Creatures of the dark! In this dev update, our Community Manager Jeremy Bearson interviews the composer behind the music of V Rising, Aleksandria Migova. Let’s find out more about the process behind the gloriously morbid trailer themes and beautiful melancholic in-game music.
The Composer & The Sound
Before we dive into the interview, let’s check out the NEW Songs of Vardoran trailer.
Jeremy: Hey Aleksandria! Let’s kick this off with your background and what led you to compose music for games?
Aleksandria: Hi Jeremy! Composing music for games was actually something that just happened without any grand plan behind it. My father bought me my first console on my 10th birthday and the mix of chiptunes and my father playing vinyl all day became my musical influence as a kid. When I was six years old, I was already singing and dancing, dreaming about performing on stage, but my parents couldn’t afford either music school or instruments.
I found my way back to music as a young adult, moving to Paris and DJing in clubs. Fast forward six years, and I’m in Oslo, Norway, producing my own club tunes together with Johan Ilves and eventually opening our own record label. The awakening came when Johan was composing the music for Dead Island: Epidemic, and I supported him on a couple of tracks. I realized how much fun cinematic music is and how easy the melodies came to me and I have been composing game music as a freelancer since then.
The composer in her studio.
Jeremy: Your music for V Rising has been getting a lot of praise from the players! How does it feel now when the game is finally out and there are so many vampires roaming around to your tunes?
Aleksandria: It’s incredible! I’m super happy about the success of the game. It’s almost surreal, and thanks to everyone who reached out to me. You are all too kind!
Jeremy: Tell me about the process behind the V Rising music. How do you start, and how do you find “the sound direction” to go with?
Aleksandria: As an independent artist you’re creating mostly for yourself, but when you’re making music for games you need to make sure you deliver on the vision and directions of your client, and always keep in mind what’s best for the project. Before I start to work on a soundtrack, I need to make sure the sound direction will work for the entire journey and that I’m using the right “pencils and brushes,” instruments, and harmonies to draw the world.
In V Rising, the music mostly works as a compliment-storyteller of the world and its different regions. I usually sit down, look at videos, concept art, and screenshots, and just play around with different instruments and melodies until I find a good match. I often hear the melody in my head first, then I sing it out loud to understand it better, and finally, I play it on the keyboard. Doodling and drafting the sound direction is, for me, the most time-consuming part, and it’s a big relief when you eventually nail it.
Jeremy: Could you describe the sound of V Rising in three words?
Aleksandria: Forsaken, mysterious, and soul-touching.
Jeremy: You talked about finding the right instruments. What instruments/tools did you find working for V Rising?
Aleksandria: I used a lot of strings, woodwinds, ambient soundscapes, and warm evolving string phrases. One of the main and returning instruments of the album is a sampled ‘Huberman’ Stradivari violin from the year 1713. Even if the music is a modern production, I really wanted to have fragments of old, almost ancient-sounding instruments in the mix, communicating the rich and mysterious history of Vardoran. It was important for me to create organic and breathing orchestral compositions, so I tried to use as many realistic-sounding instruments as possible, even though there are some subtitle synthesizers hidden in the layers. As the world takes some inspiration from Swedish nature, I also used a Nyckelharpa in some moments, a Scandinavian instrument dating back to as early as 1350. And of course, bells and choirs to add some gothic spice to the arrangements.
Aleksandria in action! A short video clip from last year.
From Dusk till Dawn with Music
Jeremy: In V Rising, you are the vampire. How much does the vampire theme mean for the soundtrack?
Aleksandria: The main theme/title screen music is all about the vampire, while the background music in-game is more about the world and immersing the player into the V Rising universe. There are still hints of the vampire in both some of the world music and, more so, the battle music.
I think a lot of my own fascination with vampires is that they are very emotional creatures like ourselves. They live forever and defy the human life cycle, but they can never enjoy simple things like the daytime, eating a normal meal, and sunshine, something praised by humans. There is often a great conflict within vampires, which I find interesting. With the backstory of vampires being pushed back into the catacombs and now waking up as strangers in a world new to them, there is this layer of melancholic emotion that I try to communicate through the soundtrack.
Jeremy: You mentioned sunlight. The day and night cycle plays a big role in V Rising. How is this told through music, and did you stumble on any challenges working with this?
Aleksandria: So, for every region, there is both day and night music. These are themed for the area with similar kinds of instruments, but with the expressions being very different. We wanted to separate the day and night and give them distinct feelings. Sections of the night music got some “hunt” or “on the move in the moonlight” vibe to it, while the day is all about the beauty of the day with hints of sunshine.
When it comes to challenges, separating the Cursed Forest’s day and night music was not an easy task, the area is dark and twisted by nature, which makes it musically hard to separate “day” from “night”. To be honest, I’m still not sure we found a perfect solution for it, but the music still works very well with the environment. It’s spooky, it’s claustrophobic, it feels right, and that’s what matters.
Jeremy: I know you’re a big movie lover. How much inspiration do you take from film music, and are there any dark-themed or horror movies with great soundtracks that you would like to recommend?
Aleksandria: Film music is my strongest source of inspiration, and I actually started to collect my favorite soundtracks on vinyl. To give you a couple of horror music classics, I love the minimalism and synth-work of both John Carpenter’s “Halloween” and “The Thing,” Wojciech Kilar’s super-hypnotic scores for Coppola’s “Dracula” and Polanski’s “The Ninth Gate,” Jerry Goldsmith’s “Alien” soundtrack is quite amazing. I also like the powerful use of music and sound in “The Shining.” And wait… the soundtrack for “Interview with the Vampire” is great! There are so many albums I adore.
Jeremy: Is there anything you could tell us about V Rising’s main theme?
Aleksandria: I had to remake it like three times before I found the right formula, haha. In the end, I’m very pleased with how the melodies came together, and I think it serves as a good representation of the game. I wish we one day could improve it with the help of live musicians and orchestral recordings, as I can’t express all the levels of music I want by myself. Some of you probably already noticed the “vvvvv!” sounding choir section used for the game’s logo animation in the reveal and gameplay trailer. I also used the piano section with some editing for that first gameplay trailer and a special edit for the launch trailer. For me, this song tells the story of the fall of the vampire, the rise of the vampire, and being back on your throne where you belong. The theme is a moonlit mix of sorrow, power, and some classic vampiric undertones.
Make sure to check out the “Founder’s Pack” which includes the soundtrack.
Jeremy: As mentioned, you are also producing the trailer music. Is there any difference in the work process when working with trailers compared to the in-game music?
Aleksandria: The biggest difference is that trailers are sound design and music in a much stronger symbiosis and need to be timed perfectly, while the music in-game tunes often need to work for multiple scenarios or just be there as a backdrop. When working with trailers, I feel my background in producing techno and house tracks help a lot because trailer music is often about big drops, rises, breaks, and drum work. As a DJ, you need to know when to push the button, and the same goes for trailers. I did the sound mix and composed for like 40 trailers by now, including all Battlerite trailers, V Rising trailers, and a couple of other projects. It’s super fun!
Jeremy: Is there anything you would like to improve when it comes to the musical experience of V Rising?
Aleksandria: I can polish my music forever, and as a composer, you need to learn to stop and say “this is good enough” and move on to the next track. I’m happy with the music I created, but I would love to get the opportunity to extend the soundtrack for the full release of the game. The more music, the better, and it will make the total experience more interesting and dynamic. It would be super cool to be able to change or unlock new castle music as well, so you as a player can pick a theme that works best with your castle design.
Finding her sound.
Life as a Freelancer
Jeremy: How is life as a freelance composer and making a living from music? Any advice for the upcoming composers?
Aleksandria: I have the greatest job in the world when I have clients, but it’s difficult finding openings when it comes to music opportunities only. I would highly recommend anyone interested in music production learn sound design. The more diverse you are, the easier it will be. I’m lately been learning more about sound implementation in games to be able to get a wider variety of gigs. I’m also a firm believer in finding your identity and being yourself in music, avoiding being a copycat, and doing your thing. Don’t overthink things and be in the way of the music. Let it flow. Other than that, I would say… talk and connect to people. The jobs won’t magically come to you, and you need to be out hunting all the time.
Jeremy: Looking back on your work, can you give us three highlights of your music career, any games, and a short comment about each.
Aleksandria: It’s so hard to pick, but here we go…
1. V Rising Early Access Trailer – Trailer Theme & Sound Design
I had to put it here! The final production I did for V Rising Early Access! This is a trailer edit of the Main Theme. I feel that the V Rising soundtrack is overall my most complete work to date.
2. Source Of Madness – Trailer Theme
The soundtrack for Source Of Madness was madness in the best way possible. The music in this trailer is also in-game music, and I’m very satisfied with the hybrid of pulsing, almost organic electronica, and dark orchestral elements. My most original OST!
3. Battlerite – Prehistoric Theme
I don’t know why, but I’m so happy with this little tune. It worked perfectly with the prehistoric content, and I could hear the flute melody here being the main theme for its own game. Let’s call it “Pearl’s Dinosaur Hunt.”
Jeremy: What would be a dream gig when it comes to composing?
Aleksandria: It’s interesting because even though my background is in electronic music, I have been doing mostly fantasy-themed music and classical compositions. It would be a dream to get the chance to score a sci-fi game, movie, or tv-show. I’m a sci-fi nerd, and I have some cool hardware synthesizers I wish I could use more.
Jeremy: Amazing stuff, Aleksandria! Thanks a lot for taking the time to talk to us. Good luck with future projects, and thank you for the music. How does one find you for music inquiries or just a follow?
Aleksandria: Thank you for having me, and shout out to Max at Stunlock for supporting me with great directions! I’m always interested in taking on new projects. You can find and contact me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MigovaMusic, check out my musical profile here: https://kohdu.com/pages/kohdu-studios or send me an email at: email@example.com. I would love to hear from you!
After the Outro
Thank you for joining us for a little glimpse into the music of V Rising, and make sure you take a look at Aleksandria’s channels above! Maybe now you have a little background for that tune you’ve been humming while wolfing your way between destinations. We will take a short break from reporting but will return with new inside-the-studio stories later this summer! Follow our socials down below and see you next time!
V Rising Early Access is available now on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/1604030/V_Rising/?utm_source=devblog12
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Lots of love and a pint of blood,
/The Marketing Team