Interview: I Fight Dragons

One of my first memories of Brian Mazzaferri is sitting with him and Todd Kessler at a Chicago music panel, hearing about his forthcoming chiptune-electro-pop project called I Fight Dragons, and thinking 1) that sounds really awesome, and 2) what the hell is “chiptune”.  About 2 years later, I Fight Dragons (IFD) is signed to a subsidiary of Atlantic Records and on an MTV sponsored tour playing amphitheaters and arenas all on the power of their debut EP Cool is Just a Number.

Turns out “chiptune” refers to 8-bit Nintendo-type digital music.  There’s a whole scene build around this type of composition, but I Fight Dragons features chiptune as a supporting instrument, adding a hip yet familiar texture to their already brilliantly crafted, catchy-as-all-hell pop/rock. Plus, they pull it off live by playing midi controlled Guitar-Hero-guitars, NES and SNES controllers, Pre-DDR power pads, and even the classic Nintendo Power Glove.  The strength of songwriting, harmonies, and proficiency at the “traditional” instruments of drums, guitar, and bass keep all this newfangled stuff out of the “gimmicky” realm and safely in the pocket of “awesomeness.”  This band also happens to be composed of six cool, fun, and super-friendly people, so it’s been a pleasure watching their rocket-pack-powered ascent and getting to play with them a couple times along the way.

The band granted me access to the secret headquarters at the tail end of rehearsal a few weeks ago as they prepared for the Too Fast for Love Tour with 3Oh!3 and Cobra Starship (making a stop in Seattle this week).  I got a sneak preview of a brand new song and then sat down with the whole band to talk about their origins, finding a home in musical nerd-dom, and building international internet community around their music. Here are a couple text excerpts, and then the bulk of our conversation in short mp3 clips.  Also, be sure to listen to the I Fight Dragons tunes on the Mid By Northwest Radio player!

“This band came together and I found my home, in a way.  With the whole nerdiness thing, I found a place where I could completely be myself … there is a relatability and a freedom about this band that I really like that hopefully the people who listen to us [can see].”

-Laura Green, I Fight Dragons

The Fan/Artist relationship is a two-way street.  [Unlike traditional models of music] we really want a dialogue between our fans and us – we want to foster relationships and develop a community where we can all come and talk about music and find similar things that we like.”

-Bill Prokopow, I Fight Dragons

MH:  “What is the origin story for I Fight Dragons?”

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On the band members’ many paths to finding a home with IFD:

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MH: “What does ‘Chicago Music Scene’ mean to you?  How does your major Internet presence affect that?”

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On the Chiptune music scene:

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On building community using internet social media tools:

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On embracing Nerdiness and the deeper context of IFD’s major lyrical themes:

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MH:  “What advice would you give to someone who is moving to a new place to do music?”

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Outtakes and random funny bits for all you Dragon Fighters who can’t get enough IFD!

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Attention Seattleites! Catch I Fight Dragons this Wendesday (May 26) @ Showbox Sodo with 3Oh!3 and Cobra Starship!  Click for more details. Plus, right now if you sign up to their email list at www.ifightdragons.com you can get a free 4 song EP with some sweet remixes and bonus tracks!

I Fight Dragons is (as pictured):

Chad Van Dahm – Drums, NES
Brian Mazzaferri – Lead Vocals, Guitar, NES
Laura Green – Vocals, NES, SNES, Power Glove
Hari Rao – Bass, NES
Bill Prokopow – Rock Band Guitar, NES, NES Advantage, NES Zapper, Keyboards, Laptop
Packy Lundholm – Vocals, Guitar, NES, SNES