Growing up in Brownsville, Amanda Lepre got hooked on what are now considered classic "retro" video games like "Final Fantasy VI," "The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past" and an obscure Super Nintendo title called "ActRaiser."
The 28-year-old musician, who has lived in Austin since she was 19, was so inspired by the games, which had melodramatic plots and lush soundtracks (particularly the "Final Fantasy" series), that she began writing her own music based on scenes from games as well as classic literature and fantasy novels.
The fantasy and video-game songs, with titles like "Slay the Dragon" and "Wrath on the Styx," were performed on acoustic guitar, but with a strong heavy metal influence.
An easy sell, right? Lepre — who bears a mass of black curls that frame her youthful face — eats a veggie sandwich, munches on a bag of pretzels and drinks water at Genuine Joe Coffeehouse. She talks about the way her album, "Beneath the Forest of Error," which is being independently released this week, took years to put together, with some of the songs dating to 2005.
What's been surprising to Lepre is that there is an audience for her kind of music. The large, growing video-game community in Austin has found her, through her solo work as well as her side band, Descendents of Erdrick, which performs covers of classic game music.
"I had a hard time fitting into establishments," Lepre said. "I'd announce that they were video game-inspired songs and people would say, ‘That might put people off.' "
While she struggled to record her solo work, she formed Descendents of Erdrick with bassist Chris Taylor and found other musicians through Craigslist to fill out the band. Pretty soon, she said, local video-game developers were coming to their shows and befriending the band. Gigs at video-game conferences like the Electronic Entertainment Expo and Penny Arcade Expo have helped increase the number of fans. Over the Memorial Day weekend, the band hosted a second-annual night of video-game music called "Video Games Rock!" at The Parish.
Lepre said that working with the band introduced her to a whole national scene of musicians who create original music about video-game titles and characters, use video game technology (as in the "chip-tune" genre) to make sounds or who do covers of memorable game music from the early 1980s.
Nongamers, Lepre said, might not recognize how well some of the stories and music from even early video games still hold up. For one of the songs on her album, she recalled a scene from "Final Fantasy VI" in which a character awakens from a coma on an island. Believing her love interest has died, the woman throws herself off a cliff but ends up surviving.
The song that resulted, "Undying Hero," is the third track on "Beneath the Forest of Error." Other songs on the album owe a debt to Dante's "Inferno," which provides some of the framework for "Forest of Error."
"All the songs on the album are nods to different games or specific scenes I'm captivated by," Lepre said.
She'll be showing off that song and all the other tracks from the album at a free show Saturday at Frontier Bar. The album was self-produced and financed, and a video for "Slay the Dragon" that took six months to shoot is also now available on YouTube.
Lepre seems relieved to have the songs collected and released after so much work.
"These songs have been around a while," she said. "I'm just happy to have them all in one place and sounding great."