Son Lux on crafting the massive, genre-hopping score for Everything Everywhere All at Once

Cararobbins Sonlux 7

Son Lux. // Photo by Cara Robbins

As we encourage Son Lux to interview themselves, members Ryan Lott, Ian Chang, and Rafiq Bhatia immediately begin referencing the film Everything Everywhere All At Once.

Needless to say, the experience of composing the score for The Daniels’ new multiversal film starring Michelle Yeoh has left an impression on these three musicians.

We dig into their many collaborations and how they had to step outside their usual comfort zone to create this massive score, which, as Chang notes right before we get started, is “quite a demanding volume of music to listen to.”

Everything Everywhere PosterThe Pitch: You have to love the fact that working on this movie has resulted in referential jokes before we’ve even started. Can we assume you enjoyed yourselves?

Ian Chang: It was equal parts joy and pain, but now we reap the benefits and the catharsis of it being shared with the world and being proud of it.

Were all of you part of the process from the very beginning?

Ryan Lott: Yeah. They contacted us when they just had script and development. They had already been designing this story for years before they approached us, but we were privy to that draft to the score well in advance of filming anything.

Given the multi-versatile nature of the film, the score reflects that using multiple musical styles as well as the number of guest performers you have. What did you begin with? Was it the stylistic choices and then finding vocal collaborators with which to work? One has to imagine that, given the fact that this score is 49 tracks and massive that there are a lot of moving parts to all of this.

Ian Chang: Yes, there are a lot of moving parts. I would say that in terms of the vocal features like Mitski, David Byrne, and Moses [Sumney]—the Mitski and David Byrne song functions in the film as the end credit song. It was something that we put together relatively late in the process of the whole thing with the score.

With Moses, that is just an extra. In a way, it’s like a version of a cue that got turned into a song that Moses wrote to the cue after the fact. The score has already been delivered. It’s more for the soundtrack.

Ryan Lott: Just real quick with the vocal collaborators—there are definitely some important vocals. Randy Newman, Nina Moffitt, and Hanna Benn are our other vocalists, and I actually sing a little bit.

There’s a variety of vocal integration in the score. However, because it is so much music, the voice is actually not a primary color. It was just one of many forces. The Randy Newman contribution that is on the soundtrack is a full song, of which a fragment appears in the film, so the idea is kind of meta. Well, it’s meta upon meta—when you see it.

It was The Daniels’ dream to engage Randy Newman to voice an animatronic raccoon in the movie. They sent him an early draft of the movie, and he just absolutely loved it. He watched it with his whole family, and he was in immediately.

There’s a very short scene in the movie where he’s singing a song with another character, but on camera they had just sung a little tiny fragment of it.

My idea was to take that little fragment—in the score version we had—to then work with that fragment, change the melody a little bit, and design a tiny version of a song that weaves in and out and emerges from a totally different piece of music and goes quickly into another piece of music. It’s quite dystopic.

There was basically this few-seconds chunk of a song that we thought would be amazing and asked, “What if that song really does exist? What if we really write that song? We get Randy to sing the whole thing. We produce it, get our friends to play it, and that’s on the soundtrack?”

What you hear on the soundtrack is the full version of the song. You see a tiny bit of it in a movie, so it’s a bit tongue-in-cheek.

That was one of the many challenges of scoring this film that felt completely outside of our wheelhouse when we first began. Writing a song for Randy Newman in the style of Randy Newman was not something I would find myself doing.

Not only that, but on the soundtrack version, I actually sing with him in duet, which is definitely something I had not counted on.

That sounds like it’s the perfect experience to tie into the movie, because it’s meta in that you have Randy Newman singing a song for movie. To an entire generation, he is the guy who sang “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Toy Story.

Ian Chang: It’s worth noting the raccoon’s name, and the movie is “Raccaccoonie.”

And then, on top of that, you take this snippet of a song and turn it into something that doesn’t actually exist in the film itself, which seems again like it’s layers, upon layers, upon layers. How do you create the music straight through given that layering and genre-hopping seem to be very important parts of it?

Rafiq Bhatia: Well, it’s interesting because that was a directive from Daniels when they first came to us. I think when they sought us out it was because the music that we make, ordinarily as a band, integrates and encompasses a lot of different and unlikely-to-co-exist forces.

I think they felt that’s where they wanted the score for this film to end up, and in a way, be more of an integration.

They also specified that, in the early expository stages of the film and as the universe gets established, they were looking for things to feel more distinct so that when they come together it could feel more like a transition or a transcendence of sorts.

The process that was different from what we usually do included the stuff where we were trying to stick to an established something that felt very specifically like that thing would feel in the real world—embodying a specific genre or a subculture and making that feel really distinct in and of itself.

When we started to build together with all of the different themes and cross-pollinate them, each one would have enough structural integrity for the whole thing to still translate and make sense.

Given that there is so much music on this soundtrack release, how representative is that of the music in the film itself? What was the process for turning it from score to soundtrack?

Ryan Lott: I appreciate that question, because it assumes that there was some sort of transformation from film score to soundtrack. Amazingly, the soundtrack omits a good amount of score, even though it’s still 49 tracks long. But it also has additional material that does that, and it’s not in the film.

Rafiq Bhatia: Just to clearly make that point, there’s close to two hours of music in this movie.

Ryan Lott: And the movie is only two hours and 19 minutes long.

Rafiq Bhatia: There’s also music that is not ours.

Ryan Lott: We did some remixing to sort of re-prioritize certain elements that, by necessity, have to take a backseat in the context of the film mix. We were able to sort of bring out some of our favorite moments, ideas, and textures, sonically.

Rafiq Bhatia: If this music wasn’t serving picture, what would it sound like? If it was presented to you as music, how would we want it to be presented?

Ryan Lott: Some cues have been merged, but the score is for sure all there.

Everything Everywhere All at Once is now in theaters with the soundtrack streaming digitally everywhere.

Categories: Music