Darren Criss and brother Chuck talk their groovy new music project, Computer Games
Darren and Chuck Criss are embracing ’80s and ’90s nostalgia with their new music project: The brothers released their first EP under the name Computer Games Wednesday.
Darren, who got his big break on Glee and can soon be seen on both American Crime Story and The Flash-Supergirl musical crossover episode, and Chuck, a member of band Freelance Whales, officially joined forces for the first time on the Lost Boys Life EP.The result? Four tracks that sound like a funky blast to the past in the spirit of some of the grooviest ’80s superstars like Lionel Richie, Miami Sound Machine, and Peter Gabriel.
Ahead of the EP’s release, EW caught up with the Criss brothers to talk band names, nostalgia, and sibling rivalries (or lack thereof). Read the interview and watch the lyric video for “Every Single Night” below.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So why call yourselves Computer Games?
DARREN CRISS: Chuck and I grew up playing computer games. We weren’t allowed to play video games, so for some reason, computer games were a loophole. Plus, I like the way that it sounds because it’s sort of an all-prevailing concept, where if people are listening to the music, they are playing computer games, just like we’re playing computer games the same way we played Oregon Trail or Sim City 2000 as kids. That’s the same creativity we’re applying to making music on ProTools or Ableton or Logic. Those are our games now, and the music that we make is literally computer games. So there’s that, but also, it happens that the music that we have is nostalgic and reminiscent of our adolescence.
CHUCK CRISS: It just sounds fun, and the way we interact on our phones, everything is a game now with your computer in certain ways, whether it’s dating or just keeping up with your aunt on Facebook.
I’m glad you hit on the nostalgia thing, because “Every Single Night” sounds to me like it could be a Lionel Richie song.
DARREN: That wasn’t the intention, but it certainly came out that way. The music has quite coincidentally ended up hearkening back to the sounds of the popular dance records of the time when we were young children, so late ’80s, early ’90s. That’s a nice coincidence, considering that the music is nostalgic thematically, and all the songs that we have are about growing up and, because we grew up in the era, it’s sort of appropriate.
What were your favorite computer games growing up, and what are they now?
CHUCK: I loved Sim City 2000. I used to make cities and print them out, and I thought it was so fun. A lot of times I would just use cheat codes to make a dream city. The actual game is kind of grueling. You have to like, raise taxes and it’s…
DARREN: A lot of responsibility.
CHUCK: A lot of responsibility. But I just loved making these big cityscapes and designing neighborhoods and dream parks and all that stuff. It was a really good place to let your imagination go wild.
DARREN: I was a big LucasArts fan. As a big Star Wars fan, that was like, Rebel Assault, Dark Forces, all Star Wars-themed games. And then now my favorite games would probably be like…. What are computer games now?
CHUCK: They’re just called video games.
DARREN: What games do you play on your phone even? I was really into Cut the Rope. I like strategy games.
Why did now feel like the best time for you to guys to do this together?
DARREN: It’s really overdue. I feel like if I’d waited any longer, it would’ve driven me mad.
CHUCK: It’s something that we wanted to do for a long time because we wrote music together when we were teenagers. And it’s actually better now because we’re more experienced songwriters, more confident musicians. There’s some Picasso quote about keeping a child’s brain to create, and I feel like I can get into that headspace with Darren ’cause it’s like we’re just back in the basement writing songs.
DARREN: But we get to do it from an adult perspective. So we’re basically chasing our adolescence, but we wouldn’t have been able to make this music when we were young people. After Glee was over, there was a space that opened up, and I’d been planning to put out music for a long time, and it’s sort of a joke for people that have been following me that I’ve just never put anything out. And that has a lot to do with the fact that I was never happy with stuff, and it just never felt right. I was at a point where I was like, “OK, what do I have that I do feel cool about putting out?” This whole project is honoring our teenage selves and kind of fulfilling a promise that we made to ourselves forever ago. It’s a fresh start across the board. I look forward to the idea that if you didn’t know StarKid, if you didn’t know Glee, if you didn’t know Freelance Whales or any of us, that you can approach this music with full objectivity.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of working with your sibling?
DARREN: The only setback I would say is having there be more than one person. I’ve worked by myself for the most part with music. You don’t have to coordinate with anybody, you’re fine to do [red carpets and photoshoots alone]. But the irony of that is, yeah, you are alone. It’s all on you, and that can be a lot. So I don’t necessarily enjoy that. But what’s great about being with Chuck is that this is something we are both proud of. We share this endeavor. So when you’re walking the red carpet, it’s like, Chuck’s there. It’s fun. We’re a year and a half apart so we’ve always been really close. There’s no red tape to cut through when we’re collaborating on stuff, we can disagree without any bulls—, which is nice.
CHUCK: You know how sometimes you’re nicer to strangers than your own family? It’s almost like we get to cheat a little bit in the songwriting process ’cause we know each other so well, so there isn’t this level of compromising just for the sake of being nice because you just met this person and you have to write a song with them.
DARREN: Chuck and I are in the same headspace musically, artistically, everything, because we grew up on the same stuff. It streamlines the artistic process and any arguments — which I can’t even call it that — are few and far between. It’s like, “What do you think of this?” “I don’t like it.” “OK, cool.” I want us to both like it.
Lost Boys Life is now streaming.