Prescription for Sleep: Undertale: A Q&A with the team behind the album

Prescription for Sleep: Undertale: A Q&A with the team behind the album TOBY FOX

Gentile Love, a musical group comprised of of saxophonist Norihiko Hibino (Metal Gear Solid and Bayonetta series) and pianist AYAKI (Odyssey and PersonaQ), is offering fans a new way to experience the music of Undertale.

Their new album consists of a series of lullabies inspired by the infamous indie video game called Prescription for Sleep: Undertale. The album is fifth in a series of game music lullabies produced by Scarlet Moon Records. While previous editions sampled music from multiple games, this album focuses exclusively on Undertale. The track list includes several fan-favorites, along with lengthy improvisations and an original piece meant to build on the ending of the game.

We reached out to Norihiko Hibino and producer Jayson Napolitano to talk about the album.

GEEKNIFTY: For starters, can you tell us a little bit about Prescription for Sleep: Undertale? What exactly is Prescription for Sleep, and what made you decide to do an Undertale album?

NORIHIKO HIBINO:  Hello! Maybe [producer Jayson Napolitano] can say more about the Undertale album specifically... but I can speak to the original concept for the Prescription for Sleep iOS app, which the album series borrows its name from. I wanted to create music that brings peace, comfort, and joy to listeners, as that was one of the original purposes of music. I was creating lots of game music that focused on tension, fighting, rage, anger, battling... of course I know these are real human feelings, but I believe we can choose to be at peace regardless of our situation.

JAYSON NAPOLITANO: Hello, thanks for having us. I’ll comment briefly on the on Prescription for Sleep: Undertale. Hibino-san had created the original Prescription for Sleep iOS health app several years ago, and it was a huge success. I’ve always loved the music featured in the app, and Hibino-san’s new life mission to heal people through music was something I really admired.

When I started Scarlet Moon Records and was thinking about launching a series of arrangement albums, I thought it would be perfect to bridge the gap between Hibino-san’s work in video games and his new mission by creating music that helps people with their daily life, such as falling asleep. That’s how the series came to be. We’ve created a couple compilation albums, and another volume dedicated to the Secret of Mana soundtrack, but having played Undertale for the first time this past summer with my son and being enamored with the soundtrack, I wanted to spend some time shining the spotlight on an indie project, and everything came together with the licensing and creating a physical product for the first time. I think Undertale’s themes of determination, sacrifice, redemption and friendship play in really well with what we’re trying to do with the series.

GN: The game has beautiful themes, but it can also take the player to a very dark place. Did that element of menace affect GENTLE LOVE’s interpretation of the music?

NH: I don't know if Toby Fox is a religious person or not, but to me, as a Christian, when Jayson explained the story of Undertale, I instantly thought this game was some kind of metaphor for the Bible. This world is in fact a dark place, and we all tend to think we need to fight to survive, but that is not what God told us to do. We need to love each other instead of fight, just like Toriel (Jesus?) tells us. "Finally Home" is, to me, a musical statement saying "finally we are in heaven.”

I think we are all vulnerable sometimes, but because of this, we come to realize the importance of loving one another. Being in a dark place and facing difficulties is an important part of our blessings.

GN: This album was recorded differently than previous volumes of Prescription for Sleep. Rather than remain in separate, neutral recording booths, Gentile Love opted to play together in a studio made of stone and wood with lots of reverb. Why the change?

NH: When the saxophone and piano are played in the same room, they resonate together and create harmonics that create a feeling of “unity," which I wanted to express in this recording. In separate booths we can certainly record each note clearly, and we can even edit our mistakes to perfection. During simultaneous recording, however, we can't edit anything. All my mistakes are in the recording as they are. But I think even those mistakes will create some resonance and fluctuation in natural reverb, and it basically says "we don't need to be perfect.”

GN: I admire Gentile Love's ability to maintain a serene ambience throughout the entire album, even in songs with spirited tempos like "Enemy Approaching." Was that difficult to do?

NH: I think I touched on this previously, but personally, I pray before recording each song that I will not play anything from my own will, and that I will become thoroughly an instrument to deliver peace, comfort, joy, and love. I never push my will into the music, and that helps the entire album maintain a serene feeling.

GN: In the booklet that comes with the album, you mention that "Heartache" was your favorite piece. Can you elaborate why?

NH: I could most easily resonate with the feeling of its melody.  The melody itself is just beautiful.

GN: "Finally Home" perfectly captures the feel of Undertale, and it brings the album to a beautiful conclusion. So I was surprised to learn that it was entirely improvised without any arrangement or chords notated in advance. How do you even prepare for something like that?

NH: I originally approached this song as a sort of "Gregorian hymn jazz" piece. I created a theme and a very simple melody. AYAKI and I have played in this style many times over the course of several albums, and we discuss a lot about how each music element such as dynamics, tempo, and the length of the performance will affect how the listener will feel, especially in sleeping or prayer. All these experiences help us to find a way together. AYAKI is really an amazing player, he can instantly create the right chord without any rehearsal. Since we are a duo, we don't need an exact map of how and where we’ll go with each piece. If this was a trio, we would need to map it out.

Prescription for Sleep: Undertale is available on Bandcamp, iTunes, and Spotify. Fans can also purchase a physical edition, which includes two discs of music and a 20-page booklet containing comic strips, stickers, and additional commentary from the album’s production team. Only 1,000 copies of the physical edition are available.

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