Brian Tashima is working hard to grow his rock band into a brand. If all goes according to his dream, Second Player Score won’t be “just a band” much longer; it’ll be concept albums, comic books, games, a streaming TV series — maybe even a line of adult beverages and a brewpub they can call home.
“The entertainment industry isn’t looking for one-trick ponies anymore,” said drummer Kyle Gilbert. That’s why Gilbert, Tashima and bass player Daniel Downs are developing story lines, writing scripts and incubating what they call SPSU — the Second Player Shared Universe.
That universe is teeming with melodic punk rock and expansive science-fiction adventures — all enjoyed over craft beer. The band’s shorthand for its driving sound, and its whole lifestyle, is “nerd-punk.”
There are 10 different SPSU projects competing for space on Tashima’s crammed whiteboard at home; some are well underway while others are baby-stepping forward, but none seem like total pipe dreams. Tashima, who works as a financial analyst, has several meetings scheduled for this summer where he’ll pitch finished scripts to “Hollywood types,” he said; meanwhile bandmate Downs, a Boeing machinist, is looking into creating action figures drawn from the band’s tales.
“It’s a whole second full-time job,” said Gilbert, an information technology specialist at HP, who usually gets together with Tashima a couple of times a week to rehearse the band, brainstorm ideas and build SPSU.
If You GoWhat: Second Player Score CD release, with Matt Danger, The Doom Generation, The Fauxriginals. When: 7 p.m. June 20. Where: Lola’s Room at the Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W. Burnside, Portland. Tickets: $8 in advance, $10 at the door. Learn more: www.secondplayerscore.com
“Everything we can do ourselves, we are already doing,” said Tashima. “This is our branding strategy.”
Tashima, 49, a guitarist and singer who lives in east Vancouver, is probably better known to Columbian readers for authoring a series of imaginative young-adult sci-fi novels starring a special lad named Joel Suzuki. Joel is based partially on Tashima’s own son, Torin, who lives with a mild form of autism called Asperger’s Syndrome, and is doing well as a 20-year-old student at Clark College, Tashima said.
Autism and Aspergers aren’t usually considered gifts, but that’s exactly the mindset Tashima wanted to portray in his stories. In the sci-fi universe he’s developed across four Joel Suzuki novels since 2012, being “on the spectrum” isn’t a problem: It’s a superpower.
Tashima’s Joel Suzuki books have been glowingly reviewed by both literary critics and autism activists. Tashima now serves on the board of Clark County nonprofit Autism Empowerment, Inc. “I would love to make Joel the autism community’s own Harry Potter,” he has said.
Now, Tashima and Second Player Score are getting ready to rock Joel’s sci-fi universe — or, at least, the universe right next door. They’ll appear July 20 at Lola’s Room in Portland to release and perform the entirety of their third full-length CD, “Glorified.” Joining them will be other local punk rockers including Matt Danger, The Doom Generation and The Fauxriginals.
“Glorified” is the 12-song story of Gloria, who has been raised in a post-apocalyptic world to be the least feeling, most remorseless assassin of them all. But when Gloria gets injured, she refuses to do what fallen “enforcers” must do — commit ritual suicide — and instead sets out on a rogue quest for answers.
That’s a synopsis of “Eye of the Needle,” the first song on “Glorified,” but just in case the speedy lyrics aren’t entirely clear to your ear above Gilbert’s energetic drums and Tashima’s crunchy guitar, Second Player Score has fleshed out the story for your eyes, too. The band hired Jenny Ho, an anime artist based in San Jose, to illustrate its original script in a 40-page, black-and-white, Manga-style comic that ends with a great cliffhanger: Gloria smashing her futuristic airplane through a ceiling, escaping toward her next adventure.
The comic book version of “Eye of the Needle” will be for sale at the show, bundled with the “Glorified” CD. The band hopes to keep creating comic book versions of all the songs on the album, Tashima said; the group has even developed a teaser for a 12-episode, animated series that would follow Gloria’s entire epic.
Even before its third CD has been released, Tashima said, Second Player Score is working on the fourth, which will have a “Pokemon”-style card game tie-in. There’s already been plenty of test play with a card deck designed by Jenny Ho, the same artist who drew “Glorified.”
Where does the money for all this come from? Second Player Score music has been licensed by some of those same “Hollywood types” for incidental use on TV, Tashima said; that has generated a surprisingly nice income for the band, Tashima said.
And where will the money go? Because everybody in the band has been touched by suicide, Tashima said, a portion of CD and comic book sales at the gig will go to the Oregon chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Joel Suzuki’s world isn’t precisely the “Glorified” world, Tashima said, but the two overlap neatly. Fans who follow both will catch clues, like Second Player Score’s cameo appearance in the fourth Suzuki adventure (where somebody notes that “they’re not that good,” Tashima laughed).
And what adventure doesn’t involve a drink or two? The members of Second Player Score are all craft beer fans, and drummer Gilbert is a dedicated home brewer who once embarked on a series of 11 new beers intended to “taste like” all 11 songs on the band’s previous CD. When the band released that album, in 2017, Lola’s Room featured Gilbert’s “Head of Sin” red ale as its special tap for the evening.
Now, Gilbert is brainstorming what more he can brew up for the SPSU. What about a truly post-apocalyptic whiskey? What about a small-batch coffee roast? And what about a SPSU brewpub where patrons can eat, imbibe, watch streaming videos and play games?
The band has decided that SPSU is more than a band, Tashima said — it’s a lifestyle.
“One way to be successful is to realize your skills and put them to work,” Gilbert said.