The OneUps
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The OneUps

Fayetteville, Arkansas, United States | SELF

Fayetteville, Arkansas, United States | SELF
Band R&B


This band hasn't logged any future gigs

This band hasn't logged any past gigs



"What if George Clinton banged a Famicom?"

In recent years, the recreation of gaming music has become a full-fledged genre in its own right. From its roots in the ongoing quest for ever-greater nostalgic payloads embarked upon by stoned alt-rock and metal groups too lazy to create original tracks, to the current landscape populated by everything from circuit-bent, neo-techno, rave music to Nobuo Uematsu's gloriously soaring symphonic scores the scene is becoming more and more played out. In a year or two people will scoff at Gaming Music as the Screamo of the mid-to-late Aughts -- or, they would, if that position wasn't already firmly occupied by Screamo and its legions of middle-class, lip-pierced, melancholy preteens.

Thankfully, in a musical landscape unfortunately headed for over-saturation and redundancy there are still groups like The OneUps who provide the sort of fresh style and musical ability to elevate them above and beyond the current crop of bands pushing their oh-so-original take on the Super Mario Bros. Underground Theme through their cluttered, faux-ironic MySpace page much to the glee of Rupert Murdoch, Tommy Mottola and anyone who still reads Rolling Stone magazine.

Hit the jump for a gleeful look at a band deserving of the sort of success that makes heroin benders newsworthy events.

Any teenager looking to impress girls who long ago realized that skateboarding only leads to unfortunately intimate friendships with Bam Margera and Shaun White can pick up a guitar and in a week churn out a by-the-numbers rendition of Bloody Tears, but the sort of music put together by The OneUps goes well beyond simple rock riffs and all-too-common, malformed, Stooges-inspired showmanship. The group consists of the bandleader Mustin (Bass, Keyboard), Anthony Lofton (Saxophone, Keyboard), Greg Kennedy (Violin, Percussion), Jared Dunn (Drums, Percussion), William Reyes (Nylon and Acoustic Guitar), Tim Yarbrough (Electric Guitar) and Dale North (Keyboard, Percussion). If this lineup seems like the kind of thing you'd see in a bluegrass band or on a Dave Matthews Band video in your local fraternity, you're not alone. I've always had an affinity for the addition of the more high-brow strings and wind instruments into traditionally low-brow music, and at least here, the influx of class elevates the entire thing to a level a bit to the left of our beloved Video Games Live -- instead of aiming for symphonic, The OneUps land somewhere between rock, jazz and neo-funk (without the annoying, dreadlock-laden, caucazoid stoners of the latter).

The set they played at PAX was laced with the sort of fan favorites automatically guaranteed to draw screams from a crowd consisting of fanboys and girls hovering around the two decade mark of their lives. Anyone walking on stage and plinking through the first few notes of tunes from Chrono Trigger or Street Fighter II would have elicited shrieks of glee from these kids, but where The OneUps really stood out was in the tiny bits of improvizational flair they added to the tried and true tracks burned into our subconscious. Whether it was a triumphant saxophone melody attached to a particularly poignant section of a nostalgic track or a powerful drum explosion where before there was merely a simple 8-bit cadence the additional bits added the sort of excess decadence usually reserved for French pastries, the sides of French cathedrals or the boudoir of a particularly slutty French ingénue.

In short, the concert was fantastic. The other acts -- MC Frontalot, Freezepop, Optimus Rhyme and the Neskimoes -- all have their rabid fans and adoring legions, and The OneUps easily proved themselves as deserving of the same adoration, if not a space in every gamer's iPod.

Then again, what do I know? Let's see what the Internet thought of their performance:

"After listening to some of their music, I have decided that I FAIL. What the Minibosses do for game music with rock, the OneUps do with jazz, and it's spectacular." -- Wil Wheaton, Geek Extraordinaire

"... The OneUps put on a rock-solid show that ignited the crowd on numerous occasions. They showcased music from a treasure trove of age old games using a full seven piece band and unvieled a two piece keyboard duet called “Final Fanboy.” Plowing through a strong hour-and-a-half long set, The OneUps won the favor of the Main Theater's near-capacity crowd." -- ArsTechnica, Website

"They are, quite simply, the tightest video-game-music cover band you will ever hear." -- Gamervision, Also Website -

"Making music out of 'Super Mario Bros.'"

On the first night of this year’s Penny Arcade
Show in Seattle, scores of gamers gathered to
hear the OneUps. Not many in the audience
had ever heard of the seven-piece video-game
cover band from Fayetteville, Ark.

They’d definitely heard the metal-esque
stylings of the NESkimos and the hip-hop MC
Frontalot rapping about Goth girls. But who
were these dudes with the violins and stuff?

Then the OneUps busted into a super-tight
Latin-flavored “Super Mario Bros.,” just like
you remember it from 1985. And the crowd of
5,000 went totally nuts.

It was a particularly sweet moment for
OneUps founder Mustin, who also plays bass
and keyboards. He had been working a long
time to get the band — and video game music
— the respect he thought it deserved. But until
that night, their gigs hadn’t really drawn much
of a crowd.

“It’s been so hard just trying to make this
thing work,” he says. “And to have all those
awesome people in the audience at PAX let me
know that it’s finally working…it’s just nice.”

All of the guys in the OneUps are serious
musicians. Mustin — just Mustin, kind of like
just Bono — plays pretty much every
instrument under the sun. Drummer Jared
Dunn is also a singer-songwriter. Guitarist
William Reyes has a master’s degree in music.

Reyes says he often gets barely concealed
disapproval when he tells people he’s in a
video-game cover band.

“People smile and say ‘that’s cool,’ but in their
mind they’re saying ‘that’s kind of weird,’” he
says. “But I like (game music) because it’s
nostalgic. And it’s legit — some of it.”

So legit that some audiences have no idea that
what their hearing is video-game music,
Mustin says. He recalls a fundraising gala
where the OneUps played for millionaire
donors. After the steak dinner and plenty of
wine, one of the attendees came up to tell him
how much she appreciated seeing young
people playing such “sophisticated music.”

“Only one person, a kid who was working the
event said, ‘Hey, did you guys just play
Zelda?’” Mustin says.

Mustin, like the other guys in the band, had
played a lot of video games as a kid — old-
school stuff like “Mega Man 3,” “Super Mario
Bros. 2,” and “Final Fantasy IV.” And he
realized, as a young musician, how much of
the music he made was influenced by video

So in 2000, barely out of high school, Mustin
and his buddy Dale North (who plays
keyboards in the band) started OneUp Studios,
named for the life-extending power-ups in
video games. Their goal? To put together
game-themed albums that would show the
world just how cool video game music could

Their first album, a tribute to legendary game
composer Yasunori Mitsuda, featured a ragtag
group of musicians covering music from
“Chrono Trigger,” “Chrono Cross” and
“Xenogears.” The guys liked playing together
so much that they formed a band — the

In five years, the band has played plenty of
bars, birthday parties and galas. They put out
one album, in 2003, called “The OneUps
Volume 1.” They have plenty of fans: Mustin
says that their annual OneUp Studios
Barbeque in Fayetteville draws people from

California, New York — and even the
Netherlands. But they weren’t getting the big
gigs, the big conventions. So in May 2006,
Mustin disbanded the OneUps.

“It wasn’t like we hated each other or
anything,” he says. “I’m just this crazy
entrepreneur with messy hair and I don’t
know what I’m doing. I’m just trying to figure
out what to do to make (the band) work.”

In February, Mustin got a call from Robert
Khoo, director of business development with
Penny Arcade. He had heard that the band
wasn’t playing together anymore, but would
they maybe want to play PAX in August?

“I was running around the room screaming,”
says Mustin. The band was back.

After their 23-song set at the show, the line
in front of the band’s booth stretched almost
all the way back to Arkansas. They sold
hundreds of CDs. Fans came up and told them
how awesome their music was, how different
it was from the usual rock stuff.

Elizabeth Walker, 21, made the trip to PAX
from Central Washington University in
Ellensburg. She had never heard of the band
before that night, but she definitely considers

herself a fan now.

“I’m a dork and I like video-game music,” she
says. “They picked songs from old-school
Nintendo and Super Nintendo games…and it
was pretty exciting to hear the way that they’d
performed these little electronic songs with
real instruments. It was amazing, actually.”

As a result of the performance, the OneUps
have been invited to play other conventions,
such as Ikkicon, in Austin and AniMix 2008 in
Temple, Texas. They got an invitation to play a
guy’s birthday party in Chicago, and a girl’s bat
mitzvah. But it isn’t easy to ferry seven guys to

“We’ve lost so much money playing gigs that
we traveled to ourselves,” he says. “We’ll play
anywhere for free as long as you get us there,
and allow us to sell our CD.”

The band hopes to be invited back to play at
PAX, and Mustin says they’d like to make a
two-disc album and release it at the
convention. And Mustin wants to record the
entire soundtrack to “Super Mario Kart.”

More than anything, though, the band is
excited that people are finally catching on to
the fact that video game music can be really
magnificent stuff.

“You could be playing ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’
and if it has a funky groove, people are going
to like it,” says guitarist Reyes. “We’ve helped
people realize that video-game music can be
just as cool as whatever music you normally
listen to.” -


2005 | Volume 1
2008 | Volume 2
2010 | Super Mario Kart
2010 | Intergalactic Redux



The OneUps are a musical collective hailing from Fayetteville, Arkansas, widely praised for their intricate, and eclectic approach to the art of game music. Stylistically diverse, yet meticulously skilled, the group has evolved over the past decade into one of the most dominant acts in the video game music scene.

With well over 10,000 CDs sold and having performed nationwide -- including a very memorable performance at Penny Arcade Expo in 2008 -- The OneUps have garnered critical acclaim from popular gaming publications such as GameInformer and EGM. The band has also been featured, and interviewed by numerous online publications such as Destructoid, and MSNBC.

While the band has changed its line-up over the years since its inception in 2000, each iteration has allowed them to explore a variety of genre from Funk to Jazz Fusion, and more recently, vocal Hip-Hop. Their latest effort, the Super Mario Kart Album, is currently available for purchase through Bandcamp, AmazonMP3, and iTunes.