Talking with online comedy-musician Brent Black
By Angela Espinoza, Arts Editor
After last year’s immensely successful event, Fan Expo Vancouver is returning this year with more guests, more panels, and an even bigger hall. One of their many guests this year is Brent Black, better known as ‘brentalfloss.’ With well over 150,000 YouTube subscribers and music videos with views in the millions, Black is something of an online celebrity. Black took some time out to talk with us about himself and what we can expect from his upcoming Fan Expo panel.
“I’m mostly known on the Internet for taking beloved video game tunes from the ‘80s and ‘90s and adding lyrics, usually satirical lyrics kind of like a Weird Al thing,” starts Black. “I started doing that in 2008, and it just sort of picked up speed. I released a CD in 2010 and just continued doing that ever since. I also do… general song writing and odd jobs here and there.”
Black then went to talk about the development process of writing the songs. Some of these more popular videos include 2008’s “Mega Man 2 WITH LYRICS” and 2009’s “Zelda WITH LYRICS” and, a personal favourite, “Dr. Mario WITH LYRICS.” In this particular moment, Black brought up his recent “Ballad of the Mages” video.
“[Writing songs] varies, but it’s always longer than is reasonable, just because I tend to develop concepts about the individual lyrics over time, and most of the time, if I crank something out in less than two weeks, it’s a huge risk, just because… there’s this weird incubation period with me that can last up to multiple years. I know that sounds insane, but—I did a video with puppets called ‘Ballad of the Mages’ this past December, and I first had that idea in the fall of 2010, and I did some drafts, and it was okay… I actually wrote six different drafts of it and during that time I had to get the puppets made, it felt like I worked every day on that thing for two years. But there’s this weird—I call it creative distance. My best analogy for it is, if it were an impressionistic painting that’s just all dots, if you’re really up close to it you don’t really see the whole thing, you just see this mess of dots, but over time you back up and go, ‘Okay, here’s what I have, here’s the problem.’ And that’s pretty pretentious considering they’re just silly songs about video games and I definitely am aware of that, but that’s pretty much how it works.”
From there, Black told us a little about what he has planned for his visit to Fan Expo Vancouver. Black happens to be flying all the way out here from the state of Texas, so I’m hoping this will be an active and of course fun and silly panel that makes the trip worth it for him and the audience—I know I’m looking forward to it!
“I generally do a very free-form Q&A, and I try to keep it more interesting. I try to either have a theme or a rule sometimes—if I do a bunch of conventions right in a row, I get Q&A fatigued. So sometimes I’ll make a rule that if somebody asks a question that I’ve never heard before, I’ll throw a piece of candy to them. As dumb as that sounds, it really keeps thing interesting.
“But yeah, it’s basically Q&A and then generally I will do some kind of sneak peek. If I’ve got an animated project on the way, if I have storyboards for that, usually I’ll show it at a Q&A. Or I’ll play a demo version of an upcoming video or sometimes I’ll sing lyrics that I just wrote recently. Sometimes a Q&A for me is a way to test out material—there have been at least 10 pieces of material that I’ve decided not to do after they’ve flopped at a Q&A. but if somebody got a decent giggle out of it or if somebody felt like they were behind the scenes, to me it’s worth it.”
Fan Expo Vancouver returns this Saturday and Sunday, so if you haven’t gotten tickets already, get them now! Brent ‘Brentalfloss’ Black will have his panel on Sunday at 2 p.m. But if Sunday’s not your best day, Black will also be playing a concert at The Railway Club with local nerd rockers Kirby Krackle and The Double Clicks; tickets for the show are only $5, so you know you’re getting your money’s worth.