Indie rockers Big Rock Candy Mountain scored big this season. The New Orleans outfit’s surging prog-pop single, “Rocketship,” landed on the soundtrack to two of video game developer 2K Sports’ recent titles: NHL 2K11 and NBA 2K11. To date, the latter title, whose cover features NBA icon Michael Jordan, has sold over 4 million units en route to becoming the company’s best selling game of all time.
The young band’s break came last March during a gutsy, un-billed performance at the annual music industry mecca South by Southwest. Like many of their cohorts, Big Rock headed to SXSW on their own dime, scoring several un-billed gigs around Austin on as many of the immense festival’s unofficial showcases as would host them. “We ended up playing eight shows in five days,” says frontman Michael Girardot.
The group did land one official SXSW showcase, backing New Orleans bounce crew Partners N’ Crime, but it wasn’t that performance that led to their recent good fortunes. It was their final showing, a frigid outdoor set held by online music promoters Sideways Media, that caught the attention of 2K Sports Brand Manager Ryan Hunt. “Our last show was outside of a really swanky restaurant,” begins Girardot.
“It’s called the Belmont Hotel,” guitarist Andrew Hartsock butts in.
“By the time we went on on Saturday, the temperature had dropped from around 75 degrees to 35 degrees,” Girardot continues. “There were maybe like five people standing outside in the unbearable cold with us.”
In attendance that night was a reviewer from Metromix Cincinatti, who later wrote, “Anyone who can complete a 30-minute set in those conditions deserves every single fan they’ve ever garnered.” One fan Big Rock garnered was 2K Sports’ Hunt. “We met this guy, Ryan, who told us he worked for a videogame company, so we gave him some of our stuff,” says Girardot.
Six months later, the band received an email request from Hunt to use “Rocketship,” the opening track off of Big Rock’s debut album Hey Kid, on the soundtrack for 2K Sports’ upcoming hockey title, NHL 2K11. “We thought they must have mistaken us as a band from Canada,” says Girardot. Other bands on the soundtrack include Wolfmother and grunge gods Alice in Chains.
Soon, another request from 2K Sports hit Big Rock’s inbox, this time for “Rocketship” to be included on the basketball game NBA 2K11. Here, not only does the song appear during game play, but gamers also have the option to play as members of the band when challenging NBA All Stars such as LeBron James and the Hornets’ Chris Paul or fellow soundtrack contributors, hip-hop heavyweights Snoop Dogg and Drake. “They rendered us into computer-animated people with really big muscles. Now, we’re able to play basketball better than we’ve ever been able to in real life,” Girardot says.
The band first encountered their digitized selves after their first-ever performance at the Voodoo Experience last October. On their way to the artists’ area backstage, they noticed a copy of NBA 2K11 lying next to a PlayStation game console. “It took a second to register, but we were like, ‘Isn’t that the game we’re supposed to be on?’” Hartsock said. “Once we found ourselves, we went a little crazy. As people passed by, we’d say, ‘Yeah, we’re in this game. You can play us if you like.’” He continues, “Drake’s on the game, and he was at Voodoo Fest too, but he didn’t hang with us.”
So far, a YouTube video of “Rocketship” (see below) posted by 2K Sports has received more than 58,000 views and seven pages of comments. Girardot’s had to explain to his high school sister’s friends that, “He’s in that band from that video game.” The real Big Rock Candy Mountain will play the second annual Foburg Music Festival in New Orleans, March 11-13, and once again canvas countless unofficial SXSW showcases the following week.