Anamanaguchi is moving on up. It’s been three years since the eight-bit electronic outfit last put out an album—the nostalgic Nintendo-laced tracks of the videogame soundtrack for 2010’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game. Since their successful Kickstarter campaign, the quartet released their much-anticipated sophomore studio album, Endless Fantasy, in May (on their own label, Dream.hax); toured across the U.S. in sold-out shows; partied with behavior analysts; and sent pizza into space (really).
“We’re looking at our old dream catchers and seeing what we can do now,” Peter Berkman, the band’s lead singer and guitarist, told The Daily Beast on the last leg of the band's monthlong tour. (The interview was paused momentarily while Berkman stopped to order cheeseburgers from an In-N-Out drive-through.)
Within 11 hours of initiating their Kickstarter campaign, Anamanaguchi reached their $50,000 fundraising goal; they raised over $277,000 by June 2, the end of their campaign—making theirs the second-most successfully funded music project on the crowd-funding website (trailing just behind rock goddess Amanda Palmer). The very next day—now with a sizable budget—the New York–based band attached a slice of pizza onto a weather balloon rigged with a GoPro camera and launched it through earth’s atmosphere. Thus, their music video for their title track off Endless Fantasy was born.
Endless Fantasy is a dizzying and energized array of pop punk and electronic tunes reminiscent of all things anime, videogames (think the bleeps of The Legend of Zelda infused with the energy of Sonic the Hedgehog), and ’90s Internet nostalgia. Their latest offering seamlessly blends drum and bass rhythms with trance-inspired tracks and is influenced by J-pop producer Yasutaka Nakata, Netsky, Phoenix, and even Missy Elliot, says Berkman. The tracks are mostly instrumental, and the synthesized melodies provide a vocal aesthetic to the tunes. “We have some trance sounds in there in an actual trance sense,” says Berkman. “We have kick drums along with guitars, but we also have 16-bit sounds [and] eight-bit sounds, and we’re trying to open it up and make it fit for the mood of each specific song. We’re unchaining ourselves a bit.”
Although Berkman says the band hasn’t had to make many sacrifices without the backing of a major label, one thing he thinks they lack are connections to collaborate with artists on vocal offerings. However, the band is looking to do a vocal-collaboration album with some of the songs from Endless Fantasy, as well as remixes of the tracks with fan contributions from Kickstarter. The Kickstarter money is also lending itself to helping Anamanaguchi hold a 72-hour game jam—which will link together programmers, developers, and designers to create interactive projects like videogames tied in to the songs. The games will then be offered online for free. In addition, they will improve their LED laser setups at their live shows and produce bigger and better music videos.
The caliber of Anamanaguchi’s music videos is exemplified by “Meow,” their first single off Eternal Fantasy, a visual explosion of feverish colors, Pokemon-esque animation, and NES game icons. The video was directed and edited by Daniel Gray Longino and Eric Notarnicola—who work as editors for Adult Swim’s Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!—and the majority of the ideas came from the band's members.
“We like to be in control of that kind of stuff, because we have pretty strong visions for how it’s supposed to be,” Berkman says.
At the sold-out Anamanaguchi show at Echoplex in Los Angeles on June 11, a wide range of devout fans—ranging from Seapunks to rockers and nerdy 30-somethings—bubbled with energy when the band opened with the Baha Men's pop song “Who Let the Dogs Out,” before jumping into their “Meow” track. There seemed to be an infinite number of fans crowd surfing, even while the band was merely talking between songs and not playing music—something Berkman pointed out on stage. Light poles—designed by bassist James DeVito—illuminated hues of soft rainbow colors, and holograms of anime characters and ’90s game icons were projected on acrylic iridescent cubes on stage. Berkman took time to acknowledge the efforts of the Kickstarter for the band, thanking the crowd, and in return, the fans begged for an encore.
After being on the road for a month, Berkman mentioned that the band appreciated being in Los Angeles because guitarist Ary Warnaar’s parents, based in L.A., whipped up a home-cooked meal for them. One of the memories that stuck most with Berkman on this tour was their trip to Minneapolis. They stayed at a hotel that happened to be hosting a behavior-analyst convention and partied with scientists in their hotel rooms. All the analysts had been stamping each other’s faces with the chemical formula for alcohol (C2H5OH), and the punk rockers joined in as well. Berkman said the night ended up being “so weird,” but “really fun.”
The band—including drummer Luke Silas—has come a long way since their humble beginnings, and their general positive attitude hasn’t changed much. In their bio, they’re described as a “boy band made up of hackers and producers born & raised on the Internet.” The name Anamanaguchi (pronounced “a-na-ma-na-gu-chi”) is an amalgamation of the fashion internships the band mates held in their early days at Armani, Prada, and Gucci. The companies held music courses to tailor tunes to match their corporate branding—which in turn helped Anamanaguchi learn how to create music.
“Prada is elegant in their compositions, and they hire a lot of brilliant minds to get it going,” Berkman says. “Gucci’s a little dirtier, though—they teach you a little electronic production.”
Those early days made an indelible mark on the band, and their ability to bring out the joy of childhood nostalgia brings hordes of fans to their shows. Berkman is himself no stranger to nostalgia, reminiscing about the seminal game that changed his life—PaRappa the Rapper, a ‘90s PlayStation rhythm game about a rapping dog.
“I got it for Christmas, and I beat it in one day, and it made me want to become a rapper and a dog that wears a beanie—and that’s why I am the way I am today.”