Once upon a time, there was a company called Enix. This company produced anime, manga, and videogames – most famously, the Dragon Quest titles. Once upon another time there was a company called Square, who gave the world far too many legendary, much-loved RPGs to list here. Once upon yet another time these two collided, and Square Enix crawled out of the resulting supernova. This new company continues to hurtle through a procession of action and mobile games, but doesn’t forget its RPG roots.
Once upon the final time we promise, a group of Square/Enix fans from Boston, Massachusetts – Nick, Josh, Joe, Lauren and Dave – came together to form The World Is Square, a – quote – “video game folk band”. TWIS are dedicated to performing, recording, and celebrating the music of classic Square/Enix games. But how and why? Sit ye down to replenish your HP, while TWIS share their XP to level up your understanding of their music.
How do you all know one another, and how and why did you start recording videogame music? [Dave] We’re all from the same area. Even though we all didn’t know each other we used to go to the same local pop punk shows.
Why just music from Square/Enix titles? [Nick] I pretty much only play Square/Enix games nowadays. I feel a deep loyalty to the company and their catalogue of songs is probably in the tens of thousands. Why NOT just Square/Enix?
Would you ever consider music from other publishers’ games? [Dave] There’s plenty of material for us to work with from Square/Enix. There are all sorts of publishers that they have acquired that we consider fair game – for example, Michael Jackson’s Moon Walker for the PC. [Lauren] A British company called “US Gold” actually published Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker for PC – That company was later absorbed into Eidos Interactive which became a part of Square/Enix in 2009. It’s a stretch but to us, it counts.
Do you try to stick as close as possible to the original compositions, or give the music your own stamp? [Dave] For the most part we keep the song structure the same. We try to add our mark to the songs through instrumentation and style. [Nick] In the first years of the band we tried to stick pretty close to the originals. As of late we’ve been getting a lot of feedback that our fans want us to do more of our own arrangements so we’re trying to make a point of doing that now.
Do you think it’s important for the band to have played the games you’re recording music from? [Dave] I think we each have at least one song we play from a game we haven’t beaten. Except Nick maybe, he’s a machine. I don’t think it’s a big deal but we do give each other crap about it. [Nick] I wouldn’t say it’s necessary, but it certainly helps. I haven’t played Grandia II, so I don’t have any emotional attachment to ‘Kitchen Nightmare Village People’, but with some of our other songs I think playing the game and knowing where the songs are in the storyline really helps me get in the right feel for the songs. [Lauren] Yeah, I think having played the game certainly helps but it’s not necessary. I kind of have an attachment to “Vamo Alla Flamenco” from Final Fantasy IX, but it’s mainly because that’s the first Final Fantasy I played. I remember the thrill of hearing that song for the first time very clearly.
How do you feel videogame music differs from movie soundtracks – or music at the theatre? [Dave] Music in video games is used a lot stronger than in movies. I think movies use it to heighten atmosphere and clue you in to emotions. Most of the games I play are classics without any voice acting. Music is important and played almost constantly. It’s more needed and more paid attention to because of the lack of talking.
How do you choose which songs to record? [Dave] Sometimes someone will bring a song up and magically we can all learn it that night. This doesn’t happen too often though. When we need a bunch of songs to learn we have what we call The TWIS Draft. [Josh] Yeah, we have a draft pick night. We all bring 4-5 songs to the table, listen to them, have some beers, form alliances, argue, etc. [Dave]Basically, we each pick five songs ahead of time. We then each play one of our picks in a row. Then each of us has two votes for the song we’d like to see advance. After the votes are tallied, the two songs with the lowest amount of votes are kicked out. If it seems pretty confusing – it is. But it’s a lot of fun arguing and scheming over votes for the night until we have five new songs voted in. [Lauren] I love draft night. It’s like my Christmas.
Are you planning to release any original music? [Dave] We have no plans to release originals at this time. If we weren’t a Square/Enix cover band we’d probably be a Hall & Oates one. [Lauren] Ha! Yeah, we do like Hall & Oates jams. [Nick] A lot of us have solo/side-projects which enable us that outlet to express ourselves; but as a band, The World is Square is probably going to stick to what we’ve been doing so far.
What is the band working on right now? [Josh] We just released our second album “Stay Awhile and Listen” and are playing shows all over the place in the summer. Once things slow down, we’ll probably start learning more new music to add to our live set. Oh, and definitely more goofy videos. [Dave] We’re working on being able to get out and play as many shows as possible in different locations. We want to enjoy our summer playing music with our friends.
If The World Is Square have piqued your interest – and they really should have – then you can visit their bandcamp page to sample/buy their music, visit their site for more info and gig dates, or follow them on Twitter via @twisband.