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8BitLA: Using the tech from old video game themes to make modern music




8-Bit music is the sound of old school video games, and it’s a genre for musicians who like its simplicity and the era it evokes.
8-Bit music is the sound of old school video games, and it’s a genre for musicians who like its simplicity and the era it evokes.
Mike Shirley-Donnelley

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The hottest video game item of the holiday season was without a doubt the Nintendo NES Classic Edition.  And the reason was simple – nostalgia. The 8-Bit sounds from old school video games are now nostalgia, and for the past six years these type of tunes have been celebrated at Freq.Fest at the Smell in downtown Los Angeles, which returns this week.

Jesse Avila is co-organizer of 8BitLA, and lead vocalist for the band Paladin Shield, one of the bands performing the fest, says “What you are listening to are simple and basic oscillators that create pulse waves, which are very rudimentary sound waves. Think of the oscillators in an alarm clock. They essentially use the same technology. We take this thing that sounds alien and awkward and try to make something beautiful out of it.”

Some of the best classic video game soundtracks tell stories without words:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEf8gPFFZ58

"The soundtrack fit the backstory so well of the game. Mega Man has to kill these other bad robots, but what many people don’t know is that most of these robots are his brothers… And so he is really out to kill his brothers who were corrupted by Dr.Wily. If you listen to the soundtrack of Mega Man it’s heroic and adventurous, but there are hints of sadness."

And sometimes the music can really become a character of its own:

"Popular protagonists in old school video games like Mario or Link are not your typical buff-guy machismo heroes. They are these underdog type heroes… The awkwardness of the 8-Bit fits so well with characters that typically wouldn't be considered the savior of the day."

Freq.Fest runs Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the Smell in downtown Los Angeles. To learn more about 8BitLA and Freq.Fest visit the groups’ websites. And don’t forget to listen to the story above so you can hear some 8-Bit music for yourself.