Interview with The Newton Brothers

 

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Andy Gursh & Taylor Stewart a.k.a. The Newton Brothers talk about scoring Mike Flanagan’s latest film Oculus

 

 


Terry Wickham:  I think it’s very cool to have read on your website BIO that you guys were involved on
The Mothman Prophecies.  That score is probably my all-time favorite score.  As you probably know by now, in my review of your score for Oculus, I hear a similar progressive compositional approach.  Was that conscious on your part or a request from Director Mike Flanagan?

Taylor & AndyThe Newton Brothers: Taylor Stewart & Andy Grush


The Newton Brothers:  That’s really great to hear.  Thanks.  Yah, tomandandy have a great sense for creating unique scores and songs.  We spent a lot of time mangling sounds and interweaving melody on that film and we kind of just slipped into that approach with Oculus.  We went at it quite differently, but we were able to spend a lot of time creating sounds and textures to play as counterpoint to the melodies within the score.

TW:  How did you get the gig to score Oculus?  Did you pursue the film or did the filmmaker/production team pursue you?    

TNB:  We heard about the film through the music sup. Then we pursued them.   We interviewed and hit it off right away.

TW:  At what stage of the film did you become involved?

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TNB:  A couple months before they had locked picture we started writing and a developing a sound palate.

TW:  I really like the way you guys scored the movie.  In my opinion, there is some terrific music scoring done in horror films that doesn’t get the attention it deserves.  Your musical approach with a focus on both the psychological and physical aspects is another example of work that makes the genre shine.  How do you both feel about it?

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TNB:  Thank you!  I think scoring the emotion of the characters was key. If the audience is really feeling what’s going on then you have them hooked.  When it’s too forced or contrived it becomes stale. Mike made a really fresh and intelligent film.  We just tried to follow his lead to support the mangled psyche and emotional story.

TW:  What are your favorite horror film scores?

TNB:  Psycho, The Thing (original), Alien, Rosemary’s Baby and PoltergeistThe Omen was really effective too. 

TW:  Your music is a fantastic combination of strings, electronics and the different sounds you recorded.  Did you make a decision beforehand to go this route without traditional orchestra arrangement?

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TNB:  We knew it was going to be a hybrid of sounds.  Orchestra and electronics, but we didn’t know to what degree. Going into this, the early approach looked to be tonal with some thematic elements, but some melody eventually snuck in there.  😉

TW:  How much did you work with Director Mike Flanagan?  Did he give you any specific notes as to how he wanted the film score to be?

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TNB:  He was very involved. We would meet every week or so for playback and discussion. Mike is incredibly talented.  We often wondered if he had the entire movie finished in his head before he ever shot it. He’s also one hell of a pianist…which really allowed us to communicate in those terms. Sometimes the notes would be … go to F# in this section. It was fantastic.

TW:  What were your goals in terms of what you wanted to accomplish musically and how it supported the film? 

TNB:  Musically, we wanted to create something very unique which played to the characters and story.  In parallel, while we were running with musical ideas, we were trying to support those ideas with textures and tones that felt uncomfortable, but were massaged in such a way that they flowed with the orchestra so they felt cohesive.

TW:  What is it that you each uniquely bring to the table as composers?  Does one of you have more talent with a particular instrument or stronger grasp with a particular way of scoring?  Is one of you better sound recording or leading the orchestra or choir? 

Andy
Andy Grush

Andy:  It’s really great because we’re both able to do whatever it takes to get each project done.  While Taylor is an incredible musician, he’s also a bit of a mad scientist with vintage synths, computers and crazy whacked out sounds.  It’s also great to be able to have one of us talking to the director and producers on the scoring stage while the other is focused on the recording and the musicians.

Taylor
Taylor Stewart


Taylor: Andy can play all the instruments I play…But he just plays them much better. He’s a super talented musician. He could be a session player.  He’s also a much faster writer than I am. I tend to linger on scenes.. refining and refining.  We both could lead the choir, orchestra or engineer.  I’m a little bit more into electronic music than he is, but not by much. I would say we both bring similar qualities. Some of the best work we’ve done… we’ve both written on. Having too many ideas is never problem.

TW:  Was it always your goal to score movies together as a team?

(Taylor) I wouldn’t say always.. When I met Andy… I was a huge fan of what he did on Mothman. I really wanted to work with him on something.   

TW:  Are you equal fans of scary movies or is one more passionate about it than the other?

TNB:  We love all kinds of films… including the horror genre…equally.

TW:  How do you break down who goes about doing what in terms of the work needed to be done on each film assignment?

TNB:  Generally, we have a meeting after a spotting session where we talk about ideas and thoughts.  We talk about what the director is looking to accomplish and what our approach might be.  From there, we go into our own studios and spend a few days alone tackling some ideas separately.  At some point, we play things for each other and then from that point it usually becomes a mixture of swapped cues which is a really nice process.  We’re able to refine based on internal notes before anything is played for the director and producers.

TW:  Was all the music recorded in the States or overseas?

TNB:  The orchestra was recorded in Macedonia. The choir was recorded in Orange County.  Everything else we played.

TW:  How many other scary moves or suspense picture scores have you done?

TNB:  We’ve done a few.  Proxy, See No Evil 2 & Careful What You Wish For with the talented John Debney.

TW:  What can you tell us about the next film your scoring for Mike Flanagan called Somnia?

TNB:  It’s incredible one of the best movie’s we’ve ever seen. We truly love it.  Centered on an orphan whose dreams and nightmares manifest physically as he sleeps.  Mike has made something really special here. The guy is on a roll.  Can’t wait for everyone to see it.

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Please visit The Newton Brothers site to learn more of their music:

www.thenewtonbrothers.com