Exclusive Interview: Justin Pierre & Andrew Reiner Of The Rapture Twins
With a name like The Rapture Twins, a first single titled “Would You Kindly” [which you can listen to here], and one of two members having a day job at a video game magazine, you might think the rock duo of former Motion City Soundtrack singer, guitarist Justin Pierre and Game Informer Executive Editor Andrew Reiner are just a couple of musically-inclined gamers celebrating their favorite hobby. And you’d be right…but you’d also be wrong. Because as I learned after talking to them about this new group, while their first song was inspired by the BioShock games, it’s not really about BioShock, just as the rest of their songs won’t be about the games, movies, comics, and other bits of pop culture that inspire them.
So, how did you guys first meet?
Justin: In 2011, Phil Kollar [who was then an Associate Editor at Game Informer] somehow ended up at a birthday party my wife threw for me at a restaurant in Uptown Minneapolis. We ended up talking for a bit and he invited me to be on his show [“The Reiner And Phil Show”]. That’s where I first met Reiner. I watched them play Rage and we talked for a bit. Andrew and I kept in touch via email and Twitter, and tried to get together over the years for various projects, but the timing never worked out. Then, last fall, some kid tweeted us and suggested we do something together, and I think both of us were like, “Oh, yeah, that’s right. We were going to do something.” So we did.
At what point did you decide to form a band, and was the idea always that you’d play songs about video games and stuff, or did that come later?
Reiner: The entire concept of the music and band came together during a car ride. I pitched Justin on the idea of a song with the hook “would you kindly” and he immediately came up with a melody for it. From there we joked about the idea of songs being based on video games, movies, or comic books, and soon realized there was something legitimately interesting there. The songs aren’t directly about any particular game or movie, but do have a small connection, whether it’s the atmosphere, vibe, or a small little touch that may make someone familiar with them say “Hey, is this about Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare?”
Justin: Even though this first song is a bit on the nose with the title, it was just too good to pass up. It will make no difference to people unfamiliar with the game, but if you are, those three little words immediately paint a fully realized world in your mind. I’ve always tried to write lyrics that can be looked at from several drastically different angles at once. The idea of taking a world that already exists and using aspects of it to tell a story with many different possible interpretations has proven to be a really fun puzzle to sort out.
Reiner, did you have any hesitation about doing songs about games and pop culture in general, given that your day job is Executive Editor of Game Informer?
Reiner: For a few seconds, yes. I always liked having my music career separate from my day job at Game Informer. I get enough of video games as is, and I never wanted them to bleed into my other interests. In the initial discussion I had with Justin, we established a framework for the songs that made me realize this would be no different than a typical band. The light connection they have to entertainment is not enough to interfere or create conflict in my life or career. My hope is people see a song called “Would You Kindly?” from a game guy, say, “Hey, wait a second…,” but then realize it’s about something far deeper when they listen to it. On the one hand, I want the songs to be ambiguous, walking a fine line between topical and nerdy and introspective and therapeutic. Justin nailed all of those things in this first song. We’re trying something different, and I think it’s cool.
How about you, Justin, did you ever have any hesitation about this, given Reiner’s day job?
Justin: Nope. I thought it would be an asset having someone who is a 100% video game nerd on board. I am only a 63% video game nerd who desperately wishes he were performing at the 100% full on nerd level. My memory is not so great, so I deal mostly in broad strokes. But Reiner, due to the nature of his work, is able to get microscopic on most shit.
One thing that’s interesting about what you’re doing with The Rapture Twins is that you’re not playing chiptunes [music made with video game machines], you’re playing rock music. But will you be employing elements of the chiptune genre into your music?
Reiner: Not at all. Again, we want the connection to be light, almost a mirage of sorts that piques people’s interests. Rock songs never have a meaning until you listen to them. If we can interest someone just by the song name or by them knowing we love games, movies, and comic books, that’s awesome. There’s a bond created there that you don’t usually see. The agreement we have is to never have any melodies from the entertainment we are inspired by, names of characters, stuff like that. It needs to just be inspiration in the lightest possible way. Almost like we are voyeurs in the worlds.
So then what kind of rock music are you guys going to be playing?
Reiner: I’m surprised how much on the same page we are. The names Shellac, Fugazi, Nirvana, and The Smashing Pumpkins are thrown around a lot in the studio when discussing guitar tones and stuff like that.
Justin: Yeah, I think we are both on the same page, only he’s on one half of the page and I’m on the other. But if you looked at a Venn diagram of our favorite bands there is quite an overlap.
How do you decide what you’ll write a song about?
Reiner: For me, the subject matter needs to open a door into a reality we can exist in and be a place where we can comfortably tell a story about ourselves, or our experiences. I don’t think we’ll ever sing about something like Pac-Man or Mega Man. The worlds need to feel alive. One idea we are throwing around is The Walking Dead being a rich emotional playground for a topic.
Justin: Right before we went to the studio to record “Would You Kindly?”, Reiner played a guitar part for me he’d been working on right and immediately I just pictured Clem from the Telltale Walking Dead game. So I think it can go both ways. Either you start with a comic, game, or film world first, or you start with the music first and then find the perfect counterpart to that.
How often has one of you started to write a song only to have the other one say, “Dude, I am not doing a song about that game, I hated that game”?
Reiner: The conversation goes more like “Hey Justin, have you played this game?” And he says “No.” He needs to play more games.
Justin: Like I said, 63% nerd. I have a lot to catch up on. But it has so far come down to what I am actually familiar with.
Where did the name, The Rapture Twins, come from? Because given that you write songs about games, and your first song is called “Would You Kindly,” people are going to assume it’s a BioShock reference.
Reiner: We didn’t realize this at first, but then said “Fuck it.” We love the name, let’s roll with it. We talked about maybe leading the charge with a different song so it didn’t seem like we were The BioShock Band, but again, I like people seeing a connection of sorts, especially on day one. That connection will diminish with time, but yeah, it’s there on day one.
Justin: It is increasingly hard to come up with a name that both doesn’t suck — or doesn’t suck completely — and isn’t already taken. I was very surprised that nobody had thought of this yet. I thought it made sense seeing as there were two of us.
So Justin, you were, until recently, the singer and guitarist for Motion City Soundtrack. Did you ever try to get Reiner to call the band Video Game Soundtrack?
Justin: No. Mainly because when you abbreviate it it becomes VGS, and I was nervous that most people would immediately think that stood for Bend Oregon’s Vince Genna Stadium.
You’ve said your plan is to release a new song every three months. How many songs do you have written right now, how many of them have you finished recording, and what can you tell us about them?
Reiner: That’s the rough talking point we have, every three months or so. We’re just doing this for fun, so I don’t know what will happen. Right now we have this one song locked and loaded, and a bunch of other ideas simmering and being written individually. I don’t know what happens from here. I’m excited to do more, but this very much is a side thing for both of us.
Justin: Yeah, right now this is just a thing we are doing between all the other things we are doing. Though if the people demand it, of course we will fill the quota.
Is the plan that you’ll eventually collect these songs into an album?
Reiner: If we can deliver on a second song in a similar way, I think we’re on to something. We’ll see how far we go. Right now, it’s single single single.
Justin: I don’t really see the point of putting out a full-length record of singles you’ve already released unless you are doing it on vinyl for the first time or you have extra unreleased songs you can include. But I also still wear clothes that my mom buys me for Christmas, so what do I know.
Do you have any plans to tour or play live?
Reiner: One of the first things I told Justin was, “I hate touring and playing out.” As fathers, I think we’re both in the same boat of “OMG! We have no time! Tours are tiring!”
Justin: I could see us doing one off events, especially in Minneapolis or the Midwest, but for now, I’m not interested in touring. At least not in the way I was doing it in MCS. However, if you are in Japan and reading this, I will do anything to get back there.
If you do ever play live, are you thinking that you’ll cover such songs as “Pac-Man Fever” or that song from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater?
Reiner: I would rather watch Pixels endlessly on loop than ever do that.
Justin: The only song I’d cover is “I Won’t Last A Day Without You” by The Carpenters.
Finally, I joked earlier about calling the band Video Game Soundtrack. But if someone asked you to either write a song about a game for its soundtrack, or to use one of your songs on the soundtrack for the game that inspired it, would you do it?
Reiner: I don’t think I will ever do that. I prefer being a fan and observer of games and movies than having any direct connection to them. However, if BioWare comes knocking and wants a “Mass Effect Rap,” I think Justin and I have a duty to deliver that, because, holy hell, the world needs terrible things like that.
Justin: I’m currently unemployed, so I’ll basically attempt anything at this point.