Earlier this week, Arlington's Man Factory released for digital download Street Fight!!! Round Two, the second installment in its planned power-pop opera trilogy based on the popular Street Fighter video game series.
Fans of Round One had been waiting patiently for the past two years to find out how the storylines of Chun Li and company are progressing, and it appears, so far, that the resulting Round Two was well worth the wait. The band's sound is tighter, the pop is more powerful, the sound quality is more polished, and the orchestration is more grandiose.
We caught up with Austin Sevener and Tyler White from the band to find out where all this Street Fighter obsession comes from, how they were inspired to write a pop opera, and why it took so long to release Round Two.
What do you guys do when not playing Street Fighter and singing about Street Fighter?
Austin Sevener: Write Street Fighter fan-fiction/abstract poetry, draw rudimentary naked pictures of Chun Li and email them to my dad--cool stuff like that.
Tyler White: I'm busy trying to figure out ways to explain to family members why the hell we would ever write songs about video game characters.
How often do you guys actually play Street Fighter?
AS: Not daily or anything, but definitely to the point of embarrassment and at the most embarrassing times. I think we were playing Street Fighter during my girlfriend's graduation party.
TW: Hey, she loved hanging out with her grandparents while hearing you scream to me in the background, "You're my bitch at this game!"
Which characters do you use most often and why?
AS: I'm not that good at the game because I don't know all the moves and combos or whatever, so I stick with E. Honda and fall back on the only move I know--rapid jabz. That's my bread and butter. Lately, I've taken to using Ken in hopes that his story in our songs will inspire me to greatness. It doesn't, but I scream a lot during the fights so that's a plus.
TW: I keep hoping I can pull out a win with Dhalsim, but curse those rapid jabz!
Who in the band is the best player?
TW: Austin can beat anybody when he fights (cheats) like that. Actually Chris Tellez, who came up with the concept for the "Ken's Wipeout" song, is the best Street Fighter out there. If you think I'm lying, just know that I saw him defeat Mike Tyson in Punchout.
Why did you guys decide to start writing a power-pop opera? Were any of you big Who fans growing up?
AS: I still haven't heard all of Tommy. My first exposure to a storyline through multiple songs was probably Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, or "The Unforgiven", parts I and II, if that counts. It doesn't. I really got into the idea when Tyler introduced me to Les Miserables.
TW: Tommy didn't stick with me either, but I probably got distracted by a butterfly while I was listening to it. I do like anything with recurring musical themes. It's a good excuse to beat our Chun Li melody into the ground.
Why such a long delay between Round 1 and 2?
AS: Recording is a pretty makeshift process for us, still. There was actually a really long delay for Round 1 as well, it just wasn't so obvious.
Early on in the project's history you guys indicated that all three rounds in the trilogy would be released within months of one another. Now that the project has stretched out such a long time, are there any regrets about promising to make this thing a trilogy?
AS: I think it's made the finished product better. We've had time to sit over these songs and make little edits here and there. Sometimes we end up with mammoth seven-minute multi-section undertakings of songs because of that. I'm not sure if that's good or bad.
TW: I think it's been very frustrating for our friends to have to wait. Recording everything ourselves is time consuming, but affordable.
Your live set includes many non-Street-Fighter-related songs. Are there any plans to record any of this stuff, or is the focus completely on the trilogy at the moment?
AS: As far as recording goes, I'm only concerned with Round 3. My mind wanders pretty consistently to writing more autobiographical songs in the future, though.
TW: I'm excited about Round 3, but I'm looking forward to seeing if we can still write songs about...wait, what did we used to write songs about?
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Do you guys ever worry about being type-casted by the whole Street Fighter thing? Like, because of it, you won't be taken as seriously in the future?
AS: I don't think we were taken all that seriously to begin with, so I'm not worried about it. As far as being pigeonholed, that's bound to happen anyway, right? But hey, Metallica didn't worry about what the fans would think when wanted to cut their hair and add some southern tinge to their unique brand of speed metal. They just did it. And I think the results speak for themselves.
TW: We've had some personal Man Factory songs that were taken about as seriously as our Street Fighter songs, which is a good thing. No one needs to be cryin' in a club. Besides me.
What are your future plans, and do any of them include putting together a stage version of the opera a la Tommy?
AS: It is my sincere hope that STREET FIGHT! endures the test of time and, when I'm 40, I can make money prancing around a stage with a hockey mask and a set of mean-looking claws with a full orchestra and choir backing me up. Yeah, that'd be great.
TW: A guy who works at a creative arts school told us he wanted to adapt the music for a production his students could perform. So basically, school children would be singing "If I'm taking this to the grave then I'm taking you with me!" Yes!
Has anyone from Capcom heard any of the SF songs? (If so, how did they react? Are there any worries of legal action, etc.?)
TW: I hope they check it out and become even more embarrassed about their Legend of Chun Li movie. But to answer your question, yes, they will sue the pants off of Man Factory. Like we wear pants anyway.
Man Factory perform tonight at The Cavern.