The OneUps will be performing at the GameX Expo in October. We got a chance to find out about this funky videogame music cover band.
Today, classic videogame music played by real bands and orchestras could be considered a phenomenon. From the worldwide performances of Video Games Live and Nobuo Uematsu’s Distant Worlds to the smaller bands such as The Minibosses and Metroid Metal Live, something about videogame music resonates with gamers and non-gamers alike all around the world. One of the most unique videogame cover bands out there is The OneUps, a five-piece group that specializes in, but doesn’t limit themselves to, Fusion/Funk/Jazz; a nice change of pace from the rock and metal-based videogame bands populating the genre’s landscape (not that they don’t rule too).
So why do people love videogame music so much? According to Mustin, bassist and manager of The OneUps: “Just as the opening music from Star Wars can give you a rush of emotion and nostalgia, so too can a final boss battle theme from Castlevania,” and its all about “rediscovering that aspect of youth … when there weren’t mortgage or auto insurance payments to be made.” But, it’s not just all about memories and revisiting good times, Mustin also believes that to “music nerds, so many of the compositions are just brilliant – much more complex than the layperson would ever give credit.”
Based out of Fayetteville, AR, The OneUps have played for thousands of people across the U.S since forming in 2000. The OneUps first got together when William Reyes, current rhythm guitar player, and original saxophone player Nathan McLeod approached Mustin about playing Super Mario Kart music in a band. Mustin was interested in putting together a diverse videogame music band that played in a style other than rock. William and Mustin are the only original members of The OneUps, with Anthony Lofton currently on sax and keyboards, Tim Yarbrough on lead guitar, and Jared Dunn on drums (and occasionally synth keyboard).
The very first time The OneUps had an official practice, the group played a staple of videogame music: the Super Mario Bros overworld theme. This was followed by “Koopa Beach” from Super Mario Kart; played in basically the same arrangement as can be heard on The OneUps’ album entitiled “Volume 1.” After next sightreading the “Monkey Song” from Mario Paint, Mustin knew that the group was on to something great. They were taking the beeps and boops from a videogame, but transforming them into music than anyone could identify with.
And, people have identified with The OneUps all across the country. Two of the band’s most memorable performances were from the Penny Arcade Expo, where Mustin says it was the closest The OneUps have come to becoming “true rockstars.” When asked about these performances, Mustin had to say: “There’s nothing like playing for thousands of people who enjoy what you do as much as you do. It’s a dream so many have and so few live.” But, its not all about big performances to The OneUps; the group finds the smaller shows enjoyable too, where they can “[hang] out with con staff and [stay] up late causing trouble.” Plus, The OneUps have resonated with more than just their fans. Popular videogame composer and television host Tommy Tallarico was a fan of the group’s Earthworm Jim cover and as a result asked them to do one for his Earthworm Jim Anthology album. Rare composer David Wise has expressed his enjoyment of the band’s “Aquatic Ambiance” cover from Donkey Kong Country. For a videogame cover band there isn’t much cooler than to be praised by both fans and the original composers themselves.
Your next chance to experience The OneUps live will be when the band performs at the GameX Games and Media Expo in the greater Philadelphia area next month, taking place from October 23-25. Expect music from fan favorites Super Mario World, Mega Man 2, Sonic the Hedgehog, The Legend of Zelda, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, and Metroid. The OneUps will also play a tune from their upcoming “Super Mario Kart Album.” If you’re wandering around the convention and you happen to hear a bossa nova version of the The Legend of Zelda theme, followed by yells of “get to the chopper,” you might want to turn your head; it’s probably The OneUps having a great time.