Burglar's Inc. Score

Burglars Inc. is an exciting new plot driven puzzle game centered around a collective of thieves who crack safes with benevolent intentions. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to provide some big band heist music for the game.

The character for whom this theme was written is new to Burglars Inc. but is precocious and playful in personality. The music needed to capture a sense of these traits while keeping energy and excitement up.

My initial demo took stylistic cues from shows like "The People's Court", "The Powerpuff Girls", and "The Venture Bros". To give the track a sense of levity and playfulness, I used quick attack/short decay sounds such as glockenspiels, pizzicato strings, and repitched drums. To create a sense of urgency, I contrasted this with a constant pulse of 8th notes in the strings which were meant to mimic the constant ticking of a clock, and accented the riff using a hemiola which often anticipates the beat and pushes the rhythm forward. All of this is against dark, heavy piano stabs which add a little more emotional heft and help create a sense of danger. I purposefully kept the melodic material minimal to help minimize listener fatigue upon repeated listens (a super dynamic melody can be great once, but the things that used to be surprising or emotionally poignant often become the same things that annoy us upon the 150th repeat. This is something that always needs to be considered when writing video game music). This first demo may be heard below:

While I did receive some positive feedback, the general concensus was that the track came across a bit too dark, not jazzy enough for the style of the game, and in general was too much "Brock Samson Smash" and not enough Cowboy Bebop. I created another version with some horn parts sketched in, but it didn't take the edge off enough so I went back to the drawing board.

In the next round I shifted my focus to music that had more of a straight jazz feel. I took more influences from the likes of Lalo Schifrin, Mal Waldron , and of course Yoko Kanno.

The next demo had more of an identifiable melodic theme. I still kept the idea simple opting to go with scalar pentatonic motion in call and response type phrases. I kept the plucked strings and glockenspiel from the first demo, but pushed them into the background and used the descending line in the glock to paraphrase the melody played in the saxophones. I slowed the tempo down quite a bit so that I could add a bit more rhythmic density. Taking cues from the aforementioned composers, I wrote a more prominent driving bass line to drive the energy of the piece. The overall effect was the following demo:

This track was received much more favorably and the project was greenlit. After that, it was simply a matter of fleshing harmonies out, developing the material, and hacking away at finessing the production.

Instead of manipulating the evolution of the melody over time, I opted to let it expand vertically. The line begins as a unison between alto and tenor sax, then is repeated as an octave double with a 2nd tenor, and finishes harmonized with full saxophone section (with trumpet doubling the highest line). I added a countermelody in the trombones to give the repeated sections a little more variety. At this point the plucked strings became a bit distracting, so I dropped them down an octave and pushed them further back in the mix. I decided to use a flute as the solo instrument both to recapture some of the playful quality I felt had been lost in the new version, as well as create more sonic diversity.

I'm incredibly happy with the way the music came out for this game. I love this style of music but am rarely able to work on it. I contributed three tracks to this game overall and only wish I had the time/budget to have been able to do more. On the plus side, there is a decent amount of demo material that I plan on finishing up. Perhaps I'll put out a Burglars Inc B-sides and Rarities collection someday. Until then, check out this game. I'm sure you'll have at least as much fun playing it as I had composing for it!

Burglars Inc, coming out on February 2nd!