Critical Role is a popular webseries that has been around since 2015. The show features an ongoing story of Vox Machina, with each episode focusing on one character’s journey in the game world. Neal Acree, who plays Pike Trickfoot in the series, discusses how his role as an actor and musician has changed since he started playing the game.
Neal Acree is the voice of Vox Machina in Critical Role’s animated series. He has also been a part of many other projects, including the music for the show and its soundtrack.
The Legend of Vox Machina continues to assemble an amazing team of animators to bring the Critical Role universe to life. Neal Acree, the series composer for Critical Role’s animation The Legend of Vox Machina, was revealed earlier this week. Acree is a multi-award-winning musician with over 25 years of experience who earned his spot as The Legend of Vox Machina’s composer by orchestrating Critical Role’s theme tune and having a full orchestra play it. I got down with Acree for an interview to learn more about her position on The Legend of Vox Machina and the unique difficulties the program presents:
(Photo courtesy of Neal Arcee)
: Have you been a fan of Critical Role for a long time? Do you have a favorite Vox Machina character?
Neal Acree: I believe I began watching in the middle of 2017, but it’s only gotten better since then. I’d worked with cast members on video game projects both indirectly and directly, and had long admired their work as voice actors. Critical Role, on the other hand, is a whole other animal. One of the pleasures of the past couple of years was being in-studio and seeing a live show being produced (pre-pandemic). In the room, there’s something magical going on.
What is your favorite Vox Machina character? It’s difficult since they’re all intriguing and appealing in their own way. And I’m approaching this as a fan of the program as well as a composer who gets to work with their on-screen talents. Grog is a lot of fun to compose music for, both in terms of comedy and roaring badassery. Vax’s elegance and emotional depth are wonderful, and Liam adds so much to the game and role. I like them all, but if I had to choose, I’d go with Scanlan. Being a musician myself, as well as the fact that Sam is nothing short of a comedic genius, I was immediately drawn to the show.
When they were evaluating composers, you submitted a clip of a full orchestra performing the Critical Role theme music, as stated in The Legend of the Legend of Vox Machina video announcing your participation with the series. I’m curious as to how long it took you to write all of the parts for a full orchestra and then arrange for the work to be recorded.
From start to completion, it probably took a few of weeks. It’s not a lengthy work, but there are a lot of chances to get lost in the process, particularly with something I wanted to be as near to flawless as possible. Recording an orchestra for a demo may seem showy, but it was important to me to capture the detail and intensity that real musicians provide. I’ve always believed that the orchestra should play an important role in the performance, and that notion is much simpler to communicate when you don’t have to imagine anything.
You’ve written for everything from long-running video game brands to highly successful science fiction programs. What difficulties does this project provide that you haven’t encountered previously?
Acree: The same qualities that make the program so wonderful also make it difficult for me as a composer, but I like a good challenge. Every episode is jam-packed with everything from humor to action to suspense and horror, all of which may occur in the same scene! It’s always a delicate line to walk when it comes to navigating that and creating a unified thread that binds everything together. Furthermore, every episode has a full orchestra, there is a lot of music to compose, record, and mix, and it all needs to be done on a tight television schedule.
(Photo courtesy of Critical Role)
When composing themes for the many people and locations, you stated that you drew from a range of musical genres and styles. How do you combine the grandiose soundtracks that fantasy series are renowned for with the show’s contemporary sensibilities, given that Critical Role is a fantasy-oriented show?
Acree: You know, I had a lot of preconceived notions about what I wanted the score to be before I ever began composing. I wanted it to evoke the joy I had as a child watching Saturday morning cartoons without seeming dated. I wanted to use a variety of different world instruments to create a feeling of time and location, but I also thought the narrative needed a big orchestral soundtrack. I wanted to question the genre’s norms in the most natural manner possible. I didn’t want to put in modern features simply to attempt to appear contemporary.
When I eventually got down to start writing, the program took on a life of its own, despite all of my preparation. Everything was on the screen, it was simply a question of figuring out what spoke to you. I emailed something to Sam and Travis a couple times and asked, “Is this too strange?” The response was always no, and I like having the flexibility to try new things and push the envelope in that manner.
Between the tunes of Sam and Peter Habib, as well as some of my own, we were able to take the music to some unexpected places.
Is there a piece of music from the series that you’re most looking forward to people hearing?
Acree: Another challenging question! There are so many tiny musical Easter eggs that I’m excited to see whether anybody notices them. The beauty of television is that it allows you to explore ideas over longer periods of time and connect events in a way that a film cannot. I can’t go into detail, but there are a few scenes in the Briarwoods and with Percy that I’m very pleased of.
How excited should fans be about The Legend of Vox Machina’s debut season?
Acree: I’m sure a lot of people are already excited to the point of spontaneous combustion by now, but the reality is that it’s a very excellent program. It’s the genuine thing, whether you’ve been a long-time fan or are new to the area. One of the most enjoyable projects I’ve ever worked on.
Amazon Prime will broadcast The Legend of Vox Machina. The series has yet to be given a release date, although it is said to be “coming soon” in promotions. The Legend of Vox Machina has already been renewed for a second season on Amazon.
The vox machina is an animated series that has taken the world by storm. Neal Acree, the voice of Vox Machina, talks about his time on Critical Role and shares some insight into the music behind the show.
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