Failbetter Games took a pretty big swing with its latest release, a visual novel set in the universe of Fallen London called Mask of the Rose. The game’s launch was marred by fairly negative reactions from fans, but after a new patch, the game is now trending on Steam. Because of how unique this project is, the team at Failbetter wanted to create something equally special to celebrate the launch.
With that in mind, the studio reached out to genderfluid, nerdcore musician and video creator, The Stupendium. Together, Failbetter and The Stupendium created an over 12 minute musical dedicated to Fallen London and the story behind Mask of the Rose called “Neath! A Fallen London Musical.” Not only is this a big undertaking in general, but it’s also the first time The Stupendium has appeared in one of their videos while doing female gender presentation. Gayming was able to sit down with The Stupendium and Failbetter Games to chat about “Neath! A Fallen London Musical,” and how it came to be.
Gayming: So how did you get into making music?
I kind of fell into it. When I was in college, I studied music for a while. But I also studied drama, and art and film. And I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life. And I did study music, and then I put it aside and went on and tried to be an animator. Years and years later, I was making YouTube content of all different kinds trying to find a niche that worked for me, and I was listening to a lot of nerdy video game music, a lot of creators on YouTube, who I really enjoy who make songs about games. And I thought, “You know what, I’ll have a go.” And I did. And they weren’t very good. But a couple of songs in one of them just blew up. Probably because I did a big animated music video for it. Because that was my real skill set, so I did a big animated music video to a not brilliant song. And that blew up. And I thought, “right, okay, that’s worked, I’ll see if I can make something out of that.” And yeah, I did.
What attracted you to wanting to create on YouTube specifically?
When when I started creating on YouTube, it was very much just because sort of everyone was doing it. It was very, it was a very fun thing to do. It’s a platform where you can reach all sorts of people doing kind of whatever you like. And when I started on YouTube, it was predominantly me and a uni friend, doing sketch comedy, because we both love doing live comedy stuff. We were both in acting and performance groups before we met and stuff. And we thought, “Oh, it’s a really great platform to do comedy stuff.” So we spent a few years doing sketch and sketch comedy on YouTube that didn’t go anywhere. But that was sort of the first serious time we attempted YouTube. And yeah, then that sort of went away when we went our separate ways after university, and I just kept making weird little comedy skits on YouTube for years. And eventually that became music, and here I am.
What has gone into creating a mini musical for this game?
A lot of time. It was quite a natural progression for me because my music has always been very musical theater inspired. That’s the sort of the sort of stuff I generally make in the nerdcore scene. In my little corner of it is very much I’m lifting from sort of Stephen Sondheim and Tim Minchin and Lin Manuel Miranda, they’re sort of my big musical influences. So the songs I made already before I did this one, were already very condensed musical theater style songs, they were just sort of three to five minutes long, so I’ve been waiting for a chance to really go a bit ham on it.
When I started writing this one that wasn’t the intention I didn’t go into this thinking I’m going to write an 11 minute song I went into it and just got so carried away writing it that by the time I stopped to read back the lyrics, I was like “oh no, this is this is eight pages, oh god.” And then I timed it and I was like “oh this is nine minutes long and I’m not done yet. I guess this is a musical now.
Okay, so Failbetter didn’t come to you and say “we would like a little musical,” you provided them with one.
They came to me and asked for a song and I went back to them sort of tail between my legs and said: “I know you asked for a song, this is a lot longer. Is that okay?” And thankfully they were very, very on board and loved the idea. I was fully prepared to have to go back in and like either start again or cut it right back down to being like a for a quarter of what it was, but thankfully they loved what I came up with and it stayed 11 minutes long.
So Hannah, what was the in-house reaction to getting this 11 minute song back?
Hannah Flynn, Failbetter Communications Director: Well, we’ve had such a fun process because I’ve been getting little bits and pieces from Stupes just, you know, through the night. I wake up in the morning and like the Elves and the Shoemaker, they’ve made like a ministry of accounting and recounting official badge or something on their 3D printer and sent me a video of it like ‘LOOK.’ We are just overjoyed.
Like initially I thought to myself “what am I going to do? It’s got to be special for the launch of Mask of the Rose.” I’ve always been into nerdcore personally, and we we had a song previously for Sunless Sea that was by Dan Ball, friend of Stupes and member of the UK nerdcore scene and I was like, “I want to revisit that.” And then Stupes said, “Hold my beer,” and came back with this, like, magnum opus.
And it’s so interesting, because so few people pick up what we’re putting down so completely. Fallen London is not just like, Victorian a thing, like a steampunk thing. It’s not just a very thin like aesthetic. It’s an extremely deep, complicated lore baby/beast. And they were like, “Yep, okay. Yep, got it.”
What were some of the core musical inspirations for this specific piece?
Stupendium: Oliver and Sweeney Todd are sort of my two main ones. But I’ve snuck in references to multiple musicals.
Because you kind of think of a specific sound when you think of nerdcore music, how are you playing with that idea to capture the Fallen London vibe?
So a big part of my work has always been, I adapt musically to the source material. So whenever I’m making a song I’m always trying to match the vibe and the feel and the sound of the piece to the source material. So my sound changes a lot back and forth between tracks. And this one I’ve gone very much all in on sort of Victorian, Victorian London sort of sound, orchestral sort of stage musical sort of vibe.
What all is going into animating the video, Stupes?
Stupendium: So this project is a fully live action musical all filmed on location. It’s the biggest shoot I’ve ever done. It was like a two full night shoot. Plus, there’s another day of shooting next week for some other bits. I had a cast of about 10 people all in costume extras. I play five different characters throughout it. And the goal of it was to do as much in camera as possible. Often my shoots have a lot of VFX in post, this one, partly because of the sort of condensed time schedule, partly because it’s sort of a pastiche of musicals like Oliver, I wanted it to be as in camera as possible. So the only the effects were really doing beyond a couple of bits are paint outs, because we filmed it in an old Victorian tavern, which was a fantastic location, but it has nonetheless had electricity fitted and there’s a lot of light switches and plug sockets. So there’s a fair amount of going in and just just take that light switch out. You can see a modern street lamp out the window. Just paint that out, stuff like that, but nothing crazy in terms of VFX.
And then I know, Hannah mentioned this is the first video that you’ve appeared in doing like different gender presentation stuff, right?
Yeah, so that’s obviously a big part of the game. When Hannah came to me with the game and pitched the project to me, like right out the gate she was like, “This is is a very queer game.” And I was like, “yes, love that.” It’s not something I’ve done before, like gender representation in a video. I recently came out as gender fluid. I’ve been identifying as non binary for quite a few years now, and I sort of recently promoted myself to gender fluid. So yeah, it was it’s my first time doing a sort of femme presenting character in a video, which is exciting, it was a lot of fun to do. I’m not gonna lie, it’s also kind of nerve wracking. My community online is fantastic, and really, really queer friendly, and progressive and welcoming and loving. But obviously, it’s not just my core community that are gonna see this, it’s gonna go wider. So it’s a little scary, but at the same time, like, I was really proud to be able to do it.
And it’s such a core part of the game. You can play as a character of sort of any gender representation, or no gender, really, you can sort of pick and there are characters within the game, who also, you know, represent across that spectrum. So it was really important to me to make sure that was a key part of the video and having a character whose like, whole sort of verse was dedicated to that was was important for me.