The Refrain Interview: Rob Kovacs

Acclaimed composer, pianist, and singer-songwriter, Rob Kovacs, has joined forces with DR BLOC on the revolutionary virtual reality game, STRAYLIGHT, which released on Jan 31st for Meta Quest 2, Meta Quest, Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, Valve Index, and the HTC Vive. Scoring this virtual world allowed Kovacs to experiment and embody the freedom of STRAYLIGHT’s gameplay and its feeling of weightlessness. While Kovacs has scored short films in the past, this is his first time working on a video game.

We had the chance to ask Rob a couple questions as part of The Refrain Interview Series. Check it out below.

Refrain Music Blog: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. You have a new
album out now and it’s part of a video game soundtrack!? Tell us about it? What’s it

Rob: Sure! The game is called STRAYLIGHT. It is a VR (virtual reality) only game
where you’re basically like Spiderman in space. You have a grapple beam which we call
the Straylight that you use to connect to floating nodes that you use to pull and fling
yourself through each level, trying to avoid obstacles and reach the final portal. And
since it’s in VR, you get that sense that you are actually flying. It’s really thrilling!
Each level has a unique abstract cosmic look. There’s an ominous voice that guides and
taunts you through the game. And then there is this progressive synthwave soundtrack
providing the atmosphere for the adventure.

RMB: What’s the story on how it was recorded? The Who, When, Where etc. Was it a
long process or quick? Any good stories about the recording process?

Rob: The whole game took 5 years to make. We’re a small 5-person team called Dr
BLOC and this was a labor of love that we would work on in our spare time. I recorded
the entire soundtrack in my home studio by myself, ha. Maybe sessions of just working
through the night. The vast majority of the soundtrack was written and recorded using a
vintage Prophet 5. It sounds incredible. It’s also kind of unwieldy at times. I’d have to
repair broken tines often which slowed things down. But the game team really just let
me go ham on the songs. So each track is its own sound, its own world, and I really
pushed myself to make each track memorable and impactful. Almost all of the tracks
were written with a specific level in mind as well.

RMB: How does composing for a video game soundtrack differ from your previous

Rob: This was my first time composing for a game. I’ve written a lot of songs to be
performed by bands. And I’ve written for media in the form of short films and American
Greetings e-cards. Writing for video games is similar to movies in that you’re trying to
enhance a visual medium which is different than writing a song that is supposed to
stand on its own. I guess took a combined approach. The music definitely serves the
game but I knew that I would release the soundtrack separately. So I made sure that the
music was strong enough to stand alone. With games, you’re usually not competing with dialogue as much as you are with a movie, so there’s more room for the music to take
the foreground in the audio space.

RMB: You recently crowdfunded a vinyl release of the soundtrack. What was that
experience like?

Rob: Kinda nerve-wracking! It was through Bandcamp. They were absolutely great to
work with. The great thing is, if they accept your project and it gets funded, they handle
all the shipping and fulfillment. And they have a quicker turnaround time than basically
anyone else that I’d be able to get on my own.
The process of getting it funded was ultimately great but I was a little concerned
because so few of my fans and followers actually have a record player. And this isn’t
like a more broad crowdfunding campaign where I can offer other perks. It was pretty
much just for vinyl. We had a great first day that got us about a third of the way there
and the last week is when we really pounded the social pavement and my email list to
encourage people to preorder. And thankfully a lot of folks came through! My Twitch
stream community really led the torch I must say. I’m incredibly grateful for them.

RMB: Tell us a little bit about yourself. When did you start pursuing music?

Rob: I started pursuing music pretty early on. I wrote my first complete piano song at 10 and
remember thinking something like “OK, I’m going to write music for a living.” In 7th
grade, I maybe a 9-song album on a cassette tape and gave it out to my classmates. I
had my own band in high-school writing songs and playing shows. My first paid job was
playing piano for tap dance and ballet classes. I went to college for music with the idea
that I want to learn as much about music as I can to be able to write and play my own
music for a living. It’s been quite a journey so far. 🙂

RMB: Who are some of your biggest musical influences?

Rob: Early on it was The Beatles, Jamiroquai, Ben Folds Five, Fat Boy Slim, and video
game music composers like Takashi Tateishi, David Wise, and George Sanger aka
“The Fat Man.” In college and after, I was more influenced by Steve Reich, Ravel,
Radiohead, Sufjan Stevens, and Sun Kil Moon, and more recently, Louis Cole, Jacob
Collier, Brad Fuller, Sizlla Okamura.

RMB: What’s the one thing you are most proud of in your career so far?

Rob: This STRAYLIGHT album. It’s the best thing I’ve ever made. And the game is
really great too. I feel very proud just to have been a part of it.

RMB: If you had to pitch your music to a potential fan in less than 10 seconds, what
would you say?

Rob: High-energy progressive synthwave with melodies and harmony like nothing
you’ve quite heard before. For fans of Louis Cole, The Midnight, Todd Terje, and video
game music.

RMB: What’s one piece of advice you’ve gotten that you think everyone needs to hear
or that has meant the most to you?

Rob: Committing your life to music is challenging. I think the hardest thing for a lot of
people is the lack of stability, especially if you’re using music as a means to make a
living. One of the best pieces I got was from another freelancer when I was living in New
York and stressing about being able to find enough work. She passed on advice that
was given to her which was “You’re going to have good months and not-so-good
months. And you just have to trust in yourself and the universe that even in the low
months, things will come your way, or you’ll do what you need to find opportunities.”
Adopting that mindset has made all the difference for me.

RMB: If you could go back in time, what’s a piece of advice you would give to a younger

Rob: Trust in yourself, ha! You’re on the right path. You’ve known it for a long time. You
may not have success right away and that’s probably for the best. You have much to
learn. Just keep being open to the world around you and keep growing and learning.
And of course, enjoy the ride. 🙂

RMB: What’s coming up next for your musical project?

Rob: I’m currently working on a song that is integrated into a film, as in the main
character will be composing and performing the song in the movie. That’s been fun. I
have several collaborations with other artists I’m working to complete. I have a backlog
of recordings I’m working to finish for my piano-focused video game cover project called
88bit. And just being open to whatever else comes along.

I have a pretty active Twitch stream that is kind of the culmination of all my musical
interests and personality. I got to perform at TwitchCon this past year which was an
absolute blast!
And I mentioned a few questions ago but I do a lot of video game covers on piano and
just won a G.A.N.G. award for one of them. Please feel free to check out more of that
project at
And thank you for taking the time to interview me about my album! I hope this
encourages people to check it out. 🙂

Connect With Rob Kovacs:
Link Tree


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