Rory and Sam chat with NME about building the Jettison visual world inside Unreal Games Engine

In perhaps one of the more symbiotic fusions of music and 3D worlds, the Belfast post-rockers opted to combine their love of epic film scores with a trippy Unreal Engine creation. The result? The awe-inspiring audiovisual show, ‘Jettison’. While this ambitious A/V set got a trial run via a handful of pre-lockdown shows over the last twelve months of being stuck indoors, this ambitious new 3D project has morphed into a world of its own. 

“I’d just finished composing a soundtrack of a film, And I really loved the alchemy of sound and visuals – that unexpected magic that happens when those two are combined,” And So I Watch You From Afar’s Rory Friers recalls about ‘Jettison’s’ genesis. “My idea was to write this long, flowing EP, and I wanted to find someone that would almost reverse engineer a score into something else – something bigger. A few months later, we discovered Sam.” 

Making a name for himself creating trippy 3D and traditional film-shot visuals for bands, Sam Wiehl has worked with everyone from Mogwai to Forest Swords. The second he heard the beginnings of this ambitious record, he knew that they were onto something special. 

“I was cycling home listening to it on headphones, going ‘Holy shit!’ The strings and everything… it was real hair on the back of your neck type stuff,” recalls Sam. “The first conversations we had were really about why they made the audio, and it was to do with lots of things that are quite conceptual. So I began building these abstract themes about memory and space using game software – Unreal Engine. We didn’t really know what the story was back then, but we started to make up these vignettes. Then the more the band and I discussed, the more things joined up and before we knew it, these levels began growing with the music into this… world.” 

Over time, Friers would start to write to Wiehl’s creations and before long, the initially static project had morphed into its own unique piece of art. “It’s weird, but now ‘Jettison’ feels almost like a place that actually exists,” reflects Friers. “It’s not like watching a film – just a printed journey from A to B – it’s a place that you can kind of visit.” 

Will fans be able to jet off to ‘Jettison’ anytime soon, then? 

“We have the in-person shows in October, but we have discussed there being a playable version online which would be audio soundtracked,” suggests Wiehl. “The past year has certainly kind-of expedited what we want do with ‘Jettison’, and how we use tech going forward. We would have played upwards of 100 shows in these 12 months. It makes you kind of rethink how you can make music connect with people in the absence of that. I don’t want to get too carried away, but I think a lot of fairly exciting stuff will be happening off the back of this.” 

The nature of the project and the pandemic has also made Friers and Wiehl think about how they want people to be able to enjoy live music and art projects in the future. 

“Streams are a great way of accessing these things. I know everyone’s a bit bored of them now, but I still think there’s some merit to them. There’s something kind of democratic about people who can’t physically get to a show, tuning in. I certainly think that not having to pay for some of these things is really good, too. Certain venues, once they’d sold a set amount of tickets to ‘Jettison’ put up the stream for free. There’s something kind of nice there.” 

In a world where musicians are being forced off the road and onto the internet to survive, it’s reassuring to see so many different talents adapt so well to a post-coronavirus society. Though international lockdowns have been oppressive, claustrophobic, and even downright depressing for some, a small silver lining lies in the innovative and creative new projects musicians have had the time to create and serve to an audience that’s hungrier than ever for a taste of live music.