Musical talent was just a computer keystroke away for two students.
Seniors Henry Allen and Preston Walker were inspired to start the electronic beats band Virtual Boy after taking a music technology class together their freshman year. Homework assignments became their first extended play demo “How Long Does it Take to get to Space?” released in July 2009. Now, they perform across the country at different venues and music festivals.
“I took this class because I had to. I never pictured myself where I am now,” said Allen, a guitar performance major.
Steven Nalepa, adjunct professor of music technology, taught Allen and Walker to create music on computer software. Nalepa helped them fine tune their songs and sent their work to 1320 Records. A few months later, Virtual Boy signed with the company. They have since released two short records and have completed four remixes for other bands.
“This isn’t going to their heads,” Nalepa said. “They keep working hard and having a good attitude.”
Named after Nintendo’s “Virtual Boy” gaming console created in the 1990s, Walker, a public relations major, chose the outdated video game software to represent the techno music his group makes.
Synthesizers, computer software and a Traveler Speedster guitar make up their gear. Two weeks ago, they performed in Asheville, N.C., for Moogfest, a three-day music festival. The line-up included big-name artists Devo, Massive Attack and MGMT.
They have fun performing almost every weekend, but stage fright hasn’t completely vanished.
“I might get nervous this weekend, it depends on how much I have to drink before the set,” Walker said.
Fans crowd the stage, but the men’s family members are their most loyal supporters, the duo said.
“They come out to all the shows they can and are the craziest people in the audience,” Walker said.
Sophomore Justine Suzuki enjoys listening to Virtual Boy’s music because it presents a different flair to electronic music, she said.
“I listen to a lot of electronic music, and [Virtual Boy has] just the right amount. It’s not full on techno, but it’s not too mellow,” Suzuki said. “It’s just a right drawing from classical music with a modern twist.”
Balancing school and performances has been difficult to manage. They bring homework with them on planes and work on it before sets.
“I find myself taking piles of homework on the plane,” Allen said. “It’s miserable, really, getting back on a Sunday night at 10 p.m. then going to school the next day, but it will be worth it in the end, passing and graduating.”
Allen and Walker are not only bandmates but roommates. Although they spend a lot of time together, tensions never get too high between the two musicians and friends.
“I’ve heard horror stories about bandmates not getting along, but we don’t have any of that. We laugh the entire time. We’re always fooling around, and it’s always kind of a little mini adventure whenever we’re playing a show,” Walter said.
In December, a new record “Releasing Symphonies” will be out, and they plan to release a full-length album by graduation.
“We’re going to take some time to attempt this Virtual Boy domination,” Allen said.
Visit wearevirtualboy.com for photos and tour date information.