We reviewed Stenobot’s debut album in 2010 before interviewing him a year later.
With the recent release of a new single, and the inclusion of his back catalogue on Spotify, it seems the appropriate time to revisit the artist’s debut album. Across a decade of publishing we’ve covered gaming and chiptunes and these excerpts come from some of our earliest interviews and reviews.
What we said about Sink or Swim, We’ll Go Together in 2010:
“Stenobot’s debut album, Sink Or Swim, We’ll Go Together is the auditory equivalent of wrapping yourself in your warmest blankets and busting out the old brick of a Gameboy you’ve kept since launch day. Filled with the cheery sound of chiptunes intermixed with dreamy pop melodies, the album is a bit of a bittersweet experience.”
“The opening track, “Running and Jumping” features percussion and vocal samples from [his son], and sets the overarching tone for the rest of the album. The track leads right into [our] personal favorite on the album, “Far Too Far”, featuring former 90 Lb. Wuss frontman, Jeff Suffering. Suffering’s vocals transform the song from a good chiptune track into a heartfelt statement that captures the emotional distress that accompanies the shock of leukemia. The track’s lyrics perfectly capture the entire theme of the album in lines such as “Sink or swim, we’ll go together”, and “Without warning, without reason / Out of breath and out of season”.
Clearly, the album is not as cheery as it first appeared. Sink or Swim blips and bloops its way merrily through 13 tracks without ever losing momentum, until it reaches its climax, “Sleepy Room”. [That track] is an energetic explosion of chiptunes, synths, and more chiptunes. It steamrolls on for 3 minutes before gradually slowing down, yet remaining interesting and compelling.
‘The Dark, Dark Cave’ for example, started with a sample of an IV machine at the hospital. It was like 2AM or something–I’d been up all night listening to that machine and imagining it as a beat. So I grabbed my iPhone and recorded a few seconds of it.-Andy “Stenobot” Myers
What Stenobot told us about his earliest musical interludes:
Before getting into chiptune, I played drums and other stuff with a few folksy, more indie rock-type bands. Most notably, I played on a bunch of records and toured extensively with Damien Jurado. So, diving into something more electronic was a big departure for me. I wasn’t really into dance music (which is where a lot of the early chip scene stuff seemed to stem from), so I just started messing around with LSDJ to see what would happen. What ended up happening first was a collaboration with Wheelie Cyberman, who I worked with at Nintendo. His band Optimus Rhyme was looking for people to remix their songs, so I did ‘Obey The Moderator’. Wheelie and I were so happy with how it turned out that we started working on some original material together. It took a few years, but eventually that culminated into Supercommuter.
Alongside all that, I was writing and recording some darker Game Boy songs with my wife. We put a few songs on MySpace, but never did anything else with them. As soon as the first Supercommuter record was finished, though, I picked it up again. That project became the Stenobot record.”
How Stenobot’s music was inspired by his son:
“As long as I’m making music, I imagine that I’ll always cringe at my older records. But they’re still special to me, particularly ‘Sink or Swim…’, because it captures a period of time with my son, and all the stuff he was going through with his Leukemia treatment. ‘The Dark, Dark Cave’ for example, started with a sample of an IV machine at the hospital. It was like 2AM or something–I’d been up all night listening to that machine and imagining it as a beat. So I grabbed my iPhone and recorded a few seconds of it. The whole song was built around that sample, and conversations I was having with my son about bats and how they live in complete darkness but always know exactly where they are. When I go back and listen to that song, it almost feels like I’m listening to someone else’s music. It’s so layered and complex, I wouldn’t think I was capable of writing that.”
Our favourite Stenobot tracks today:
- “Fallen Leaves” still holds up as one of my favourite tunes when I’m feeling down. There’s a sense of both melancholy and opportunity–a duality that holds in much of his music–that always seems to uplift me. –EM
- “Far too Far” is still just a great song. It packs both a wallop and a gut punch, blending the chiptune genre with something a little more heartfelt.
- “It is Splendid” isn’t strictly Stenobot–it comes from his band Supercommuter–but the lyric “I am piloting my life/Where am I going?” resonates in its delivery years later.
With files from Aaron Hudspeth and Evan McIntosh. Articles from the archive originally published November 28, 2010 and November 3, 2011.