This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Local duo Conquer Monster proves that you don't need to go completely digital to get electrical. Joshua Faulkner and Daniel Romero use homemade instruments to bring the analog days of the past together with futuristic sounds to take listeners on a sci-fi journey.
Theirs is a process that started with Faulkner's passion for building instruments, a hobby that began in high school and hasn't stopped since graduating college and becoming a teacher at Walden School of Liberal Arts in Provo. Romero, who works as a campus tutor at Weber State University and is studying applied math and science, says their shared love of the subjects inspires their music.
"A fun element of our relationship is that we really enjoy the sciences and math. We try to incorporate that into our music. You can hear a black-hole lecture on the last track on our album ['Metatransit']," said Romero.
Faulkner plays two modified Commodore 64 computers, running Cynthcart and MSSIAH software, as well as a Nintendo Game Boy with the LSDJ cartridge. He said combining digital and analog allows for a listening experience layered with personality. "Daniel is using analog stuff and I am using digital stuff it's primarily computers from the '80s. Each of our gear has its own individual characteristics," said Faulkner.
Conquer Monster began in 2010 with Faulkner and Rion Buhler. Faulkner had established a collection of modified vintage computers, toys and gaming systems that were built into "things that make music" and decided he needed to do something with it. He and Buhler joined forces and eventually released an EP. It was at a house party that they met Romero, who soon joined the band because of his love for vintage synth sounds and video games. Buhler ventured off to other projects, but Romero and Faulkner kept Conquer Monster going strong.
In September 2015, the two debuted their album "Metatransit" at the Salt Lake Comic Con as part of Black Omen Comic's release of "Purge Worlds," one of four comic-book installments written by Joshua Omen and illustrated by Chris Black. They hope to eventually see their music become the soundtrack for a video game.
Conquer Monster opens for L.A.-based band El Ten Eleven on Friday, March 11, at Urban Lounge in Salt Lake City. The pair talked to the Tribune about the perks of going analog in a digital age, creating the soundtrack for "Purge Worlds" and the live experience.
Romero: The goal from the beginning was to try and play as much as possible with our hands. The sound is different. When you have prerecorded stuff playing through a laptop you get a chance to mix it exactly how you want it. You know how it's gonna sound coming out of the house system where you are playing. There is a lot of room for error, especially with older equipment when you are playing it live. When playing live you can tell that we are messing with settings during our live sets and we are modifying things into real time.
Faulkner: For me it adds more character. Also, I think it helps us sell electronic music better to an audience that isn't used to it. An electronic crowd expects a laptop, but the band scene has a hard time with electronic music. I feel like we bridge it a little bit more. We are in between a full laptop project and a band.
Romero: I am a sit-down songwriter at heart. I have never written a song on a computer. I've always just sat down at a keyboard and constructed songs that way. I have a love for synthesizers. The fact that they existed when I was a kid really interested me in making music. As soon as I got my first synthesizer, I really realized the possibilities. When we are writing songs together, it really helps that the instruments we are using have personality to where we really create different atmospheres and all sorts of different settings based on sounds we are using at the time.
"Metatransit" and writing for comics
Faulkner: The way that [Omen and Black] think about it is this is a soundtrack for the comic book. The most notable idea we had was the metatransit system, which we named our album after. It is a way that you can travel at the speed of light by sending all the data that would make up a person: memories, physical data and emotional data. You transmit that data but you transmit it as a song. That is how we are in the comic book. They have drawn us into the comic book as the people who play the music for the metatransit. We were writing the album as they were finishing the comic book and we'd play off of each other. We'd send them rough versions of our songs and that would inspire the way they drew different panels. They would send us details that they were putting into the comic book and that would inspire the songs that we'd write.
Conquer Monster live
Romero: We have a super energetic show. We have really cool, colorful, psychedelic, glitched-out graphics. It's really energetic and we have so many different elements in our show: straight-up dance songs to these really noisy, dark times. It's almost a theatrical performance.
Conquer Monster opens for L.A.-based instrumental rock duo El Ten Eleven. Experimental electronic act Shallou also is on the lineup.
When • Friday, 8 p.m.
Where • Urban Lounge, 241 S. 500 East, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $13, $15 day of; TicketFly.com