Tuesday, May 3, 2016

When I Call Out Your Name

LOVE HAS NO PRIDE (Linda Ronstadt) - John Boylan, Producer


Very few singers have come close to the commercial and artistic success in as many genres as Linda Ronstadt has achieved.  The combination of amazing voice and excellent taste in songwriters served her well from 1967's "Different Drum" until her forced retirement due to the effects of Parkinson's disease a few years ago.

Country, pop, folk, rock, new wave, operetta, Mexican canciones, standards, duets, trios, and so on - there seems to be nothing that Linda Ronstadt can't sing well.


"Love Has No Pride" was only a minor hit from her first gold album, coming just a year before her rise to superstardom with 1974's "Heart Like a Wheel" LP.  But the song's popularity has endured and even grown in the years since.

Ronstadt's voice breaks my heart every time I hear "Love Has No Pride."  To get an idea of just how powerful her performance is, I urge you to go on Spotify and listen to a bunch of other versions of this song.  There are many very nice versions from superb singers like Bonnie Raitt, Rod Stewart, Billy Bragg, Lynn Anderson, Paul Young and others.  But none of them hold a candle to Ronstadt's.

Another thing that stands out while listening to all of these versions is just how perfect the arrangement is on Ronstadt's.  The other records are either fairly simple (and effective) or somewhat generic.  Ronstadt's version starts with electric piano and an unusual sounding pedal steel guitar, then the drums roll in and then... The Voice.  The accompaniment and the vocal are able to build from quiet and tender passages to a powerful climax, without ever going over the top.





The man responsible for producing this masterpiece is John Boylan.  John also managed Ronstadt and put together a backing band that later made musical history as The Eagles.

He also co-produced Boston's self-titled debut LP, which remains the best selling first album in history.  Among others, he produced hits for the Charlie Daniels Band, the Little River Band, the Muppets, the Simpsons, various soundtracks, and is a Grammy winner.


John continues to produce, still does some work with Ronstadt, and teaches college courses in music production in southern California.  He was kind enough to respond to my questions about "Love Has No Pride."

1 - You, JD Souther and Peter Asher were all producers on the album "Love Has No Pride comes from, 1973's "Don't Cry Now." How did you end up producing this track?

John Boylan: I started the album in late ’72, but we had to stop to go on a very long tour with Neil Young. My contract with Linda ended with that tour, so I wasn’t involved with finishing the album. “Love Has No Pride,” was one of the early tracks we recorded before the tour. The song came from two friends of mine – Libby Titus, who was my classmate at Bard College in the '60s, and Eric Kaz, whose band I produced in the '60s.

2 - Bonnie Raitt had released the original version of LHNP a year earlier. What did you feel Linda could bring to the song to make it her own?

JB: I loved Bonnie’s version because she’s such an amazing singer, but her version was somewhat stripped-down and not Top 40 Radio-friendly. I thought Linda could bring her own style to the song in a more radio-friendly arrangement.

3 - You played electric piano on LHNP.  Did you lay that down separately or were at least some of the parts recorded "live" as a band?

JB: The arrangement is based around that piano part, which I worked out the night before the session. We cut it live minus the strings and background vocals. All the instruments played at the same time, and Linda sang as well, although we did touch up her vocal by overdubbing a few lines later. The string section, arranged by Jimmie Haskell, was also added later.

4 - Are there any alternate takes, or did you have a clear idea of what arrangement you were going for?

JB: No alternate takes.

5 - LHNP was only a minor hit at the time, topping out at #51, but has endured as one of the most popular songs in Linda's extensive catalog.  Why do you think this is?

JB: Two reasons – it’s a great song and Linda sang the hell out of it.

6 - Legendary pedal steel guitarist "Sneaky Pete" Kleinow contributes a lot to the sound of LHNP.  What was it like working with him?

JB: Pete was a wonderful musician, with the most original sound on steel I ever heard. Even Buddy Emmons, arguably the best steel player ever, said that Pete was a unique player. I worked with him a lot and enjoyed every session.

7 - It's fairly well known that you and Linda were a couple at one point, and I'm not sure what the status of your relationship was when you recorded LHNP.  How did that inform or influence such a heartbreaking performance?

JB: Not relevant at all. We had not been a couple for over two years when we made that record.

To read more about John, check out his music company's site here.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

It Is Not Real, It Does Not Grow

"Tattoo Song (Daisy on my Toe)" -- Mason Williams

Many summer camps and Girl Scout troops know this song:



What they often don't seem to know is who wrote it.  In fact, most assume it's a folk song, handed down over so many years that no one remembers where it originated.  It's time to correct that misconception.


In fact, "Tattoo Song" debuted in 1965 on a best-selling album by the Smothers Brothers, "Mom Always Liked You Best."  Like most of the duo's cuts, it combined humor and music.


So who wrote it?  A man who has been awarded an Emmy and two Grammys.  A man who is an accomplished guitarist, comedian, artist, poet and author.  His name is Mason Williams, and he is best known for ""Classical Gas," a huge hit in 1968 whose popularity has never waned in the decades since its release.



Williams received his two Grammy Awards for composing and performing "Classical Gas."  At the time, he was head writer for the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, a groundbreaking, controversial and popular television variety show.  For this work, he landed his Emmy,

A few years earlier, just before he wrote "Tattoo Song," Williams released an album called "Them Poems," a collection of humorous short pieces he sung or recited before a live audience.  That same year, the Kingston Trio ("Tom Dooley," "Charlie and the MTA,") included a few of these tunes on their live album:



"Tattoo Song" is seemingly just one of many short comedic songs written by Williams at a time when he was busy with a a variety of successful creative endeavors, one which could have gently faded into the past.  Instead, it has taken on a life of its own, inspiring countless numbers of camp counselors to get a daisy tattooed on her or his toe.

I caught up with Williams recently to quiz him about a song for which he gets so little credit.

Did you or someone you know have a daisy tattoo...

Mason Williams: No.

...or did something else inspire the lyrics?

MW: Song to sing after getting tattoo.

Did you write the song specifically for the Smothers Brothers? 

MW: No

On the recording, the brothers do their usual comedic banter before they play the actual song. Given that you were later the head writer for their television series, were you involved in writing this banter or just the song itself? 

MW: Could be either, don't remember.

It appears you've never recorded a version of the song.  Was it ever part of your live act?

MW: No

You've written a lot of terrific music.  And thoughts on why this particular tune took on a new life as a popular song for Girl Scouts and summer camp kids? 

MW: Surprise to me!  Not sure how / why it caught on.

You and the artist Ed Ruscha were roommates in Los Angeles in 1964; your website says you composed Tattoo Song on 9/12/64.  Was there much creative interaction/inspiration between you two or were you both off in your own artistic worlds?  

MW: We went on DADA dates.

When you wrote the song, did you foresee the day when having a tattoo would be as mainstream as it has become? 

 MW: Nope, tattoos were basically the realm of sailors & criminals.


Friday, September 18, 2015

Talking Baseball Every Week

"GLEEMAN AND THE GEEK" THEME -- John Bonnes


I've posted about theme songs for television ("Justified") and film ("We'll Never Have Paris"), but never for a podcast.  Until now.

Gleeman and the Geek are not the next Sonny & Cher or Hall & Oates or DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince.  They are not musicians at all.  John Bonnes and Aaron Gleeman, among the first bloggers to cover the Minnesota Twins baseball team, are the voices behind a very popular Twins podcast.  

I'm not a big believer in the importance of "chemistry" in the clubhouse, but it's everything in a podcast.  And GATG have more chemistry than anyone this side of Walter White.  Whether recoring at KFAN studios or at a local tap room, they bring insight and humor in equal measure.

YMMV.  But City Pages agreed with me when they did their "Best Of" issue last year.

Check out their podcast if only to listen to the theme song before John answers seven questions about it below: Gleeman And The Geek Podcast

As any good theme song should do, the GATG theme sets the right tone every week at the top of the podcast.  It's catchy, to the point and lively; the guitar and vocals are fun; and the drums during the outro are the perfect lead-in to John's signature "...aaaaaaand welcome!"  Starting without this sequence would be like beginning a ball game without "...and the home of the brave - play ball!"

John Bonnes

1 - Why did you want to have a theme song for the podcast?
 
John Bonnes:  For the first couple, we didn't, I don't think. But when listening to a podcast it really helps to have some music at the beginning, so we put out a plea and it was answered.
 
2 - Who wrote and performed the GATG theme?
 
JB:  The original was by James Richter. It was super simple and we used it over and over, and you can still hear the gist of it at the end of our podcast, because he did a "footer" sound bit for it, too.

James Richter - Not how I imagined him based on his singing!
And then, a few months in, another band, Jerry Rodes, did one. So we went back and forth between them for them for a long time. At some point, we needed to pick one for KFAN, and we went with the Jerry Rodes one, and so then we stuck with that one during the offseason, too.
 
 
3 - How long did you have to practice to perfect your Angela Lansbury voice for your (excellent) reworking of "Beauty and the Beast"?
 
JB:  :-) I was actually going to have my kid sing it, but she sounded too good, and I wanted it to sound kinda stupid, so I recorded it as over-the-top as I could.  Not too many people know about that song, I don't think.  I don't think we've played it on the podcast more than once or twice.  Aaron hates it.
 
4 - Do I recall correctly that (besides the two versions we've discussed) there was at least one other alternate version?
 
JB:  This question made me look some up. 

I think the alternate version that you're talking about might be the original version by Richter.  Long time listeners will recognize it for sure.

But there also was another alternate "sexy" version which we only played a couple of times.  I've tried to find who created it, but I can't find any record of it.  I still do have the clip of it.

There is also a 2nd version that James Richter also did in a completely different style - the secret "John Mayer" version.
 
"Gleeman and the Geek" recording a podcast
5 - Didn't Gleeman have some teenage girl in New Zealand working on a new theme song (and I assume she wasn't Lorde)?
 
JB:  Yeah.  I'm kind of forgetting the details.  I think she did send something. But she didn't really know anything about baseball and so some of the words sounded like a foreigner trying to use baseball slang, so I think Aaron asked for a couple of changes and then we never heard back.  But I could be making a lot of that up.
 
6 - Was there any thought about calling yourselves "The Geek and Gleeman"?
 
JB:  No.  Gleeman and the Geek flows a lot better.  We sometimes joke about that.
 
7 - What is your favorite podcast theme song, aside from your own?
 
JB:  I don't listen to a ton of podcasts. My favorite custom one is a groovy one for the Talk to Contact. "Twin brothers talking Twins baseball....."
 
I also LOVED the song "Panama" by Van Halen in my youth, so I love it when The Sportive uses that to kick off their show.  And No Juice has that great instrumental that was used for some sports show in my youth.  I think that is a great beginning.
 

You can find GATG on Twitter: @twinsgeek @aarongleeman @gleemanandgeek

You can read Gleeman at aarongleeman.com.  John writes for twinsdaily.com, a popular site he co-founded in 2012.

Friday, May 8, 2015

She Hadn't Even Begun To Sully

BILLIONS OF EYES - Lady Lamb


Songs are like people.  Some you just never take a shine to.  Some grow on you over time.  Some infatuate initially before fading quickly as you tire of the very thing that attracted you in the first place.

And then there is true love at first sight... or first listen.  You immediately know it's a great match and as time passes the bond only grows deeper and deeper.

"Billions of Eyes" was love at first stream for me.  If you haven't heard the song yet, take a listen:


I don't want to oversell. I'm not claiming BofE is a genre-defining song that will go down in history with "She Loves You" or "Smells Like Teen Spirit."  But it's a very good recording that really resonates with me, for whatever reason.  Lady Lamb's voice, the sound of her guitar, the energy, the lyrics that flow like a stream of consciousness yet reveal themselves to be anything but random.

Take this little snippet:
I could tell the story of howMy great grandmothers' sister was deemed a saint
how they exhumed her body after years of being buried
and they found she hadn't even begun to sully
so they moved her again, straight into the Vatican 
Initially, I assumed LL was just spinning a colorful yarn... but it turns out it's a true story.

I first heard BofE on a recent music sampler from Landmark Theatres.  There are other good songs on the sampler, but Lady Lamb's track grabbed me by the ears and made me listen to it over and over. 

Who is Lady Lamb? She's otherwise known as Aly Spaltro, a singer/songwriter/musician from Maine who is now based out of Brooklyn.  Initially known as Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, she wrote and recorded songs after hours at the video store where she worked, self-releasing her music from 2007-2012. 

Ba Da Bing Records released her album "Ripely Pine" in 2013.  And earlier this year, Mom and Pop Music released "Always," which includes BofE.  Lady Lamb is on tour now, but she took time out to answer a few questions (below).



1 - Which came first, the words or the music - or did they evolve together as you wrote "Billions of Eyes"?

Lady Lamb: The words came first, with the drum beat to follow. 


2 - The mesmerizing official video for BofE says "Made by Aly Spaltro."  What was it like to come up with the concept, gather the home movies and other materials that you used, and put it all together? 


LL: I decided to make the lyric video with only two days before the song was coming out, so it was a bit of a whirlwind. My dad had just started digitizing old home videos from the early 90s so it was perfect timing that I was able to incorporate those into the video. I had also been collecting cutouts from my own magazine collection, and was able to incorporate some cutouts mailed in to me by fans. I love to edit and make movies, so it was a really fun project, and busy weekend!


3 - How did you -- and this song in particular -- end up being chosen by Landmark Theaters for their recent free music sampler?

LL: Honestly, I’m not sure exactly why it was chosen, but I’m certainly glad it was!


4 - The song refers to the small joy of barely making it aboard a train in time.  Do you have any memorable close calls, good or bad, when it comes to making a train?

LL: Living in NY, this happens to me all the time, maybe 1 in 5 times I board the subway. The close calls always bring about a small, nice acknowledgement by strangers and I love that.


5 - How did you create the jangly guitar tone used on this record?

 
LL: The majority of the guitars in the final version of the song were recorded in my bedroom using a Fender Jazzmaster and some mild effects of reverb and treble.


6 - BofE's lyrics have a poetic quality and could be described as impressionistic. Are you ever surprised at people's interpretations of the song or any of its lyrics?

 
LL: Most people I talk to really connect to the line about just wanting to fall into a pile of warm laundry when they are tired or frustrated. I really appreciate how many people get that line and agree!

7 - You're on tour now.  When we hear BofE live do you think you'll tend to stick fairly close to the recorded version?


 
LL: We stick pretty close to my recorded version, but the song is full of energy and we bring that live.

 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

SHOUT A HIP-HOORAY

We're Going to Win, Twins - Mary Jane Alm

If you grew up in the Upper Midwest, these words should be familiar:

We're gonna win, Twins
We're gonna score
We're gonna win, Twins
Watch that baseball soar.
Crack out a home run
Shout a hip-hooray
Cheer for the Minnesota Twins today.
 
This song has been around since the Washington Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Twins in 1961.  It's played when the team takes the field for home games.  It was (and maybe still is) used to kick off radio coverage of Twins games.

The song was initially intended not for the baseball team but for one of its sponsors, Hamm's Beer:

Sing out for Hamm's beer,
Sing out the name,
Sing out for Hamm's beer,
Of sky blue waters fame
 
I can't determine if that version ever aired.  I'm assuming not, since the Campbell Mithun advertising agency sold the tune to the Twins for a dollar.  Ray Charles (not the one you're thinking of) revised the words to the tune Dick Wilson had composed.  The Ray Charles Singers (not the Raelettes) sang the fight song and it blasted from AM radios every summer for the next few decades.
 
Side note: Hamm's didn't need the tune, since it already had a very catchy "From the Land of Sky Blue Waters" song that was featured for many years in popular commercials like this one:
 

The Twins have updated the theme song a couple of times.  The best known version, the one played as players take the field, is sung by two men and two women, and I didn't realize until recently that one of those voices belonged to Mary Jane Alm.  She was and is one of Minnesota's best known and beloved vocalists.  The Mary Jane Alm Band and its leader never broke out nationally, but regional fame eventually led to Alm's induction to the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame in 2013.



maryjanealm.com

I was able to catch up with Mary Jane Alm and quiz her about her experience as a vocalist on "We're Gonna Win Twins." 

1 - Are you even a baseball/Twins fan?
 
Mary Jane Alm:  I am a longtime Minnesota Twins fan.  I grew up in southern Minnesota and my dad took my brothers and I to the big city to see the Twins many times growing up.  We started going to games when the Twins played at Met Stadium.
 

 
2 - How did you get the gig singing on "We're Going to Win, Twins"?
 
MJA:  I was one of the first call session singers back in the '80s and '90s along with the other singers on this song, Kathy Mueller, Scott (Scooter) Nelson and Steve McLoone.  We got hired for all the biggest radio and television spots that were produced in the Twin Cities...  And this was one of them. 

Scott "Scooter" Nelson of the Mary Jane Alm Band

3 - The Twin's bought the song for $1.  I'm hoping you got more.  Not to pry into your finances, but was it a flat fee or do you get residuals... or free entry to Twins games... or anything?
 
MJA:  I can't quite remember how much money I made but I do know that it was a flat fee...  No residuals, no free baseball games or Twins memorabilia.
 
4 - Have you ever sung the song since the recording?
 
MJA:  The four of us got to sing the Twins song and the National Anthem at a baseball game following the release of the song.  We did get great seats to see the game that day and got to meet some of the players.
 
5 - Did you help with the musical or vocal arrangement or were you hired strictly to sing your part?
 
MJA:  We were hired strictly as singers... We had nothing to do with the writing or arranging.
 
6 - How familiar were you with the original, 1961 version of the song?
 
MJA:  I was very familiar with the original theme song.  Everyone who grew up in Minnesota knew the song by heart!!
 
 
 
7 - You actually have twin sons, right?  Was that karma?
 
MJA:  I do have twin sons.  They just turned 20 and are both completely awesome!!  Karma?  Maybe... wouldn't it be great if they did another remake and my musician son played on it??
 
Thanks, Mary Jane.  Let's end this post with one more version of the Twins theme song, this time from another Minnesota musical institution, the Hall Brothers New Orleans Jazz Band:
 
 
 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Though the Road Buckles Under

 STAY WITH ME - Jerome Moross (1913-1983)


"Stay with Me" has been in the news lately. No, I don't mean the song by Sam Smith that inadvertently rips off Tom Petty's "Won't Back Down," but the song of the same title that Bob Dylan sings on his new album, "Shadows in the Night."  This "Stay with Me" was also released as a single and Dylan closed many of his concerts last year with it.  

When the most important songwriter of the last fifty years puts out an album of standards, the songs he selects receive a rarified stamp of approval. While some of the tracks on "Shadows" are quite well known (Irving Berlin's "What'll I Do" and Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Some Enchanted Evening"), others are underappreciated gems. 

"Stay with Me" falls into the latter category.  A spiritual song that's less about religion and more about human hope and fear, it brings to mind "You'll Never Walk Alone" and "Lucky Old Sun," standards which Johnny Cash sang on his American Recording series. 

Like Cash's covers, Dylan's version of "Stay with Me" is stripped down to an elegant arrangement, sans any orchestration, and makes evocative use of the miles on the singer's voice.  Seldom has Dylan sounded so appealingly vulnerable.

So where did this song come from?  Like all the other songs on "Shadows in the Night," it was sung by Frank Sinatra.  In June, 1965, a month before Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" turned pop music on its ear, Sinatra released an album that included "Stay with Me," which he had recorded as the theme song for "The Cardinal" in 1963.
 
"The Cardinal," directed by Otto Preminger, was awarded the Golden Globe for Best Picture. It tells the story of an American priest who overcomes various crises as he rises in the Church hierarchy.  

The film features an outstanding score by Jerome Moss, who also composed the music for the theme song; the song's lyrics were written by Carolyn Leigh ("Witchcraft," "The Best is Yet to Come").
 
 
Moross, an accomplished composer, is best known for his scores for "The Big Country" and "Wagon Train," but he was also an innovator who wrote for Broadway and classical ensembles.   

Moross's daughter, Susanna Moross Tarjan, put together a fantastic site for her father's centennial.  She took the time to answer my questions about "Stay with Me" and I'm happy to share her thoughts with you.

1 - What did your father think of rock singers/songwriters like Bob Dylan?
 
Susanna Moross Tarjan:  I have no idea what my father thought about Bob Dylan, or even if he did.  Remember, he died in 1983 and had been quite sick for some time.  I'm not sure how aware he was of all that.  However, he did not like "Rock and Roll."  He also didn't like Moog synthesizers, which were popular at that time.  I think he'd be amazed at what synthesizers sound like today, and MP3.  He didn't even know about CDs, which changed everything for me as far as getting his music "out there."
 
2 - What do you think of Dylan's version of "Stay with Me"?
 
SMT:  I find Dylan's version of "Stay With Me" very moving.  The song clearly arouses some spiritual feelings in him which he conveys.  I think it has a different quality than any other song on the album.


 
3 - As far as I can tell, "Stay with Me" is the only song your father wrote with Songwriting Hall of Fame lyricist Carolyn Leigh. What do you know about that collaboration?

SMT:  I don't know how that came about.  I would guess that it came via the film company.  The recording came about because Frank Sinatra was a friend of hers and she asked him to do it as a favor to her.  I'm so glad he did.  It's such a beautiful recording.  For people who haven't heard it, it's on YouTube.

 

4 - "The Cardinal" was unusual in that your father, who composed the score for the film in addition to co-writing the theme song, went on location with the production from start to finish.  Was "Stay With Me" part of that journey?
 
SMT:  "Stay With Me" came after the film and score were done.  It was unusual for the composer to go along with the production company.  My father acted as the traveling music department.  But he loved it.  He had a lot of interesting experiences, including trying to find "Horst-Wessel" songs in Vienna that he needed for a Nazi marching scene.  Of course no one had ever heard of them but finally his driver helped him.  He and my mother had a great expenses paid trip to Europe and she had never been before.  This was long before the days of deregulation and cheap fares.

 
 
5 - Did your father ever play "Stay with Me," or sing it at home, or talk about it in his later years, or was it simply one of many things he composed before moving on to other projects?
 
(see answer to #6)
 
6 - What did your father think of Frank Sinatra's original version of "Stay with Me"?
 
SMT:  I wasn't living at home then so I don't know how often he played it.  He certainly liked the song and I know he loved Frank Sinatra's version.  However, like with other works, he moved on to other projects.
 
Susanna and Jerome Moss @ 1944
 
7 - Your father wrote ballets, a symphony, film scores, Broadway musicals and more. Much of his work is longer form and instrumental. Is there anything in "Stay with Me" that you feel is reflective of his work as a whole or is it atypical?
 
SMT:  "Stay With Me" is reflective of his work in that it is a beautiful melody.  He never gave up writing tonal music even though it wasn't in fashion during his prime years.  He believed there was always another tune to be written.

 
 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Days Upon Days

"We'll Never Have Paris" Soundtrack - Alexis + Sam

I recently had the chance to see a romantic comedy, "We'll Never Have Paris," which featured a very enjoyable soundtrack consisting of two major elements: vintage French pop songs and a score which struck all the right notes (pun intended).
 
 
Before I say more about WNHP, let me opine that there are, generally speaking, three kinds of film scores:
 
1 - Big and bold and unforgettable: Star Wars, Gone With the Wind, Psycho.  This style works best with certain types of films: epics and action and horror.
 
2 - Annoying music that calls attention to itself and distracts you from the story taking place on screen.  Scores that underline every emotion to tell you FEEL SAD! LAUGH! JUMP!  I tend to block these from my memory, but I seem to recall "Amistad" being an example of such.
 
3 - Scores that you don't notice because they do such an artistic job of organically fitting the plot, characters, cinematography and editing.  They subtly tie things together and draw out emotional nuances without you being consciously aware of it - unless you direct your focus on the music itself.
 
The score to WNHP belongs to that third category, which is fitting for a breezy love story.  After I got home from the screening, I looked up the credits and found that the score had been written and recorded by Alexis Marsh and Samuel Jones, a duo based here in Los Angeles. 
 

Alexis on tambourine
Sam and Jonathan Richards


They were kind enough to answer the seven questions I sent them.

1 - How did you two get chosen to do the score for the film?
 
Alexis + Sam:  In 2011 we were referred by Evan Schroedek, a fantastic editor, to Jocelyn for her first feature, "I Am I."  Sam scored one of Evan's USC projects, and we kept in touch with him after graduation.  One day we got an email saying he was working on a film he thought we'd be good for so we sent him a folder of music and waited.
 
It was about 3 or 4 months till we got a call from one of the producers, Cora Olsen, asking if we'd like to see a cut of "I Am I."  We watched it; Alexis cried her head off; we wanted to write the music for the film.
 
We met with the Present Pictures folks - Cora Olsen, Jen Dubin - as well as Jocelyn Towne, the director, and her husband, Simon Helberg, an executive producer and actor in the film.  A week later we got their call letting us know they'd like us to be on the team.  We were in the Home Depot parking lot at the time.  So damn excited. 
Anyway, we spent the fall of 2011 working on the score to "I Am I" with that same group.  It was our first feature.  We loved the film; we loved the people.  So when they started working on "We'll Never Have Paris" we hoped they'd call us for that score.  Jocelyn texted us in the fall of 2013 on the way back from the shoot in Paris to see if we were interested and available. 

2 - "Days upon Days," the song you wrote for the film -  did you worry about how it would fit with all the older French pop songs used elsewhere in the film?
 
A+S:  "Days Upon Days," was a song we had written and produced before we started work on "We'll Never Have Paris."  They needed a song to play in the background for the Brooklyn pizza restaurant scene, and it just seemed to fit.
 
There are a couple versions of that song - one using synthesizers for the lead and rhythm lines, and the other using gritty guitars.  It was fun to work within those two sounds.  They wanted the rock guitar version. 

I think there was a bit of worry about the song being good enough to sit with those classic French pop tunes.  Not because it wasn't French - just did it pale in comparison to such fantastic recordings/compositions/performances?  But that kind of thinking will destroy you so we focused on making the best recording we could and let it be what it was. 

3 - Will there be a soundtrack album, given that most films' scores are not released (especially on CD/vinyl) due to the current economics of the music industry?
 
A+S:  We are currently working out the details for a soundtrack of our work on the film: the score cues, "Days Upon Days." A record would be a dream though it'll most likely be an iTunes release only. 

4 - Did you use any scores from other films as inspiration for this one?
 
A+S:  In our initial conversations about the film with the directors, Jocelyn and Simon, the reference that kept coming up was Henry Mancini - his score for "The Pink Panther" ("A Shot in the Dark," the "Inspector Clouseau Theme"), the "Baby Elephant Walk" from "Hatari!," "A Profound Gas" from "Peter Gunn."
 
Those brilliant melodies create such a sense of character without picture.  That was a big inspiration.
 
Rolfe Kent's score for "Sideways" was a great reference for how jazz could be used in a contemporary film - tricky to balance that style without hitting elements on screen too hard ('over-scoring' being the word we try to avoid in potential criticisms of our scores).  We were fascinated to see how it could just play under dialogue, for entire scenes at times, without distracting from what was happening in the film.  That film and score just work together, and tied into Miles' (Paul Giamatti) character/story perfectly. 
 
And finally, our favorite reference: Eric Dolphy's "Out To Lunch" for Quinn's unravelling scenes.  That was really a dream come true for Sam - to have that in the vocabulary.  Simon and Jocelyn both have incredible taste in music so finding the sound was a great education in how all these references could come together - to try to do our own version of that.


5 - Where did you fit in the process - did you start composing after the film was far along in editing or were you involved earlier?
 
A+S:  We started working out some themes and a few sketches of cues toward the end of the editing process when they had a rough cut that was close enough to work with, but the bulk of it was in the month between picture lock and final mix. 
 
6 - What is your process like, working as a team, and was this score pretty typical in that regard?
 
A+S:  Our work begins with a lot of discussion about the tone, palette, and concept of the score, followed by the two of us writing separately - each coming up with a number of themes or sketches that we perform, record, and produce to present to the director(s) & producer(s). 
 
Once we have an idea of what is working for the team (which melodies, instruments, or sounds they like), there is a process of sending things back and forth, adding or subtracting elements, altering forms and arrangements, etc. so that each cue becomes a collaboration that works with the picture.
 
Simon and Jocelyn came to our studio on a weekly basis for about a month, going over the latest reel, talking about what was working, suggesting various ideas/experiments for what wasn't working yet.  About a week before the final mix, we had some of our favorite jazz musicians come in and play over the cues as well as a small string section for a few cues toward the end of the film.

Louis Cole
Nick Mancini
Ron Stout














7 - The two main male characters have a bit of a musical rivalry going on, piano versus violin.  Did that inform or affect your work in any way?
 
A+S:  Quinn's being a jazz piano player certainly set out a precedent for having piano featured in the score. We loved what they did with Guillame's character - the Mozart jokes, the Boulez reference, the way he plays violin for Devon's grandparents. He's a fraction of the story compared to the larger history that Devon and Quinn have so there weren't many opportunities to bring that piano/violin tension through literally with the score.

Let me leave you with Alexis + Sam's video about recording the score: