Love triangles and witches: Let’s Eat Grandma on soundtracking The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself
There’s a cinematic quality to the enchanting and brooding synth-pop of best-friend duo Let’s Eat Grandma. And their latest project – creating the original soundtrack for new Netflix show The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself – certainly feels like a fitting extension of the pair’s sonic world.
Following on from releasing their third album Two Ribbons earlier this year, Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth – aka Let’s Eat Grandma – composed their first original soundtrack for the TV series. The extensive 25-track score accompanies Joe Barton’s The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself, which was directed by Colm McCarthy.
Based off of Sally Green’s Half Bad book series the four-episode is a coming-of-age thriller set in a world of magic and witchcraft, which makes Let’s Eat Grandma’s spellbinding sound a perfect fit. With the series out on Netflix now, we caught up with the duo to talk the process of composing the soundtrack, the influence of fantasy in their work and their favourite scores.
Hello Let’s Eat Grandma! How are you doing and what are you up to?
Hello, we’re good thank you! We’re on a break between tours at the moment but we’re heading to the US for our North American tour next week which we’re really looking forward to.
Tell us how you got involved in The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself?
We were contacted by the show’s writer Joe Barton and director Colm McCarthy about the show and asked if we were interested in writing a soundtrack for it. We were really excited about the concept behind the show and the script they sent over so we arranged a meeting with them and decided to do it. We could really imagine our musical style going well with the show and it also came at a really good time for us as we’d just finished writing our latest record and wanted to do something a bit different.
Were you familiar with the books that the show is based on?
We weren’t actually initially! It was really interesting for us to learn a bit more about the books and the ways that the show is the same as the books and the ways it differs. The books have a really big fan base so it will be really cool to see what they think of the show.
Are you fans of fantasy fiction in general? Can you think of any books or shows which have shaped your music in the past?
We both like fantasy fiction and TV a lot but have taken more direct influence from fairy tales and folklore in the past. For example, for our first album, which Colm and Joe included as a reference for what they wanted the show’s soundtrack to sound like, we wrote a song called Rapunzel where the lyrics are written from Rapunzel’s perspective. Our music at that time was often described as “witchy” too and that’s something we revisited when making the soundtrack for this show by using a lot of the same instruments we used at that time such as the mandolin.
Rosa, we know you produced a song for Cyberpunk. But is this the first time you’ve worked on music for a TV show or film?
Yeah this was the first time we’d ever done anything like this, writing the Cyberpunk track was completely different because although there was a pretty strict brief it was still writing within the bounds of a pop song, whereas this was much more open and varied. The potential of what you can do with a score is so much greater which at first felt daunting but then I think became very creatively freeing. There were so many different moods and styles required and fewer set rules, but the way we write is very emotionally led anyway which I think lent itself really well to this. The directors also kept it open for us to have a big part in leading the music creatively too, whilst giving the right level of guidance and structure, I guess because they knew we were primarily artists not soundtrack composers!
As music fans, do you have any favourite scores?
The Under The Skin score by Mica Levi and also the Utopia score by Cristobal Tapia De Veer, both of which were influences for this.
Did you find creating a score for the show differed from writing and recording an album?
It was incredibly different, a whole different thing. I think I found it really freeing creatively and fun being part of a bigger project with lots of other people involved, especially off the back of writing such a personal album about our own lives just the two of us, which of course was the most cathartic and fulfilling thing at the time. But this felt refreshing after that, and I feel like I learnt a lot during the process about trying not to be overly perfectionistic, because when you’re writing that quantity of music quickly you can’t be, and you can’t be precious about it being sent back rejected! I was often surprised even at which bits they liked and decided to use, which I wouldn’t have viewed as the best, especially because what works the best supporting the footage is so different to listening to something by itself. I think sometimes you can try to polish things too much and they lose their original essence and magic, instead of being instinctive with it. That’s the way we wrote our first record (more instinctively), which is the album the directors liked originally as a reference.
Talk us through the practical process of watching the show then going into recording?
At the beginning of the process they hadn’t started filming the show yet, so the directors asked us to write broader mood pieces to start creating the sonic identity for the show for example ‘a horror piece’ or ‘a romance piece’ or having a go at writing the main theme. They played some of those pieces on set during the filming for the actors to bounce off which we thought was cool. Then later in the process when the episodes were filmed, we’d have meetings with the directors for each, going through the gaps and they’d give direction on what sort of thing was needed and we’d go away and write more specifically for those scenes.
Are there any storylines or characters which stood out to you that we can hear in the music?
I’m always a big fan of romance plots, especially complicated and sad ones, and there’s a bit of a love triangle situation going on – we wrote separate themes for two of the relationships involved in that which I enjoyed.
Talk us through a musical moment in the series fans should look/listen out for?
One of my favorite moments of the music and footage combining is when Annalise manages to explode a rat in her bedroom, and the track for that scene is called Mouse Feet because the rhythmic synth sounds like scuttling mice, it’s pretty funny.
You’re about to head out on tour. Do you think The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself would make for good travel binge-watching?
Definitely, it’s a really gripping and action-packed show and will make a nice escape from reality in the moments we want a bit of a break between shows. The rest of our touring group said they were keen to watch it too when it comes out.
The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself is available on Netflix now.