Georgetown company specializes in sound design
“We Are Sound” is the tagline for one of Georgetown’s most unusual businesses with quite the ear-catching name, Funky Rustic. The name comes from an episode of the British comedy Lovejoy in which actor Ian McShane says, “I like the natural look . . . funky rustic I call it.” Funky Rustic president Alex Brandon says, “The reason we chose the name is because [we think it represents] the laidback nature of the Austin area and how the Texas country inspires us to focus on our craft before the bottom line.”
Funky Rustic’s craft is, according to its website, to “create new and exciting audio for a variety of media.” Funky Rustic provides voiceover for radio and TV commercials for clients such as Dell Computers and National Geographic. Alex had the opportunity to edit the voices of Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench for the James Bond 007: Bloodstone video game. He has also directed voice for actors Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson and worked with musicians as varied as Seattle’s Northwest Sinfonia and David Bowie’s guitarist Reeves Gabrels.
Much of Funky Rustic’s work, however, is in the video game industry. Funky Rustic has worked on such popular and familiar titles as Sonic Boom, Bejeweled 3, and Skyrim. Alex says that one score in particular, the original 1987 Metroid music score, “inspired me from the early days of games and was among the first to make me want to write music for games.” Now an award-winning composer, Alex is a highly sought-after writer and speaker in the gaming community. He currently serves as vice president of the Game Audio Network Guild, of which he is a founding member. Presently, Alex is hard at work on Wasteland 2, the next inXile game. “I should clarify that I’m working on the sound effects, not the soundtrack,” Alex specifies. “I have done soundtracks myself, but this one is being done by Mark Morgan, who did the original Fallout games. But I’ve been taking his music and playing it and integrating it into the game.”
Many may think sound effects means the same few bars of music with the occasional beeps, pings, and explosions generally associated with video games, but for his current project, Alex recently recorded the Texas Lutheran Children’s Choir at Texas State University’s Fire Station Studios in San Marcos. Alex has a sound booth in his office, but it’s big enough for only one person, not a whole choir.
He laughingly calls his office a “man cave,” but he explains that all three computer screens are truly necessary to his job. One screen provides the game timeline with the timing information. On another screen, Alex uses a linear tool to create sound. “I have a sound library that I access through a hard drive, which has terabytes of sound effects.”
The third screen allows him a view of video games that average gamers never see. Advances in technology now allow him to hook up to a gaming company’s server and get a development build of the game. “You can work right in the engine for the game. . . . Six or seven years ago you couldn’t do this. The internet speeds and technology just weren’t available.” But now whole game levels are available for Alex’s perusal.
Essentially, Alex is one of the first to beta test a new game. He gets to explore it and play, but he also has to add the last integral pieces. Like a movie without background music or a musical score, what would a video game be without sound? “I go through environmentally first,” he says. Background noises are added. In Wasteland 2, wind rustles the leaves, and an unknown assailant’s footsteps are audible along with the hum of a distant radio tower. Then sound effects are created for each character action and interaction. “You could probably spend one thousand hours playing this game and not find all of the things [I’ve put in],” Alex says. But he plans and designs sound for every eventuality.
Most of the time Alex’s job is fun, but like any other job, it can also be frustrating. The business side, consisting of phone calls, Skype meetings, and email, has to be managed. Invoices have to be submitted. Funky Rustic’s CEO is Jeanette Brandon, Alex’s wife. She handles the company’s finances and day-to-day business decisions while Alex attends events, participates in meetings, and vets business proposals. Recently, a small company in Australia submitted a proposal to Alex. He liked the look of it, and a Skype meeting occurred at a time that worked for both parties: 6 p.m. Texas time, 9 a.m. Australia time.
Alex has had the opportunity to work with musicians and artists around the globe. He’s been in the extraordinary position to travel through imaginative, make-believe worlds on his own fearless quest to explore and create. Gamers may not be aware that Alex was one of the first to set foot on the virtual playing fields, but he has certainly left his mark on those worlds. And a funky one at that.
For more information about Funky Rustic and its upcoming projects, visit www.funkyrustic.net.