If you’ve seen an episode of ABC’s hit show “The Goldbergs,” you have likely heard I Fight Dragons. The Chicago-bred pop rock act was unexpectedly commissioned by the show’s creator, Adam F. Goldberg, in 2013 to write the popular theme song, a catchy up-tempo tune called “Rewind” that plays for the first 10 seconds every Wednesday.
I FIGHT DRAGONS
When: 9 p.m. Dec. 23
Where: Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln
Tickets: $13 (in advance)
“We did a Kickstarter campaign to fund the last album we released [2014’s “The Near Future”] and one of the first backers on the first day was Adam Goldberg,” recalls frontman Brian Mazzaferri of the initial connection. “He left us a message saying, ‘You’ve never heard of me, but I’m a big fan of the band. I have a new TV show that was green lit on ABC and I want you to write the theme song.’ I worked with him, and together we wrote 20 versions and ended up with the final one.”
With much demand for the full version, the entirety of “Rewind” also now appears as the opening track on the first-ever “The Goldbergs Mixtape,” which was released earlier this month.
In an interview with “TV Guide,” Goldberg said of his ‘favorite band,’ “[They] have a really retro sound … [and] seemed like a perfect match for my show, set in the same time period.”
Part of the charm that drew in the retro-minded producer (his show profiles the comedic saga of growing up with his family in the ‘80s) is I Fight Dragon’s consistent use of chiptune — aka music that uses samples of old Nintendo video game soundbytes.
“When I started collaborating with [keyboardist] Bill [Prokopow] around 2009, we had an idea to do a demo together where the chorus of the song sounded like it was coming out of a Nintendo. We both thought we were super original and making something totally new. But after more research we realized there was this entire subgenre of people doing it,” says Mazzaferri.
Some mainstream examples include Kesha (notably on track “Tik Tok”), the heavy metal act DragonForce and early Deadmau5 work. When the software Little Sound DJ was released about a decade ago, it made the craft even more accessible.
“It’s a Gameboy cartridge that turns the player into a sequencer,” says Mazzaferri, noting that the band uses the technology to write songs like hit “Crazie$,” often favoring samples of the Super Nintendo era, including Final Fantasy VI and Mega Man. “It looks just like you are playing a game but you are actually programming music.”
For their live shows, for many years, the band had a rig that used video game controllers as triggers for the sound. For their upcoming gig at Lincoln Hall on December 23, which promises to span all their material from early EP “Cool is Just A Number” to a new album they are working on, expect Prokopow to handle the operation on keytar.
It will be the first time the band has played around town in a good number of years. Prokopow originally left the group in 2014, shortly after the time when the band—also featuring guitarist Packy Lundholm, bassist Hari Rao and drummer Chad Van Dahm—was able to get out of their contract with Atlantic Records and the subsidiary Photo Finish, a relationship which gave them some exposure early on.
“It was an amazing life experience. And every sort of stereotypical moment that could happen with a label pretty much did, including the A&R runaround with having to have a hit song but also getting to do some crazy tours that we probably wouldn’t have otherwise,” says Mazzaferri. That includes a jaunt with 3OH!3, Cobra Starship and Travie McCoy in 2010 and touring with the Vans Warped Tour in 2012 and 2014. Though, they never did get to do a jaunt with Fall Out Boy, the kingpin of pop punk as I Fight Dragons was starting out; frontman Patrick Stump was also a classmate of Mazzaferri’s at Glenbrook South High School and a “battle of the bands” foe.
With all that in the past, Mazzaferri says the band is excited to be working together again in an independent phase, with help from the creative platform Patreon, that gives them full control over the songwriting. And if the current obsession with everything ‘80s — from “Stranger Things” to barcades — brings I Fight Dragons to the forefront, then so be it.
“I think nostalgia can be a dirty word when you talk to artists,” admits Mazzaferri. “There’s a part of me that feels like what we are going for is not nostalgia in the sense that we are throwing it back, but at the same time we certainly are tapping into the emotions and feelings that go with that era. It’s what made us interested in doing it in the first place.”
Selena Fragassi is a local freelance writer.