4cr Interviews – Laura Shigihara

by Antonio Garcia

I’ve been a fan of Laura Shigihara for a while now, and I actually own every single release available in her Bandcamp page. Therefore, you can imagine how happy I was to have a chance to interview her! Read on to learn more about Shigi.

4cr: Welcome, Laura! Before we begin, do you mind telling our audience a bit about yourself and about the projects you’ve worked on?

I don’t mind at all :) Well let’s see… I’m a video game composer and sound engineer. I also write, produce and perform my own songs which I try my best to upload to my youtube channel, and for the past year I’ve been developing an independent video game called “Rakuen.” I’ve created audio for many different games (most notably, the soundtrack for Plants vs. Zombies, though I also contributed music/voice work for games like To the Moon, World of Warcraft, Surviving High School, and the latest Penny Arcade game). Recently, I worked with C418 (the Minecraft composer) on a song called “Tsuki no Koibumi” that was used as the ending theme for the Minecraft movie.

PvZ 1

4cr: A lot of people know you from Plants vs Zombies since you did all the music and even sang on the main theme, and they’ve been asking a lot about your participation in Plants vs Zombies 2. We know that your music has been remixed and used for the sequel, and that you worked on the song for the Egypt stage, but did you work on other songs that were cut from the game or was that song the only new music you created for part 2?

You know, I’m actually not sure! I composed a handful of tracks for PvZ 2, but I don’t know which ones they ended up using (beyond what you’ve mentioned) because I left EA in 2012, and I haven’t been able to play the completed game since it doesn’t work on my phone (I still have a 3GS… I know, I know, I’m behind the times haha) :P

My Blue Dream

4cr: I remember reading at your Bandcamp page for “My Blue Dream” that the first songs you wrote are very important to you because, well, they ARE your first songs. But with such a huge catalog of compositions, what other songs are you especially proud of?

I’m actually kind of embarrassed when people listen to my old songs >_<; I keep thinking, “those lyrics are so immature” or “the production on that track was so weak”… but I guess they were still special to me since I was so excited back then about every little new song. I’d get excited over the smallest things, like learning how to apply new effects or something, haha. As for songs I am proud of… I really like “Cube Land” and “Everything’s Alright.” My favorite kinds of songs are the ones that say a lot with only a few words. I feel like I accomplished that with these two. On the surface, “Cube Land” just seems like a song about building things in Minecraft… but it’s really about escapism, in all its various forms. And if you’ve played the game that features “Everything’s Alright” (To the Moon), then you can probably figure out the deeper meaning of that one. I always feel happy and humbled when people understand the meaning in my songs :) It feels like I’ve made a connection with someone else out there.

Rakuen 2

4cr: You’ve been hard at work on Rakuen, doing almost everything that is needed for taking a project from concept to reality. What can you tell us about it?

Rakuen is a very personal project. There are many stories that were inspired by relatives and real life events. The main story is about a little boy who is stuck in the hospital and eventually asks his mother to escort him to the fantasy world from his favorite storybook :) During his time in the hospital, the boy learns more about his neighbors… Many of them are plagued by secrets and struggles that are tied to the strange hospital. The boy helps them through his interactions with their fantasy world alter-egos… and in doing so, he also shapes the hospital.

I really wanted to tell a story that highlights how much a parent can change a child’s world. I also wanted to show that you don’t need to save the world in order to live a meaningful life and significantly help another person.

Rakuen 1

The gameplay is like a mix between Maniac Mansion, The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past, and To the Moon. Almost everything in the world is interactive, but instead of navigating using point-and-click adventure words (look, open, read, etc.) you interact with your world the way you would in a jrpg. But the game is not an rpg… there is no fighting, no equipment, no leveling up, etc. The hospital itself has a lot of little puzzles and mysteries that evolve throughout the course of the game, and each “level” focuses on a different neighbor’s story.

I should also tell you that music is a big focus in the game :)

4cr: As we’ve said, this isn’t the first time you’ve been involved with creating a game. I’d love to hear how you describe Melolune to our audience.

Melolune was a hobbist project I worked on for many years :) It’s a jrpg about twin brothers who come from a place where people collect song fragments and put them together in order to keep their world alive. After a catastrophic event takes the lives of their parents, the twins are separated due to reasons unbeknownst to the player. You play as one of the twins, after the separation, and after having been adopted by a tribe of small catlike creatures called Leebles.

Melolune 1

I got about 80-90% finished when I accepted a job at EA as an Audio Director. They allowed me to keep the rights to my game, and even to continue working on it while I was there… however, I rarely had the time to, so I stopped working on it for quite a while. When I left the company, I tried getting back into it and… how do I describe this? Well… Have you ever played an rpg, put it down, and tried picking it up a year later only to realize you were totally lost and not sure what to do next? Well when you’re making an rpg, it’s like 10x worse, haha!

Anyways, I thought it would be good to do a smaller project first to get back into development again… and I was really excited about working with my friend Emmy to tell the story of Rakuen. But I do hope to come back and finish off that last 10% in the future :) And in the meantime, there is a 3-4 hour arc that is still online somewhere if folks want to play it.

Melolune 2

4cr: The soundtracks for Melolune and Rakuen, and the theme for To The Moon, all have a similar feel. Was this intentional?

Mmm… It depends on the tracks. I can’t really say that they all have similar pacing because there’s a pretty big variety (for example, Melolune’s battle music is very different from “Everything’s Alright”). But in terms of feel, I use a lot of the same instruments, and many of my tracks feature piano (since that’s what I grew up playing). I also place a pretty big emphasis on melodic tracks, since I think it goes hand in hand with the storytelling aspect of the games. So in that regard, yes ;)

4cr: You play a lot of games, and that ends up inspiring you for some of your songs, as can be seen for Cube Land (Minecraft) and Blood Elf Druids (World of Warcraft). What games have you played lately during your spare time? You DID get The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, right?

Yes~!! I really loved The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. I’ve been telling people that I added it to my top 5 favorite games of all time (which means a lot because I haven’t added anything to that list since Starcraft came out, haha)! I play a lot of Magic the Gathering (both online as well as with friends… I especially enjoy Cube Drafting), and I still play WoW. I love the people in my guild. I enjoy checking out new indie games as well. My favorite indie game from last year was “Fleuret Blanc.” It had some great music, and a really compelling story.

From the Ground Up

4cr: Thank for doing this. Would you like to add anything else?

Thank-you for interviewing me! I had a good time ^_^ Hmm… I guess I’d add that if folks want to keep up with Rakuen’s progress or any of my music related projects, I’m on Twitter, Youtube, and Facebook

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