Clad in the marching band attire of Black Parade, distortion turned up, you’d be mistaken for thinking the stars of Reckless With My Heart were your typical emo band and not full-time commentators for League Of Legends.
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It’s true: under all that eyeliner are some of the leading commentators in League Of Legends‘ European scene, professionals who have cast League games to hundreds of thousands of fans across the world.
Original music like this has become a staple of the LEC – League Of Legends European Championship – and fans have come to expect these quirky, self-aware musical ventures as part of the entertainment package.
These music videos rack up significant views, too. Their latest hit – A Linkin Park inspired anthem called Crown – has over 600,000 views, while the Three Days Grace-alike Reckless With My Heart approaches two million.
Daniel Drakos, a play-by-play caster for the LEC, plays a pivotal role in creating the musical content, and talks to us
“Music has been a part of League Of Legends for a while, right the way back to the Silver Scrapes meme – I’m not a fan of that song – but I appreciate it. It’s iconic. It’s a part of our identity forever. And then you know, Imagine Dragons with Warriors was a big step. I think music has always felt pretty natural in the League Of Legends space.”
It made sense, then, when he was approached several years ago by fellow caster Andy ‘Vedius’ Day, who had a bold idea for the next piece of LEC content. Drakos explains that Vedius often pitches “content that might often catch other people off guard” – this time, Vedius’ was pitching a rap battle featuring two teams in the LEC, wanting to do “something in the line of Epic Rap Battles Of History”.
Laughing, Drakos says the idea “did not vibe with me”. Despite being a big fan of hip hop, parodies such as the one in question “never really clicked” with him and he wanted to make something more serious. In the end, the two casters met in the middle and created their first musical piece, titled the Mediocre Rap Battle Of LEC.
Though the end product was well-received, Drakos reminisces on the rough-around-the-edges production process:
“We had this beat and it was us in the Riot studio. A PVC pipe had been erected and then filled very haphazardly with soundproof foam and some blankets were put over the top of that. That was the first time we’d ever recorded lyrics – in that little sweat lodge. It was awful. It was really, really bad. But it probably mirrored our own capabilities at the time.”
Looking back, he feels that first venture “had some good lines, but technically was much worse than I think we’ve ended up from there.”
Fast forward, and the entire LEC team is involved in making all sorts of original music. This time, there’s no homemade sweat lodge and it’s not a two-man show. While still acting as the “creative drivers”, it’s now a “massive, massive team effort” – the pair work very closely with a professional composer to make sure everything sounds top-level. Musical casters aren’t the only multi-taskers, either – Drakos shares that on set, they are usually working with “people who are music producers on the side, while also being film producers and cameramen.”
Throughout the interview, Drakos is quick to credit other members of the production team that work behind the scenes – including the “absolute hero” who mixes and masters the “rough” initial product.
The movement quickly blossomed to include even more members of the broadcast team. Following further rap battle videos, one of the producers approached the pair and said she “really wanted to get a pop song in the mix, and was like “I really want to make a boy band”.”
With the goal of replicating the “aspirational…vaguely positive” energy of Firework by Katy Perry, the broadcast team put out I Want The LEC Back. From there, Drakos says, the team started “steadily growing and steadily building in momentum”.
As they realised these videos were “putting up big numbers”, the team felt much more comfortable in exploring the genres of music that they identified with, as demonstrated in Reckless With My Heart and Crown:
“One of the big things is finding a genre of music that we feel really familiar with, and then we feel like we can do justice, even if we’re going to make a song about League Of Legends.”
“It was really important that we felt like we knew and understood the material we were coming from. I don’t think any of what we would have done would’ve been possible if we weren’t big fans of the genre of music that it came from.”
Though it’s easy to see why these musical numbers click with the LEC team – throughout the interview, Drakos is openly passionate about his love of music – is there any particular reason why fans have taken to the LEC’s music so strongly?
“I think we were fortunate with this Reckless song that we hit on a nerve of the community, which was “where is Rekkles going? This is so crazy” and whether you loved Rekkles or hated him, this was something very, very palpable – very much on the mindset of the zeitgeist.”
“If the music to you is relatable, and it speaks to you, it can enhance whatever it is you’re experiencing.”
This is despite the game itself having no particular connection to music – as Drakos points out, “the most iconic moments in League Of Legends always happened without music.”
“But then when you watch them back, they’re almost always in highlight reels with music attached that matches those emotions perfectly. And to me, that’s my favourite thing in the world. Watching those highlight clips – with the dramatic violin strings, booming horns and epic kind of music – it always enhances the emotion of the moment.”
“Music enhances experiences – or can in itself be an experience – whether that’s your favourite player leaving a team and having an anthem as we did with Reckless With My Heart or you know, something that goes behind your favourite moments in history. Everything is enhanced by music in my experience, so that’s why I think people like it – but maybe that’s a little off.”
In the end, Drakos is humble about the success the team has found with their music:
“We are just creatives who are good at writing lyrics and are giant nerds. And that’s our skill set. We’re very lucky that the LEC supported us and built the rest around us.”
As the LEC approaches the summer split playoffs – where, as it stands now, a multitude of top-performing teams could bring the trophy home – it’s likely that the broadcast team will find another chance to tap into the competitive zeitgeist.
Before wrapping up, Drakos confirms that another rap battle will be coming soon – and although he’s very excited for it, he can’t speculate on who will be involved due to the close nature of the standings.
The LEC summer split on Friday and Saturday evenings – just expect to be tapping your foot along with the show.