Perfecting The Video Game Musical Parody an Interview with Random Encounters
“Part Walt Disney and part Monty Python, Random Encounters lovingly – musically – pokes and prods at everyone’s favorite games as only a squadron of nerds could. Ludicrous, ridiculous, and undeniably crafty at the same time, Peter and AJ invite you to dig out your inner Otaku and enjoy a few incredibly Random Encounters.”
Back in 2011, a channel was formed, the brain child of AJ and Peter, that would bring to video game lovers and musical lovers alike, awesome musical numbers surrounding some of the most beloved video game, like Pokemon, Resident Enis – I mean Evil, Five Nights at Freddy’s, Undertale, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Yandere Simulator, Fallout, and SO. MUCH. MORE!
At the beginning of the month I was given the opportunity to chat with the folks over at Random Encounters on YouTube via Skype. After transcribing the interview, I bring you the final cut!
Geeks WorldWide: Would you guys like to introduce yourselves?
A.J.: I’m A.J., I write and direct for the channel, and occasionally get to be in the videos – probably more than occasionally.
Peter: I’m Peter, I am, um, largely a techs person, so I do a lot of the technical stuff behind the scenes and what not, (…) sometimes I sing, like the Hello Neighbor song.
Miss Bird: I’m Miss Bird, I’m eating food, um, I am a what… a freelance contractor that these guys hire me to do whatever they need me to do. (…) I’m known as SparrowRayne on the internet, otherwise.
*virtual handshake ensues*
GWW (Jessica Chaleff): Okay, random questions for Random Encounters…favorite color?
A.J.: Favorite color? Green.
Peter: Depends on the day, black or red.
Miss Bird: Deep. Dark. Teal. Cos I’m mysterious.
GWW: So, you guys do game musicals, what’s your favorite gaming genre?
A.J.: I tend be more of a retro gamer so, I like old school platform-y stuff.
Miss Bird: I really like Indie games. I usually try to play a game as soon as it comes out cos I’m always about the independent developers. As for making a musical, I like it when we do horror stuff, because I always like to see how super silly it will be.
Peter: And I would say my favorite genre is not exactly a genre but, some people would consider it a genre, is BioWare. (laughs from Miss Bird) I know it’s a company but they have a formula that I like a lot. Sorry! The formula is – I don’t know how to describe it…
A.J.: American Role Playing Games.
Peter: But there’s, like, this deep underdog story, this very large, looming deadly evil.
Miss Bird: Stealth.
Peter: Stealth? No (laughs) there’s no stealth at all.
GWW: If you could live or step into any game for real (cos I know you guys kinda do it with your musicals) but if you could step into any game for real, which one would you choose?
A.J.: I would be someplace between Pokemon, cos (…), I would be a trainer and that would be my job, and I’d love what I do. But I do already love what I do.
Miss Bird: Really? Do you really love what you do?
A.J.: I do! I do. [The second one] maybe one of those, like, Kirby’s Epic Yarn or Yoshi’s Woolly World, something where all the characters are made of yarn, patches or stitching, and things like that. That’s a really unique virtual world that I think would be really fun to play with, unbutton a wall you want to walk through, that would be awesome.
Peter: Um… there’s too much conflict in video games. There’s always something horrible happening, even in Kirby’s Epic Yarn there’s something like, stealing all the yarn or something.
A.J.: Well, if you’re in the Sims World, if you get in the swimming pool, someone might move the ladder.”
Peter: Nowhere is safe, so I’ll stay here.
Miss Bird: There’s this game on Miniclips.com that’s called Sushi-Go-Round, and I would totally go into that game because I’m all about the sushi. I would just eat the sushi or make sushi, I am all about going into that.
GWW: I would join you!
GWW: Now to the nitty gritty. How did Random Encounters come to be?
Miss Bird: Well, we kill a few people first…
A.J.: What happened was, I created video game parody videos when I was a kid with my friend. So Nate and I did a lot of video game parodies like Resident Evil, and Metroid, and StarFox. After college, we kind of stopped doing stuff like that, and then SEGA hosted a contest where they were looking for videos about Sonic games, show how much you love Sonic the Hedgehog, and [Nate] was like ‘We haven’t done a video game parody in a long time, you want to one on Sonic the Hedgehog, show them how much we love Sonic?’ And, I was like, sure, but in order to stand out, what if we do something no other, like, nobody else in this contest is going to try? So we settled on a musical number. That will show how much you love Sonic, if you write a really good musical number that includes everything anyone knows about him, but it will not just be showing your games, and talking about it, it will be an entertaining experience. SEGA liked it so much, not only did we win the contest, but they brought us back to perform it live at E3 next year at their after party. After they gave us that offer, they talked about how they just shared it around the office, sending it to Tokyo, we thought this could be something other video game companies want to see, and this could be something other communities on the Internet want to see. So it seemed like it was making a big enough splash with the final product that there’s endless amounts of other games that would be fun to make a musical number out of, what if we just start a YouTube channel and try a few others and see if those perform just as well. And turns out they performed even better. The rest is history.”
Peter: So, my involvement was amusing because A.J. and I went to film school together and film school was all about visual… artist… I don’t know, art films, whatever, anyways they were really stupid. When I got out to Los Angeles, A.J. was like ‘hey, we want to make this Sonic thing, and I need your help.’ And I was like, that’s not gonna look very good on my reel. I’m not sure I want to help you with that. I eventually just caved and did him a favor, I was like okay, I’ll record some of the music for you, and show up on one of your shoots. Turns out I was wrong and stupid, you know, that’s just what happens. (Laughter from Miss Bird and A.J.).
A.J.: Now we’re routinely wrong and stupid about many things.
Peter: Back then I was very not impressed with the idea of having this on my reel…and here I am six years later.
A.J.: And doing it full time!
Miss Bird: And I, unfortunately, have nothing to say about this cos I came a year later.
GWW: When you guys started, did you ever think you would have other YouTubers, AKA SparrowRayne, incorporated into any of your parodies? Cos you had Markiplier, Nate Wants to Battle, MatPat, did you ever think you would have big YouTubers in your videos?
Miss Bird: She just called me a big YouTuber!
Peter: It was not originally part of our business model, so I guess –
A.J.: We didn’t even know, um, Markiplier didn’t even exist yet.
Peter: That’s true. For the most part, A.J. and I, she’s (Miss Bird) different, but I didn’t really watch YouTube that much, [A.J.’s] begun watching more as we’ve worked with more YouTubers, but at the same time, we are not avid consumers of YouTube product.
A.J.: Yeah, we went to film school, so we started around “traditional” industry, we watched television, we watched movies, so the Internet wasn’t something we were that enthused by, but it’s been really cool, after we worked with YouTubers, finding out how many talented people there are, are not even showing their full talent, like they have so much more potential than you get a chance to see. Like Mark, he could do just about anything he wants, and you wouldn’t know that if we didn’t get the chance to have him in a musical.”
Miss Bird: And he piloted a Jet Fire Plane.
A.J.: And I believe he could. Give Mark, like 15 minutes with anything, and I believe he could do just about anything.
A.J.: It really helps the channel grow (having YouTubers) it’s just about having content that is so good, that when you actually go to get in touch with somebody, they look at it once and go, I can’t say no. And I think that’s the tricky part, figuring out what to show.
GWW: Who prefers the more comical/light-hearted musicals, and who prefers the – ?
(Miss Bird and Peter point at A.J.)
GWW: – who prefers the darker ones?
(Peter raised his hand.)
Peter: That being said we…I, I enjoy the funny ones as well, and (looks at the others), I’m not going to speak for you.
Miss Bird: It depends on what kind of funny it is. Cos I’m not the one for slapstick humor, like a lot of hitting or farting, or whatever.
(A.J. is shaking his head).
A.J.: We can never be friends. (he laughed).
Me: Sorry, I like slapstick. Farting is like, my Achilles heel.
A.J.: It’s never not funny.
GWW: You guys make such intricate, musical number, and I have to ask, did you guys get any formal musical training?
(Miss Bird raises her hand, and Peter points to her.)
Miss Bird: I do have formal training, studying years by myself, picking up tidbits from different teachers, because I was in foster care for a while so they had music programs they would shuffle us in to, so I got some training there. In High School I took A.P. Music Theory and started taking vocal lessons, so then in College I kind of loaded up on vocal performance and like patterns in music, and the history of music, and all this other stuff, and ever since then I’ve just been on the Internet, researching all the things.
Peter: The one who writes the most music has the least amount of training.
Miss Bird: That’s true. (points to A.J.)
A.J.: I did play in student bands and orchestras, and I sang in choir in High School, but it’s been over ten years since I took any music class. There was never any composition, song writing, things like that.”Miss Bird: “I started a song writing club in High School.”
A.J.: I’ve written songs my whole life, but I’ve never been trained to do it. The more I do it, the better I get – I hope! Maybe I’m not, maybe I’m getting worse.
GWW: So, you’ve had collaborations in the past, are there any future collaborations you would want? Like any YouTubers you’d want to reach out towards, or any other people?
Miss Bird: I want you guys (A.J. and Peter) to get Thomas Sanders.
GWW: Oh! Yeah!
Miss Bird: Right? He would be perfect. Yes. Try to reach out to him.
A.J.: I would work with people from the gaming sphere, cos that’s what audiences would want, and it would make sense. So one day I would like to work with Smosh [Games], we have dabbled in trying in the past, but you know, they’re a pretty big channel. I would like to work with Jack-Septic-Eye, because people just really love that guy to death. Then I think working with the Game Grumps at some point would be fun.
Peter: Those are the primary ones A.J. and I have talked about, so…I really don’t have anything to add to that.
A.J.: TV talent? (he coaxes Peter)
Peter: (smirks) Are you talking about Felicia Day?
A.J.: I am talking about Felicia Day.
Peter: Felicia has gotten a lot of singing roles but I feel like they never give her the stuff that she is best at. I’ve listened to her random karaoke, and she has really, really amazing pipes. And I really want to write something for that.
GWW: Onto HelloNeighbor, the musical that came out today [as of the interview]. Anything you wanna talk about, some behind the scenes stuff, or how it came together in your minds?
A.J.: I’m thinking about the ending. How many different, like, suggested endings we had. Because even before we settled on an ending, somebody had us in touch with the TinyBuild people, the developer’s studio, and we teased to them, ‘oh, we know something really cool that’s in the Neighbor’s basement, can’t wait to show everybody.’ Even though we had no idea what we were doing with it! (laughs). So the pressure was on. Do you guys remember some of the ideas we bounced around?
Peter and Miss Bird: Batman.
A.J.: Batman (laughter all around.) We wanted him to be Batman, have the bat cave down there.
Miss Bird: An actual dungeon.
Peter: There was the standard body bags kind of thing.
Miss Bird: We talked about having Five Nights at Freddy’s down there.
A.J.: Yeah, the actual location. This led to the idea of having some of the characters playing poker down there, like the picture of the dogs playing poker, like that would be kind of weird.
Miss Bird: You know that was an actual game right?!
A.J.: Yeah, Miss Bird told me it was an actual game, with a bunch of video game characters playing poker in a basement, and I was like, this would make sense! There are moments of good fortune, and I was like ‘I can’t believe this is a real thing! This would make so much more sense than Batman!’ We bounced around with other ideas like having a My Little Pony stash down in the basement. I think the choice we made was –
Peter: Weird? Yeah.
A.J.: Weird, that not a lot of people would get, but you know it’s something people wouldn’t talk about, it’s secret, so even if people didn’t get the reference, they could still laugh about it.
Peter: We don’t have a musical in mind yet for Heavy (the character) but at the end, we had Heavy said something because it would be funny, but we could solidify out cannon by using the actual Heavy we may use one day so we had our friend come down, do the Heavy voice, and solidified our cannon.
*Present Day Jessica here, wanna see the Hello Neighbor musical? Check it out below! And share is around!*
GWW: Out of all the FNAF animatronics…why is Bonnie the Bunny in the gambling circle?
Miss Bird: [In the game there’s a bunny character] and Bonnie is a bunny, therefore he just slipped right in there.
Peter: That’s not the only reason though. We utilize Bonnie on the channel because A.J. voice acts Bonnie.
A.J.: (In Bonnie voice) Hi I’m Bonnie Bunny, I do his voice.
Peter: And the other animatronics are voiced by other people who aren’t as accessible as A.J. So it’s really easy to just go okay let’s put Bonnie in this.
GWW: I don’t know if this is going to pit you against each other, but who do you think is the most creative on the team?
(Silence. Peter points to A.J., Miss Bird points to A.J., then A.J., with a huge grin, raises his hand.)
GWW: That was easy.
A.J.: We are all different kinds of creative. It’s not who’s the most, it’s just different creative.
Miss Bird: I mean, this is [A.J.’s] channel, so he has to be more creative.
A.J.: It’s like an assembly line creativity.
Peter: I’m sorry, did you want more drama? (turns to the others) How can you say I’m not creative? (Everyone laughs.)
GWW: Now, I think I know the answer to this, seeing all the behind the scenes and bloopers, but, who’s the most outgoing, on funniest on set? Biggest goofball?
Miss Bird: Depends on what we’re doing.
Peter: If you’re (Miss Bird) not terribly angry…
Miss Bird: A.J. is [a goofball].
Peter: Basically not me.”
Miss Bird: He’s a goofball, but not on set. We went to a convention one time, and-
(Peter nods, realizing the story about to be told.)
Miss Bird: -I don’t know what happened, but he tripped on himself somehow and he went ping-ponging around the room before he fell. It was like a good minute before he fell.
A.J.: It was like eight seconds of Peter running into things.
Miss Bird: It was a really long time.
A.J.: Long enough where I thought about getting up to help him but decided not to, thinking he’ll be fine.
GWW: So you’re an athletic goofball, it seems like.
Miss Bird: Seems you’re an athletic goofball.
Peter: No… (laughs).
GWW: Okay, so I took this from Doctor Who, so don’t say anything, but it’s the One Word Test. Describe yourself in one word.
Peter: (raises his hand) Ooh for me?…No.
A.J.: That’s pretty good actually.
Miss Bird: Am I allowed to curse?
Miss Bird: Fuck. That’s the word I’d use to describe myself. (laughs)
A.J. (groans, unable to think of a word)
Miss Bird: It’s a very descriptive word for me. I use it the most, I describe things with it, it’s a word for me.
A.J.: We’ve been using this word more often recently so I’m just going to use it. Eccentric. I think I’m eccentric.
Miss Bird: Are you the good kind of eccentric or the bad kind?
A.J.: That’s going to be up to you guys. (laughter)
GWW: Anything else you guys would like to talk about/say?
Peter: The convention?
A.J.: Oh yeah. This is unusual, we’ve never gotten so out of California for a convention until this year. This is taking us half way across the country, and it’s really exciting because we get to meet people who aren’t next to California.
(In the background, Miss Bird is excited by the entrance of one of their cats.)
Peter: Anyways, what we’re talking about is we have a convention in South Dakota called SoDak Con, and we’ve got several panels there and it’s on…some date that A.J.’s looking up right now.
A.J.: June 23rd, through the 25th.
GWW: One last question. I’m starting to get into playing games, any suggestions for me or any others who are looking to get into gaming?
(All look separate ways, thinking of what to say.)
A.J.: I think Undertale is one of the most brilliant games in recent history so, I kind of can’t recommend it enough. It’s mostly enjoyable for someone who wants fun characters because if you’re in it for just mechanics, then it’s okay.” (looks to Peter, who gives a satisfactory nod.)
GWW: Thank you guys so much for giving me this opportunity to interview you guys, it’s been a real pleasure. And sorry to interview you guys during dinner.
Miss Bird: Lunch. We’re on a weird schedule.
GWW: I hope to catch you guys at a con someday, cos that will be fabulous, and I’m looking forward to your next musical.
Miss Bird: I think TattleTail is next.
Peter: Yeah, TattleTail.
Miss Bird notices the huge grin on my face. “Oh, oh, oh!” (points to me)
*Present Day me here, the Tattle Tail musical came out today! (4/21/2017) Watch it below!*
GWW: So thank you for meeting with me, you guys, it’s been a pleasure.
A.J. turns to Peter, a silent understanding, then both turn to the camera: “Beard salute! OOOOOOOGH!”