Interview with David Daignault from Charmer on Video Games

Interview with David Daignault from Charmer on Video Games

Welcome to the first in a series of interviews where your favorite bands discuss their passion for video games. The first guest who agreed to be the test subject for this experiment is none other than David Daignault, frontman for the emo band Charmer, courtesy of No Sleep Records. When he's not helping define the current state of midwestern emo by belting out painfully poignant lyrics over melodic landscapes that rival the likes of American Football and You Blew It, David is trying his best to find the time to do what essentially defined his childhood - play video games. After speaking with him, it was clear that gaming is - and has always been - one of his greatest passions. So without further ado, on with the interview.

So this is my first time doing something like this. If I seem like I don't know what I'm doing, it's because I don't know what I'm doing.

Oh you're good dude. I'm excited because a lot of the interviews you do are the same questions over and over. They're not personable. But when you said talk video games, I was like hell yeah I'll talk about video games!

Perfect! Well I wanted to start off with getting a sense of how much of a gamer do you consider yourself to be. Are you a casual gamer, hardcore gamer, or somewhere in between?

Currently it's hard to say. I definitely binge. I don't have time for video games now. In high school I was a hardcore gamer. While growing up I would try and sneak away and play as much as I could without my parents getting mad at me. You get older though. Throughout college is when I kinda slowed down playing. I do like to play games, but I have to make time to play them now. So, say a new game comes out that I'm really interested in playing - I'll hit it really hard for like two to three days, finish it, and move on.

So really like binge watching a TV show almost?

Yeah, it works out good that way because I don't really have a consistent schedule.

I can see that being a good thing sometimes. Take me for example - I'll start a game but not finish it because I have too much free time to play other stuff. So this seems to narrow down your focus to a single game.

Yeah! If I know I'm not going to finish a game within a certain time period, then I won't even start it. Sometimes there's a game where you go really hard into, but then get distracted and start doing or playing something else. So when you actually do come back to that game and pick up where you left off, you're just like, what the fuck was I even doing?

What was the console that got you really got into gaming?

Nintendo 64 for sure. My father in '85 got an NES but I had no idea he had it until I was four. He brought it out one day and told me he had something to show me. With that it was just game over. We would play Mario Bros and Contra - we had so many NES games I played through all the time. Then for Christmas in 1998 when I was five, I got an N64 and that was just the world to me. To this day it's my favorite console, hands down.

I'd have to say that both the N64 and SNES are neck and neck for me as far as my favorite consoles go.

I actually never owned a Super Nintendo until I was older. But I lived in a duplex and played with a friend who had one. So I still logged in a whole bunch of SNES time.

It seems like you more relived the NES/SNES generation, but the N64 was basically your generation.

Yeah for sure.

So I was...

Wait, dude! You gotta tell me some of your favorite Super Nintendo games!

Well I'll say the video game that I got the most excited for was Donkey Kong Country 2. It's not my favorite, but I did love it.

My bandmate Neil and I would play through all the Donkey Kong Country games together. We always go back and revisit them every album too. Like seriously, every album we've ever recorded, there's been an SNES in the room with Donkey Kong.

That is so awesome dude! As far as my favorite SNES game goes, my favorite game of all time is Chrono Trigger which is on the SNES. So that one for sure.

Hell yeah! That's my number one Super Nintendo game. I'm a big Secret of Mana fan too. And I loved Super Mario RPG. Those are three that I really got into.

I have an older brother - four years apart - and video games are like, what we did. That's all we did. We still play together to this day. So I was wondering if you had any siblings or friends that you did couch co-op with?

Oh yeah! Playing in the same room with a bunch of friends - nothing beats that. Even when online games came out, we would play them but we would still play at the same house with like four or five TVs in the basement. So I've always been very into co-op. Being in the same room, playing together, that type of thing. It's just better that way. But for the time I was playing N64, I had an older sister who liked games but she didn't play them much with me. She played Mario Party and a few others. I also had a younger brother, but he never touched video games until the PS2 was out. He didn't have those motor skills until then. (laughs) Back then I mostly played with my best friend Nick who lived in the same neighborhood throughout our whole childhood. We played everything together.

Well you mentioned Neil, what about the rest of the band? Are they into gaming?

Right now I'm kinda the only one. Neil played some when he was younger. When we were starting Charmer we decided to revisit SNES games together like Zombies Ate Our Neighbors and Donkey Kong. We did that for a while but it didn't stick unfortunately. But when I'm home and not travelling, I'm playing games with friends that I've been playing with since I was a kid. We'll get together once a week and we'll whip through tons of party games. We love playing super serious NFL Blitz and Mario Tennis.

As far as travelling and being on tour goes, an immediate question that comes to mind is how do you game while you're on the road? Do you have a handheld console like a Switch? Do you keep up with gaming news? Or when you're on tour, do you pretty much shut out all that stuff?

Nah, I keep up with all that shit. I did have a Switch for a hot minute. I bought it to play Super Mario Odyssey. So I got it, played through it for 2 weeks, and then immediately sold it afterward. I had already played Breath of the Wild on the Wii U so I didn't have to play that again on the Switch. They were both amazing Nintendo titles. Also when you're touring, you meet all these different bands. What ends up happening is you share PSN accounts and accounts. So you start playing games with all the bands you're touring with. I've played some games with Cory from Free Throw on PlayStation and Chris from Hot Mulligan. It just kinda happens from touring where you're exchanging names.

I was going to ask if you do any PC gaming, but it sounds like you do mostly console stuff?

Oh no, I definitely do PC gaming!

Oh cool, are you involved with the community at all, whether it be streaming yourself or just watching others?

No, not really. I don't have much interest in sitting and watching someone play video games. I'd rather be playing myself.

I love watching Twitch! I have it up at work all the time. But since you don't like watching, would you be interested in actually streaming yourself for others to watch?

Uh. Um. Hmm. Maybe? I don't know. But like, when I'm playing a video game, I'm smoking weed and chilling and relaxing from the day. Plus I'm not a talkative person. So I don't know if I'd want to put myself on a stream and be like, look at my ugly ass, sittin' here, devouring food while high as shit.

I'd watch that so hard, dude. I don't know what you're talking about.

A couple guys from other bands I play with are into the streaming thing. So while on tour I've actually gotten requests for it because I'm kinda known for being into video games. So it's actually pretty cool because the bands come up and talk to me about video games, so we're not having to do small talk. So yeah, I'm not going to say I'm never going to do it, but finding the time to do it... yeah I don't know.

Speaking of Twitch, they're blowing up eSports since it's so easy and accessible to watch now. Do you follow eSports at all?

Nah, not really. I think it's really cool that it's becoming a very positive thing. I think it's really neat that there's so many people interested in it and creating that community because it just promotes gaming, and I encourage everyone to play video games. Gaming is so much more social than other forms of media. But yeah, I don't follow it much, and I haven't been in any competitive gaming since Xbox 360 where I did a lot of travelling for tournaments and stuff.

So you have participated in competitive gaming?

Yeah! Definitely back in the day. I actually played Halo 3. That was the game I got just way too into. eSports wasn't a huge thing then, but you'd go to these tournaments that were giving out cash prizes. But at that time is was very unhealthy because I'd come home from school, get home at 3, and play until like 10 or 11 every day. It got me pretty burnt out. I think that was my downfall for video games. (laughs)

Well on the topic of eSports, let's hit the big ones. Fortnite, PUBG, Realm Royale, etc. All these battle royale games - do you play those?

So I played Fortnite at launch and I thought it was a shell of a game. I thought it was garbage. I played it for like a week, and I haven't touched it since. And the community that plays that game has turned me off so much that I probably won't even revisit it. I also played PUBG at launch. But both of those games came out and they were like, not finished. I think I should have given them a little more time before playing them once they worked out some stuff.

Wait, wait. You're not surprised that they put out unfinished games are you?

Oh, (laughs) noooo way dude! Okay, so get this. After I graduated college and Charmer was sort of a band but not really - I moved to New York and became a manager at GameStop and I was like "Ooh cool, video games!" I had my own store I was in charge of and everything. But that was probably one of the worst experiences of my life because it wasn't video games at all. You were just trying to convince people to buy things that they don't need. Which also turned me off of video games super hard. It was a toxic environment and I was so young. I don't even know how I got that job.

You're basically confirming what I've heard about working at GameStop.

Don't get me wrong. There's a lot of really good things they did and still do. So I don't want to be like it was all horrible. But there were just some things that I ethically could not justify in my head, and I was punished for it in the work place. But it's just like any other job. There's a lot of situations and scenarios you're put in. It's corporate America. A lot of bad, but some good. But yeah, I left that job after 8 months just because it got to the point where I couldn't do it anymore.

So I know we talked a bit about you being a collector prior to this. How did that all start up?

When I was in college, I met this kid who was really into buying and selling video games. He would watch Craigslist and go to these yard sales first thing in the morning and buy all these games. But these games he bought were worth a small fortune, and he was buying them cheap. So while watching him do that, I slowly got into it. Then I got obsessed with it. I became like a retro video game collector and am still trying to weed out my backstock even today. I didn't work during my first year of college because I was making a living off of doing that. I ended up with a huge collection. I eventually got a complete N64 collection - every game for that. And that's why that picture was taken of me smoking that bowl in the bathtub full of N64 game cartridges.

So yeah... about that photo...

Photo provided by David Daignault

I took that for my photography class at school and submitted it. It's been downloaded and uploaded so many times that I run into it everywhere on the internet. It was on the front page of CollegeHumor which is when it blew up. There was an article that was showing the top 20 funniest Tinder profile pictures, and that was one of my photos on Tinder. I guess someone took a screenshot and sent it to CollegeHumor. And yeah, now that blemish is kinda out there now (laughs).

But yeah, for my GameCube collection, I didn't go too far and just got all the quality titles. For the PS2, I got up to like, 800 something? But when Charmer started, I stopped having time to do it actively. So now I have all this backstock of stuff I haven't sold that I'm slowly weeding out throughout the years while I'm home and have the time. It's a nice little form of revenue. I bought a new car this year with the money I made selling video games! I make sure to keep the stuff I do like obviously, just on shelves in my room that I will keep forever. But really I have just boxes and boxes of this stuff.

You don't regret selling some of the rarer finds you had?

No way! I bought all my new stuff with that money. I got a couple guitars, my amps, my pedals - a lot of my stuff.

Aside from funding your musical endevours, did video games have any sort of impact or inspiration on them?

No, not really. We drop a few song titles that are references to video games. Like the LP we just released has several song title references to games. But that's about it.

Time for the essential questions now. Starting off, what is your favorite video game?

Zelda, Ocarina of Time. I got it for Christmas in 1999 when I was 6. I played it religiously. I didn't know how to read so I literally just did shit in the game until it worked out for me. Took me probably short of a year to finish it, but I finished it. I play through that game once a year to this day. The game, the music, it's just perfection. It was also my gateway drug to video games more than any other game. I was fascinated. Absolutely fascinated.

And your favorite aspect of gaming?

I love the entertainment and the nostalgic factor of video games. Like how you play a certain video game at a certain time of your life. Whether it's the music from that game or the game itself, it makes you think about the other things that were going on in your life at that time. It's a very good timeline for your entire life. One noise in this game makes you think of some memory, or one image or I don't know - it's just endless. I think that's why I still keep up with it to this day. Because how much it influenced me when I was younger.

Alright. Favorite video game soundtrack.

I don't think I can give you one certain soundtrack, but if I were to cheat then I'd just say Super Smash Brothers because it includes all the songs from the main Nintendo titles. (laughs) Speaking of Smash Bros, the new one is going to be, like, the best ever. If there's another game where I can say that I'm confident in sitting down and playing and knowing that no one is even going to touch me, it would be the Smash Bros series. There's also two bands I have to play against on Super Smash Bros. Apparently they talk big game. They've gone out of their way to say they're the best at it. So whenever we tour with those bands, that will definitely happen. One of the dudes is in Foxing, and the other is in Dogleg. So that's gonna have to be settled one of these days.

Is there a game that simply makes you rage quit?

Rage quit? (laughs) Oh man. What was the last game I got so mad I shut it off? I don't know man. Um, I'd probably have to say vanilla World of Warcraft. Like the original launch of that game had some of the most maddening shit I've ever played.

Isn't Blizzard supposed to be launching some official vanilla servers or something soon?

Yeah they are. And I will not fucking touch it.

Are you sure?

Nah, I'll play it for sure. (laughs)

Well to round it off, let us know what games you're playing currently if any.

Currently I'm not into a whole lot. I actually haven't been playing any games. But like I said I'm excited for the new Smash Bros. And the new Spiderman game looks like a quick fun play through. I feel like I could rip through that in like three days. Also looking forward to the new Kingdom Hearts. But yeah, right now I'm not playing anything. The last game I actually bought and played through was God of War.

And now if you could recommend any game, new or old, that someone absolutely has to play, which would it be?

Oh wow. Hmm, I don't know... The Pokemon games - like Red, Blue, or Yellow.

I have not played any of those actually.

What the hell, Daniel? You even like RPGs like Chrono Trigger!

Dude, the only Pokemon game I ever played was Pokemon Snap on the N64 which was pretty fun, but that's it.

Pokemon Snap was amazing! It had the kiosk where you could put your cartridge in and print out stickers of the pictures you took in the game. That shit lit my world up. You know what, fuck it, I'm recommending Pokemon Snap now. It's a half-assed, trash answer, but that's what I'm going with.

Well dude, that's all I got for you. Thanks for your time, and thanks for being my first interview for this!

Thanks for asking me to be a part of it. It was different! It's been really cool and really fun.

If you haven't listened to Charmer yet, I highly recommend checking out their latest self-titled LP released just a few months ago. You can stream the album on any of the major music outlets (and Bandcamp link here). You can also purchase the music on vinyl at the No Sleep Records store.

Header photo provided by Kaytlin Dargen.