Descendants of Erdrick
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Descendants of Erdrick

Austin, Texas, United States

Austin, Texas, United States
Band Rock Cover Band




"Descendants of Erdrick: My new favorite indie band"

This evening I took a night out with a fellow video game enthusiast and very special lady (read: my 7-year-old daughter) to see a homegrown video game tribute band: Descendants of Erdrick.

Fun fact: The band name is a cute throwback to the NES Dragon Warrior games, where the heroes are descendants of the legendary hero, Erdrick.

The highlight for my daughter, easily, was when they played the ever-pleasing Zelda music. I’ve always been a huge Final Fantasy 6 fan though, so I was moved by their rendition of Terra’s Theme – especially when my 7-year-old turned to me and correctly identified that piece of music as “the part where they’re walking in the snow in robots, right Daddy?”

Wow. What a great kid. :)

I got to meet with the band briefly after the show and they were absolutely overwhelmed by the positive response they got from the crowd. I think they’re just so new that they don’t yet realize the value their art is providing to gamers that grew up on these titles.

And for me there a bit of extra value as I kept thinking of these two points as they played …

Holy crap do I ever love video games.
I’ve never been happier to be making video games for a living.

… what a great message to be bringing with me back to the office after the March break.

By the way, some of their music is available on their myspace page but quite honestly I don’t think it does them justice. The enthusiasm and energy and love for what they do was much more pronounced on the makeshift stage tonight. I highly recommend you seek them out in a live venue.


With Austin’s status as the live music capital of the world with a large video game development community it’s a wonder a band like this hasn’t popped up before. What a great opportunity for this talented group. I hope they do well. - Seanba, Game Development Blog

"Princess in Another Castle"

When I listened to the But Thou Must EP, I pegged Descendants of Erdrick as a "traditionalist" video game cover band -- that is to say, one where the rock instruments follow the melodies from the original 8- and 16-bit compositions very closely. The artistry in these interpretations stemmed from the way the guitarists brought their own tone and style, and the way the quintet knit separate pieces from a given game into their own medleys.

As a live band, they go a little further afield, and that's nice to see. As they've filled out a setlist they've obviously grown more comfortable with what they sound like as a band, and they've given guitarist Mike Villalobos plenty of spotlights for his awe-inspiring technical playing. Their approach to the music from Street Fighter goes beyond the metal influence on the original Japanese game and puts a smashing western groove under it. With precisely stacked, harmonizing figures coming from flute and two guitars, they reconnect the dots between conservatory classical, modern pop, and film music that golden age video game composers drew so boldly.

I don't think we'll ever see a rock band dedicated to covering the music of video games past the early 90's. Descendants of Erdrick don't go past the Super NES era. Several factors combined to make the old style uniquely impactful on a generation of indoor children. The limited voices available on the primitive Nintendo synthesizer chip forced the composers to be very creative, and the small amount of memory on each game cartridge led to many kids hearing the same melodies for hundreds of hours, sometimes the same one for almost a whole day at a time. (Or more, if you were a really obsessive type and your parents were too occupied to make you take breaks.) People don't play games in the same way any longer, and titles come out in digital formats that allow CD-quality audio or better of proper studio-recorded orchestras. Much more money and time is invested in game soundtracks nowadays... and yet, with all of the full-motion video and spoken dialogue and headsets to chat with competitors online, no one listens quite the way we did back in the day. There's a particular sense memory associated with hearing the same droning yet ingratiating theme over and over again for weeks, sleep-deprived and doggedly performing repetitive simple tasks... like choosing "ATTACK SLIME" from a text menu.

It's a little early to begin mourning the death of classic video game music, however, as you might be able to tell from the sizable and diverse crowd out on a Saturday afternoon to see Descendants of Erdrick. An important step that many otherwise exemplary musicians skip is assuring that there's an audience for the music they want to make, and then making that audience aware of their existence. For a brand-new band, D of E have crowds full of people wearing their T-shirts, after a fashion -- lots of people at the Genuine Joe show elected to attend in their favorite NES-themed garb. The group needs to avoid making the same obvious jokes at every show -- the laughter was polite, but forced, since everyone in this crowd has heard and repeated these same one-liners hundreds of times. But as the middle school-aged kid talking animatedly to bassist Chris Taylor after the show made clear, you don't have to remember playing Super Mario Brothers in 1985 to know this music. The best game music has entered the pop culture lexicon in an inexorable way. The Legend of Zelda, Mario Brothers, and Final Fantasy series all have certain motifs that have been used in every new sequel since I was the age that kid is now.

All right, enough about game music. Since I seek mostly to cover original songwriting emerging out of Austin, what makes Descendants of Erdrick relevant to my blog's self-appointed mission? They might be very good musicians and a super cool show to see, but they're still a cover band. I'll tell you why I think they set a good example for people who really want to get their own songs heard. It's all about finding an audience! D of E may be playing others' compositions for a crowd that's interested in the material more so than the musicians, but they have made a choice of project that sets them apart from the hordes of weekend warriors mangling "Pride and Joy" and "Feelin' Alright" up and down 6th Street. The Descendants have picked a cover project that exhibits their musicianship with universally recognizable songs that still present a very high degree of difficulty. They've recognized a niche existing in Austin that they can fill -- despite being a cluster for gaming and tech industry, the Live Music Capital lacked a proper video game tribute band before now. And rather than copy the approach of bands that have done the same thing in other cities, they've used their talents to create a sound that's already won them a booking at the Classic Gaming Convention in Las Vegas this summer.

Hopefully at least a few of the pale folk they will wow in Vegas will ask after the bandmates' other projects, as I did. Guitarist Amanda Lepre, as I have before written, is a sharp songwriter who links the modal melodies of her video game influences to similar elements from folk, metal, and prog rock. And bassist Taylor, as I am just now learning, is a restless soul who gave me a list of no less than six other bands with which he is currently active. Also a blogger, Taylor plays in Lepre's band plus seemingly any other that will have him. Of most interest to me was the simple guitar-bass-and-vocal demos on his solo site, which show a smart musician and good lyricist heavily influenced by the Mountain Goats gradually developing an original style. Chris's rhythms and chord changes are instantly recognizable ones, but he knows this and adds wrinkles by writing words that undermine or contradict the emotions we associate from memory with the simple, bright music. Listen to "Robots Are Great," which sounds rather a mash-up between "Every Sperm Is Sacred" and Flight of the Conchords. "Five Songs," which namechecks MySpace gratuitously, might be a little too meta for its own good (and it's dated, too -- it needs a sequel about Soundcloud) but at least it evidences a songwriter who has dedicated real thought to the question of writing lyrics that will be of interest to anyone besides himself.

Going forward I think what I will appreciate most about Descendants of Erdrick is how they introduced me to the musical world of Taylor (who makes me feel like a slacker for only playing in two bands) and increased my appreciation for the writing of Amanda Lepre. I imagine that's what the band members hope for most -- although making a lot of scratch selling merch to rapturous engineers should help forward their individual passion projects as well. Other ambitious Austin musicians weighing the idea of starting a "money-spinning" band should observe their example. Will it demonstrate your strengths as a player and a performer? Will it attract fans who might conceivably be interested in your original music as well? Most importantly, does it fill a demand that's not already being met in this city of 10,001 bands? I need to do some more legwork, obviously, before I put together my Genesis tribute. - Big Western Flavor

"Show Review: Descendants of Erdrick at Emo’s – 8/17/11"

Standing in the crowd midway through Descendants of Erdrick’s set last night, I was suddenly reminded of the Buzz Rickson’s MA-1 flight jacket worn by the protagonist in William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition. A painstaking recreation of Cold War military garb crafted by Japanese otaku designers, the jacket is a near-perfect simulacrum down to the last stitch, with the few added stylistic flourishes intended to enhance or slightly exaggerate the qualities of the original piece, rather than to provide a different take on it. This kind of analogy would probably not seem complimentary to many bands, but I think the spirit of perfection in replication is what the members of DoE strive for, and to me it is commendable because it indicates a love of the music that goes beyond fame or fortune.

I first heard the Descendants when I walked by the room they were playing in at an anime convention. I stopped in my tracks, as I was immediately struck by how unexpectedly tight their playing was for a band in that kind of situation. Drawn into the show, I found myself watching two girls and three guys who seemed to be bursting with joy and energy as they poured out their musical hearts for a smallish crowd of con-goers. I’d heard video game cover bands like the Minibosses before, but the jubilant spirit of DoE’s beat-perfect recreations immediately struck a chord with me. These people were really into this music in a charmingly guileless way. The joy they took from their meticulous recreations was readily apparent on their faces, and there wasn’t a trace of cooler-than-though posing going on. It was sort of like finding an alarmingly precise Metallica cover band playing at a small casino in Vegas, except with more smiles and kinetic energy. Memorable.

Last night, about six months after the first time, I saw them again. The crowd at Emo’s was expectedly geeky and mostly male, and I noticed more than a few attendants wearing DoE shirts, a sure sign that the band has developed a following. After a short sound check, bassist and frontman Chris Taylor greeted the crowd with a few remarks from center stage. A big bearded guy in driver’s cap and a bright orange Mario shirt, Chris seems to be the anchor of the band both personally and musically. He kept the words to a minimum though, and quickly announced that their first song would be from The Legend of Zelda. As one would predict, the crowd went wild.

Immediately, I noticed that DoE have gotten better at what they do. The physical interplay between the band members seemed more attuned, and once again they were all big smiles as they segued smoothly through the Zelda medley, not missing a note. Koji Kondo is one of the greats from the golden age of video game composing, and DoE’s rock band arrangement teases out the full power of his simple, rousing melodies. The band’s idiosyncratic inclusion of Lauren Liebowitz on flute works especially well here. When they let her take up the lead melody it soars joyously above the rest of the mix, and conjures up visions of Link’s magic ocarina.

The band followed their Zelda medley with more medleys from Mega Man 3 and Ninja Gaiden 2, and this was where the Buzz Rickson’s comparison popped into my mind. I was imagining the people who had originally written this music, composers employed at Tecmo and Capcom in the early 90s. These people received no direct credit for their compositions at the time, and probably worked insane hours for mediocre wages. Somehow, under these austere conditions, incredibly catchy and emotionally resonant music emerged. A theory I’ve heard before is that the strength of many 8-bit melodies comes from the limitations of the medium: when all you have to work with is a few simple waveforms, you have to work hard and use a lot of harmonies to make something memorable. Or maybe the kind of simplicity inherent in 8-bit musical architecture is an inherent booster for creativity. In any case, it seemed somehow amazing and culturally significant to me that this music written by obscure developers for Japanese NES games 20 years ago was being played to a packed bar in Austin Texas today. Listening to Descendants of Erdrick is proof that there’s more to the appreciation of these tunes than simple childhood nostalgia or geek love. Most bands would kill to have the inspiration necessary to create these kinds of compositions; the intro theme to Mega Man 3 alone employs bittersweet, complicated harmonies that say more in a few bars than many bands can get across in an album, and its chorus rocks in such a precise-but-pure way that one must be made of stone not to be swayed upon hearing it live in the way that DoE present it. The crystalline purity of these songs channeled by such a skilled, amped-up rock band is truly something to behold.

Segueing into their Metroid medley, the band didn’t bother to explain to the crowd what they were doing. Cheering erupted when the tune became recognizable after the first few crashing chords, as Amanda Lepre and Mike Villalobos, DoE’s twin quasars of guitar rock, began bouncing the spooky spaced-out alien melodies off each other. Lepre is an absolute firebrand; she seems to have as much physical energy as the rest of the band put together, and an exuberant rock star bearing that makes her stage presence something like a female Mick Jagger. Villalobos is no slouch either, and he and Lepre seem to be having a constant contest to see who can have the most fun onstage. This is incredibly gratifying to watch if your typical live show diet consists of listless indie bands who shuffle around and spend more time worrying about their poses than they do simply flowing with the moment. Drummer John Pike deserves a solid mention too; he has a background in metal bands and it shows in his impressive chops. The band couldn’t ask for a more voracious timekeeper, and his skills are necessary for their high-speed beat-perfect renditions of retro Japanese console rock that often wanders into metal territory.

Villalobos once told me that he constructs the band’s covers by taking waveform tracks directly from an emulator and assigning each to a band member, a method of reverse-engineered composition that guarantees maximum accuracy. When the band runs into songs with more tracks than they have members, such as some Final Fantasy music, they improvise and make the closest approximation they can. The last medley they played at Emo’s was their Final Fantasy one, starting with the deliciously rock-y Mystic Quest battle theme and working their way through FF4's battle theme and finally the classic victory tune. One would be hard-pressed to point out what was missing in any of these. The Mystic Quest track in particular sounds like it was absolutely made to be played by a rock band, and I don’t know if any band ever represented it before with the degree of loving precision that Descendants of Erdrick do. Listening to them play this song feels right, like something that was meant to happen, and for me that makes them something more than just a geeky curiosity. Judging from the emotional reaction of the roaring crowd, I think it’s safe to say that they felt the same way. - Lance Duncan, Gnosisonic


Down Right Heavy
LP, 2010

But Thou Must
EP, 2010



Descendants of Erdrick is a band dedicated to re-imagining classic video game music in instrumental rock arrangements. Established in Austin, Texas in 2009, Descendants of Erdrick has since released a full-length album and played at national conventions such as Classic Gaming Expo 2k10 (Las Vegas, NV), E3 2011 at the Videogame History Museum (Los Angeles, CA), the 2011 Bit-Gen Gamer Festival (Baltimore, MD), and has been officially invited to perform at MAGFest 10 (National Harbor, MD) in 2012.

This band is fronted by guitarist Amanda Lepre and bassist Chris Taylor, and includes virtuosic guitar work by Mike “Lobos” Villalobos, commanding drumming by John Pike, and ethereal flute melodies by Lauren Liebowitz. Their first full-length album, Down Right Heavy, was released in July 2010 to positive reviews and has been featured on popular gaming-themed podcasts, radio and television shows, and has been further released on iTunes and other digital distributors. In addition to these traditional media, Descendants of Erdrick has recently been featured in a new video game, Battle Legend Infinity, created by GameSalad.

As with all other aspects of this band, the name "Descendants of Erdrick" is video game inspired, originally appearing in the Nintendo adventure game, Dragon Warrior (Dragon Quest in Japan). Avid fans of the Descendants of Erdrick are likely to note other references to classic videogames in their promotional art. Many of the visuals for this band include a mish-mash of references to games like Punch-Out!!, Metroid, and Street Fighter II (all of which contain music covered by Descendants of Erdrick).

Descendants of Erdrick is devoted to providing a thoroughly enjoyable rock show for both enthusiastic gamers and for music listeners whose gaming experience is more limited. The band’s repertoire spans many different styles of music and covers games ranging from “classics,” such as The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros., to more “epic” arrangements such as Chrono Trigger and the baroque-inspired styling of Castlevania. Descendants of Erdrick even boasts entirely unique covers, such as the cult classic “Dave’s Theme” from the game Maniac Mansion, a rendition that has impressed even the game’s original composer.

The ultimate purpose of Descendants of Erdrick is to captivate audiences of all levels through energetic and engaging performances with a style of music often heard but rarely performed.