Daniel Olsén about the music in Sayonara Wild Hearts

Sayonara Wild Hearts is by far the craziest, hardest, and most challenging (but at the same time most fun and rewarding) project I have ever worked on—I’ve never leveled up so much during a project before.

In a game where music takes center stage, as the main composer and sound effects designer, I had to focus a lot on quality and also learn a lot about producing pop music. There was a lot of back and forth work to balance music with gameplay and visuals, to get it to a point where we felt like they were working together, and taking turns to lead the game forward. I worked closely with Simon, and we had discussions about almost every section and transition in every level, making countless iterations on levels and songs over the course of the project.

A third of the songs were first written by Jonathan, mostly on guitar. He would write and record a demo, then send the guitar and vocal stems to me. I would take that song and rework it into an electronic version that fit the game’s aesthetics. I had never interpreted songs in this way before, and it was often a challenge to find a unique expression for each track, while keeping the integrity of Jonathan’s originals. Eventually I would have something that sounded good enough to send to Linnea, who would then replace Jonathan’s vocals with her own. She really made the songs shine with her unique voice, and often added her own touches and ideas. The final step was to add Linnea’s vocals, polishing, adjusting, and doing the final mix.

The instrumental tracks took a heavy dive into my electronic music background. Mixed with all sorts of modern and old influences, along with the game’s stages themselves, these tracks feature everything from chopped-up and auto-tuned vocal samples to Debussy covers.

The styling of the tracks was heavily inspired by the game’s sound effects. There’s a lot of arpeggios and glittery sounds going on, ideas that came from the Sailor Moon and Dragonball Z-inspired sounds I created. Simon and I thought it could be fun to try and add that glittery flair to everything, and it ended up fitting really well with the game’s aesthetics, tying all the songs together a bit more. I feel like every game I’ve worked on turns out better when the lines between music and sounds are blurred.