Virtual Boy

Hotwiring naughty synth lines and dance floor-crushing beats with elegant harmonic textures and twisted, pop-cultured hooks, Virtual Boy craft a grimy, cinematic sound all their own. Even before Virtual Boy had an official release, tastemakers spanning Gaslamp Killer to Mary Anne Hobbs were spinning their innovative, atmospheric bangers everywhere from the legendary Low End Theory club night to the BBC.

Now, after two EPs and a string of successful festival appearances and tours, Virtual Boy prepares to unleash its third official release, Symphony No. None, and the group's first for the legendary Los Angeles-based label Alpha Pup, in December 2010. Apt for its title, Symphony No. Noneowes as much to Bach and Mozart as it does Ratatat, evoking Air and 2001: A Space Odyssey as much as Virtual Boy's beat scene heroes Nosaj Thing and The Glitch Mob. It's both a clear continuation of Virtual Boy's first two EPs, 2009's How Long Does It Take To Get To Space? and 2010's Omega Supreme, and an ambitious breakthrough, simultaneously layered with subtle, robotic symphonics over its four movements yet banging with dangerous bottom end (as such, Symphony No. None features mastering by Alpha Pup founder/Low End Theory impresario Daddy Kev, who also mastered Flying Lotus' most recent work). World, hide your subwoofers: Virtual Boy has entered the cosmosphere, and you have been warned.

Virtual Boy's stylishly oddball set of influences is what happens when two talented young classical musicians discover their shared passion for dusty vintage synthesizers, new electronic music genres, classic formalwear, and girls that look like they could star in a '60s Godard movie. Out of that distinctive crucible, Virtual Boy was born, the duo taking its distinctive moniker from a rare Nintendo game console gathering dust in a Southern California dorm room. Virtual Boy founders Henry Allen and Preston Walker met freshman year at Chapman University's Conservatory of Music based in California's famed Orange County. Henry arrived from his hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico as a classical guitar prodigy. Preston, a Southern California native, became part of the Chapman University Choir, which recently toured Italy where he sang for Pope Benedict XVI in the Sistine Chapel. But it was when Henry and Preston began composing together in their Music Technology class that their sonic potential revealed itself. Taught by notable Los Angeles electronic music mainstay Steve Nalepa, the class featured a stream of all-star guest lecturers including Nosaj Thing, Lorn, Richard Devine, Adam Freeland and The Glitch Mob; these guests shared groundbreaking composition and performance techniques, all while exposing the students to the most innovative, cutting edge electronic music being made today, from dubstep to glitched-out digital funk and beyond. Via this inspiration, Virtual Boy developed its own signature sound while producing their weekly composition assignments.

It's safe to say that Allen and Walker received "A" grades in the class. What they didn't expect were the accolades that started pouring in from the world outside academia's ivory towers. In May 2009, with a push from The Glitch Mob's Boreta, Mary Anne Hobbs dedicated a segment of her influential BBC Radio 1 show to highlighting Allen and Walker's Music Technology class: Hobbs even gave Virtual Boy a special shout-out, giving their standout track "Lost Treasure" pride of place in her set. After esteemed San Francisco based producer/rising DJ star Eprom heard Virtual Boy's iconoclastic beats on Hobbs' show, he began to champion their sound, dropping their songs in his sets and agreeing to master their first releases. They also caught the attention of Bassnectar, who claimed Virtual Boy as "One of my greatest discoveries of 2009": since then, Bassnectar has played Virtual Boy tracks in his live sets around the world, and even took Preston and Walker on an extended West Coast tour in 2010 as his opening act.

Live/electronic music pioneers Sound Tribe Sector 9 also embraced the Virtual Boy groove: after hiring Allen and Walker to remix Nalepa's "Sunflowers" single on the group's 1320 label, STS9 were so impressed by the results they agreed to put out How Long Does It Take To Get To Space? and Omega Supreme, as well as bringing Virtual Boy on as support for a number of shows during their spring 2010 tour, which saw them play to crowds of 5,000 and more. Since that time, the duo has spent their days in class while spending nights playing Low End Theory and bills with artists such as Eliot Lipp and Alex B. They've also played a series of prestigious festival dates, sharing the stage with Devo, Massive Attack, MGMT, Caribou, Four Tet, Jonsi, Big Boi, and Hot Chip at this year's acclaimed MoogFest, and Kid Cudi, Rusko, and Wolfgang Gartner at Texas' Nocturnal Festival. It's all proof that for Virtual Boy, success is no longer virtual, but... real.

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(photo: Jocelyn R.C.)

Appears On

Virtual Boy
Symphony No. None - EP
(Alpha Pup Records)
Virtual Boy
Symphony No. None B-Sides - EP
(Alpha Pup Records)
Virtual Boy
Virtual Boy
(Alpha Pup Records)
Various Artists
TeamSupreme: Collection 1
(Alpha Pup Records)