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Sound Circuit

One-up with The Maw

3/5/2014

The Maw plays National Mario Bros. Day at House of Bricks on March 8.

The Maw plays National Mario Bros. Day at House of Bricks on March 8.

One thing that makes The Maw such an outstanding collection of musicians is that each is an intense student of music who understands inspiration and creation can (and should) come from everywhere.

“The worst thing you can do is only listen to one kind of music,” said Maw key/vox man Erik Brown. “You should be getting inspiration from jazz and classical and death metal.”

And video games.

Two years ago, Brown and his Maw band mates decided to put their love of music and their love of classic games together and make a show out of it. It’s not an entirely original idea — at least two symphonies tour with video-game soundtrack shows, and bands like The Black Mages have been rocking out to eight- and 16-bit tunes for years. But there’s such a glut of material out there that it was easy for The Maw to create a completely unique showcase.

“There are certain ‘Mario’ themes that we all know,” Brown said. “But some of those themes are more obscure. There’s just so friggin’ much to choose from.”

One thing there isn’t, however, is a preponderance of sheet music for most of the themes. And that meant putting in some overtime.

“I got all of the (sound) files for every game that was on the NES (Nintendo Entertainment Systems),” explained bassist Jeff Stone. “(I) just sat there for like three days listening to games. Then it was just a lot of work playing by ear.”

Aside from nostalgic appeal, the thing that drew The Maw to eight-bit video game themes is the hidden nuance. While having limited memory to work with, many of the songs have a dizzying level of complexity compacted into 30-second loops.

“It’s a huge amount of practice,” Brown said. “It’s a solid half a year of practice to get these songs down.”

And because the songs are so short, and most come without intros or outros, the band was forced to improvise.

“We’re playing a lot of the songs medley-style,” Green said. “And since they just loop in the games, we had to decide how many times to loop them before moving on to the next song.”

Aside from being a lot of fun to master, it’s pushed the band’s members to grow.

“It made us better players,” Brown said. “It made us better writers.” CV

Barmuda