River City Girls Composer Interview: Megan McDuffee
River City Girls is an homage to the great retro games of the Kunio Kun franchise (River City Ransom, etc.) with an energetic, synth-laden soundtrack created by some of the best video game composing talent out there now. One of the musical contributors to the game was composer and synthwave/synthpop diva Megan McDuffee.
In this emailed interview, Megan tells me about how she got involved in the project, what the goals for the soundtrack were, the approach that was taken in creating it and how she came to contribute vocals to many of the songs in the game!
Karl Magi: Tell me a bit about how you got involved with the River City Girls project?
Megan McDuffee: It was one of those networking miracles! I'm part of a group called the Materia Collective (a community of video game music remixers and arrangers). The awesome composer Dale North (who also has a few tracks on the OST) is friends with WayForward people, and heard they were looking for some synthpop and retro-inspired music for an upcoming project. He dropped a few names, and after hearing my stuff WayForward got in touch with me. It's so cool because Dale and I had never met before, but we had a bunch of mutual acquaintances and he was familiar with my style.
KM: What were the main goals for the soundtrack of the game?
MMcD: To be engaging, synth-laden, and with a bit of retro '80s synthwave flair! We also wanted to weave in some connection with one of the bosses of the game, who is a rockstar. My vocal songs ended up being that character's music which was so different and cool
KM: How did you approach the composition/creation of the soundtrack? Tell me about influences, musical ideas and inspirations.
MMcD: So the game's directors initially handed over a few example tracks in a style they liked (synthpop) and just let me run with it! The art and animation style had so much sass and character, I was super inspired to write a soundtrack to match. A couple of the vocal pieces even ended up with some Chvrches and Fleetwood Mac flavor.
KM: Tell me about how you balanced the creation of the score between all of the different composers?
MMcD: This was all laid out from the get go, with each musician being responsible for his/her chunk of the soundtrack. When I started working on the game, I knew I was tackling all the level, menu, shop, incidentals, and cutscene tunes. Chipzel would be handling most of the boss fights, the arcade section would be handled by Dale North, and the intro/outro songs would be penned by NateWantsToBattle. There was no collaboration between us, so it was super interesting to hear how it all came together at the end!
KM: I'm curious about how much influence you all took from the original River City Ransom soundtrack?
MMcD: Speaking for myself, I knew a handful of tracks would need to play homage to some previous Kunio Kun franchise songs. WayForward already had the list of tracks they wanted me to 'nod' to, and so I transcribed each by ear into my own synthy style, adding new melodies, chord progressions, and sizzle.
KM: What was the thought behind including vocals so prominently in the soundtrack?
MMcD: This idea came about when WayForward was looking into my past work, and discovered that I was a seasoned vocalist as well as a composer. From there, we thought it would be super cool having Noize's songs peppered throughout the game, so that when the player finally fights her later he/she would realize that they were hearing her songs the whole time. There are little boomboxes sprinkled throughout the game, which play her tunes on the radio.
KM: How do you hope the score is received both as a standalone soundtrack and as part of the game?
MMcD: I hope people are really loving it, both in game and as a standalone album! I really put a lot of love and my own signature flair on each and every track. The other musicians each did amazingly on their respective songs as well! I'm so happy to have been part of such a talented team, and a really amazingly gorgeous (and fun) game. Here's hoping there are many more to come.