Kentucky Route Zero's fake band is getting a real album

News
August 23, 2016 by Kris Ligman

Series composer Ben Babbitt to release Junebug album patterned after the titular character.

Kentucky Route Zero is an evolving thing, more Homeric epic at this point than meandering David Lynchian weird fiction tale. Players responded enthusiastically to the third chapter's traveling mechanoid musicians Junebug and Johnny, who perform the in-game musical interlude "Too Late To Love You." Now, the fictional duo is getting a real-life album.

The 11-track Junebug album is composed by Kentucky Route Zero composer Ben Babbitt, who also lends lead songstress Junebug her synthesized vocals. The album functions as an extension of the tone and style of Junebug's Act III debut.

"There was a whole conceptual framework already there and a palette and an aesthetic and everything. I could just dive in again and make more and see how it developed," Babbitt tells Kill Screen. The project grew out of collaboration with the other two members of Kentucky Route Zero's small development team, Cardboard Computer. "We, collectively, have established this sort of looser way of making things -- creating a world -- and makign different kinds of things that aren't necessarily all videogames."

In commercial terms, the Junebug album is what marketing types and fandom scholars would call "transmedia," a way of extending the narrative 'world' of a property through adjacent media. Think Marvel movies who extend their stories in comic books, TV shows, and videogames. At its face, "transmedia" is the right term to apply here, but it seems rather crass and soulless to use it to describe something that is, more appropriately, a collective of creative ideas which has always been -- from its inception -- about challenging boundaries between media. Cardboard Computer co-founder Jake Elliott, after all, was one of the first to advance the idea of the critical Let's Play, and even Kentucky Route Zero's early chapters have expressed an ambivalence about games qua games: one of the very first puzzles is actually a bit of lightly-obfuscated magnet poetry.

"I really, really like how proactive [Junebug and Johnny] seem to be in creating their identities and being very intentional about how they present themselves," Babbitt tells Kill Screen. "[They reject] the idea that we become who we become and have no real agency in that process."

Junebug is an atmospheric album pairing Babbitt's processed vocals with synthesizer and string sections, as much a callback to 80s dream synth and the same genre-agnostic experimentation that hallmarks the rest of Kentucky Route Zero. You can preview the "Static Between Stations" track in the video below or here on Bandcamp. The album presently has no release date.

Kentucky Route Zero is a five-act game for Windows PC, Mac, and Linux. Four of its chapters have been released to date.

(h/t Kill Screen.)