When Spencer Seim was a kid, he spent hours each day riveted in front of the family television, tirelessly playing video games on his Nintendo Entertainment System. Beyond the games’ sense of fantasy, action, and adventure, Spencer became obsessed with the complex and quirky electronic tunes soundtracking each game. “I would tape the songs off the TV and listen to them just as I would music by any of my other favorite bands,” he remembers. “I always thought it would be so exciting to hear these songs played by a real band.” Today Seim is doing just that, trading in his joystick for drumsticks as drummer for The Advantage, the world’s only known Nintendo game theme-song cover band.
Taken from games like Double Dragon II and Castlevania, the sixteen tracks on The Advantage’s sophomore release, Elf-Titled, sound like you walked into a party where Frank Zappa, Yes, and Oingo Boingo were all performing.
Keep in mind that Nintendo songs were originally composed on computers and were never intended for performance by live musicians on regular instruments. Spencer says he and his bandmates enjoy the challenge. “Most of the time I try to play what the drums are doing on the game,” he says. “But there were definitely limitations in drum programming at that time. For example, whenever the snare or bass drum hits, there’s no hi-hat, so it’s really choppy. I attempt to fill in those gaps, since I’ve played enough of these games to have a feel for what somebody might have originally programmed.”
Seim figures that game music has shaped his entire approach to playing. “Once I started playing drums,” he says, “years of hearing these songs meant that writing and playing odd-time signatures didn’t seem any weirder than standard drumbeats to me.”