A number of years ago, a friend and I were pitching each other a movie idea over a bunch of beers. It was a kind of game we used to play. The concept, as much as I can recall it, was a kind of 80’s-nostalgia summer camp: a bunch of dorky misfit kids stuck out in the country for the whole summer, working on old computers in a dusty garage, gluing circuit-boards to plywood in the cool shade of the robotics class. There would be Capri Suns and ancient arcade cabinets at the commissary. They’d find a way to rig the machine to spit quarters back out and spend them on whatever. Someone would sneak beer. There’d be secret crushes and maybe a big awkward Camp Prom at the end, just to mortify everyone at once. Every day would be hot as hell, but they’d be cool inside in their electronic cave.
We wanted to tell a coming-of-age story while paying homage to some of our favorite bits of media, sort of making the great lost Steven Spielberg film. There would be lots of big, panning shots and lens-flare and a soundtrack comprised entirely of heavy synthesizers and synth-pop; our movie might not make any sense, but we knew exactly how we wanted it to feel.
There would be fireworks over the lake and a yawning future-nostalgia gnawing at everyone’s stomach as the summer came to a close. Our characters would know this had to end and were powerless to stop it, wishing every moment would last an eternity. It would be agonizing and beautiful all at once, and we’d carry it forever.
It’s exactly the kind of story sad adults would write, hey?
On top of that, I’d just listened to M83’s Midnight City because seriously this was a whole ton of years ago. I got it in my head that maybe there would be some kind of psychic summer-camp component, maybe the kids would stumble across a Government Conspiracy and Change Everything Forever. Maybe they’d fall in love or something, or one of them would die. Who knows.
Anyways, that’s the story of how we created Stranger Things in like 2013.
Because of just everything going on, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that summer we could have had this year, the summer we should have had. It’s been tough, everything going on, even for those of us with access to hiking trails and bikes and so on (so, not me). No matter how you’re surviving or thriving out there, there’s a nagging frustration to all of it, a sense of what-could-have-been that none of us can shake. We’re missing months. Some people got married during this thing, others had kids. I can hardly complain, but still, I think about it. I sit on the balcony and replay in my head this perfect summer I imagined we all could have had, us Vancouverites, avoiding each other out in the sun as we do. It could have been better.
I got whimsical, sue me.
So my mind drifted back to Strange-ish Things and our movie that we never made because none of us became filmmakers, and I realized I had a perfect idea for a radio set: an hour of synth pop, actual pop, garage rock and other electronic summer oddities. The kind of thing those dorky, psychic kids might listen to on their phones out there stuck at Space Camp – part nostalgia, part summer party playlist. My original concept was the M83 tune but that was a decade ago, what about chiptune pop-punk? What about all the little sub-genres that had sprung up since then? So I summoned all my goofy summer nostalgia, updated it, and in 2020 we have Space Camp.
The sun will be out, your crush will be there, and you’ll spend every day glued to a monitor or gluing circuit boards together. You’ll love it and hate it at the same time and you never have to come home. Welcome to camp.
Coming next week, part two: Space Camp Nights