Exploring In Sound Mind’s Music with The Living Tombstone and Yair Ben-Dor
Today is National Music Day, and to celebrate we asked In Sound Mind’s lead writer Yair Ben-Dor and composer The Living Tombstone (TLT), some questions about the music in the upcoming psychological horror game! Take a deep dive into their creative process, the importance of the music and score of In Sound Mind, and more in the interview below.
1. How important is the music, both the soundtrack and the score, to In Sound Mind? And how does music tie into the game’s universe at large?
TLT: The idea from the very beginning was to have a full song made for each character’s story, and then have the soundtrack made based on each song, we believe It helps to ground you into how the characters are feeling because it’s like how anyone can have their own personal favorite genre of music, or a song that really speaks to them. so we wrote the songs in such a way to give each character an identity. It also connects to the tape motif and the idea of playing back their stories to know more about them also from an emotional point of view.
Yair: The music in ISM is as important to the story as music is to you in your daily life. It enriches and seasons what is already there, it lets us gain another perspective and perhaps relate in a different way. Every moment in life has its own soundtrack, be it the chirping of birds, the ringing of silence or the rock hard metal of fighting a monster made of your own anger and fear. I mean, yeah, I also managed to hide some stuff and fill in some gaps using the lyrics of these songs but it’s not like I’m gonna publicly shine a light on that and have it then be analyzed by the audience only to end up in criticism of the story OR my work. that would be insane.
2. Music and storytelling are so intrinsically tied together. What was your process for weaving those two elements together like?
Yair: I’ll be honest, sometimes the songs were written before the chapter was fully fleshed out, but that’s ok. See the songs always came from the same need — to better understand who this person is. In some cases, writing these songs for these characters helped us in finishing the chapter.
Essentially how it worked was Yoav would send me a very basic template of what the verse/chorus would sound like (an idea) and I would start applying thoughts and lore about the character to that template. I’ve never written music like that before and it was a challenging and amazing experience. I love these songs so much.
TLT: I’m much a musical guy so I usually come up with a song with just a melody line that’s supposed to be the vocals, which later I write lyrics that fit it. so I came up with songs early on that are based on the concept art and the story, and if they work and the team likes it, Yair later comes up with lyrics and we then go back and forth on how the vocals should sound until we got a complete song. having Yair who is integral to the story of the game being also the lyricist for the songs I think adds a lot to making it all cohesive.
3. Yoav, how did your experience working on other horror franchises shape your approach to In Sound Mind?
TLT: It taught me a lot about how songs can be best represented in the video game medium, to me it’s very important to understand the story and its pacing so I can interpret from that how a song or the music should feel. In Sound Mind gave me a cool opportunity to be there really early on so the songs and the music can also in a meaningful way impact the gameplay and the story.
4. Are there other horror products that you two looked at as inspirations for developing the music in the game?
Yair: This is gonna sound super corny but I honestly took inspiration from Tombstone’s own music to write FOR him. I can’t say that I’ve listened to many songs written as Resident Evil Fan songs but I do know someone who loves FNAF enough to write about it and it worked out for him so…
TLT: Thank you Yair <3 For me it’s Silent Hill, the soundtrack for the series by Akira Yamaoka is well known for its original songs and the dark atmospheric soundtrack. “You’re Not Here” from Silent Hill 3 is great song
5. Each chapter in the game has an original song from The Living Tombstone, with Yair providing the lyrics. What led to the decision to create these unique songs?
Yair: When you get asked to write lyrics for TLT you just say yes and start writing. We knew that having Tombstone’s signature sound all over this project would come with responsibility towards his existing fanbase (of which we’re all a part of). I approached writing these songs as I would writing any fan fiction song about anything else – from the heart, expanding the universe, honoring the lore and making it a bop.
6. In Sound Mind is definitely an atmospheric game. What’s your approach to creating tension moment to moment in the game through the other music?
TLT: We wanted the soundtrack to feel like it represents each chapter as a whole, and since each song is made for each chapter, we made the atmospheric music be based on the song that’d play in the end. and a lot of unique music tracks had to be made for a lot of gameplay scenarios, Alon Meiri and Or Cohen on the music team produced the in-game atmospheric soundtrack
7. What were some important emotions you wanted to evoke throughout the game with the music? Were there any that you were trying to avoid?
TLT: Melancholy, sadness, it’s a game that asks you to deal with feelings on a grounded, empathic level, and so it was important to us to nail that, otherwise it’d feel unaware and silly.
8. Are there any particular musical motifs you want players to pick up on while they are playing?
Yair: From a lyrical standpoint – self reflection. ISM is a story about struggle, about listening, about connecting and growing. I believe that all our lyrics reflect that.
TLT: In a literal sense, in the atmospheric soundtrack you hear the vocal melodies of the songs you’d hear later in the game, as a way to clue the player into what it’d be in the end.
9. What are the unique challenges of making music for games?
Yair: Honestly, it’s getting too metaphorical. Sometimes I’d write a metaphor or an analogy into a song that to me, as the writer, was crystal clear in relation to the game but went over everyone else’s head and I needed to reevaluate some of the choices for the greater good of the song. That and spoilers.
TLT: It’s very much trial and error, there’s a couple of songs in the soundtrack that had to go through so many alterations until we agreed on the one that we liked in the team. having to work from the start of production means that you have very little to work off of but you have to try ideas before the music has to start getting implemented. but I think it was worth it since it led to a very cohesive soundtrack
10. What advice do you have for someone who is trying to make great music to go alongside their game?
Yair: Have fun with it. People play games because it’s fun, because they want to experience something different. Even if the music is sad, if the ambience is “death”, have fun with it. It’s art. it can be anything you want it to be. If you think it serves your purpose, spray it all over your project and never apologize for it.
TLT: There’s a lot of power to music in video games because of how it supports the player from an emotional perspective, and it also supports the visuals by having the music produced be inspired by it. and I think there’s a lot you can say to the player with the music in your game. and there’s fun in problem solving in music writing for a dynamic medium that some players might play faster or slower but still have the music react to different playstyles, it’s very rewarding when it works well together.
Learn More About In Sound Mind
In Sound Mind is launching on August 3rd on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series S|X, Nintendo Switch, and Steam. Learn more here: www.insoundmindgame.com