Garbage Musicals is a new animated musical series with a lot of heart. The project is a joint effort by ArcadeCloud, sketch comedy group Tin Can Brothers, and WiseCrack, the digital media brand responsible for productions such as Thug Notes and 8-Bit Philosophy. Combining their talents, these three brands meet at the apex of musical creativity, bringing to life ideas through song that may never see the light of day otherwise. We had the chance to speak with members of each team and pick their minds about the wildly original idea, and we learned plenty of great stuff along the ride!
ArcadeCloud’s Roarke Boes and WiseCrack’s Jacob Salamon:
Joe Gharagheer: Before we jump in, could you guys explain to me what Wisecrack and ArcadeCloud are in your own words? While I’m familiar with them both, I find that no one can define something accurately unless they’re on the inside.
Jacob Salamon: Sure, I’ll start with Wisecrack. It’s a digital media brand and publisher. We started primarily on Youtube and then did podcasts and published a book and television segments.
It’s a multi-media brand that focuses on creating smart and funny content by teaching everything from literature to philosophy, to history, to psychology, but all through the lens of analyzing pop cultures. For example, we try to dive into the deeper meaning of movies or tv shows or video games through the lens of things like Nietche or interesting philosophical concepts.
We have an exceptional audience of over four million fans across our media platforms. We also have these exciting and creative brands that have been great fun like a show called Thug Notes, which is teaching through the lens of a literary gangster to 8-Bit Philosophy, which is learning philosophy through video games, etc. So creating a strange format is in our DNA, and we joined the Omnia family around this time last year.
Roarke Boes: For this project, I’ll talk about ArcadeCloud mostly. We’re an entertainment-focused brand. ArcadeCloud has several million subscribers across Facebook, Snapchat, and whatnot. We strive to deliver our content on a variety of platforms for people who are fans of popular contemporary gaming.
JG: I understand Jacob came up with the idea for Garbage Musicals. Can I ask what initially inspired the project?
JS: Corey and his team had an office out of the same office as Wisecrack, and we started talking. I had just watched the Theranos documentary on HBO, and I thought, wouldn’t it be hilarious if there was a musical about Elizabeth Holmes?
And then you start to think about things like a Board Night musical and ideas that are sort of random and interesting. I thought, if we were able to animate those to create an interesting perspective, we might have a cool idea on our hands.
The original name for it was called Ironic Musicals. Once we got the team together and realized the quality that they were making, it was sort of a match made in heaven. We were able to create some fantastic prototypes.
I think one of the great things about this show that is different from a lot of musical versions brought to life on Youtube is that the Tin Can Bros are focused on making it a story that you could hear as a part of a more enormous musical. Like there’s a duet in the flat earth episode between the Flat-Earther and the Scientist. And you don’t typically see that kind of quality on Youtube. So it’s a long story about how it sort of came together, but it all worked out great.
JG: Now Roarke, I know you do the animation for ArcadeCloud, which has nearly two and a half million subscribers. Have you been in charge of the animation for the channel since it’s initial inception?
RB: So, I took over animation for ArcadeCloud about three years ago. I took overseeing all of the productions. We’ve worked with a lot of people on different episodes, but there’s a sharper focus now on better storytelling and more influential characters, giving people a reason to come back rather than they like a game.
JG: Wisecrack likes to draw from pop culture features in anime, video games, film, and more, exploring another level to these forms of media. What is it about these particular genres that speak to you?
JS: Well, one of the things is that because it’s fiction, it isn’t pushing any buttons. So we thought that was a smart way to tie in what people love and communicate about a topic without getting swept up by a current political event.
We’ve since found that there’s a way to approach a current event that isn’t political, and I think that’s sort of what we’re going to start to discover with Garbage Musicals. Things like lunar cycles and stuff like comedy news can unite people in a way that allows people to connect in an accessible way.
JG: Fortnite was the focus of the first installment of Garbage Musicals, which is easily one of the most famous battle royale games in current existence. How do you plan to follow up on such a popular topic?
JS: With every episode, it’s a matter of how to make content with combined knowledge from our three different brands and touch on something that will resonate with a lot of people. And I think that is why we went with the dad playing Fortnite to try and understand his daughter because that is so real and we believe a lot of people will be able to relate to that.
JG: Episode one features lyrics written by Marty Scanlan and performed by James Tolbert. Are these the same talents that will show up throughout Garbage Musicals, or will each episode feature different people?
RB: Each episode will feature different folks.
JG: What little known facts or behind the scenes trivia can you guys share with us?
JS: I think the most significant bit of trivia is that the Tin Can Bros and I lived in the same apartment complex, which is kind of strange. That and the fact that the songs get stuck in our heads forever, if that counts.
JG: Is there anything else that either of you would like us to share with our readers?
RB: I would just remind you that we have four episodes in our initial slate covering everything from the sad Keanu meme to Fortnite and more. There are a lot of things to look forward to, and of course, we are very excited about our first video, which is about Fortnite, which is now getting over 100,000 views in its first week getting started, which is a terrific start for a brand new channel. We have all this talent and knowledge of pop culture and philosophy, but it’s never easy to start a new channel.
Tin Can Bros’ Brian Rosenthal, Joey Richter, and Brian Lubowich:
JG: You guys are familiar with parody musicals with credits in both A Very Potter Musical and Holy Musical Batman! – both popular brands. How do you think your experience prepared you for Garbage Musicals?
Tin Can Bros: It’s all very much related. For those shows, we were very much on the creative end, and our experience in those musicals taught us mostly about musical structure and fulfilling the source material idea. Garbage Musicals is taking ideas that aren’t musical and pairing them with the theater to combine them into something new. We’ve developed a sort of depth of vast knowledge of musicals over the years just through our involvement. And there’s kind of certain musical archetypes that merge, and we’ve gotten more familiar with musical structure.
JG: How did the Tin Can Bros initially become involved in this project? Were you approached by ArcadeCloud or WiseCrack?
TCB: Yeah, we’ve been big fans of Wisecrack for years. About eight months ago or so, Jacob had this idea, and we sat down, and we fleshed out what it would be, and it was just an exciting opportunity for us to work together finally.
JG: The first musical is about Fortnite, the popular battle royale video game. I noticed many people in the Youtube comments section asking for it, so I’m curious how long after you picked the topic you recorded the episode?
TCB: The music was recorded about a month after the idea came to fruition, and the animation process took a little bit longer, so we kind of had these ideas decided on several months out before we began the animation process. And we handled the animation one at a time while we tried to figure out how that process would look.
In terms of the writing and composing, that’s not the world that we understand, and we know the timeline on so we sort of worked on all four at the same time with different themes and then focused on one at a time to get the best animation possible. The songs were more of our wheelhouse—we kind of defined the character’s point of view. We had a style in mind, and when it came to the animation process, we tried to approach it with the same sort of mindset – like, how do we want this to look to translate best what we’re trying to say with this song?
Also, all of the episodes had different animators, so the style is kind of constantly changing, which goes with the various composers and kind of adds to the project and the whole of everything. As we tackled these topics, that was something that we wanted to give our focus. To make sure these weren’t just songs about the thing, which is something that there is a lot of on Youtube, and that’s different from what we do. We have an idea, like something about Fortnite, something about Flat Earth Theory, something about Disney+, but what about that? Who are the characters involved? How can we sort of focus the song to be from a particular character’s perspective like it would be in a live musical, but you’re just getting a little like a snippet of it in each episode.
JG: Can you tell us what any of the next episode topics are going to be based on, or is that something that you don’t know yet?
TCB: For the first four, we wanted to tackle an array of things. We have Fortnite, which came out and is sort of about this internet cultural phenomenon that has grown and reached a lot of people so exponentially in the last few years that it was something that seemed like a logical choice of a video game. In the upcoming episodes, we have a Disney+ one that kind of covers the base of an event that’s happened. It looks at these more significant streaming wars happening in the media.
JG: What is it about music that you enjoy including in your comedy?
TCB: Strictly as writers and creators ourselves, it is always such a fun experience to work with composers. It was a great opportunity when it came to this project in general because we’ve worked with so many different composers, whether it is for pop music or all sorts of different things for different mediums. So the opportunity to work with composers is inspiring.
Being writers, there’s only so much that we can say with dialogue as opposed to music where you can take that to a whole other level of the emotional journey. So that I think for us is always an excellent opportunity to add music and see how we can make a psychological point grander. There’s an old saying that when words are no longer enough, that’s when people sing.
JG: What was the initial inspiration for the Tin Can Bros to get together in the first place? I know you all went to the same college.
TCB: Yeah, we all went to the University of Michigan. The name comes from a sort of joke that we all lived across the courtyard, and we joked that we could connect tin cans to communicate. And that’s also how we met Jacob because he lived there too.
JG: If you guys could pick a topic for one of the musicals, which would you choose?
TCB: For better or for worse, quarantine is looming on everyone’s minds right now. If there’s a way that we could do that that people aren’t exhausted. Maybe we could look at something like how everyone is cooking at home instead of what we’re used to seeing—perhaps looking at an aspect of quarantine that doesn’t get talked about that much. With everything being delayed and canceled, that’s pretty much what everyone is discussing. The idea that also popped into my mind is Facial Recognition: The Musical.
JG: Is there any fun or exciting trivia you can share with our readers about Garbage Musicals that may not be well known?
TCB: We had a perfect time storyboarding for this animation. Like with the upcoming Disney+ one, we had an idea that we storyboarded that the ending would go, but when we got the animation back, we realized it was a lot trickier than we ever could have imagined it would be. So it was one of those surprising moments in collaboration where you go, I didn’t believe it would look like this, but now that I’ve seen it I can’t picture it going any other way, which is always a fun element of collaboration. The COVID situation is that there’s a lot of people that are putting microphones in their closet because they can’t get to studios to record. So we’re getting creative about how to record. A couple of our composers are still trying to figure it out.
JG: This is unrelated, but I have to ask – can Corey grow a mustache?
TCB: (Laughs) Not an impressive one. There are promo photos that have all three of us wearing fake mustaches. We toss them around. I can only grow hair on my neck, so my beard isn’t that impressive.
JG: Is there anything we missed that you’d like to share with us about Garbage Musicals or any of your other projects?
TCB: It’s been an opportunity for us to translate a lot of these ideas into new territory. All of the endless possibilities of animation allow us to go back and forth between the characters and the plot, and overall it’s been a refreshing experience for us. We’re excited to make more of these. It’s exciting to see people respond to the first video, and we’re eager to drop the Disney+ episode.
New episodes of Garbage Musicals release each Saturday, and you can view those here.