[Over on Motherboard.tv, our very own Josh Kopstein recently interviewed Jim Guthrie, the legendary Canadian indie-folk musician behind the gorgeous audiovisual iPad collaboration Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP.]
Amidst a desolate landscape of barely-stimulating apps made with boring train rides in mind,Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP (read our review here) stands as a testament to the amazing potential for seriously expressive videogaming on Apple’s iOS platform. Unlike the fruit-slicing, bird-catapulting monotony of its peers, this Canadian indie collaboration is designed to hijack your senses, assembling visuals, audio and gameplay with synaesthetic cohesion.
At the helm of the game’s hypnotizing sound is singer-songwriter Jim Guthrie. A Juno award-winning indie rock hero who has had a hand in the rising of Canadian artists like Feist, Broken Social Scene and Owen Pallett (née ‘Final Fantasy’), Guthrie isn’t normally a game composer by trade. But for S&SEP, his alternate take on the videogame soundtrack — which I still hesitate to call a “score” — offers what many examples of game music have been unwilling to dish out: Full-on audiovisual immersion via a collection of arresting interactive soundscapes. And if that wasn’t enough, his upcoming LP release for the game, S&SEP: The Ballad of the Space Babies, presents us with the other side of the coin: music from the game assembled into a collection of awe-inspiring standalone arrangements.
We chatted with Jim over email to see what it’s like putting on the videogame composer hat for the first time, and what the future might hold as the worlds of pop music and videogame soundtracks collide.
Motherboard.TV: So you’ve been pretty established in the indie music scene for a while and now you’ve gone and done music for a videogame. Was this an easy transition for you? What’s your background in videogames and what about them fascinates you?
Jim Guthrie: This game was such a natural transition for me. I wouldn’t even say there was a transition because Craig was making pixels to my music even before I got started on the game. I have no background in gaming other than having played on computers and home consoles my whole life. From a PET to a Vic-20 to a Commodore 64 and up. The medium is still so fresh and there’s so much to get excited about. If you compare the history of gaming to the history of music, movies or other visual art we’ve still got a long way to go, but even in the short time that people have been making games some pretty amazing things have happened.
MB: I felt a lot of the sound in S&S:EP was refreshing because it didn’t strike me as ‘videogamey’ in the traditional sense. We’re so used to hearing videogame “themes” and these sweeping orchestral scores that sound like they could have easily been made for a movie or something else. But rarely do we hear audio that attempts to become an integral part of the gameplay. Was taking the latter path something you decided to do early on?
JG: I really have to give half the credit to Craig. We sort met in the middle and it was a conversation between the music and the art style the whole way through. I guess the music sounds different because I wasn’t going for a particular style or genre of music when I looked Craig’s art. I was really reacting to it emotionally and that’s not something that the bigger studios can really do. They have totally different agendas with totally different motives and goals. The end product is still a “video game” but that’s where the comparison stops. We only had to please ourselves and when you have that luxury then interesting things happen.capybara games, craig adams, jim guthrie, superbrothers, sword & sworcery ep