When the mind bending sci-fi comedy Everything Everywhere All at Once was met with a sweeping applause at its South by Southwest premiere, it left L.A.-based band Son Lux — Ryan Lott, Rafiq Bhatia, and Ian Chang — in tears. The trio are credited with creating the 49-track maximalist film score that takes audiences on a journey through a slew of wacky worlds.
The martial arts-packed fantasy stars acclaimed actress Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn Wang, a woman who is unexpectedly thrown into the multiverse and forced to reckon with who she could have been had she done life differently. In a smorgasbord of universes where one moment people have hotdogs for fingers and the next an animatronic raccoon is belting out melodies there are seemingly no limits.
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That wild unpredictability is something co-directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, known as the Daniels, are celebrated for. (See a similarly unconventional approach in their earlier work, including Swiss Army Man and Lil Jon’s “Turn Down For What” music video.) So, the directing duo tasked Son Lux with creating music that could assist in establishing the identity of each of the many universes in their film. In the full interview below, the band describes how they conquered what initially felt like an impossible feat.
“They wanted all these seemingly unrelated things to come together and cohere into something that was unified and had emotional weight,” guitarist Bhatia said. “The same way that you hear two seconds of a song and you know who the artist is, they wanted to use that to mark each universe and have it feel like somebody’s changing channels on a radio when you’re moving through them.”
Chang, the band’s drummer, described the experience as feeling like they were scoring five different films and having to make it feel like one. Throughout the soundtrack, which is as gritty and menacing as it is sweet and playful, the band samples instruments unfamiliar to them, like Chinese paigu drums and gongs.
“It’s a lot of combining and building and things spinning out of control, and the noise of the uncertainty in the universe,” Bhatia explained. “There’s an aspect of it that’s just like the universe being the sum of its parts and then there’s another aspect of it that’s the feeling of remedy or overload that we as people have when we try to comprehend what the full multiverse is.”
Although Daniels gave the band some direction, they also asked them to create freely. One of their most experimental sessions was with OutKast’s André 3000, who brought a collection of custom-made cedar flutes with him. They were modeled after clay Mayan flutes, with each tuned differently.
“It actually gave us ways to be like, ‘This sound grates against the tuning in a way that will push the feeling of the music outward,’ ” Bhatia explained. “It tonally expanded the palette of what we created for this film, and it’s all over the score because of that.”
The band also tapped artists like David Byrne, Mitski, Moses Sumney, and Randy Newman to contribute to the melodic themes heard throughout the film.
The Everything Everywhere All at Once soundtrack is currently available for streaming on all major platforms and the film is now playing exclusively in theaters.
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