by Chris Conde
Comic books, video games and fans of this once-counterculture are here to stay. With the ever evolving Marvel Comics Universe (did everyone binge-watch Defenders this weekend?), WonderWoman and Lego movies, geekdom and all things nerdy are as pop as pop culture gets. And it stands to reason that the sounds and tunes of our favorite superhero flicks, and the latest Batman video game would seep into our music.
Dousing their audiences in waves of nostalgia through metal covers of classic video game and anime scores like Sonic The Hedgehog and Pokemon, are Bitforce – a three-piece (sometimes four-piece when they have a vocalist), metal band that pack a super-charged punch of a live show.
Donning futuristic looking ninja warrior costumes (think, Mortal Kombat’s Sub-Zero but, like, with guitars) Bitforce' music is double-bass driven metal that strangely doesn't eclipse the original vibe of the songs they cover. Pro tip: don't leave before they play their high-octane cover of the Power Rangers theme song.
The band just released their debut album Nerdcore and Beyond at the end of July but have been actively touring and playing shows since 2014. We caught up with 紫電 Shiden (Toph Lawrence), バンタ Banta (Joey Devine), and 緑炎 Ryokuen (Marc Lopez), to talk about the new album and the general response local and national audiences have to their music.
How'd you guys meet and what made you start wanting to do nerdcore? Also, in your definition what is nerdcore?
Joey Devine: It started as just a project to have fun with in the studio. I originally didn't plan on doing a band, just a solo act with a laptop. But, after trying it out on a few tunes, I realized I needed a band. Luckily, Marc had asked to be a part of the project early on. My brother Tony was a decent drummer, so the magic began to unfold. We played one of our first shows with the rapper/teacher/hero Mega Ran. He told us about this huge event he was playing in DC called MAGFest and offered to let us back him up. Tony couldn’t make the trip due to school. We worked with Toph at Guitar Center, so we asked him to come on as a hired gun. He jumped at the chance to fill the spot for the tour and really fell in love with what Bitforce had going on. Shortly after we returned, Tony made the decision to step down and Toph stayed on.
Toph Lawrence: I feel like the urge to play this type of music stemmed from our combined collective interests. We all love video games. We all love anime. We all love superheroes. This genre allows us to revel in our childhood interests that have stayed with us as adults. Nerdcore originated with MC Frontalot; he coined the term. To me, nerdcore is music inspired by and about all things pertaining to nerd culture. Most nerdcore artists are rappers, but we decided to take it and put our own spin on it.
Have y'all been in different bands before this one and are you in any other active projects?
JD: I've been in a few metal bands over the years. One of them being Hotel Homicide. Bitforce pretty much takes up any free time I have, so no other projects at the moment.
Marc Lopez: I’ve been in my fair share of metal and cover bands. None of them had really amounted to much. I was playing with the Phantomatics for a few months, but my life changed with my son and I pretty much only had time for one gig, so I’m here with Bitforce.
TL: Tons, but in other cities. The only group in San Antonio I played with before Bitforce was a tejano band named Grupo Rodeo. Bitforce is the only group I’m playing with currently.
When did y'all start writing and playing shows?
JD: We started messing around with the idea about four years ago. One of our first shows was the Xbox One release at Gamestop and Best Buy in one night. That's how we keep track with how long we've been doing this. Currently, we are writing an original album.
TL: When I joined the group, they were doing mostly video game tunes. I am a huge anime fan, so I pushed for us to go in that direction. Thankfully, so are these guys. Then we started in on movies and TV shows. Now, we’ve started writing original songs inspired by the all the styles we already played.
What's the response been locally here for the type of music you do? Do other metal and hardcore acts dig what y'all do or is there shade? What other nerdcore artists or video game related artists are here in SA?
JD: The response here in SA has been amazing thus far. As far as other local hardcore bands, they show support like any other band. There's a lot of love in the music community. We don't get treated like most cover bands, which is nice (laughs). Shout out to Ohm-I, Kinzoku, Gross Angel Doom, David Erick Ramos, and of course, the legendary Mariachi Entertainment System. All of these acts are different genres of Nerdcore. All of them live in SA and all tear it up in the industry.
ML: It is still astounding to me that we get the support we do. To have people wearing our shirts at shows, showing up to see us, it’s a great feeling. All those are other artists I’m sure are only a few of the amazing acts brewing around the town.
Where have y'all toured and what's been the response like out of state?
ML: From what I recall, we’ve hit California, all over Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and MagFest out in Maryland. The response has been decent in other states, but we don’t return often enough to solidify a presence. However, we’ve been to Phoenix twice and they love us. And that love is mutual, it’s such a great time and we definitely want to go back.
On this album who recorded you and where did y'all record?
ML: We started with the drums. Joey and Toph did all that at Limelight. Everything else was recorded at our friend Brian King’s studio, Studio Xan (stylized “studioxan”). He’s recorded a couple of other local badasses like Rivers Want and Star Fighter Dreams. All in beautiful San Antonio.
Are y'all planning on touring for this album?
TL: We just had an amazing album release show almost a month ago. We plan on taking this album across the country but we haven’t planned it out yet. We put so much energy and effort into this record that we have taken a short break for the last few weeks. We plan on revving up and hitting it hard again really soon.
I know that there's sort of a story behind the band as far as like it being a concept like defending the galaxy and shit right? Can you talk to me about that and how you came up with it?
TL: So, I toured with this Austin group called The Laughing in like 2008. Again, another hired gun situation. We did a whole East Coast tour and had a blast playing with tons of bands. There was one group that stuck out to me. When we played in Atlanta, we played with a group called the Falcon Lords. They were a superhero rap/rock band whose songs were about being heroes and protecting Falcon City. They were in spandex hero suits head to toe.
I just remember the level of commitment they had to their characters and how that made for such an amazing live music experience. When I joined this group, I saw the same potential and I started thinking, what if all of these different heroes from these games and anime existed in their own universes? We could travel to their worlds and join these heroes and characters in fighting all of the villains from our favorite games and shows.
So, I pitched it to the guys and asked them to think on a super power they would want if they could pick one. Then, I took their ideas and ran with it. I’m currently writing a graphic novel about how we got our powers and what the Bitforce is. The goal is to take that story, add music to it, and turn our albums and live performances into a superhero saga about us joining forces with all of our friends and fighting the forces of evil.
For more information visit Bitforce's facebook page.