Chris Baglivo of The Superweaks talks Teenage Blob, current events, and more
Philadelphia indie rock collective The Superweaks recently announced their latest project: a video game that’s also an album, or vice versa. The band, led by Evan Bernard and Chris Baglivo, teamed up with video game developers Team Lazerbeam for Teenage Blob, a hybrid of the musical and gaming art forms.
Teenage Blob covers one night in the life of you, “an amorphous teen and you’re just about to see your favorite band, tonight is going to be the greatest night of your life! There’s just one problem: before the gig you want to buy some new boots, and before you can do that you’re gonna need to work your butt off!” It features six new songs by The Superweaks and six mini-games by Team Lazerbeam, combined into a fresh new twist on the DIY split album tradition.
XPN got to speak with Baglivo about the project, how he’s handling quarantine, and what comes next from The Superweaks in a post-quarantine world.
The Key: In your own words, how would you describe the project?
CB: It is, in the tradition of many punk records that have come before, a split between a band of musicians and a band of video game developers, where it’s this kind of cohesive experience where the game itself is based upon the feeling and the energy of the music, with a cohesive storyline around it. But it’s got distinct separate levels based around each song that’s reactive and composed to the music, just as the music is composed itself. And they’re all homages to classic games and creating a very wholesome and fun experience as only Team Lazerbeam can give you.
TK: How did the initial idea for this project come about?
CB: So it was actually an idea that was being kicked around by our friend Mike Bell with his prior band. His band was called Mike Bell & the Movies, and after our bassist Corey unfortunately passed a few years ago, Mike Bell was kind enough to step in and start performing with us, and he took that idea along with him once he started performing with us. And so he was already in talks with a longtime friend of ours, Ben Rausch from Team Lazerbeam, and they’re a Cape Town, South Africa-based video game development team. He just wanted to do one song, initially, for his project, and after extensive talks with Team Lazerbeam, it developed into doing a full record.
TK: You have the idea, you have the people behind it. What was the physical process of creating this? How much direction did you have with the video game end of it, what was the songwriting process behind it?
CB: Well, Evan [Bernard] and I actually run our own studio that, unfortunately, we had to close recently, but we’re hoping to open it back up after the pandemic and the quarantine kind of dies down. So we recorded our own music three years ago with this idea in the back of our minds that there was going to be a video game, and then, once that was done being recorded, we sent it over to Team Lazerbeam, and kind of just had various brainstorming things where — like, I referenced this game Rayman Legends, where they have levels that are based around well-known songs, some in the public domain and some more recent pop songs, and I said something along those lines.
And then Team Lazerbeam very much applied their own aesthetic to these things, where a lot of the art is, or I think almost all of the art is hand-drawn and then digitized. Ben himself is a visual artist, so he’s drawn comic books and things like that. And there’s a bit of give and take with our input, but for the most part we really valued Team Lazerbeam’s capacity to create really unique games that are in some ways satirical or parodies of known genres, but then also really bring forward light and friendly social commentary.
They have a lot of great games, like one of my favorites that I always reference is a game called Wrestling with Emotions. It’s a dating simulator, but instead of finding some other partner to go on a date with, it’s finding your ideal wrestling opponent, and so you do a speed dating round, answering questions with another wrestler, and eventually you get paired up. So they have that kind of wholesome twist on concepts to kind of show the inherent absurdity of it.
TK: How have you been coping with coronavirus, quarantine, and other current events of the spring and summer?
CB: With things coming to a head, especially in light of the murder of George Floyd and the murder of Breonna Taylor, we’ve been out protesting with everybody and making sure that we amplify black voices, and we’re putting our bodies in between police officers and black protesters, and just doing our best to support the movement right now, because enough is enough. This is the foundation of our country, unarguably, and we need to do what we can to dismantle it and build a better country that is in line with the ideals that so many people claim to have for America.
But on a lighter note, to go further back, because we had to close down everything, Evan and I have an extremely limited income, so we actually made a deal with our landlord where we remodeled the bathroom in our house, and we did a lot of construction work on the home, just to repair and make it a better place to live, and got a free rent exchange through that. Additionally, what I try to do is, I go out usually 7:30am or 8am every morning to the skate park to have some sort of physical activity without being exposed to other people who could potentially be carriers. Or I may have been exposed and don’t know it, and could be spreading to other people. Always wear a mask. But yeah: civil disobedience, general productivity, and physical activity. That’s the happy and healthy regiment of the revolution.
TK: And finally, once the music industry starts to regain its normalcy, what’s next for the Superweaks?
CB: We’ve actually been recording another album during the quarantine that we’ve written, and we’re planning on recording before everything returns to normal. We already have ten songs written for it, and we’re lucky to be quarantining — Evan and I live in the same house, and our two other friends who live here with us, one’s Jarret Nathan from the band PEARS — he’s an incredible drummer — and one of Evan’s childhood friends, Oliver Bunyaner, and so they’ve been writing and working on music with us. We anticipate touring with our original lineup eventually, but we’ll just have to see what the world looks like after the pandemic is over.
It’s vital to stay creative during this, because it’s so easy to stagnate when the world is mostly at a standstill, and that is super detrimental for that creative flow. And we’re lucky enough to have two super supportive, very creative friends who are working with us, and it makes it a little bit easier to pass the time and still feel good about the potential for how things can play out. So, yeah, our plan is to hopefully, in the future, get out there and play shows again, even if for a while it’s going to be 25 people maximum, standing at least six to eight feet apart. That human connection is vital, especially for rebuilding after a global trauma. We have to not lose contact and lose sight of one another. That’s what’s going to make the difference actually healing from all the various wounds that have been so deep during this time.
Teenage Blob will be released later this year. In the meantime, watch the trailer below.