Road trip songs, while for the most part are easy to find, often have their own unique emotional theme. Whether its just your typical feel-good summer road trip anthem or a sappy nostalgic song perfect for cool summer nights, there's a good chunk of these diverse road trip-worthy songs anyone can choose.
But what if a song can manage to blend those two emotions?
Enter Monte Carlo, the latest track by music and multimedia artist ODDEEO. The track, with separate versions by Vocaloid Megpoid Gumi and indie VTuber Isaa, is a city pop tribute to those nostalgic summer trips while one savors the youthful nature of these road trips: even if there are mishaps on the way.
MusicDrop sat down with ODDEEO to learn the complex yet beautiful nature behind the song, which included real-life inspirations to back it!
The True Story of 'Monte Carlo'
Q: First off, we're interested to know the story behind the inspiration for the "Monte Carlo" track, specifically how it pays homage to the 1980 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Turbo car.
ODDEEO: "What’s really wild about 'Monte Carlo' is that during the conceptualizing phase, the showcased car was initially about the Chevy Malibu! [laughs] I’ll start from the beginning.
"I’ve never really made a song starting with old 80s TV samples before—and I knew I wanted to make a road trip song. Since I’m really into cars, I was thinking 'Hey, Let’s find old infomercials about cars!,' and I happen to come across a dealer trainer video of both the 1980 Chevy Monte Carlo and the 1980 Chevy Malibu (and both cars’ various trims) on how to sell these vehicles to your customers."
"It’s a really fascinating insight into selling cars in an era I never had a chance to exist in. Customer priorities are different, design philosophies are different—and luxury features like soundproofing, fuel efficiency turbos (without getting omega car nerd, there’s different turbo specs for fuel efficiency and for power!) and reducing engine and muffler noise are now a standard at our time.
"When it came to the sample choice, once I heard 'Guaranteed to excite your prospect,' I died laughing. I knew that’s the one, and it happened to be talking about the Monte Carlo Turbo.
"The solidification phase of the visual concepts eventually turned an aspect of the video into a homage to the car. The original intent was to just make a fun road trip song [laughs], but then you get knee deep into the research, and you realize Monte Carlo is a car drenched in history."
"We see iterations of this car exist in Low Rider Culture, in the Drag racing scene, Hot Rod culture and so on. NASCAR even held on to this car over generations for as long as they could.
"It’s a little sad how such a legendary vehicle has been lost to time. Its last version (2007) has a design and specs are barely worthy of the name, with only mere side creases that barely reference the iconic silhouette of this car generations before.
"The video actually features a limited edition 1980 Monte Carlo Cabriolet! (not the turbo, I’m so sorry for being fake. [laughs]) For visual purposes, there’s some character poses featuring the car that would require no roof, so I settled with illustrating the cabriolet version instead.
"I know no one will care and we’re knee deep in the weeds for specificity here but a part of my brain is like 'it’s not accurate, someone’s gonna care,' so now you know. (Hey reader—if you’re a car nerd, be nice to me please.)"
On Storyboarding 'Monte Carlo'
Q: It's fascinating to see that the storyboarding for the track's music videos revolves around the theme of travel as someone's entertainment despite issues being faced by the vehicle along the way. Could you tell us more on how you came up with the backstory for this?
ODDEEO: "Oh man! Okay, so there’s actually a lot of unseen lore that I’ve thought up for the (fictional) backstory of the shooting of the video.
"If you notice at the beginning of the MV—at the bottom of that egregiously eye-straining blue title page, you’ll see 'Sponsored by Mikan Towing and The Vintage Dealers.' We know who 'Mikan Towing' is, they’re featured in the video. But who the hell are 'The Vintage Dealers'?
"I was actually going make a short comic about a fictional and very old-school CEO of The Vintage Dealers, with a ridiculous premise of this company owning a bunch of retro muscle cars that they can’t manage to sell at this day and age. They realize the issue is that the company isn’t appealing to the new generation.
"So, they decided they need Vocaloids and VTubers to sell their products 'cause the next generation of potential customers love and listen to these newfangled virtual idols.
"Several hilariously out-of-touch commentaries from the CEO later, ODDEEO and the gang got hired and was lent two Monte Carlos to make the video happen. This was also hinted at the Mikan Towing AD from ODDEEO’s commentary itself.
"I was literally out of my mind, I already have so much to do, so I left that comic idea alone. The Mikan Towing AD and the 2 MVs was already enough work…
"Now that the fictional background is out of the way, the real background of the music video came from the recent slew of road trips I had to do. I just moved to Texas a few months ago (yeehaw!) and I’ve had back luck on both the two trips that I’ve made just to move my stuff.
"The first trip I had a fender bender from a stray roadkill (sorry about the car, mom!) and the second trip, I was driving with the car that I actually own, the AC and eventually the car itself fried under the heat wave. The car gave out at a stop light 5 minutes from my new home.
"I very much remember the unforgettable tow-truck ride that my car was piggybacking in while me and my partner @Sleppuccino was still on the car. Talk about stacks on stacks. That inspired the events in the MV.
"In the end we still made it home. Both times. It all works out in the end. I think having this mindset can make bad situations not feel as bad.
"That’s the first part of the inspiration: Highway Bad Luck. The second part of the inspiration [is] the OffKai road trip.
"My friend Grinz wanted to do a road trip with me from Tucson, AZ to Burlingame, CA. He’s a childhood friend and I haven’t seen him in a while, so I flew there at Arizona and finally reunited with my boi. There’s a scene in the video that shows a map that highlighted the route that we took!"
"Thankfully this road trip had way less issues—and the views were incredible. Interstate 5 left a mark in my brain forever. If you notice the license plates on both the yellow and red Monte Carlos, the license plate states are both Arizona.
"The backgrounds of the Monte Carlo MV are illustrated using the reference pictures I took during the drive. I wanted to capture that feeling of adventure and wonder that our own world offers, and maybe hope that people in our very internet-focused culture can touch grass once in a while, or maybe go off in an adventure of their own!
A Plethora of Retro Anime/Pop Culture References
Q: Given how the music video's visuals pay homage to 1980s anime, what anime and other pop culture references would you say have influenced in creating these visuals?
ODDEEO: "This question is awesome. I’ve been waiting for someone to ask me that.
"I point to Kenichi Sonoda (Bubblegum Crisis, Gunsmith Cats, Riding Bean, Gal Force). His illustrative style, designs, and contributions to anime are culturally significant in its own right.
"The obsession with technical details in tech, guns, cars, robotics, etc. has inspired me to do the same. He’s been the main root of how I draw anime characters in general too, specifically the face proportions and hair. The thin lines and the color palette are something I yoinked from him too."
"I don’t know if you’ve watched Golden Boy, but there’s a scene in the opening where the main character gets on a bike from his garage and eventually starts biking into the bright sunlight. This scene is the best example showcasing a very specific bloom that late 80s-early 90s have that I’ve wanted to replicate FOREVER.
"My friend James who is an incredible multimedia artist helped crack the code for me and even made a cool video about it!"
"Basically, I’ve replicated the lighting setup of an old cel panel photography station virtually in Blender, and let the blooms naturally occur as passing virtual light on clear transparent virtual cels into a virtual camera.
"The sunset scenes and the saxophone solo scene wouldn’t have been the same without it."
"The two videos also have slightly different processing—Isaa’s have a clearer but still old-school colored video with a subtle noise filter so that people can appreciate the illustrations at its fullest, while Gumi’s version has old VHS film color bleeding, VHS artifacting, and uneven frame tracking.
"If you noticed, on Gumi’s video, there are small shakes on every frame, 'cause perfect alignment in video for every frame was only possible after we got digital. There was also blurring and resharpening and re-contrasting of pixels to emulate digital conversion to make it feel like lost media."
The Musical Inspiration Behind "Monte Carlo"
Q: With the song paying also homage to the city pop genre, which artists have inspired you to do this music production direction, especially with "Monte Carlo"?
ODDEEO: "In general, the writing and composition of my work is heavily influenced by Tatsuro Yamashita! He’s the king of City Pop, hands down. There’s something special in every song he’s released and I hope to carry that feeling forward.
"Though for the rolling, driving, pushing feeling that Monte Carlo has, I’ve definitely took from Minako Yoshida’s amazing song 'TOWN'. I know they’re both completely different sonic palates, but the feeling of cycling chord progressions over a steady bass line on the root is evident on both."
"Tonally, a lot of the inspiration from the sound engineering is actually from American modern funk. The fat and round sounding drum mix are inspired by the incredibly tight funk tracks from Vulfpeck, the guitars and band vibes are inspired by Cory Wong and the Wong Notes, and the particular saturated delay effects that both Isaa and Gumi have and the general spacious feel are inspired by Roosevelt’s FX tone.
"Like the two videos, I decided that Isaa’s version will have the full modern quality mix so that people can really appreciate her vocals and the instrumentals, while Gumi has this artifacted and cassette compressed mid-centric audio quality for maximum nostalgia."
Q: Walk us through the process on how you blended the music production and lyrical writing well for 'Monte Carlo'?
ODDEEO: "The process can vary from one song to the next. But for Monte Carlo, the general melody came really strongly after I made the bassline.
"Monte Carlo is one of those projects where the brain vision was able to be fully transmitted into a tangible format. The bassline inspired the drums, the guitars, the synths and the brass. It all came together with that bassline."
"After the instrumental was made, I immediately hopped into writing the lyrics. I usually write phrases down to capture the essence of the song before even writing lyrics, sometimes even before writing the instrumental itself.
"'This highway runs forever' 'Sun-kissed pavement' 'picturesque vistas' and 'surfin’ over asphalt' are the top phrases—and they all have managed to sneak their way in for the final draft with simple rhyme and pattern changes."
Q: If there is one word you would describe 'Monte Carlo', what would it be and why?
ODDEEO: "ROADTRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIP. This song is inspired by the highs and lows of my travels. If you feel like you’re stuck in the same place, just get moving. See new things, new places. You’ll find yourself unstuck and filled with new ideas in no time."
The Uniqueness of Having Two Artists
Q: 'Monte Carlo' has two versions, one by Megpoid Gumi (whom you've used previously) and one by indie VTuber Isaa. What would you say are the unique musical characteristics that made you tap Isaa for this project?
ODDEEO: "Isaa actually tapped me for this project [laughs]! She and Em are the first people I’ve met in person at OffKai 2023, and that’s really what got the ball rolling.
"I was already a fan of her work. She was like, 'We should collab'; and I was like 'Yeah, let’s do it!' and now we’re here [laughs]. It was fitting this song was inspired by the trip to OffKai.
"If the readers don’t know already, Isaa is an incredible vocalist with a unique warm but solid timbre characteristic, perfect for the summery road-trip vibes we’re going for."
Q: To the untrained ear, Megpoid Gumi's version sounded very natural. How did you manage to make her sound natural in the song?
ODDEEO: "Vocaloid 6 has this feature called Vocalo Changer where you can input any voice, and the output would be Gumi’s voice (for better or for worse).
"If you do vocal synth stuff, you always have to expect a certain level of jank—and producing good synth vocals means you gotta know every trick in the book.
"The reference voice is done with Eclipse Sound’s SOLARIA in SynthV. The meticulous tuning was done over there, 'cause tuning is much easier in SynthV than in Vocaloid 6 editor."
"After I exported the SynthV voice reference, I had to add compressors and normalize the volume so that each vowel and consonant is as clear as possible.
"You want this so that when the waveform gets converted to Gumi’s timbre, Miss Gumi can understand the phoneme being played. She has a hard time sometimes, and some certain pronunciations fail, so it takes a lot of experimentation.
"I used to tune her V4 version. Man, what a pain—phoneme edits, consonant splitting, timing fixing in post, manual pitch drawing on everything. This workflow is definitely nicer to my time and brain."
Q: Following the release of 'Monte Carlo', what are your thoughts on Isaa's performance and what's it like working with her?
ODDEEO: "Isaa’s a BEAST. Despite her frequencies existing more in the mid-range, she can still hit high notes without issue and does so while fully stable in pitch, which is impressive cause you can’t really choose how your voice is shaped.
"Typically, higher voices can just naturally hit high notes easier, but she does it so flawlessly while having this dense syrupy, molasses-like tonal quality in her voice.
"The warmth of her tone really suited the chiller moments in the verses, yet also has the potential for potent and strong projection like the hot Arizona sun that can cook an egg in your car’s hood for when we needed to heat things up in the chorus.
"Isaa performed without flaw. It’s impressive. She also added the “Now in Color!” part. I friggin’ love that.
"Working with her has been a really productive and straightforward time. Setting up her vocals was the opposite of Gumi. Literally no work. Believe it or not, we completed her vocal stems with zero revisions—and only one pitch edit on one note, and it was because she was TOO perfectly in tune. It’s just the producer’s preference at that point.
"I just wanted to add stress in this one note by adding a very microscopic amount of sharpness, indiscernible to regular listeners. In the end it wouldn’t have mattered if I did that pitch edit or not. Isaa killed It. Straight up."