Game Front 1-On-1: Fez Composer Disasterpeace
Creating the Fez soundtrack was, as Vreeland put it, “the polar opposite experience.” Working mostly by himself, at home and in his spare time, he not only spent almost twice as much time on the project, he was also able to bring some preexisting ideas into the project with him. “There are some songs in Fez that actually pre-date my joining the project,” he said, “but Adventure was the first track I wrote specifically for the game. I was trying to capture the general feel of the game, but I was also inspired by some of the music concepts 6955 did for the game a few years back, and thought there was something to that. I wanted it to have a soaring feel, but Phil [Fish, creator of Fez] and I also talked about arpeggios (which is easy for me because that’s all my music is), and I wanted to try to do something really quite simple.
“I had this initial idea about the music, which you can hear in Adventure and Home, and the more I played and worked on the game the more my ideas evolved into something a bit more varied, and probably a bit more cinematic in some sense. It really became about capturing the vibe of the locales, and in a few circumstances, capturing the importance of a moment (like Victory, or Beyond, for instance). I approach every single song differently, but I always try to have common threads. The aesthetic is the most consistent thread through the entire soundtrack, and there are some motivic threads (Legend and Beyond share a motif, Home and Reflection, Memory and Victory, etc) as well.
“There are also some songs that were repurposed ideas from much earlier. Nocturne is based on a piano improvisation from 2006, and Love was a keyboard improvisation from the year before. I’ve found over time that collecting all of my good musical ideas in their unfinished states has been incredibly valuable, because eventually I find homes for most of them. When it was time to write the music for the crypt, I had a lightbulb moment where I remembered a piano improv I recorded that was the perfect vibe, and in that sense, I had already done the difficult work of figuring out how to write a piece that fits. I had already written the seed of it years ago.”
Comparing the two experiences, Verrland told Game Front “I was involved with Fez for the last year and a half of [its] development. When I got on board, the game was pretty well fleshed out, but had no music, so it was a bit like painting by the numbers.” On the other hand, he spent about 9 months on Shoot Many Robots, most of which time was creating sound effects instead of music. However, he was quick to make it clear that “I think both experiences were tremendously valuable to me, but for very different reasons… they did have one thing in common, which was that in both projects I had enormous amounts of creative freedom. I definitely learned a lot about myself the year I worked on those two games.”
Given his work on Shoot Many Robots, we had to ask if he had plans to branch out into other music forms. In short, he said he’s interested, but it’s “a matter of time and inspiration”. For now, he remains firmly excited about making chiptunes. “You can literally create any other genre of music as a chiptune,” he said. “Despite that, it has some of its own musical characteristics, many of which have been borrowed from videogame music (naturally), really really fast arpeggios being the most common one I can think of. It’s also interesting in that it can be explored as a genre, or it can be superimposed onto something else. No genre is safe from that, but it’s still quite neat to hear people incorporate a Nintendo into a rock band, or a SID chip into a jazz trio, or whatever people are doing these days. The genre is quite healthy. There are lots of creative minds headed in an amazing amount of different directions, and I think the genre means something different to most everyone, and I think that’s a perfectly healthy attitude.”
In the meantime, Vreeland is keeping busy. Having recently moved from Boston to the San Francisco Bay area, he is currently scoring the sequel to 2011′s Bit.Trip Runner, using Famitracker to create “authentic NES tunes” for the retro portions of the game. He also has some plans of his own, and while he declined to go into detail – “I don’t like to talk about them too much, because I feel like it deters from them actually getting done” – he admits he’s planning to work on making his own games, and to enjoy the chance “to be a bit more selective” about the work he takes on.
So long as it includes more music on the level of the Fez soundtrack, we can wait.
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