After reviewing the fun but flawed The Lamplighters League I was in love with the game’s soundtrack. Thanks to the game’s PR team I was able to reach out to composer Jon Everist (JE) about his work in the game. Xbox Era’s own Genghis and Nick (SirIronWolf, not the Aussie) helped come up with some fantastic questions, which you can find below.
As I listen to The Lamplighters League score, and the arrangement choices, I feel a sense of intrigue, mystery, and elements of a rag-tag group. Could you describe how you approached The Lamplighters League?
JE: That’s great to hear because that’s exactly what I was going for.
I always try to work character first and work my way back from there. As you said, this is a rag-tag crew. Ragtag may be too kind; they are a bunch of misfits and criminals who don’t particularly like each other or care much about anything beyond their next score. But they are complex characters who evolve over time, so I wanted the score to highlight their humanity.
The backdrop of an alternate 1930s where evil authoritarians are coming to power, searching for occult objects, is like catnip as a composer. There’s so much there, so much life and adventure. I knew I wanted to approach this as if it were a classic action-adventure film and balance the jazzy noir with a larger-than-life adventure.
In regards to its themes and what your inspirations were? What elements were you trying to capture, feelings you were looking to evoke?
JE: Much of this game’s soundtrack is about a feeling of ‘wonder’ for me. Imagine actually witnessing “magic” in front of you for the first time in an undeniable way. That experience would fundamentally change how you viewed the world. We see these hardened characters who don’t believe much wrestle with these ideas and their own skepticism.
What song from The Lamplighters League score is your favorite? And which one was the hardest to compose?
JE: That’s a tough one! The Main Theme is probably the piece that sticks with me the most, just because of how long ago it was written and how it felt to hear it being recorded for the first time at Abbey Road all those years later. It was a lot of fun. Nicastro’s Theme was a hard one to write and record, there’s a lot of chaos going on there to reflect Lady Nicastro herself.
In all your projects to date, have you ever been asked to alter any of your work? Could you give an idea of what that looks like and how you and the project’s director come to a single shared vision?
JE: Oh yes, of course. Composers are collaborators and craftspeople first and foremost. Our goal is to satisfy the visions of the creators of our projects by working collaboratively. I also think composers are hired for their sensibilities and understanding of what works and what doesn’t. I am very lucky with Harebrained Schemes, as we’ve cultivated a great relationship over the last decade. They have a lot of trust in me and my sense of music spotting, and that I will make the best decision about musical direction and choices.
From what I can see, this is the first time you’ve recorded a score at Abbey Road Studio 1. Could you tell us about that experience?
JE: It was my first time there, hoping the first of many. Abbey Road Studio 1 is such a legendary space; the London musicians are some of the best in the world. It is a sacred room with so much history. Standing on the same floor as heroes like Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams is surreal, to say the least. Studio 1 has a warmth and reverb that becomes a character in and of itself. The room becomes alive, and anything recorded there is imbued with this strange magic.
I can see you had a hand in Overwatch 2’s score as well. Could you tell us about that experience as well as how it is to work with multiple composers?
It’s been a lot of fun contributing music to Overwatch. The music team headed up by Derek Duke and Adam Burgess is world-class. I enjoy collaborating with other composers, it’s a bit different than being a primary composer for the project, but can be just as creatively fulfilling, especially if you are working with your friends.
What music do you find yourself listening to recently? Be it scores or original music. Is there any particular song stuck in your head, on loop?
JE: I am incredibly lame when listening to new music while in the middle of projects. Because I’m listening to music all day, I’d rather just listen to a podcast or watch TV to turn that part of my brain off. I do enjoy checking out my friend’s scores, though, and when I do get into a music-listening mood between projects, I like to check out new contemporary classical music. I really liked Sofia Gubaidulina’s “The Wrath of God.” You can also find me listening to anything from Fela Kuti to MF Doom or Radiohead, I don’t have a focus!
What would you say is the hardest part about composing for any project?
JE: The blank page! Always stressful to sit in front of a blank page for a new project. Once you start setting some constraints for yourself and putting ideas down, things start to flow, but starting is the scariest part.
Do you have any advice to give for new artists getting into game audio composition and development?
JE: Make as much music as possible and try to stick with it. Listen to music you admire and try to achieve that level of quality. It’s a crowded field, but the more you make and get your music in front of people, the better your chances will be.
What instrument do you have a penchant for at the moment?
JE: Maybe not really an instrument, but I have a massive modular synth setup in my studio that is a lot of fun to play with. I use it a lot on all my current projects after being synth-less on The Lamplighters League. It’s a very physical instrument that gets me away from the computer and flexes different muscles.
Is there a moment from your life that you took inspiration from or you feel is reflected in part of the music?”
JE: For me, music writing is all about empathy, and I gain most of my inspiration by understanding the heroics of others. I think it’s impossible to be a great composer without empathy. The arc of what The Lamplighters League represents is doing good for good’s sake. It’s about change and growth. It’s about redemption and selflessness. These are regular flawed people coming together to combat a common authoritarian enemy.
Where did the love of composing come from?
I have always been drawn to music. Life set to music creates meaning. I was always fascinated with the idea of reviewing your life as a movie set to music. Which moments would be sweeping and lovely, and which would be discordant and frightening?
The Lamplighters League will be released on Xbox Series consoles & the Windows Store PC on October 3rd, 2022. It’s available Day One in Xbox Game Pass or can be purchased for $49.99 US.