The Band that Played the Dreamcast - an Interview with Adam Demirjian of Brave Little Abacus/Me in Capris

At the beginning of this year, I was doing some early research for an article I wanted to write for my personal blog. As part of that piece's intro, I wanted to explain how now-defunct band Brave Little Abacus were able to escape the cruel fate of obscurity thanks to file sharing and a passionate cult fanbase... I think I wanted to prove some grand point about the importance of music preservation in the modern era of music streaming. Y'know, stick it to the man, or something. Like I said, that research was early.

While searching the internet for information about the band, however, I stumbled upon the following quote attached to a YouTube video of them performing live back in 2010:
"For some reason around this time we stopped playing backing tracks off of a Dreamcast or Playstation/Small CRT and started rocking the much more regular laptop."
They performed live… with a Dreamcast?! I'd heard of game consoles being used as part of musical performances before, such as the Game Boy being used by chiptune artists, but the idea of a band lugging a television to a show and hooking a whole console up to it for the purpose of playing backing tracks was definitely something I'd not heard of before. We're no stranger to the unconventional here at the Junkyard, though - so of course I instantly wanted to know more. 

The next thing I knew, I had contacted Adam Demirijian, who was the lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist for Brave Little Abacus, and now plays in the band Me In Capris. I wasn't sure what to expect back at first, but Adam did reply and was actually really stoked to talk all things Dreamcast with me!
Before I dive into mine and Adam's chat, some background on Brave Little Abacus. For the uninitiated, they were a band from Sandown, New Hampshire, USA that existed from 2007 to 2012. Writing for Sputnik Music, staff writer Trebor described them as "hard to pin down. They were eclectic, energetic, experimental, odd, off putting, and above all else, they were remarkable." While their music was very experimental, many consider BLA to fall under the genre of 'emo.' They were also known for their abundant use of video game and pop culture samples in their songs. 

Their cult status can be attributed primarily to the online popularity of their final album, 'Just Got Back from the Discomfort - We're Alright' which was quietly released onto Bandcamp in 2010, initially to limited fanfare. This was the album that would go on to earn them the reputation as one of the most important bands of the emo revival. Spin Magazine even placed the album 27th on its 30 Best Emo Revival Albums, Ranked list... but because the band was disbanded by the time their fanbase really started to bloom, and had no real online presence, they retained an air of mystery about them for the longest time.

For this same reason, a geek like me looking for something as specific as photo or video evidence of a Dreamcast or a CRT television present at a BLA performance before 2010 had me coming back empty-handed... so I appreciate Adam for being so gracious as to fill me in on this intriguing part of the band's history, as well as taking the time to dig up some photographs taken at a show on February 21st, 2009, that feature the setup in question! Thanks, Adam! Also, thanks to James Gentile, the individual who snapped the photos a whole thirteen years ago!
"Just Got Back from the Discomfort - We're Alright" album cover
If you want to know more about BLA, I highly recommend 108 Mics' video about them, as well as Adam's interviews with podcasts i might go to the beach and The E Word. Those interviews are the real meat and potatoes when it comes to unravelling the lore surrounding Brave Little Abacus. This interview, however, is about Brave Little Abacus and their love for video games, in particular, the Sega Dreamcast. It's the interview the core fans never knew they wanted! Let's get into it...

DCJY: Hi Adam, could you tell our readers who you are, and a little bit about the bands you're known for?

Adam Demirjian: My name is Adam Demirjian and I’m a Boston-based musician. From around 2007 to 2012 I was in an experimental band called Brave Little Abacus, that following its breakup, began to garner a sort of cult following. I currently sing and play guitar in the band Me in Capris.

So you used to use the Dreamcast and/or a PlayStation plugged into a CRT television as part of Brave Little Abacus’ live shows. How did that setup work, and what was your reason for incorporating it into your live performances in the first place?

For the vast majority of Brave Little Abacus’ existence, we performed without a live drummer. Pre-recorded/produced drum tracks along with in-between song vignettes and samples would be played on CD via a Dreamcast or PlayStation and eventually off of an iPod or laptop.

From the outset of the project, we were often sampling sound effects and passages from video games in our recorded music so I think from an aesthetic sense, relying on that technology live was a good fit. I also have some recollection of us wanting to eventually perform in front of a wall of CRTs, which, like a lot of other Brave Little Abacus ideas, was certainly a bit over-the-top ambition-wise, ha.

I also remember believing that using a CD-based set-up to play our backing tracks would overall benefit our performance given the increased audio fidelity of a CD vs. MP3. I don’t think that this was necessarily the primary driving force though, it probably was more of a publicly-used excuse for dragging a CRT to shows, ha.
How does setting up a video game console for a live show compare to setting up your instruments?

It was always fun to set the band up around the TV, almost as if the screen and console setup was our actual drummer. There’s also something very special about holding a video game console’s controller on a stage (or in Brave Little Abacus’ case - primarily garages and basements) in a performance-oriented setting. It almost felt like we were starring in that movie The Wizard or something.
Did you have many fellow artists or fans commenting on your inclusion of the Dreamcast or PlayStation in your live show?

I think that a lot of our peers found it to be interesting but also absolutely nuts, ha. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that during the early years of the band we didn’t speak to the audience in-between songs and instead played pre-recorded sample-based transition pieces. So I think that the “Dreamcast Period” (as I’m just deciding to dub it, ha) was also sort of defined by the band behaving really oddly live while trying to find its identity.

With that being said, the Dreamcast (considerably more than the PlayStation ever did) was seen by show-goers as integral to what Brave Little Abacus was doing at the time. I have a distinct recollection of people applauding when the console’s startup sound would play over the [speakers]. I still absolutely adore the mystique and airiness of that startup sound.

An old friend recently uploaded a taped Brave Little Abacus set from 2009, which is when we were undoubtedly using the Dreamcast to play our backing tracks. Sadly, the recording starts after the Dreamcast's startup would've played so there isn't really any proof, haha. But! It's a neat document of how the band's sets would go in that era.

Oh I should also add, for the Brave Little Abacus fans out there, the owner of the Dreamcast that we used can be heard leaving me an absolutely hilarious voicemail in the song "Good Atmosphere" off of the band's split with Matt Aspinwall. This person was at EVERY Brave Little Abacus show ever and was certainly the single most stoked audience member about the Dreamcast. I'm still technically borrowing that very Dreamcast from that dear friend, haha.
Brave Little Abacus sampled Marvel vs. Capcom on the second track of 'Just Got Back from the Discomfort - We're Alright'. Were the samples recorded from a console? What was your inspiration for including them in the song?

That was sampled directly from a console - we used the PlayStation port. Everything BLA ever sampled was direct from hardware, not found online. Mostly because YouTube was like an absolute fraction of the plethora of stuff it is now. I think the biggest inspiration for sampling video games was just painting with a new brush. It was so rewarding to make rhythms and musical hooks out of video game sound effects and tidbits.

The MVC one was a little more like "this will just sound so cool" and the hype of the voice shouting "Let’s Go Crazy" kicking off track two - we were all just super into that. What’s funny though is that it was probably an accident. I guarantee I just left the game recording while I started it up and waited to navigate to the sound effects menu. I probably just scrubbed through the recording afterwards and was like "oh dang, I’ll use that!"
Brave Little Abacus' recording/jamming/gaming space in Adam's basement
What is your first memory of the Dreamcast?

I was eight years old when the Dreamcast was released in the US, which I think is one of those perfect ages where you can be incredibly excited by something but also have absolutely no idea what it is or how it operates, ha. With that being said, I was very hyped for the release of the Dreamcast. The onslaught of advertising for that console really looked like nothing else. I’m sure many would say that their first ever memory of the Dreamcast was seeing Sonic running from that jumping orca whale at some point, haha. That was capital "E" everywhere and was probably the case for me as well.

I have a very vague recollection of the simultaneous releases of the Dreamcast and Final Fantasy VIII for the PlayStation. At that point I had played a bit of Final Fantasy VII and was so smitten with its world and character design so I was pretty excited for the release of VIII. I remember entering an Electronics Boutique in a local mall and seeing a massive Final Fantasy VIII cardboard display and sort of just conflating it with the release of the Dreamcast, ha. I think my thought process was, "hey! this all looks awesome and is for older kids, they must be connected!" As we all know, they were not.

As for my first hands-on memory with the Dreamcast, it would absolutely be playing Crazy Taxi a couple of weeks after launch in my cousin’s basement. I still can’t hear ‘All I Want’ by The Offspring without being transported to that very time and room. It just hit!

What is your favourite game for the Dreamcast?

My favorite Dreamcast game? Oof, it’s a bit tough for me having not actually had a Dreamcast of my own until the Brave Little Abacus days. As a kid when it came out, it was definitely the first Power Stone. I remember playing that at a friend's house and just being absolutely floored. Nowadays, I have to say Street Fighter III: Third Strike. Over the course of the last five years it’s become an absolute constant for me and the Dreamcast port is perfect.
What is it you enjoy the most about the console?

My relationship with the console now is primarily with its arcade ports but also just having a reverence for its ambition and style in general. A couple of years ago I picked up the book Sega Dreamcast: Collected Works from the awesome publisher Read-Only Memory. I open it up and just stare at the Jet Set Radio, Phantasy Star Online, and Crazy Taxi designs all of the time. I find a ton of inspiration from that period in general. It's been amazing recently to see contemporary artists making music reminiscent of what I guess a lot of people now refer to as 'Y2K' culture. 2 Mello and CFCF come to mind. I think it really says something about the power of the Dreamcast that when I'm thinking of 1999 and its aesthetic identity I'm immediately brought to that little orange spiral.

You are now in the band Me in Capris. Could you tell us a little about it and what you've been up to recently?

Me in Capris is a Pop/Rock band that unlike Brave Little Abacus very much has live drums, haha. We’ve been a band for a while, primarily focused on growing our live show and are currently wrapping up the recording of a project we’ve been working on for what feels like forever. Though that is totally my main artistic focus, I have been dabbling in a variety of other musical projects that I’m really excited about!
Me in Capris


Brave Little Abacus and the Dreamcast... both unique and ambitious, but sadly unappreciated during their time. The upside is both still retain passionate cult followings to this very day. See how I tied that all together? Not bad, eh? Anyway, I really want to thank Adam for being super cool throughout the whole process of me researching and writing this article. I appreciate that a piece like this is probably a bit out of the norm! 

You can check out Adam's band Me in Capris on Bandcamp. Their debut album 'For Those Who Think You', out on Boston-based independent label Disposable America, is available on all good streaming services/digital music stores. You should check it out, it's great!

If you're a Brave Little Abacus fan, make yourself known in the comments below. Until Next time!


Tom Charnock said...

It's this type of esoteric Dreamcast-related stuff that makes the Junkyard what it is. Awesome article and interview Lewis! And thanks for being a great sport Adam :)

Janino296 said...

Beautiful stuff

Laurence Goodchild said...

Love it. A reunion set is needed so that I can experience the collective euphoria of cheering the DC start-up jingle in a sweaty little venue.

pizza hotline said...

I adore where this article went. Another well written and tasty slice of niche Dreamcast history! Stories like this are exactly why I love this blog.

Thanks Lewis.