Bryan Lee O'Malley, Edgar Wright and Kevin Drew Talk the Music of Scott Pilgrim
As previously reported, the compilation is a kick-ass assembly of specially penned songs for the film courtesy of such artists as Beck and Broken Social Scene, as well as previously released indie pop and rock songs, many of which appeared on mixtapes exchanged between Scott Pilgrim author Bryan Lee O'Malley and director Edgar Wright during their collaboration for the film.
When it came time to create the music for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Wright hired Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich as music supervisor. Godrich then recruited Beck, who wrote the music for Scott Pilgrim's band, Sex Bob-omb, while Wright tapped Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning to write the music for rival band Crash and the Boys.
"Someone arranged for Edgar and I to go have dinner, and we kind of went on this blind date," Drew laughs in a recent Exclaim! interview. "Obviously I knew his films and told me about what he was doing with Scott Pilgrim and I wasn't very familar with the books, but my brother was very much into graphic novels. Edgar said, 'We're looking for music and we hear that you're Toronto,' and he sent me all the books and that was how it started."
BSS signed on, but had precious little time to create an impression, since Crash and the Boys' signature songs are short bursts of violent, ironic punk. The longest song is under 50 seconds. Perhaps this is why Drew insisted that the actor who played Crash in the movie, Erik Knudsen, record the vocals.
"Because the songs were so quick and punk and fast, I knew he didn't need to be a singer to pull this off," Drew says. "It had to be the character's voice. Eric was such a sweet kid and I called up Edgar and was like, 'I'm just going to get this guy to come in, because spontaneity's the whole point behind Crash and the Boys and what we were doing.' We had 47 seconds. We didn't have a lot of time!"
As Drew explains, he and Canning also ended up infusing a bit of Toronto into the film's second soundtrack, featuring Godrich's instrumental arrangements, which will be released as an iTunes exclusive, the same day as the song soundtrack.
"They were using stuff from [our album] Feel Good Lost, and Nigel wrote an email to us saying, 'Look, I'm writing the music right now, people are coming in and out, there's a whole bunch of Social Scene, so why don't you just come down? Why am I trying to get your vibe? Just come down,'" Drew says. "So we went for week and just jammed and it was amazing."
Like with Broken Social Scene, Beck's Sex Bob-omb songs find him unleashing a pent-up garage punk sound that's like a vacation from his usual fare.
"I think it goes back to some of his earlier, more punky garage stuff," Wright tells Exclaim! "He'd seen the books and the artwork and knew what Sex Bob-omb were supposed to be like. Here's one of the things that inspired Beck: [in the book], Sex Bob-omb have a drum riser that says 'the Archies,' so Beck's idea was, 'what would the rock version of the Archies be?' So they're very much in that raw-sounding and rough-sounding garage bubblegum mode. Beck just wrote all of his songs in 72 hours."
The most classic-sounding Beck song in the film is beautiful ode "Ramona," which appears twice on the soundtrack, with Beck performing an acoustic version and a full orchestral version as well.
"I'm pretty sure the 'Ramona' acoustic track was not just the first take, but him singing it improv," Wright laughs. "It's definitely the demo track on the album, it just sounded so beautiful."
O'Malley adds, "Neither Edgar nor I knew that he added words until we heard the soundtrack. It was amazing. Like, 'wow, he added lyrics.'"
As for the soundtrack's selection of previously released tunes, Wright tells Exclaim!, "With the exception of Plumtree and Beachwood Sparks, which I had no knowledge of before Bryan gave them to me, four of the tracks are what I call 'crossover' tracks: ones that Bryan had on his list that I happened to be a huge fan of those songs. The Bluetones, who, completely separately from Bryan liking them, I happened to do two music videos for about ten years ago. And Frank Black; I was obsessed with the song 'I Heard Ramona Sing' back in art college. I absolutely loved that song. Then I saw that he had 'Under My Thumb' on his playlist, which happens to be my favourite Stones song; there was just a lot of great overlap.
"Some of the other tracks there are my picks, like the T. Rex track ['Teenage Dream'], but a lot of it is just the overlap between the two of us. Both of us are fans of the Black Lips and the Broken Social Scene song ['Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl'], obviously. The Blood Red Shoes song ['It's Getting Boring by the Sea'] was one I had sent to Bryan that reminded me of the books, in a way."
According to O'Malley, "I had more [influence] than I expected. The songs from my original mixtape just stuck in his brain, and I was really happy about that. I was never sure if my songs would make it in... Plumtree especially. It was an ongoing... well, I wouldn't say struggle, but I always wanted them on the soundtrack and I was never really sure that was going to happen, but Edgar wanted it too. I wasn't sure at first because he's kind of inscrutable, but it's really gratifying to have it there."
The Scott Pilgrim vs. The World soundtrack is due out August 10 via ABKCO. A deluxe version is due out on September 7 and will feature a selection of bonus material.
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