Few independent Canadian documentaries are official selections at the Sundance Film Festival, but that’s exactly what happened for Indie Game: The Movie. Creators James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot just brought home the award for best editing from the festival’s World Cinema Documentary Competition.
In March they'll be heading to Austin, Texas, along with the film’s composer Jim Guthrie, for screenings at SxSW. Guthrie is no stranger to the indie world; he’s been part of Toronto’s indie music scene for years.
Apart from his own solo project, Guthrie performed with Royal City and was a key player at Three Gut Records. In recent years Guthrie has turned his creative abilities to the world of indie gaming music, so it’s not surprising to see his name attached to Indie Game: The Movie. I caught up with Guthrie recently.
[insert audio][audio: listen to our complete conversation]
Here are some highlights.
Shauna Powers: How did you come to create the music for Indie Game: The Movie?
Jim Guthrie: I mean it all came from Sword and Sworcery, basically. I met a guy named Craig Adams who does pixel art… It was really kind of above everything else I’d seen before... In 2009 he was approached to make a video game based on his art through Capy Games here in Toronto so he looped me in… Through all of that Lisanne and James had been shooting a lot of interviews with people in the indie gaming community. They sort of contacted me on a whim… I maybe asked at some point where they were located in the States, and they were like “Are you crazy? We’re just from the prairies, you know, a guy and a girl making a film.”
[Listen to "Lone Star" from the Sword & Sworcery LP.]
SP: Can you describe Sword and Sworcery?
JG: It’s more the approach that we took in the atmosphere, and it’s more just the spirit and emotion behind it… You’re led by the beautiful graphics, the simplicity, and the art is unbelievable… We’ve also described it as an album that you can walk through. There was always this idea, or hope, that the music would serve its purpose in the game world but also it could stand on its own as an album.
SP: Which I think has sold out hasn’t it?
JG: Yeah the album I made on vinyl. It’s a digital download on Bandcamp and iTunes, and then I made an initial run of 1,000 copies and that sold out pretty fast… When I put it up online I sold like six or 800 of them in three days or something and my house was transformed into a warehouse… So it was pretty insane. It was also a moment, too, where I realized that the gaming industry is like, in a lot of ways so much more healthy than the indie rock industry in the sense that there’s just fewer fish in the pond and there’s a lot of people who are buying. I mean, I’ve never sold as many records in the 15 years that I’ve made indie rock than in the video game world. It’s a dramatic difference… In every other respect I see it as very similar in that there’s just really small groups of super-talented, smart, funny people who have great ideas, and great taste, and truly want to make a great piece of art… For me to make music in this world it’s really just music and it’s a new challenge… So I really spread myself out, so much so that it’s been really hard for me to make my own proper solo record in seven years, or whatever it is.
SP: Does that weigh on you?
JG: Yeah, totally. It’s become this huge burden. I should have just tried to squeeze out a new pop record after my last one in 2004. Now, More Than Ever is the name of my last record. And that had a Juno nomination, actually. It had a lot of steam… then Three Gut folded and I just didn’t really have the same sort of community… So I sort of found all these other opportunities that popped up. It’s me adapting but it’s me sort of doing what I wanted to do my whole life, in a way.
Indie Game: The Movie is screening at SxSW in March and Jim Guthrie’s soundtrack will be released independently later this year.
Jim Guthrie's CBC Music Artist page
Craig Adams short films