Soundtrack Spotlight: River City Girls Q&A with Megan McDuffee

Washington-based Megan McDuffee is the award winning composer, producer and recording artist behind the soundtrack to WayForward’s Kunio-kun spin-off brawler River City Girls. After a successful multi-platform release in 2019 and with a PS5 port currently in the works, Megan is composing and directing the soundtrack for the eagerly awaited sequel River City Girls 2 which is tipped for release in 2022. 

For this week’s Soundtrack Spotlight Megan has kindly answered a few questions over email about the inspiration behind her original River City Girls soundtrack, some of the production techniques used to make it, and how she kept player’s heads nodding and feet tapping as they slugged their way through River City’s mean, pixelated streets.

How do you approach a new project, and in River City Girls’ case, what inspiration did you draw on for the initial ideas?

Megan: Wayforward came to me with the vision of an upbeat, synthpop soundtrack, and I got to see some level design, characters, and descriptions of various areas before I wrote anything. They also had a few example pieces of music they liked. From there I did a first track based on the artwork and music examples to set the tone and direction, they loved it, and I continued down that path!

How did the development of the soundtrack interact with the development of the game? (in terms of access to assets, early builds etc.)

Megan: I didn’t see much beyond the initial artwork, levels, and area descriptions, but I was brought on pretty early in the development process. I was producing the soundtrack in parallel with the game’s progress, and I didn’t see any gameplay until I was almost done with the entire thing. That was indeed a trip.

Do you have any go-to production techniques or stylistic flourishes we can hear in River City Girls? 

Megan: It goes for almost all of my work; I’m a sucker for heavy gritty bass and punchy drums. That’s my foundation for anything I work on, including RCG. Once I have that solid base (or bass, haha) I work on crafting infectious melodies. I always aim for memorability in my tunes, and weave harmonies and extra little bits of “ear candy” around the main ideas. Playing with panning is also a production/mixing technique I think adds a lot of space to a mix.

What were the most useful/important hardware and software tools you used when creating the River City Girls soundtrack?

Megan: Normally I’m an in-the-box gal, so Cubase is my tool of choice, filled with all manner of VST’s. Some of my favorites are Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2, Rob Papen Predator, NI Massive, Camel Audio Alchemy, and anything from Fabfilter, Slate Digital, and Soundtoys.

What lessons have carried over from your work as a game composer and music director to your work as a recording artist, and vice versa? (Inner Demons Out Now!)

Megan: The same mentality goes for anything I work on, and that is asking myself “am I proud of this? Is this release-worthy?” Of course I look back on older work and think about how aspects of production and mix could be improved based on what I’ve learned over time, but that’s it really. Just making sure I’m happy with something before it goes out into the wild. I actually leveled up with my work on my full-length vocal debut Inner Demons, and some of those production techniques have been very helpful for my current work on RCG2!

What’s next for you?

Megan: I’m constantly working on many things at once. I’m contributing music to a very well-known AAA title, working on RCG2, a few other indie games, maintaining a steady influx of hired vocal projects for other producers, and one of these days soon I’m going to start on another dark electropop album. Basically working my booty off for my dream 🙂

River City Girl’s soundtrack is available to stream through Spotify, Megan’s album Inner Demons and her new single Abyss are available to purchase through her bandcamp page, and the game can be picked up through the steam link below:

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