Comparable to the likes of Brooklyn-based band Anamanaguchi, Conquer Monster’s 8-bit dance sound will satiate the music taste of anyone who owned a now-vintage gaming console in their childhood. The two-man group comprising Daniel Romero and Joshua Faulkner, was brought together by a mutual love of all things computer. “I saw Josh playing in 2011, and I was really interested in his gear, so we started talking about gear together, and I kind of just geeked out when we started talking about analog synths and computers,” says Romero. Faulkner messaged Romero about six months later, who started practicing with Faulkner’s band, Loiter Cognition. “They had a third member, and I was just there to accompany because they were writing more parts than they could play,” says Romero. “Josh and I started writing our own stuff starting in January 2013, and we’ve been working on a lot of sci-fi, 8-bit dance stuff ever since—kind of just a really spacey shred fest.”
Conquer Monster found their niche in chiptune after years of growth and experimentation through different styles before combining their love of technology with music. Faulkner says, “Growing up, I was into a lot of punk music. I was in a punk band a long time ago. I played folk music for a long time just under my name—I played guitar and harmonica and I sang. [In my spare time] I was kind of just building [instruments] and taking them apart.” He points to a mess of vintage computers and technology that are so over my head I couldn’t comprehend how they were used as instruments. Romero says, “Both of us are heavily math and computer influenced”—Faulkner interjects to say, “Nerds,” under his breath. Romero continues to say, “… I think that’s where the sci-fi vibe comes from, just being interested.”
What really makes this group interesting and ultimately sets them apart from most bands I’ve seen is their collection of instruments. “I started playing toy Casios as a child, then in high school, I migrated over to collecting analog synthesizers. My first synth was a Korg Delta. I’ve since obtained a Roland Juno-6, Roland RS-09, Korg Microkorg, Korg Poly-800 II and a Moog Lil Phatty, to name a few,” Romero says. Faulkner’s setup is just as technical: He says, “I focus on turning obsolete computer equipment into instruments and playing them like synths. Specifically, I play an Apple ||c, Atari 2600, NES with powerpad, Gameboy, various circuit bent toys and multiple Commodore 64s.” You can see any band with guitars and a drum kit onstage, but when someone jams out on something like a Gameboy attached to a computer and worn like a guitar, it really shows talent and a passion for creativity.
The search for a band name was a simple one for the duo: “There’s a Deltron 3030 song called ‘Madness,’ and there’s a line in there that says ‘Conquer my sponsors, they’re monsters.’ It sounded cool together, [but] it doesn’t mean anything, necessarily,” Faulkner says. When asked if they gain a lot of inspiration through Deltron 3030, they said they don’t gather much past his first release. “Just the dystopian-future vibe of their first album—I don’t think we sound that hip-hop. We may have a little bit in there, but not a lot,” says Faulkner. “For the new album that we’re writing right now, we’re writing a comic book that goes along with it. There’s no title yet, but the synopsis is that the galaxy’s best assassin decides that he no longer wants to kill, and through his attempts to outrun his former employer, he convinces a planet of pacifists to fight for their home. It’s a futuristic dystopia where music is used to record the unique physical, emotional and mental data of a person for the purpose of traveling from planet to planet via radio waves. Music as an art form has been banned, so naturally, there’s an illegal underground music scene,” says Faulkner. Romero says they have about eight or nine tracks so far.
Conquer Monster have recently played quite a lot around Salt Lake, with more shows coming to. “[Our live shows are generally] two tables filled with synths, old computers and samplers. We start our set with a dramatic sci-fi–themed introduction. Most of our songs are pretty dancey, so we love to watch people dance to our music. When possible, we like to project glitched-out, warped VHS images behind us, so you might see those, too. We are nerds at heart, so you’ll hear a math lecture or audio clips from old science fiction movies playing during our set,” says Faulkner.
When not producing music, the two are either working or spending time with their families. Romero is a Computer Science student at Weber State, and Faulkner teaches math, engineering and music at Walden School of Liberal Arts in Provo. “Half of the time, when Josh and I hang out, we’re talking about computers, programming, mathematics, time travel or video games, and the other half of the time, we’re writing music about it all,” Romero says of how their shared interests in other fields bring them together. The duo has talked about touring the West Coast, but plans to stay around and get in as many local performances as they can. You can find more at soundcloud.com/conquer-monster or their website, conquermonster.com, before they take over Localized on May 10.