Along with her sister Chloe, musician Asy Saavedra forms the American synthpop duo, Chaos Chaos, and has been making music since her early teens. In recent years, Saavedra has become known for the inclusion of Chaos Chaos' music in many of Justin Roiland's projects, such as Rick and Morty. Her most recent project with Roiland is the score for his video game, Trover Saves the Universe. The game is a madcap romp through ‘a world of chaos, exploding bodies, and salty language’, but Saavedra's score is alternately dreamy, epic, and joyously danceable. The musician has made reference to melding Ennio Morricone scores and K-pop, but the score for Trover also finds itself winding through the ethereal bops of artists like Grimes, as well.
You can get a glimpse of what this music looks and sounds like in the exclusive premiere of Hanging Out in the Sky, off the game's soundtrack, which we are excited to share with you all, in addition to an interview with Asy Saavedra about how she came to work on the game and her creative process.
STARBURST: How did you originally come to do the music for Trover Saves the Universe? Was it because you've worked with Justin Roiland before – going all the way back to having Do You Feel It? on Rick and Morty?
Asy Saavedra: Yeah, it's kind of a weird story and a weird situation that we ended up collaborating on so much stuff because it's completely not an obvious like partnership in any way from the outside. He approached our band, Chaos Chaos, when we released our EP, Committed to the Crime, and he is a huge fan. I think it was right before Rick and Morty took off or something, but we didn't even know who he was or anything about the show. I think one of us responded to him and were just like, “Oh, thank you so much for saying such nice stuff about the music.”
He wanted to use the music in the show and then we did that and then the show like flew us out to play a premiere party and we kind of met them that way, and then just started talking more. He just asked us to do more things because he really liked our music and it worked with the show in a funny, ironic way, because our music was more emotional and deep or whatever. It worked because the show would be really funny and then have these really deep moments in it and it was kind of an awesome thing, so I think that's sort of why it ended up working out in the show.
Then, when Justin would do some other personal projects, he started asking me to do some work. I had done like a bit of his VR game stuff in the past and then he asked me to do Trover, which was really, really awesome because that was definitely something that was out of my comfort zone – just doing that whole project. I was super excited that he asked me and I think, at that point, he'd worked with me enough to know that he wanted me to do the music and he was gonna allow me to just kind of go all-out with the creating of the sound and stuff.
He definitely had a lot of trust in the sound, which was cool, because he let me off the leash for just creating, which was awesome.
We read the piece you wrote for Talkhouse, How to Score a Video Game, and what I found really interesting is that you admitted that you're not really that good at games.
Yeah, I'm fucking horrible. Video game music is actually really interesting because I just got into it. I started studying it because I was like, “Oh, fuck: I need to research because I don't know anything about game music,” and I was just realising that it's its own thing and there's this whole niche community that loves video game music. It's just meditative and cool and I was like, “Wow, this is actually really cool, because I create stuff like this on my own that I just don't use for anything, but it was natural to do it.”
You bring up that that word ‘meditative’. Video game music has to be listenable even as it's repetitive. What were the difficulties in trying to figure out how to make a piece that's going to sound good if you're stuck on a level for an hour?
That was kind of a hard thing to do because I guess it was easy for me to create music or – it wasn't easy, but it was more intuitive – to create music that could kind of just go on and on in the background and like have slight changes, but then there was a point when I was creating stuff and Justin was like, “Oh, yeah – you know, all of the melodies have to be able to layer and de-layer with whatever action's happening in the game.”
It has to be this specific way of writing. so it all kind of fits into it, like a weird, Tetris way of thinking about music – and that was not how I normally think of music, so it was a bit hard at first, but it was actually fine. I just had to make sure that there were certain looping points that worked and that there could be these changes that would happen, but we're never taking up too much space, because it has to be something that's not going to distract the player in a bad way.
The music like has all of these different elements. There's the single that you made the video for Hanging Out in the Sky, which is this very dreamy, vibey number but then there's also stuff like The Man on Whom It Depends or the Battle things, which are full-on dance floor bops. Are you just sitting there, watching a game level play-through, where you get an idea and you're just like, “This should be more dancey” or “This should sound like Swedish Blade Runner” or something like that?
I think, yeah, there were certain inspiration points I had. Everything was going to be done with synths and those kinds of instruments, for the most part, so I was listening a bit to the Blade Runner score, because it's just super-emotional music, but it's all synth, it sounds like it's an orchestra or something. It's so intense, and I felt like doing something that was just a bit over-the-top like that would be funny for Justin's game.
I know that, with everything Justin does and the way that his characters are going to be, there's always going to be a kind of ridiculous, really quirky element to it, so I wanted to kind of tap into that with the music and just have these really weird sounds, like these weird balloon sounds and just weird stuff. It doesn't sound cool – it's almost stupid-sounding, but just owning that and making it really bold was something I wanted to do. For The Man on Whom It Depends, that song was – I don't know if it comes across at all, but I was trying to go for an Ennio Morricone vibe.
I love the fact that you name drop Ennio Morricone and Piero Piccolini, because those are both composers who made scores, which also stand on their own as listenable music. Did you also want this music to work as standalone music, not just as a score?
Definitely. I think it's sort of impossible for me to make music that I don't think of in that way, but I also wanted to make sure I wasn't being too amateur about it. It was for the game, so that was the main priority but I just also wanted it to really almost be its own character or have its own persona that worked on its own, aside from the game.
You said ‘stupid but bold’, which I think can very much apply to a lot of the stuff that Justin Roiland has done but, going back to that Talkhouse interview – you put up some of the art that you consumed that helped you build the musical world for Trover. One of the things you put up there is The Moomins, which is a very great example: the music for that, as well as the show itself, is stupid but bold.
Yeah, I have a lot of respect for that kind of stuff and I think Justin definitely tapped into that. I think I've been tapping into that with my music, too, so it wasn't something that felt forced. I was like, “You know, I kind of already like this type of stuff. I'm just going to try to absorb it even more and channel it into this,” and then I definitely was really inspired by a lot of visual stuff because, obviously, the game is visual. It was just more a part of the creative process, for me. I'm already a pretty visual person, but I tapped into that even more for the game. It really helped a lot
The video for Hanging Out in the Sky is fascinating in that it's a music video for a piece from a video game, but there's no video game footage in it. I know you wanted to show people a different kind of live performance, but were you trying to tie it into the game or make it stand apart?
I kind of knew that I couldn't really create that game world, obviously, unless I like actually did some weird VR video thing – which actually would have been cool – but I thought it would be kind of interesting, just because I'm really a musician and composer and I was thinking that it would be interesting to show people soundtracks and that kind of stuff in a live setting.
I just felt, for this specific soundtrack, it would be cool to show it live. I just happened to be in the desert in that area and at first, I didn't really want it to be a Joshua Tree kind of vibe. I wanted it to just feel otherworldly and weird, but I realised that there was no avoiding Joshua trees in that area. Hopefully, it has a weird vibe that's not just a Coachella vibe or something like that.
Not at all Coachella. The crazy thing about the video is that, when it zooms out and does that wrap-around thing, it's like very much a Little Prince thing where it's like you're on a very tiny planet of your own – which, I guess, is another tie-in to Rick and Morty.
I definitely liked that that vibe because I just want this to feel like its own world, so that's good that that came across.
The score for Trover Saves the Universe is getting put out on vinyl by Mondo who are one the premier purveyors of vinyl soundtracks. Are you excited to be joining that cadre of people?
I'm definitely excited about it. I love Mondo and it's just so cool that they do all these soundtracks and I've always been listening to soundtracks and to that kind of music. It's super-inspiring to me, so it's really humbling to be able to release something in that kind of category. I really love Mondo – everyone there is awesome and also, I'm pretty excited to do vinyl, because we haven't done any vinyl as Chaos Chaos and I haven't done any on my own. This is my first solo recording release thing, so I'm definitely really excited for that. I hope people buy it.
Weirdly, everything with the release sort of lined up perfectly with this horrible time that we're in because vinyl is getting huge right now. Everyone is stuck in the virtual world and I think that's why they're really obsessed with old-fashioned stuff that is not virtual, you know?
The score for Trover Saves the Universe will be available on September 25th on vinyl and digitally via Mondo. You can pre-order that here.