Dev Diary #42: Composer Profile: Brandon Ledbetter
Updated: Jul 15, 2020
Tyler here from the Luckless Seven crew. We’ve been working through the holidays on the newest gameplay release, and it’s coming soon. We couldn’t wait to touch base with our backers, however, so we’re christening the new year with a bit of a different post.
Instead of an update on tweaks to the game and new content, we wanted to take you into the studio to learn about the music of Luckless Seven. To do so, I sat down with composer Brandon Ledbetter to discuss his background as an artist, the game at large, and his process in creating its music.
Caption: Our composer, Brandon, speaks with players at GDEX 2016.
The process doesn’t start with Brandon. It starts with Jesse and I reviewing our plans for new environments in the game or new moments in the story and contemplating the rough ideas or moods that we’d like to communicate to the player. We’ll then take those ideas and share them with Brandon. For example, when we changed Day 1 to open with an Ekosi battle taking place within a nightmare, we simply told Brandon that we were looking for a “spooky battle theme.” He did the rest.
Caption: A visitor plays through the Ekosi nightmare sequence at GDEX 2016.
“For me, it’s always really important to start with the sound of the track,” Brandon says. He’s been producing music of all kinds for six years, and his roots in music production are appropriately enmeshed in his history with games: “Back in high school, I got really into the chiptune music scene. I really liked the whole DIY thing of taking your old toys and breaking them to make stuff. I started with music [from] the Gameboy, the original Gameboy.” The discombobulated Gameboy that gave Brandon his start in music production still rests in pieces on his shelf at home.
With the “spooky battle theme” and other requests, Brandon will identify existing songs that have some attractive attributes. “Really, when you’re doing horror, you just want dark. You want low, sub-heavy kind of stuff.” Recognizing that key feature, Brandon set to work building instruments to use on the track.
“For what became ‘In The Dark’ … I actually built every single instrument in there from scratch. … I started with the bass line. I brought in my Monark synth, the minimoog [emulator], because that thing does really smooth baselines. And I just lowered everything down, got a really heavy sub, and put an LFO [low-frequency oscillation] tool on it to give it that wobble.”
For me, the final product perfectly captures both a wistfulness that defines Mark’s attitude at the story’s outset and the psychological terror of a wolfman taunting him with all of his innermost worries.
Of course, “In The Dark” isn’t the first nor the last piece that Brandon has composed or will compose for the Luckless Seven soundtrack. He’s been involved in the project for about three years now, and there are several more environments, dialogue scenes, and battles to score before his work is done. When I asked him what he was looking forward to for the project, he mentioned two things.
First, work. “I know we’re going to be working on the [unreleased] third zone, which is going to mean another shift in the music,” Brandon says, looking ahead to Mark and the Luckless Seven cast advancing from Patrida to Neropolis to Antipolis. (His songs for the second city, “What Kind Of Beach Resort Doesn't Have A Palm Tree” and “Beachfront” show off a tropical flare, a departure from the sounds that define life in Mark’s hometown.)
The second thing? Conclusion. “I’m looking forward to finishing [Luckless Seven] and then it being released to the public. … I’m really ready to see what everyone else thinks of it.”
I and the rest of the team agree, and we know you do too. With that in mind, stay tuned to the Kickstarter, website, or Steam community hub for updates on development. I highly encourage you listen to Brandon’s music on his SoundCloud. There you’ll find his music for the Luckless Seven soundtrack as well as his other projects and the appropriately-labeled Beat of the Week.
Thanks for reading!