Robert Mostyn, better known as B.C., is a regular presence on the Rochester scene, but he makes music that is noticeably different from the output of most other local acts. He's part of a genre, and musical movement, called chiptune. Chiptune can be defined, in the words of B.C., as "music made with retro video game systems." (In B.C.'s case, he composes on a Nintendo Gameboy system.)
If you read those last few sentences and are baffled by the entire concept of chiptune, you're not alone. "The main question when people hear my stuff is, 'What game is that from?'" says B.C. "And the thing you have to explain to them is, I wrote that. I wrote all of it."
He continues, "I'm not taking the sounds from games; I'm not 'sampling.' The video-game system is the instrument, and you just write on it. It's almost like writing electronic music on a computer. You hear a sound in a game you like and you try to get it — you try to find it."
Rochester is home to a group called Rochester Chip, which is currently run by B.C. and another local chiptune artist, Nick Maynard. The two members book all of the chiptune shows throughout the area, including the upcoming ChipFest on Saturday, December 14, at RIT. After this ChipFest, B.C. and Maynard will hand over the reins to two new leaders, but both plan to continue to be involved in the group.
B.C. says that Rochester has an active chiptune community thanks to venues like the Bug Jar and the students at RIT, who he describes as being "the perfect audience" for chiptune.
Speaking of college, that's where B.C. got his entertainer pseudonym. He was a freshman, and though small in stature, he was 18 years old. He entered the bathroom one night and heard two guys in his dorm talking about him. That's when he was referred to as "brainchild" for the very first time. Due to his youthful looks, both of his peers thought he was a highly intelligent 14-year-old who had been admitted to college early.
"Brainchild" was later shortened to B.C., and the "Likes You" part was added in 2003 or 2004, before he even began his solo venture. B.C. added that last part of his name to get a message across that is common to both his music and personality: "It comes from the mentality of just wanting everyone to have fun and be positive. And hey, even if you don't like my music, we can probably still be buds," he says.
B.C. has spent most of his musical career not as a solo act, but rather playing the drums, and other background instruments, for various local bands — most recently and notably for the chiptune act Revengineers. He has experimented with playing several different genres throughout the years, ranging from punk-hardcore, to indie rock, to alt-country.
B.C. got the itch to go solo in 2008, and also to write his own material. He says it came down to wanting to take a chance. "I was always a drummer, and I always kind of followed along — which I like, because I never felt like a leader," he says. "So I was totally cool with giving the responsibility to somebody else, and just kind of playing whatever they liked. But then I was like, 'I want to try writing my own stuff.' Why not, you know? I had ideas, and I wanted to see what happened."
The idea of being a follower, not a leader, seems to be a theme in B.C.'s musical career. This theme is apparent not only through his decision to blend into various bands as a drummer, but also through the characters he chooses to write about. That is made particularly apparent in his EP "Unsung Heroes," which he released in 2012. The EP is a tribute to secondary characters from some of his favorite books, video games, and movies, such as Mono from the video game "Shadow of the Colossus" and Bean from "Ender's Game."
Does that preference for writing about those secondary characters have anything to do with a general avoidance of the spotlight? "Yeah, there's a little psychology in there," he says. "That's probably what it is."
"My first EP that I wrote in 2008 was not chiptune — it was just guitar and vocals, and it was songs about my life and feelings," B.C. says. "And I was like, I like it, but this doesn't feel fun. It wasn't fun to me."
B.C. admits that he often chooses to write about characters whose stories reflect his own inner-life. "That song 'Bean' [on 'Unsung Heroes'] is about a secondary character from 'Ender's Game'...he's so ambitious, which is something that rings true with me."
B.C. say he's not a "huge believer" in inspiration; for him, writing music is work. "My Monday nights, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. or 11 p.m., are dedicated just to writing music, even when I don't want to... And that's for anything creative that I do. I have to sit down and do it."
That kind of drive has recently taken B.C. to some exciting places. He is currently working on writing original music for a Brooklyn-based independent video-game company. He is also releasing a brand new digital-only EP at December's ChipFest, completely for free, full of songs about the British TV phenomenon "Doctor Who."
Overall, B.C. just wants his listeners to have a good time. "There are times when people come up to me after a show...and they'll just start talking about the characters in my songs and they'll know more than I do. And it's just so fun to nerd out," he says. "Just to get the chance to do that."