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Earth, Wind & Centaur Interview

If you’ve been onto our leaderboards at all, you’ve encountered the mythic, mysterious name “Earth, Wind & CENTAUR!!” It’s been there almost continuously since Rock Band hit the stores, right on top of the XBox chart: Last we looked, they’d racked up a ridiculously high score of 90,309,076. They’ve only been bumped from the #1 space on three occasions; each time they rallied and took the top slot back. So who are these people and how did they get to be this awesome? We started to imagine an outpost of superhuman beings who do nothing all day and night but crank out five-star renditions of “...And Justice For All” on Expert. The suspense was killing us: We had to find these people.

Our search took us to Rochester, NY, where the mythical band formed at Rochester Polytechnic Univesity. All four members are students who’ve been hanging out together for some time: Lauren McDonald is the singer, Brandon Chez is on drums, JP Lambiase and Andrew Prelusky share the guitar duties. And they’re just like you and me, except that they’re better at playing music games. Lots better. They have in fact been playing Harmonix games for nearly as long as we’ve been making them, so they can trace our history back to Amplitude and Karaoke Revolution, longer than some of us have worked here. They also developed a perverse love for a song called “Centaur” that they found in another company’s game; and made sure to include that word in any band names they agreed to use. After Blue Centaur Cult and Centaurica got thrown out, “Earth, Wind & Centaur” just happened to be the one they were using when it was time to register for the RB boards.

It also helps that all four of their members play at Expert level; they kicked out their original guitarist for only playing on Hard.

So what’s the secret of their supremacy? “We’re happy to go to a college where everybody plays video games and the entire population are nerds,” Brandon reveals. “And there wasn’t anything else to do.” It also helps that all four of their members play at Expert level; they kicked out their original guitarist for only playing on Hard. “Our general strategy is to play songs that give us the most optimizer time. And it helps to know when to activate your Overdrive. We have this sense - ‘Yeah, this would be a good time to go into Overdrive.’ You either have that or you don’t.”

While they’ve had no trouble with “Green Grass & High Tides,” “...And Justice For All” and some of the other impossible RB songs, Brandon admits he nearly got thrown by the drum part on “Run to the Hills.” Their favorite songs to play are “Move Along” for drums, “Flirtin’ With Disaster” for guitar, and “Call Me” when the whole band needs to unwind. They also say they’ve become Freezepop fans, having followed the band through its songs in previous games.

Being the greatest band in Rock Band does come with certain responsibilities.

Being the greatest band in Rock Band does come with certain responsibilities. The Centaurs have a hometown bar that was sponsoring a weekly competition; they won it enough times, and earned enough $25 restaurant certificates, before the bar owners realized their identity. After that, the place started promoting a challenge with the band, but nobody could offer them any serious competition. “It turned out to be a lot of drunk people ardently strumming. We all switched instruments and still beat them.” As Lauren found, the Centaurs just play with a different attitude. “We don’t play Rock Band for fun. We play super-serious.”

Such is their level of expertise that Earth, Wind & Centaur don’t even play Rock Band that often, usually getting together just once a week—unless anyone catches up with them on the leaderboards, when they’ll have an emergency session. Most recently they got dethroned by Die! In a Fire, which they swear only happened because Brandon was on vacation and they couldn’t play for a week. While they’ve never met their latest rivals, the two bands have been in touch via AIM. “It’s not really a rivalry,:” Brandon insists. “It’s more like a nuisance.”

With the school year ending and Brandon about to graduate, Earth Wind & Centaur would seem to be in danger to losing their throne—but they’ve already vowed to keep playing together every week, or however often it takes to stay on top. “We all plan to get on with having adult lives, once we get this Rock Band thing over with,” Brandon says—but fortunately, that doesn’t seem to be happening right away. So all aspiring Rock Band wizards, take note: The gauntlet has been thrown down.