Interview with Matt Myers From LeetStreet Boys

Back in 2007, musician and self proclaimed otaku, Matt Myers began working on a track that encompassed his love of video games, anime, and conventions. Five years later and he is now the lead singer of the band Leetstreet Boys, whose references to otaku culture and brilliantly animated music videos have brought them to the world’s attention. With over a million views on their debut single on YouTube, their own web comic, and now a third album in the works, I talked with Matt to discuss his inspirations, his reception at conventions, the possibility of appearing at MCM in the future and how the band is handling their current mixed reaction on YouTube.

Laura: Hello Matt, for those unaware, could you tell us a little about your story? Who are Leetstreet Boys? How did you get where you are now?

Matt: LeetStreet Boys is an animeotaku” band I started with my friend and producer, Ryan “Frogs” McCormack. I was an avid gamer and anime fan growing up. Before LeetStreet Boys, I was a struggling music composer and running songwriting panels at local anime conventions as a volunteer. I first wrote Yuri The Only One and recorded a demo and showed it to Frogs, and he expressed interest in producing a more complete version of the song. When he first sent me the mix, I could tell we were onto something exciting!

I started to get more creative about how to present the songs and came up with the idea of hiring an animator to make a piece inspired by anime music videos. I interviewed (animator) Nathaniel Soria and showed him the song and we just clicked.

The rest, as they say, is history. Yuri The Only One took off, we started making more songs and giving lives to the fictional characters that inhabited the videos.

Laura:Yuri The Only One” was your first big hit, which brought you international attention back in 2008. What do you think it was about the track that caught people’s attention? Why did you choose to make it your debut single?

Matt: It’s a really catchy song, and the production values of the music are high quality. The melody gets stuck in your head, which is a trait common to most popular songs. Emotionally, I think it was the first song made with a specifically “otaku” audience in mind. The music, lyrics and video really conveyed the thrill of being at an anime convention around cosplayers and fans. At the time I felt that there was this big misconception that otaku are totally antisocial, but when you attend a convention it’s clear that in fact we can be very social. Girls thought the song was romantic. Guys thought it was funny. It’s the kind of song you can just sing, even with no music, and people still enjoy it.

Laura: Who are your personal musical and lyrical inspirations, both in terms of other musicians and in terms of the sort of otaku culture many of your fans enjoy?

Matt: Growing up I really enjoyed the music in anime like Evangelion and Pokemon, as well as in video games like Final Fantasy and The Legend Of Zelda. Before LeetStreet Boys I was a singer in four other bands that played more ordinary rock / punk / alternative / emo music. Musically, arranging LeetStreet Boys songs feels like combining the fantasy aesthetic of anime / game music with the familiar high energy of a band.

In terms of LeetStreet Boys lyrics, I really see it as telling stories about ordinary otaku. I draw inspiration from my cosplay friends, from my experiences at conventions, from following the news, and of course, from watching anime and playing video games.

Laura: Could you tell us a little about your music videos? Who makes them, and how much input do you have in that process from start to finish?

Matt: Yuri The Only One and Guitar Hero Hero were both animated by Nathaniel Soria. She’s So Kawaii was animated by Heather Bloss and Brianna Plaud. Colby Peterson did the post-production on all three. With She’s So Kawaii, the story was written by Geoffrey Golden. They’re all terrific at what they do! It’s a collaborative process – as the producer, I oversee all aspects of the video, guide the creative process and surround myself with talented people who I know will do an amazing job.

Laura: Your band really seems to have polarised people as of late. Looking through your songs on YouTube there are, along with the positive, a lot of comments either criticising your music or looking at it as a work of parody. How do you deal with it? How much of your work do you consider parody?

Matt: She’s So Kawaii has gotten a lot of bullying from the 4chan community, but the song is also selling the best right now, so go figure. In terms of negative comments, when it first happened it was a bit depressing, but after seeing thousands of them you get used to it. The positive heavily outweighs the negative. I actually enjoy heckling the trolls a little because it keeps them watching the video even more!

In terms of parody, we do poke fun at anime fandom (and ourselves) a bit. But overall, it’s about love for the otaku community and I think that shines through. When LeetStreet Boys is most effective it’s funny but also romantic and epic.

Laura: What’s your favourite thing about conventions? What sort of reaction do you tend to get there and what’s a typical performance at a convention like for you?

Matt: My first anime convention experience was a total shock and awe. But once you become accustomed to the culture and convention activities, it’s the people that keep you coming back. Anime fans are so nice and creative and awesome as a whole. Many LeetStreet Boys fans turn into personal friends.

The reactions from performing at conventions have been unbelievable. Getting “glomped” by fans and treated like a celebrity… but then, I walk across the street and nobody knows who I am anymore. Also, since the videos are animated most people don’t know what I look like. Sometimes I’ll talk casually with an attendee without mentioning LeetStreet Boys, and then they find out who I am and flip out. More than anything else, it’s a lot of fun and also flattering that what I do has had an impact on the community.

We’ve played for some huge crowds and LeetStreet Boys is usually booked as the headlining musical guest. There are always lots of cosplayers in the audience, and we love to bring cosplayers onstage to sing, dance, or play air “Guitar Hero.” LeetStreet Fighter is a live performance favorite because the song is so heavy and mosh-inducing. When performing Yuri The Only One, I can stick the microphone out into the crowd and hear a room full of people singing the song. As a songwriter, that is the most satisfying feeling in the world! After the show we sell merch, sign autographs, and pose for pictures.

Laura: You have apparently had a lot of requests from UK fans to come and play. What problems have prevented this from happening?

Matt: It’s really hard to tell being on the outside. The cost of overseas flights creates challenges, I assume. I would love to play a show in the UK and I’ll do everything I can to make it happen!

Laura: Your website hosts a long running web comic loosely based on the band. What inspired the comic, and have you ever considered producing a physical collection of the comics for fans?

Matt: The web comic, which is written and illustrated by Erin Nagy (with past writing contributions from Geoffrey Golden) came from wanting to do an anime, but needing to be realistic about what we can do. It’s basically a creative springboard and a way to interact with our fans. We’ve considered doing a physical collection, but haven’t really figured out the best way to go about it yet. Maybe soon!

Laura: You have previously worked on music for video games. What games have you worked on and what was the experience like as a video game fan?

Matt: This past summer I worked on a game that won first place in Nokia‘s “Calling all Innovators” competition. I am now working full-time for PHD Gaming as their audio director, on an RPG / strategy / anime inspired title. In the past, I’ve worked on RPGs, visual novels, and music / beat matching games. Lots of independent stuff.

As a fan, I played a lot of RPGs and Nintendo console titles. I have very little time to stay involved as a gamer now, but I play games with my friends whenever I can.

Laura: If you could open for any band, who would it be?

Matt: With LeetStreet Boys, I would love to perform with a world-class Japanese artist. Either a singer like Utada Hikaru, a band like L’Arc En Ciel or a composer like Yoko Kanno. Or even some kind of virtual / animated show like what’s been done with Hatsune Miku. I want to be able to show that this kind of music is for real and capable of attracting a wide audience.

Laura: Can you tell us anything about you or the band’s future plans?

Matt: Right now, I am writing and arranging songs for LeetStreet Boys album #3. Because of the unpredictable nature of production I am hesitant to announce specifics like song titles, videos or release dates. But I am very focused on that project, and excited about what I’m coming up with. Overall, it seems like the goal is to keep trying to make a better song and make a better video.

Additionally, I am interested in writing / producing music for other “otaku” recording artists, both in terms of making theme songs for video games and developing new artists. As long as there continues to be more anime fans, I believe that there will be more interest in this kind of music.

Laura: Lastly, do you have any final words?

Matt: When I first wrote Yuri The Only One (back in 2007) I never expected to be doing an interview like this. Who knew? It’s an honour to be recognized by you and MCM Expo. Thank you!

You can see Leetstreet Boys music videos on their YouTube channel, find their music on iTunes, and see their web comic at leetstreetboys.com

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