16-Bit Sessions #14: BALCONIES – Rhonda

It’s been a while, right? Hi!!

Since we last updated, we’ve released a single – Slow Motion Gunfights – that I am legitimately proud of. If you have a minute, I really do think it’s worth your time. HOWEVER, I’m typing right now for a different reason – the return, glorious or otherwise, of 16-Bit Sessions covers.

Rhonda is the name of Balconies’ second full-length, and it’s – for me, at least, as somebody with his own ears and brain – one of the best albums of the year. The title track in particular is one that I listened to once and have had rattling in my head ever since.

This 16-bit cover was an exercise to re-learn how to remake great songs as dope Sega Genesis based tunes. Practice makes perfect and hearing a song like this through my own lens makes it much easier to motivate myself for our next Villainest project. It’s good to know that I can still make these things! This one really started coming together when I put in the oscillating guitar slide and the right snare sample and I think as a whole it sounds cool!

Balconies are headed on tour this month! I’m planning to catch their Lee’s Palace show, so if you want to dance with me then you have never had a better chance! Their tour dates are below, as well as the original tune. I strongly recommend listening to it! You’ll have a good time.

The original, with download/purchase link
Balconies On Tour
Balconies On Spofity

Villainest also has a few things to look out for!

Our next show at Cherry Cola’s on November 12th
Our music on Spotify


A Good Day To Try Hard: OUT NOW


That’s right, you beautiful, beautiful people – our second EP is finally ready for you to consume like ravenous wolves. Stream, download or buy a limited edition cassette tape if you’re feeling decadent – it’s all either free or super cheap and we guarantee MAXIMUM SATISFACTION.

We estimate that you can listen to the main 4 tracks on this EP ~560 times before joining us on Friday January 22nd at Bovine Sex Club for our release party with High Jinx, The Sleepovers and The Danger Bees. Who needs sleep? NOT YOU ANY MORE! Come dance with us!


Daily readers of villainest.com (estimates are in the mid-hundred-thousands, probably) will have been severely disappointed over the Autumn months! Aside from the occasional show at venues like Cherry Cola’s – for which we’ve been very grateful – things have been a little quiet.

The good news is that we haven’t been idle! In fact, we’ve been self-producing a brand new, full-band original EP called A GOOD DAY TO TRY HARD. We’re looking to release it in mid-January, and we’ll be celebrating it on the 22nd in Toronto at a TBC show we’re very excited about.

What is A GOOD DAY TO TRY HARD?, you scream, anxious to know more?

I’m glad you asked! It’s a shoestring budget,  self-produced, fully DIY 4-song EP. Some of these songs have been around for as long as we have – in fact, the title track was the very first song we ever played on stage and the second song we ever wrote together. As we gear up to perhaps write and start recording a full-length in 2016, January seemed like the best time to get some of these live favourites on tape and send them out into the world. We’re hoping to have some cool DIY physical copies available, as well as our usual amazing artwork by Kai.

A lot of these songs are kinda left-field for us both sound- and lyric-wise. For 4 songs, it covers a LOT of ground. The wall of sound is real, and you’ll be able to hear guitars stacked upon Sega Genesis synthesizers stacked upon layers of keytar pads, solos and tons of group vocals. Recorded mostly in our rehearsal space and my apartment, the rough edges are always going to be there, but hopefully the rawness will add to the fun.

When we release on or around January 15th, I’ll do a write-up, because there’s a lot to say about these tracks. Final mixes are happening right now and we’re excited to make 2016 A GOOD YEAR TO TRY HARD.



Today you can download our new single. It’s called EVIL PARTY, and it was one of the very first songs that we wrote together.

EVIL PARTY is about a lot of things and we’re not going to tell you how to take it. But we think it’s a fun track and we really hope you enjoy it. It’s free, and it’s part of ChipWIN Volume 4. This compilation puts together tracks by some of the finest chiptune-based artists working today. We’re incredibly grateful that the organizers and the judges of this compilation saw fit to include us.

EVIL PARTY was produced by Brendan Howlett, one of the finest men in the land and someone who means a great deal to us. I mixed it, using its kitchen sink production style as a learning experience. Have you ever had to balance a kick drum, FM bass, live bass, keys, vocals and heavy guitars all at the same time? It’s not too much of a peek behind the curtain to tell you that it’s a maddening but wonderful process, and I ended up feeling very proud of it. DJ Cutman of the ChipWIN community mastered it, and he did a damn fine job.



We’re all set to play our first ever convention this Friday, and we couldn’t be more excited. We’ve put together a seriously high energy set of live favourites, originals and covers. It is exhausting and exhilarating to play in rehearsal, so we can only guess how it’ll sound on the night! We honestly don’t know what to expect from our first Con, but that’s part of the thrill of being in a band that’s slightly left-of-centre. Hopefully the ConBravo! crowd will have a good time with our Sega-based cacophony! We can’t wait to get there and find out.

We’re on the bill with Epic Game Music, which is always a joy. James Ronald was actually one of the very first Canadians I ever spoke to in 2011 after moving to Toronto, though we wouldn’t meet properly for at least another 2 years. He’s an excellent performer and a great dude.

Then I’m excited to catch Overclocked University – I have spent hours upon hours on the Overclocked sites listening to remixes over the years, not least during my time as a student in England. To think that I’d move over here and play a show on a bill with a band affiliated with them is almost completely insane and I can’t wait to see them play.

Headlining is Tupperware Remix Party, who I have typed about at some length while covering in 16-bit form. They’re currently on a tour called the Kurt Russell Tour, so I have no doubts that they’re our kind of space aliens. TWRP are one of the best bands around and we’re excited to share the stage with them.


We were very humbled to learn that Saturn, of Blast Processors fame, saw fit to cover our first single, Welcome To Paranoid Island. Paranoid was the first song we ever wrote together and I think it lays a strong foundation for what we’re about as a band. That we recorded it, somebody heard it and decided to put their own spin on it is a fantastic feeling, and we thank Saturn immensely for it. It’s things like this that make the VG and chip- inspired music communities great. Saturn has turned this into a great, surprisingly legit sounding 80s synthwave song! If you enjoy the sound, you should definitely pick up his new EP, ALBIORIX. It’s a tremendous synth space adventure.

You can listen to Saturn’s cover of Paranoid here:


Hey, check out these great photos of our set from Analogue Gallery last week! Photos are by Lindsay Duncan of ELDIE PHOTOGRAPHY. You can follow her at @lindsayinmotion on Twitter and Instagram, and you can see the full gallery on the Analogue Gallery Facebook page. Thanks again to Hot For Company, Mad Ones, The Bellevederes and SuXess for making it such a great early evening!



THIS THURSDAY IN TORONTO you would be well advised to be as close as possible to a very special venue called Bovine Sex Club! Why? Well, it’d be cruel to leave it to your imagination. It’s PRIDE time, and we’re returning to the stage for Toronto Gay Gamers’ third annual POWER UP GET DOWN party! It’s NO COVER, we’re accompanied by two fantastic bands (Blast Processors and Hi-Heels Lo-Fi), and we’ve got a killer set lined up for it. We are on at TEN PM so get there early!



We’re thrilled to announce our first convention show! We pledge to leave no conventiongoer un-partied (it’s a little like scorched earth policy but way more fun). And we’re even more thrilled that for this show we’ll be joining the amazing Epic Game Music, OverClocked University and Tupper Ware Remix Party! Those with a wiki-level knowledge of Villainest will remember that TWRP are the subjects of, in my opinion, one of the finer 16 BIT SESSIONS covers of our time.


We’re very honoured to have been chosen as part of this year’s CHIPTUNES WIN VOLUME 4 compilation. A new full-band original track will be available to download for FREE alongside 50 other top and upcoming chip- and VGM- based artists. We can’t tell you much more right now, but it’s not an exaggeration to say that after hearing it your life will automatically be improved by around 70%.

Exciting times? MEGA EXCITING TIMES.


(again a photo by the excellent Lindsay Duncan @lindsayinmotion)


“I’m only 4”, you’d say in 1991, “but in 24 years I want to go to the world’s best VGM/chip themed live music party”. You dreamed big, kid. You dreamed well. And now here you are.

Our next show is at YET ANOTHER legendary Toronto venue because – and we don’t have a sociologist at hand so don’t ask us to prove this – the world just CANNOT GET ENOUGH of 16 bit party times.

This one’s going to be wonderful. First off, look at this fucking poster:


Second, look at these fucking acts we get to play with:

YOU BRED RAPTORS, headlining a legendary venue and twisting your minds.

BLAST PROCESSORS, pummeling you with high voltage SEGA themed rock like the console wars are just beginning. Blast Processors just released a new music video in collaboration with Rob Lee Productions – David Hasselhoff’s Kung Fury hit, “True Survivor”. It’s great and features a dude punching a Caterkiller.

EPIC GAME MUSIC, legitimate superstar of the greatest YouTube VGM covers channel – the likes of which you could only dream of in your dusty early 90s rec room. James Ronald is the best and he just got tweet-promoted by NINTENDO THEMSELVES.

and Jeff Roberts of MARSHALL ART will be slaying the changeovers with the prog-chip stylings that have made them one of the best chiptune acts in the land.

also us I guess! What can you expect? We don’t want to play games with your expectations, but let’s just say it will be the greatest thing you or anyone in your family lineage has or will ever witness. New music. New tricks. Classic covers and live favourites. The best time.



Thanks to the Horseshoe Tavern and its wonderful staff for being great hosts, to BisonSound and Parks At Night for being excellent bands to share the bill with and to all of you who came out for a party on a Monday night.

We have some exciting shows that we’re waiting to confirm, we’re writing new material and the second phase of 16 Bit Sessions will start again before too long.

In the meantime:

  • You can still buy our vinyl single and party with us in the comfort and safety of your own home
  • You can download 16 Bit Sessions: Volume 1 and party EVEN MORE to Mega Drive versions of many great artists from Toronto and around the world.
  • You can follow us on twitter, facebook and soundcloud for some world-changing, perspective-altering bad jokes and bonus content.
  • You can print out pictures of us, stare at them, sigh and wait for the new good times to roll in.


Our first covers compilation is ready!

16 Bit Sessions: Volume 1 collects the first 11 covers in our regular blog series of the very same name. These covers were hacked together in 6 weeks and are free to download!

But what artists are covered, we hear you scream? How about:


Read about each cover in turn in the blogs HERE



16 BIT SESSIONS #11: ANALOG – It’s Too Bad Disco’s Dead

16 BIT SESSIONS is where James tries to figure out all this Mega Drive music business by covering songs and trying out different sounds. This time, it’s a cover of It’s Too Bad Disco’s Dead by the first True New Wave band of the 21st Century, ANALOG.

Here’s the original!

ANALOG is a New Wave band from Toronto that recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of their first live performance. As someone who knows how tough it is to keep projects and friendships and musical relationships exciting for ANY amount of time, 10 years is crazy and excellent and it’s something to celebrate.

I know ANALOG through one half of its members, Rob Lee. Rob’s a great guy who has a whole lot of talent in many different sides of the music industry – performance, filming, photography, DJ sets. The man needs a big kitchen to house the many pies he has his fingers in.

Recently I was asked to guest host my favourite night in Toronto, NINTENDO KNIGHTS, with my good friend Vee. Nintendo Knights is a monthly live show/video game tournament held at Handlebar (first Thursday of every month!) and creator/usual host Mike Reynolds was on his honeymoon, so we filled in. It was exciting, but it was short notice and securing live acts is not the easiest thing to do at the best of times! Rob very kindly offered to perform a special DJ set for us after the tournament. It was a blast and I’m very grateful for the fact that he stepped up at short notice and saved us. The night was a huge amount of fun and I’d do something like that again in a heartbeat.

ANALOG is a super catchy band at all times so I had no lack of material to choose from! Since it’s an anniversary year however, I thought I’d delve into their back catalogue a bit. Also I wanted a simple, fun, catchy number to close out this round of covers. I upped the BPM a little to make it feel like some kind of Kirby racing level. I didn’t go too crazy with the sounds this time, wanting to keep it to some standard and recognisable voices; ANALOG’s sound is all about melody, and their synth patches are huge and arresting enough that if I pushed the sounds too much on this, it wouldn’t be so much a 16 bit covers as it would be just a regular cover of the song. I think it’s ended up sounding pretty fun and it makes for a driving closing track.

So that’s it for the first round of 16 BIT SESSIONS!

I have no idea who’s been listening or if anyone reads these, but if you HAVE been doing either of those things then thank you – I hope within these 11 weirdo covers you’ve found something to tap your foot to.

I’m still going to make 16 bit covers of local bands and hopefully with some regularity, but now that the Horseshoe show is upon us this Monday and we have a 2015 full of promise ahead of us, I really want to dive into the programming for our next original full-band release. I have an exciting idea for an album that I need to shake out of my head!

I’ll post the compilation (plus some bonus tracks) on Bandcamp in the next day or two! I have a huge list of bands I wanna cover but if you have any suggestions for bands for round 2, e-mail me at villainestmusic@gmail.com!

16 BIT SESSIONS #10: Die Mannequin – Sucker Punch

16 BIT SESSIONS is where James tries to figure out all this Mega Drive music business by covering songs and trying out different sounds. This time, it’s a cover of Sucker Punch by Die Mannequin from Toronto.

MANDATORY PLUG UP TOP: Holy crap you guys our next show is on Monday! It’s free! It’s at the Horseshoe Tavern. You should come!

Die Mannequin is a band I first heard of in 2013 when the band I play guitar and sing backing for, SuXess, was asked to support at the Horseshoe Tavern when they played in April. We were excited to book the show, but I – especially still being fairly new to Canada and Canadian rock music – had only heard a couple of tracks and felt the need to delve into their catalogue further. Almost immediately their music appealed – kickass frontwoman, loud production, killer songs like Candide and Do It Or Die. Honestly, Candide’s chorus is one of my absolute favourites.

The show came during a difficult part of my Canadian tenure – I was battling the immigration system at the cost of a lot of my patience and sanity, I was overweight from the stress and I had just returned from a whirlwind of a trip back home for my wonderful sister’s wedding that involved visiting something like 5 cities in 6 days. But the gig was a pleasure, Care Failure, Anthony and the rest of Die Mannequin were nothing but lovely and accommodating in the brief exchanges we shared and the crowd were one of the best I’ve ever played to. Amid the uncertainty and anxiety of immigration – would we get kicked out back to England? Was it worth the fight? – I felt very lucky, and it helped to carry me through. And now look at me! Back to normal, whatever the fuck that means, and able to deliver these weirdo covers to you guys. Worth it.

Neon Zero marks a stylistic change towards a more electronic sound and as a result is one of my favourite albums of 2014 – in part because of how all-in and crazy this new direction is. Some purist punk/hard rock fans on YouTube or cried sellout because there’s electronics involved, but that’s what those types of fans do for fun. And while I’ve heard this song a fair amount on The Edge, calling this direction a sellout is madness. It feels like a very honest foray into synthesizers that, for the most part, works great and is catchy as fuck. Since we’re a band that also likes to mix the more raw sounds of rock music with electronics and such, this move is super encouraging!

This song almost feels structured like a video game soundtrack – there’s movements and riffs that repeat, but always in different combinations. The vocal line has some brilliant harmonies that soar in square wave form. I got to use my favourite low-end bass voices again, I got to experiment with sidechains for the rap verses and those “dist guitar” presets sound excellent when it kicks in to the really heavy bridge towards the end.

Here’s the original:

That’s TEN COVERS DONE. I was gonna be done so I could release them as a free album on Bandcamp in time for the Horseshoe show. But when I was programming this one I found another I wanna do before I stop. QUANTITY OVER QUALITY. That’s how it works, right?