A little while ago, alt-pop duo Computer Games stopped by the Baeble office for a stripped-down Baeble NEXT Session. While Computer Games is a new collaboration (they just released their first EP, Lost Boys Life, back in March), the members of the duo are pretty well seasoned in the music industry - the duo is comprised of brother Chuck and Darren Criss. Although they've always wanted to do a collaboration like this, the brothers initially ended up going their own ways and making their own names in music. Darren Criss has obviously made a big name for himself, creating the Youtube sensation Starkid and starring on Glee, while Chuck spent his time as a part of the indie-rock band Freelance Whales. Computer Games grew out of the brothers' frequent basement jams from their childhood, and their regular songwriting collaborations.
For their Baeble NEXT Session, Computer Games performed some songs from their debut EP, including title track "Lost Boys Life" and "Every Single Night," as well as a couple songs of older songs from the brother's early days playing together; "Damage" and "Same Old Situation." Beginning the session with a full backing band that includes drums, bass, piano, and the Criss' on acoustic guitars, they strip it down for their last two songs, performing with nothing more than a couple of acoustic guitars and their harmonizing voices. Between songs, Chuck and Darren talk about their 80s-inspired songwriting, how their collaboration came about, and their goal of making music to make people happy. If you're finding yourself in need of a little 80s alt-pop happiness, our newest NEXT session might do the trick.
- We're Computer Games. - Yeah. That's not the name of the band, brothers. It's Computer Games. So the cool thing about hit buildings in Brooklyn and in New York, especially this time of year, is that it gets really hot and when you're shooting anything that involves sound, you got to turn the AC off. So this is a very real...this is real rock and roll guys, You can see the sweat in our brows, the veins in our necks, this is real. Chuck, what's this song called? - This one is called Lost Boys Life. It kind of came from just being inspired by a lot of kind of '80s music and '80s movies. This one, kind of more primarily, based off The Lost Boys vampire movie with Kiefer Sutherland. - Yeah. I love this song. - How often do we get Clark on a piano? - Yeah. Not enough, not offten enough. that's Jim, that's Clark. Just if you want to, you know, Google them. Every night in a different bed The ceilings look the same Every light leaves a memory I swear they're tracing out your name A couple hundred miles from somewhere And another couple more to go Ask me what I remember I'll say I really don't know I was living a lonely life until I fell for you I was a living lost boys life, it was all I ever knew And every morning the sun comes up And the darkness fades away I was living a lost boys life It was all you had to say It was all you had to say Looking back it was black and white The picture couldn't fade Think about all the words we said And everything we made So go ahead, take a photograph Take whatever time will allow Thank you for the good ol' days They're happening right now I was living a lonely life until I fell for you I was living a lost boys life, it was all I ever knew And every morning the sun comes up And the darkness fades away I was living a lost boys life It was all you had to say It was all you had to say Whoa-oh, oh-oh Whoa-oh, oh-oh, oh-ah I was living a lonely life until I fell for you I was living a lost boys life, it was all I ever knew And every morning the sun comes up And the darkness fades away I was living a lost boys life, it was all you had to say It was all you had to say It was all you had to say It was all you had to say It was all you had to say It was all you had to say - It's a short and sweet EP called Lost Boys Life. - It's a three song EP but there's four songs, the fourth one is just a voice memo, if you're a songwriter, you know that, a lot of people record ideas on their voice memo, on their phones. Yeah. It's a piano version of Lost Boys Life but it's just three songs that we just really felt strong about and because we didn't have a whole lot of time to make this either, if we'd set out to make a full record, that would've taken a lot of time. And we were like, "Let's just get the start. Let's just put it out in the world, tell people we're doing this band thing. " And this was sort of what we considered to be a really good first step forward. But they all started from songs that Chuck was toying around with. Chuck is really an amazing doodler, like a sort of Jackson Pollock and he put all these really amazing ideas out. Whereas I'm pretty reserved about how things need to start, which is my own sort of curse. But the one thing that I think I can do is sort of, like, make a face out of it and I, like, I'm a big structured form guy. It's really fun putting our heads together, we have such a seasoned dialogue between the two of us because we...you know, the same references, we listen to the same bands, we quite literally had the same experience growing up. - The '80s thing in itself is kind... a lot of people were tapping into the '80s thing. And I think, with this batch of songs, I wanted to find stuff that I like from the '80s that haven't been tapped into. And like, when you think about Lionel Richie or Miami Sound Machine, all of which were like, you know, humongous hits and everyone is beloved by all, but hasn't really been tapped into in a bit. It was kind of a fun project to try to put our modern spin on it, so. - Yeah, like, the track count alone on every single night, it's layered with all these, like, gratuitously used loops that sound really cheesy by themselves and it got to a point where I was like, "I wish we could replace these with something a little more contemporary. " Like, "I don't know, let's make this a little more 2017. " And then we got to a point where we kept listening and we'd go like, "No, we have to leave it. Like, this is... What would Phil Collins do? - Embraced... Leave them in, it's the studio. " You know, just the...more is more. People say Don't let your emotions control you Well how can that be Without them, I never could know you When you're running wild With a feeling like this can't get any better You could lose your mind But you better keep our bodies close together Well I wanna feel And I wanna see We can work it out Will ya wait for me? I got your back Are you on your feet? We can work it out Will ya dance with me? Every single night Live it up every single night Help me live it up every single night Everything gonna be all right If we live it up every single night Now I don't care Much for complex calculation And I can't be bothered By any game that you call hesitation Ooh-ooh Well I wanna feel And I wanna see We can work it out Will ya wait for me? And I got your back, hey Are you on your feet? Are you on your feet? We can work it out Will ya dance with me? Every single night Oh Live it up every single night Help me live it up every single night Everything gonna be all right If we live it up every single night And every single night I have a dream where I can find You underneath the lights smiling at me And every single time I wake you, kiss me to remind Me in the dead of night smiling at me Say, holding on to you, holding on to you, holding on to you Holding on to me, holding on to me, holding on to me Holding on to you, holding on to you, holding on to you Holding on to me People say Don't let your emotions control you Oh-oh Every single night Oh-oh Every single... Well I wanna feel Every single night And I wanna see Every single night We can work it out Every single night Will ya wait for me? Every single night I got your back Every single night Are you on your feet? Every single night We can work it out Will ya dance with me? Every single night Live it up every single night Help me live it up every single night Every single night Everything gonna be all right If we live it up every single night Every single night Live it up every single night Help me live it up every single night Whoa, every single night Everything gonna be all right Every single night - Like, we always knew we'd do some kind of project together, but it was always very abstract. And we never had a name for it, and... - It was just long overdue and it was getting to a point where it was really frustrating that it hadn't happened yet. Chuck and I are getting older and there were a lot of things where we were like, "You know what? We have the time and the focus, let's do it while we can. " And I think if we hadn't, I would've always been like, "God, I've always wanted to start a band with my brother. " And so that was a narrative that I didn't want to miss out on, so. - I had this batch of songs that I started with the intention of, like, "Well, I'm going to bounce it off Darren. And then, you know, if he's doing a solo record or whatever, you know, maybe it'll fit and then Darren worked... - Maybe he could use a couple. ...on some more of them. The more we're working together, we realized, like, "Wait, this is just kind of..." - This is the thing. - This is the thing. So... - This is what we should do together. - I was like, "No solo. " - No solo. - "It's called Computer Games now. " - Computer Games, we're doing it together. You know, if it takes a lifetime to make an overnight success, apparently it takes... - Takes 30 years to write three songs, apparently. - Three songs, yeah. When you poke your head out from the windows of your cave Is the light too bright for all the other cavemen That dwell inside and even try to start a little fire That will never burn because you are a liar Don't tell me of what's inside or even drop a hint That they exist and if they do I'll study all the habits Clarity would be nice for me I want to know the damage Can't you see that I can't breathe I want to know the damage I would build an igloo, I would build it just for you I'd reinforce the glue to keep the ice from melting And flooding all the huts and tents that I also built for you Second guess your ego I want to know what you know So burn it down and look around and never look for answers Regurgitate and hesitate for never taking chances Clarity would be nice for me I want to know the damage Can't you see that I can't breathe I want to know the damage I want to know the damage I want to know the damage I want to know, I want to know the damage Why does the apple fall from the tree to the ground? Is it the worm that's inside that just wants to get out? Ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh I would ride a train car I would ride just me and you Would you travel with me or hit on the conductor? And then jump train and leave again and tell me I'm an asshole Leave me all alone with conductor and his mother Who says it's such a shame that we will never get together Then I look at her and I say What the fuck's your problem? Clarity would be nice for me I want to know the damage Can't you see that I can't breathe I want to know the damage I want to know the damage, I want to know the damage I want to know the damage, I want to know the damage I want to know the damage I want to know the damage I want to know the damage, I want to know the damage I want to know the damage, I want to know the damage - The people we grew up idolizing, I turned a corner in my life where I realized that I'm just never going to be my heroes, because you're not. And that's okay. Like, I'll never be my heroes but my heroes will never be me. So there's value in that like, I'll never be as cool as those guys trying to be hip. You just have to be yourself. And then, like, that's cool, you know. Instead of trying to be cool, just make people happy and that's cool enough, so we just wanted to make music that would just make people happy. And also our mom and dad are probably really psyched that we finally put a family band together. I could tell you were dying to try But you were born tomorrow In magic spells, in modern times So very well, you are no Burier of hatchets in the ground A seed that's only rotten from beginning Superior and cast off, then washed out If you were worried about winning Trophy town has lost its bet It placed on you tomorrow The sun is set, last afternoon But you can bet you'll follow The leader who had lost his way again Found that your dust was so misleading Driver in the backseat of your head Keeps on accusing you of cheating You can run in dust behind us Traveling in vain Run up to the sun and find us Another way to rain Same old situation Change the situation Same old situation Change the situation I could tell you were dying to try But you were born tomorrow In magic spells, in modern times So very well, you are no Burier of hatchets in the ground A seed that's only rotten from beginning Superior and cast off, then washed out If you were worried about winning You can run in dust behind us Traveling in vain Run up to the sun and find us Another way to rain Same old situation Change the situation Same old situation Change the situation Until I fall back down and meet you Until I fall back down and meet you You can run in dust behind us Traveling in vain, traveling in vain Run up to the sun and find us Another way to rain Same old situation Change the situation Same old situation Change the situation Same old situation Same old situation The same old situation Same old situation Same old situation Same old situation
As high school kids, Darren Criss and his older brother Chuck spent nearly every afternoon playing music in their basement for hours upon hours. With Chuck on guitar and Darren on drums, the San Francisco natives tapped into everything from British power-pop to Bay Area punk to create their own rowdy breed of garage rock. Though theyd always planned on forming a bona-fide band together, each ended up striking out on his own path: Darren embarked on a singing/acting career thats included the creation of YouTube sensation StarKid, starring on Glee and in the next season of American Crime Story, and a string of successes on the Broadway stage. Meanwhile, Chuck joined acclaimed indie-rock act Freelance Whales, with whom he recorded and toured with as a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter for several years. But in 2016, the two finally decided it was the right time to revisit their teenage ambitions and launch a guitar-fueled alt-pop band that theyve named Computer Games.
The basement was a really hallowed place for us growing up, and spending all that time knocking around and making music together is what made us into the people we are now, says Darren, lead singer for Computer Games. So to finally follow through on that dream, and start this band together after wanting it for so longits just wildly exciting for us.
With its blazing guitar solos and boundless energy, Computer Games debut EP Lost Boys Life perfectly captures the spirit of adolescent abandon. At the same time, Computer Games show a sharp sense of songcraft born from years of refining their musical vision. One of the things about this project being a long time coming is that were taking the kind of riffs that we wouldve played back in the basement, but adding different layers to turn it into something new to put out into the world, notes Chuck.
Darren and Chuck share songwriting duties for Computer Games, drawing on their indie sensibilities to build the ideal backdrop for their often-introspective lyrics. In the making of Lost Boys Life, Computer Games went for a chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter effect by enlisting the pop expertise of New York City-based music production team THE ELEV3N. Known for their work with artists like Meghan Trainor and Jesse McCartney, the Criss brothers hoped THE ELEV3Ns production sensibility would add a more contemporary, familiar sound to their initial left-of-center tracks. The result was just that: a shiny sheen polish on scrappy garage pop. And for the mixing of Lost Boys Lifean EP that gracefully blends raw live performance with electronic elementsthe band looked to their long-time hero, producer & mixer Tony Hoffer, whos responsible for a number of albums that shaped the Criss brothers musical background: Phoenixs Alphabetical, The Thrills So Much For The City, and Becks Midnite Vultures, to name a few.
With the band name referencing a bit of low-key childhood mischief (As kids we werent allowed to play video games, but we had games on our computerso there was a loophole there, explains Chuck), Computer Games delights in what Darren refers to as nerdstalgia. As were crawling out of our 20s, a sentiment shared by the band is this eternal sense of nostalgia, which is something pretty prominent in nerd culture, he says. Its about liking whatever you like, and not needing to ever apologize for that.
That nostalgia also extends to the pop heavyweights of the mid-80s, according to Chuck. A lot of bands seem influenced by the 80s right now, but theyre usually going for that darker, Blade Runner vibe, he says. We wanted to look at parts of the era that havent really been explored as inspirationsome of the music thats just super fun. Naming Miami Sound Machine, Lionel Richie, and Huey Lewis and the News among their reference points on Lost Boys Life, Computer Games channel that outrageous fun into a deeply melodic sound that feels both fresh and timeless.
The most unabashedly joyful track on Lost Boys Life, Every Single Night fuses jangly guitar riffs and intricate rhythms with huge harmonies and some Michael Jackson-esque vocal styling. I tried to crush those consonants and vowels and make as many phonetically inspired lyrical decisions as possiblelike how with Michael Jackson, 'jam on is suddenly a really cool lyric, just because it sounds cool, says Darren. On We Like It, a flurry of handclap-backed acoustic strumming gives way to a soaring, soulful anthem thats epic in scope and subtly defiant in message. 'We Like It partly came from hearing people of my generation or older generations worrying about kids being glued to their phones, and how thats such a cyclical conceptlike how our parents were worried about us being glued to the TV, and their parents were worried about them listening to rock-and-roll, says Darren. Its about kids saying, 'This is our life and this is how we express ourselves, and we dont have to explain that to anyone.
The EPs moodiest moment, the slow-burning Lost Boys Life merges its heavy beat with an intense synth riff inspired by the darkly glamorous vampires of the 1987 horror movie. In the lyrics, meanwhile, Computer Games slip into a dreamy romanticism thats more autobiographical in nature. To me that riff sounds like so many nights walking home alone in the city, whether its San Francisco or New York or L.A., says Darren. Theres an aimless quality to it, and the songs about finding meaning with someone after living an aimless Lost Boys life for so long.
Throughout Lost Boys Life, Computer Games sculpt a kaleidoscopic sound that reflects their eclectic appetites. Listing early-90s grunge, late-90s pop, Led Zeppelin, Supergrass, and Spoon among their formative influences, the Criss brothers each started studying music as little kids. But while Chuck quit piano lessons early on, Darren kept up with violin and added guitar to his repertoire by elementary school. Chuck was a late-bloomer, which impressed me and made me jealous at the same time, says Darren. At some point in high school he got a banjo as a joke, but then got really good at it really fast. After that he started playing guitar tooand then got really good at that really fast. Once Darren got his drum kit, the two took to the basement and started working on original songs together. Through the years, they continued sharing songs with each other, sending demos back and forth via email while away at college. I always admired those early songs, and Ive still got aspirations of putting them through the Computer Games filter and seeing what we can make of them now, says Darren.
For Chuck and Darren, theres at least one major upside to the long delay in launching Computer Games: that hard-won sense of freedom that comes with pursuing their purest passions. Instead of trying to chase whats next, were trying to do right by those kids in the basement, says Darren. Weve learned to embrace our love of what makes music fun for us, and were putting that into a project thats 100 percent dedicated making people happy. Its about creating something completely unique to us, and trying to make as many smiles as humanly possible.