|Lauren Mcdonald and Brandon Chez. Singer and Drummer of virtual rock band.
There are two types of people at RIT: Those who have fun playing a video game with plastic instruments and those who wonder why the first type is toying around with those silly, plastic instruments. Being a member of the first group I’ve always wanted to share a story that could justify the pile of fake guitars in my living room. Sadly, I don’t have one, but RIT Students Andrew Prelusky (New Media Information Technology, Class of 2008), Brandon Chez (Computer Science, Class of 2009), JP Lambiase (Mechanical Engineering Technology, Class of 2008), and Lauren McDonald (Multidisciplinary Studies, Class of 2009) sure do.
Together they form Earth, Wind & Centaur (EWC), one of the top-ranked virtual bands on Xbox Live today. The four recently took an all-expense paid trip to New York City, stayed in a $1200-a-night hotel room, and made an appearance on cable TV. There, EWC, along with two other top-ranked bands, got a chance to play Rock Band 2 before its much-anticipated release date over at MTV’s Time Square studio and perform live on Spike TV.
Reporter recently got a chance to speak with two of the fearsome foursome about their ascent to rock band stardom.
Reporter: How did the four of you guys meet?
Lauren McDonald: Brandon [drummer], Andrew [guitarist/bassists], and I [vocals] met a couple years ago playing other music games like Dance Dance Revolution. Then Brandon and Andrew met JP [guitar] at Guitar Hero tournaments and when Brandon's roommate wasn't cutting it, we replaced him with JP! [laughs]
Brandon Chez: We were all really good friends way before the release of Rock Band.
R: What made you guys come up with the name Earth, Wind, & Centaur?
BC: [Laughs] This is a pretty funny story. As mentioned earlier we all met through our similar interest in Dance Dance Revolution. So, there is a really horrible song in the game called "Centaur." We obsessed for weeks about how bad the song was and eventually we used it in our band name. The "Earth, Wind" part comes from our attempt to use a real band name in conjunction with Centaur. 50 Centaur, Centaurica, and Blue Centaur Cult were the other names that we were considering.
R: When exactly did you guys start playing Rock Band together?
LM: November I think. Brandon and Andrew were playing, and I brought over some pumpkin cookies and I started singing with them and they were like ‘oh crap you can do expert we need a vocalist.’
BC: After a month of individually toying around with the game, we finally decided to all play together for the first time as a band. During that session, we set number one records on a few songs and realized that we had potential to be one of the top bands in the game. It was definitely an exciting time.
R: How do you feel about your band’s high rank worldwide?
BC: We feel ecstatic about it! This game has given us so many things: Cool prizes, fame, interviews, photo shoots, the opportunity to play test Rock Band 2 and meet the game developers, all expenses paid trips to NYC and Boston... We've even been on TV because of this game.
R: What is your current ranking on Rock Band? Are you currently third worldwide?
LM: Yeah I think so, in Rock Band 1. We're currently playing Rock Band 2. We stopped playing after Andrew and JP graduated but now we can play over Xbox Live on Rock Band 2. But the leaderboards and uploading mechanics for the game are pretty screwed up.
R: So which do you prefer, RB1 or RB2?
LM: I like RB2 a lot better just because of the greater song selection. There are a lot of problems with the Xbox Live stuff, but I hope they'll get that fixed. Not too much really changed from 1 to 2, though.
BC: Rock Band 2 is so much better than the first. It has a bigger and better song list, new multiplayer modes (i.e. Battle of the Bands), improved gameplay features that make the notes easier to read, and most importantly for us, the ability to be ranked without having to play locally. As with any video game, there are a few bug fixes and minor improvements that need to be made, but I'm sure Harmonix is working on a patch for the near future.