone could be dead and I could be at a party like, “Yo, give me your phone, I want to show you this thing.” That’s way more viable and easy and I prefer it. I think that’s definitely the future of a lot of media.
Have you beaten the game yet?
I made my roommate Alon play through it, because he can beat anything. No one likes playing with him because he’s always better, even if it’s his first time. I played it a few times after that. I’m bad at any game that’s not a driving game, but I still like them.
My favorite game – and the only game I play, honestly – is still GTA [Grand Theft Auto]. It’s totally not a driving game, but it encompasses what I like about driving. It’s not necessarily racing, it’s more like pacing. Precision driving in a really funny open world. So I play GTA like it’s a driving game – I’ll do my little killings left and right, but mostly I’m customizing every car possible and driving in the Hills on my favorite roads. I grew up in Hollywood, and they have the Hollywood Reservoir in the game. I grew up right next to the Reservoir, and that’s where I would drive as a kid, before I had my license and stuff. I would go and shred those roads, I know them by heart. So in the game I do the same thing, go back there and drive on the roads I grew up on. I even make the same car I would drive, same colors and stuff. But it’s a secret car.
You should get in touch with Rockstar.
I know, right? I’d love to get one of our songs on the [in-game] radio. GTA VI, fingers crossed.
Did you use trackers here, or was the whole soundtrack composed in modern software?
It’s a little bit of both. There are certain things that are still so much easier and intuitive to do in trackers. But I’ve also been enjoying the free-range of high-production stuff. I feel like having used trackers for many years kind of gave me a better understanding of everything I was doing in fancier software.
What tune are you most proud of?
I definitely like the last one. It has a lot of self-indulgence for me… stuff that I like to write but usually don’t. It almost has a Bloc Party feel to it at the beginning, which is funny to me. It’s not an obvious association, but for me it kind of had that. A dance song, but faster than 140 bpm. But it would be hard to choose one favorite.
What challenges come with composing for a game, as opposed to writing for a band?
They’re definitely very different processes for me. When I’m writing for a game, I want it to be really functional for the game. It should help make the game a more immersive experience. I wouldn’t want to impose too much of my ideas on it, but at the same time it’s very important that the music can stand alone. Whenever I write anything for a game, I want to be able to listen to it on its own and still enjoy it. All of my favorite music that’s written for games is like that – you don’t have to be playing the games to enjoy the music. I try to keep that in mind.
You also had a hand in scoring Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game, right?
I mean Scott Pilgrim was the first time I ever did anything like that, so it’s sort of hard to compare anything to it at this point. Now I have a much better understanding of scoring for stuff that’s not my creation in the end. But the thought process wasn’t any different. I just put myself in the world and think, “What would I like to be listening to in this world?”
Could you tell me a little bit about your upcoming projects?
I kind of can’t actually (laughter). Not to be annoying and secretive about it. We’ve been working on a bunch of projects for various people, and I don’t really want to spoil them yet.
When can we expect to hear them?
I would say late this year or early next year. We’re doing a new Anamanaguchi record at the same time, so I guess everything will start coming into fruition winter or spring-ish.
You’ve made some statements that the next Anamanaguchi record won’t be a “chiptune record” per say. How did it feel returning to your chiptune roots a little bit?
That’s not a world we would ever neglect or try to hide from. I love that music, I love that sound palette, and I love writing with those sounds. When we say our next album isn’t going to be a chiptune album, it’s more because of vocabulary expansion than switching palettes. That’ll always be a kind of music I wrote and liked and will never leave, I’m sure. In ways, it doesn’t really feel like a return or anything. It’s more this aspect of things I’m capable of doing.
So it must be annoying when media guys still bill you as an “8bit hacker band.”
It can definitely be frustrating. I don’t really dwell on it too much. There’s this world of nerd culture being mass-produced. So we have movies like Pixel, and—what’s that terrible TV show?—The Big Bang Theory (laughter). There’s the whole world of, “Let’s try to make this nerdy shit cool. It’ll be the underground thing that’s tight.” I don’t feel like I would be at the forefront of that world, trying to defend it or explain it. There’s a lot of good stuff in those worlds, and there’s a lot of bad stuff in those worlds.
People try to label us in various ways, but I don’t really mind. I hope that people appreciate what we’re doing for what it is and what they like about it. I don’t expect everyone to like it for the same reasons. If people want us to be this nerdy chip thing forever, they’ll probably be disappointed because that’s not what I want to do forever. But if that’s what they like about it, they’re more than welcome to, you know?