The Singing Review Girl: Interview with Rebecca Mayes
For many the first exposure to Rebecca Mayes would have been her appearance on BBC show – Charlie Brooker’s Gameswipe. In it, she provided a soulful acoustic review of the Nintendo Wii game MadWorld.
This is what Rebecca Mayes does, singing about and reviewing video games, hence her moniker ‘the singing review girl’. Since the idea of marrying musical and video game reviews together came about, Mayes been kept busy through her work on gamespeople.com and more notably on the website The Escapist.
Taking time out to talk to Gamebrit she discussed how the idea came to fruition, how her album turned out and how she came to appear on Gameswipe.
Gamebrit: Singing about video games is quite a niche approach, I don’t know of anyone else who does it, how did this come about?
Rebecca Mayes: It was a crazy idea dreamed up by a friend who is the editor of gamepeople.com and myself. He is a very creative chap and he’s always looking for ways to fuse creativity and gaming. We talked about the idea of song-reviews whilst nursing coffee, sitting around till the small hours one night, and then a few days later I put the idea into practice in the form of ‘Press A’, my review of Wii Sports. It seemed like a good place to start, the idea was like the Wii itself, an experimental novelty, made for fun and silliness more than anything else.
GB: At what point did it turn into a full-blown album?
RM: We were both amazed at how well ‘Press A’ went down, and I went on to write seven more songs for gamepeople.com, it was an exciting time, being featured in PlayStation Magazine and Nintendo Magazine, and being listened to all over the world. Eventually The Escapist asked me to write exclusively for them and I’ve been a happy part of The Escapist family for the past year. My fans started to request mp3s of the songs and putting them together in an album seemed like the best idea.
GB: Tell us a little bit about the album; are you pleased with the outcome?
RM: I love recording, it is my favourite part of the creative process, although sometimes the hardest. There is such nervousness as I set out, wondering if I’m going to ruin a perfectly good song, or be able to do it justice. When I came to putting the album together I polished up the songs, everything I do is in such a small time frame and that for me is part of the challenge. The polishing itself was done under a lot of pressure, as I was also busy sorting out the logistics of distributing and marketing the album. And I had to sort my favourite tracks from my not-so-favourite ones. At the time of putting the album together I was really enjoying UFO, The Mirror and Shadows, but my favourites change depending on my mood. I’m also fond of Batman and Death and the Spaceship.
I must admit I was really pleased with the album. I’ve never felt so proud of anything in my life. I think mainly because it was such a one-woman-band project, everything in the writing, recording, instrumentation and production had come from me, with all it’s quirks and randomness it was totally my baby.
GB: Looking at your lyrics, you don’t directly reference a game in every song. Are all the tracks related to gaming?
RM: Yes, nearly all the tracks have been inspired by or are musings on a specific game, apart from The Mirror, which is talking about my experience of bodies in gaming and The Machine, which is talking about the isolation of being a gamer. I started to branch out to comment on gaming in general when I realised this was something my fans were interested by.
GB: Is there a process for what games you write about, do certain games make for better song material?
RM: Generally the more imaginative and artsy the game the easier it is for me to be inspired by it. I struggle with the generic blockbuster titles, but there is always something somewhere that I can hook into. Sometimes I have to wait a long time before something jumps out at me and I think ah, that’s interesting. I pick my games rather haphazardly, I like to get a mix of popular games and more random ones, and a mix of games I like and hate.
GB: How much of a gamer are you yourself, any particular favourite titles?
RM: When I started with gamepeople.com I was a total novice, and this was the idea, to see what a novice makes of the gaming world from a creative point of view. My journey into the more hard-core gaming scene joining the escapist has mirrored my relationship with gaming, although I wouldn’t call myself a hardcore gamer because I like the surreal and the sublime, the imaginative and the kooky, which you don’t get a lot of in hard-core games. I like games with a sense of humour. My favourite and most profound gaming experience has been with Flower.
GB: How did the work with Gameswipe come about?
RM: One of my fans tweeted Charlie Brooker mentioning my work. It must have been at the time that they were researching for the programme, soon after I got a call from the BBC asking if I would write a song for Gameswipe. I’m very grateful to this fan, and my fans in general, they have a lot of power in getting me out there.
GB: Had you ever dabbled in, for a lack of a better word, ‘normal’ singing/song writing before?
RM: Yes, I was a singer/songwriter for two years previously under a different name (www.rebeccaworthley.co.uk). I recorded two albums and toured the country, played live on Radio 2 and generally had a great time. All the music I made was with well-established producers in professional studios, and I decided I wanted to make my own sound in my own way. I’ve not looked back. Producing for me is part of the song writing process.
GB: From a musical perspective what influences you?
RB: Music made from genuine experience or emotion. I have a lot of favourite artists; Sufjan Stevens, Imogen Heap, Florence and The Machine, Regina Spektor, Bat for Lashes, Feist, Joanna Newsom, and this is what I find in common with them all – authentic expression.
GB: Where you surprised by the reaction you received?
RM: Yes! And I continue to be. I’m bowled over by the support I’ve received and the number of lovely messages, well wishes, and heart-felt thanks of my fans. I’ve been so welcomed into the gaming community and it’s a great family to be part of.
GB: Finally, What’s next for Rebecca Mayes?
RB: I’m making a non-game-related Rebecca Mayes album at the moment, which I’m hoping to bring out next year, although I’m carrying on making my songs and videos for the Escapist. Long may it continue.