Chiptune is an instrument not a genre: Square Sounds Festival 2020

Beeps bloops and beats, Square Sounds is a celebration of chiptune and returns to Melbourne in 2020.
February 21, 2020 9:00 AM
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Listen to our feature interview with Kristy Dossor and Alex Yabsley below:

The Square Sounds Festival is one of Australia's longest running chiptune events and it returns to Melbourne this weekend for two nights of international artists and video game console generated sounds.

If you aren't familiar with chiptune Kristy Dossor who has been organising the festival since it's debut in 2013 says its best described as dance music made using salvaged and vintage electronic equipment like Gameboys.

"It's all music that's made with old video game consoles, old synthesisers basically old equipment that comes from your toybox or an op-shop or eBay that no one wants anymore unless you're trying to do this kind of music."

"At the very start Eugene [Davoren-Britton] and I ran something called SoundBytes for a few years and that was a much smaller event which was mostly local artists and it was basically that no one else in Australia was putting on many chip shows so we sort of saw a bit of a niche and started doing it."

Kristy Dossor, Alex Yabsley and Eugene Davoren-Britton the organisers of Square Sounds at the 2018 festival.

Inspired by the Blip Festival which toured Australia, Japan, the United States and Denmark, Square Sounds was formed after Blip Festival ceased operations in 2012 and Dossor said it was all about continuing that legacy.

"We said we're not ready to stop yet, and that's why we started doing Square Sounds because there is no one else thats quite doing the thing that we're doing, and I think it's important for us to carry that scene on."

"The scene people are really important to us now, because we've been around for such a long time, and it's as much about the people and the relationships within the scene as it is about the actual music."

Musicians work with visual artists at the festival to create an experience and Alex Yabsley, who performs under Dot.AY and is one of the organisers Square Sounds says the line up is based on people they know can put on a good show.

"We like to have seen them perform before we book them here, because the live performance aspect of the music is a really big part of it."

For audiences attending their first Square Sounds, and Yabsley says that people sometimes have the misconception that the music is just video game soundtracks, but it's actually far more diverse.

"In think people need to be prepared to dance, that would be good, and the other one is definitely being open minded because it attracts a whole range of different people with different musical tastes because [Chiptune] is not a genre into itself its more a sound palette or an aesthetic."

"We have a huge range of music from like trashy pop, through to like full hard dance music to some that is more like your progressive SEGA soundtrack like stuff and all of that happens from act to act throughout the night."

Square Sounds is on Friday 21 February and Saturday 22 February in Melbourne at the 24 Moons in Northcote with tickets available online.

You can listen to a sample playlist of tracks of some of the artists (as well as Dot.AY) playing at the festival below