We're bending the rules a little bit for today's Nintendo Life Video Game Music Festival interview — this game isn't actually out yet. Scandal!
But hopefully you'll forgive us, because The Garden Path — which recently finished its Kickstarter campaign, hitting the stretch goals for Switch release and local multiplayer — is a very interesting one to keep an eye on. The game is being made by a single person: Louis Durrant, who is a UK-based illustrator, game developer, and composer going by the name of "carrotcake".
To put it another way, Louis Durrant is spinning a bunch of different plates in making The Garden Path, so it's incredibly impressive that the game looks and sounds this good and isn't just a pile of smashed plates.
We spoke to Louis about his background, inspirations, and how to juggle so many different jobs at the same time...
Nintendo Life: What's it like to juggle development, illustration, and composing? Do you have different rooms/moods you need to be in for each?
Louis Durrant: It's great fun! I enjoy it because it's all the same room and all the same mood. Everything works in tandem - you use the music to influence the artwork, and the artwork influences the music.
Where do you take inspiration from when you're making the music for The Garden Path?
Steve Reich, Julius Eastmann, and Hiroshi Yoshimura are my main references, but influences come from all directions. I went through the soundtracks of Hollow Knight, Final Fantasy XIV, and studied a lot of the instrumentation of Sufjan Steven's 'Illinois' to find the sound I was after.
What's your composing process like?
When I did more melodic work I would wait until a tune appeared in my head and then write around that.
'The Garden Path' is much more layered and rhythmic, so generally I hit random keys on my keyboard until it sounds good. I gamble on the premise that if I think it works, someone else might too.
We love the way the songs have organic sounds in them, like crickets, birds, and streams. Is that based on the character's location, or is it within the songs themselves?
That's based on the game's world, but it's a key component of the game's composition. Since the songs are mostly simple, repeating melodies, they mirror those sounds — a bird might have a single song, but repeat it often, and there might be a rhythm to the sound a river makes.
The music is similar, with short melodies appearing and disappearing to invoke that sense of moving through a forest that feels awake.
Can you tell us some of the song titles in the game? How do you come up with the names?
'A Tree That Looks Like a Man', 'Rivers You Can't See' and 'They Arrived Shortly After' are some of my favourite titles.
I generally just stick to the first phrase that comes to mind while writing, and stick with it. Eventually the title and the composition become inseparable.
How did you get into composing? And what made you decide to go to school for graphic design, and not one of your many other interests?
I've been writing music since I was allowed to use my Dad's Yamaha keyboard. I would write songs for my rock band at school, that got me into producing music. From there it made sense to make music for my own work. Soundtracking is much more fun than pop and rock, because you're not bound to chords and lyrics, you can do anything as long as it fits the scene.
Music is too much fun to make it my job. Visuals and illustration is my job.
What genre of music would you love to write a soundtrack in next?
I'd love to do something Blade Runner-esque. Pensive science fiction, maybe a little jazzy. I reckon that'd be a blast. I've got no plans for that kind of project though!
What do you think of the trend of "lo-fi music" in games?
I'm a big fan of lo-fi music and lo-fi games. A trend in lo-fi usually means that the creation process, whatever the medium, is democratising. That can only be a good thing.
The Garden Path is currently scheduled for an October 2021 release on Steam and itch.io, meaning that it's pretty close to the finish line, although there's no Switch release date just yet.
Make sure to take a look at our other VGMFest features, too — we'll have plenty more coming over the next couple of weeks!