Brony bangers and fanatic fandoms, meet The Living Tombstone – the Internet’s largest gaming group
WWhen someone mentions âpassionateâ online communities in 2021, you might find yourself cringing in horror. Yet as Yoav Landau and Sam Haft’s soothing smiles populate my Zoom window, I remember the early 2000s – and friendlier fandoms. Listening to the thrilling duo recall their formative years, it’s hard not to think that these online buddies could be ’90s kids lurking on bulletin boards. Except they’re not – they’re the biggest gambling group on the internet.
Raised on old-fashioned internet forums hidden in playful corners of the web, Yoav and Sam saw the net as a way to forge exciting connections on misunderstood passions. Creating and performing as The Living Tombstone (TLT), this Warner Music duo drew on their favorite fandoms, recruiting a loyal army of Youtube and TIC Tac followers. Thanks to a unique 1-2 of catchy synth tunes and smooth Daft Punk music videos, TLT is now a true online sensation. Still, for founding member Yoav Landau, his first foray into music was anything but cool.
âBack then, people were really crazy about this whole brony thing,â says Landau, recalling his formative years in the My little Pony fandom. âThey were like, ‘Oh my god, a grown man loves a little girl’s show! Yeahâ¦ okay, amazing? ‘âHe pauses, rolls his eyes. âBut Brony Fandom was a huge part of my life. It made me meet a lot of people who are very talented and very creative. It really taught me what it means to be part of a community.
Quickly finding himself connected to a global network of passionate and creative misfits, Landau published a My little Pony remix which can only be described as a brony banger. Suddenly he found his trail made in his bedroom generating tens of thousands of hoof kicks.
With Landau’s fiery beats tearing the bronyverse apart, he realized that there was a way to create music that appealed directly to a niche, yet passionate, community. So it was only a matter of time before he set his sights on a subculture begging to be flattered – the gamers.
Watch the buzz grow around the indie horror sensation Five nights at Freddy’s, Landau channeled his latest interactive obsession into a series of pop gaming tributes. They quickly became a viral sensation, racking up millions of views on YouTube. Today, much like cosplayer violinist Lindsey Sterling, The Living Tombstone creates a mix of tributes to beloved games and their own entirely original music, leaving behind the safety net of beloved intellectual property.
âI think TLT’s roots in the fandom world informed how we took the next steps as a musical actor,â reflects Sam Haft, lead singer of The Living Tombstone. âWe know our fans really care about things like lore, characters and world building. So that’s always been at the forefront of everything we’ve done. “
It’s this unique blend of lore, beats, and wiki bait that caught Warner Music’s attention. Seeing the passionate and growing fan base TLT has amassed, the prestigious record label jumped at the chance to sign a very online type of new artist.
âWhen we started working with Warner Musicâ¦ it was such an exciting transition,â says Haft. âAs a YouTube-based DIY musician, you spend so much time on the outskirts of the industry, making bedroom music, alone with a laptop. So it’s definitely something to adapt to, but it’s really exciting! It’s kind of a validation after such a long time, to have people in the industry saying âcome on!â “”
Imbued their internet group with a series of memorable avatars, this Gorillaz-esque approach to music videos saw fans build quite a narrative around the fictional characters of The Living Tombstone. The question for TLT was: what’s the next step in immersing fans in their musical multiverse? The answer: create their own video game.
Released later this year, The Living Tombstone’s first game is an autobattler called AudioClash: Battle of the Bands. Unsurprisingly, it’s a musical game from start to finish. Channeling elements from Scott Pilgrim, Pokemon, and rhythm games, this unique take on the absurdly popular genre aims to create an utterly exciting turn-based time.
âBasically it’s automatic failuresâ¦ but it’s really a gang fight. Â»Explains the game director, Battle zone alumni Mike Arkin. “It’s not fighting like all other automatic chess games, is it?” So I have to tell people at every pitch meeting, that you aren’t running around clutching a guitar like a weapon or stabbing people with drumsticks – you are playing awesome music! It’s the power of great music that overwhelms the other team.
Play like a frowning mix Pokemon and Rock school, the goal in Audio Clash is to merge a unique mix of different musicians and instruments to create your own weird and wonderful band. A rhythm game would have been the obvious choice for a group-based game, but for Landau and Haft it was not the right choice.
âRhythm games require a lot of concentration and there is a barrier to entry. We didn’t want to prevent anyone from enjoying the experience, âsays Haft,â so it made sense to do something like an autobattler. Here you simulate a battle of groups: you assemble the group and you assemble the movements that you make, which correspond to the music. The movements you make and the sound of your group are unique enough that you really care. Like, when I play a Pokemon game, for example, I feel very attached to my roster. I say to myself ‘this is my team!’ We kind of hope to give people that experience with their group.
Comprising an extensive roster of playable musicians designed by longtime collaborator Maria Villacarlos, the duo are confident that there will be enough variety for players to fight for just one more song. Their solution to extend the shelf life of the game? Added guest characters based on real world musicians.
“My favorite thing about Audio clash are the invited musicians! Haft reveals, with a smile. âIt’s the idea that other people we know – or even don’t know – in the music business, can see how music and games really fit together in a really awesome way. I’m excited that other people in the music world can watch this and see all these kinds of otherworldly and weird musical characters that we’ve created in this game, while also adding real world characters. It’s super exciting!
While it’s pretty easy to add your branding and music to the game, for Landau and Haft it’s not just a glorified licensing deal.
âWe’re involved every step of the way, not just on the music side,â says Haft. âIn terms of the creativity of the characters, of the stories that the managers of the group conceiveâ¦ We are very, very closely involved. We’re not just people creating stuff in the gamer world, you know? We are players ourselves. This kind of attention to detail is important because we really want people to have the best possible experience playing this game. We want people to know that we are not just giving our name to something, we are fully involved. . “
AudiClash: the battle of the groups is currently in closed beta, with the game still scheduled to launch in 2021.