Up until the endless, yet curious trailers for the latest horror film "Oculus", I had honestly never heard of the composing duo of The Newton Brothers. Apparently, they've been writing music for a long time now and lent their talents to films such as "The Mothman Prophecies" starring Richard Gere and more recently wrote the music to the films, "The Pawn Shop Chronicles" featuring the ensemble cast including the late Paul Walker to go with Thomas Jane, Matt Dillion and Vincent D'Onofrio and the horror-thriller, "Proxy".
Andy and Taylor are musically talented geniuses who have really brought terror to "Oculus" through a riveting ensemble of creative noises that creates a rather unsettling atmosphere throughout the film. Their formal musical training really bringing out the best of their abilities to not only make great music, but a memorable experience that the film is currently.
For this very special interview with these very cool brothers, Andy and Taylor candidly share with me their experiences working on the film, working with director Mike Flanagan, their experiences on working on the soundtrack, as well as working on Proxy and their future upcoming projects. So please sit back and let me introduce you into the world that makes The Newton Brothers a formidable musical duo for years to come.
Hi Andy and Taylor, how are you and thank you very much for granting me the time to conduct this interview with you today and your work is exceptional.
Taylor & Andy: Hi Danny, thanks for taking the time to interview us. Thanks so much for the kind words. Very much appreciated.
Please tell the readers about what made you want become interested in music.
Taylor: My mother and father would always sing and play music around me. Sometimes it was the Beatles sometimes it was Beethoven.
Andy: My Uncle was a session piano player in Los Angeles. He showed me how to play the theme from Star Wars the year the movie came out. That was it for me!
Let’s talk about your recent work on the upcoming horror-thriller “Oculus” which was recently released theatrically and doing very well at the box office. What got you interested in this project?
Andy & Taylor: We saw Mike’s previous film Absentia and we thought it was brilliant. We had a meeting with Mike and hit it off. He showed us a few scenes of Oculus and we loved it.
How did you and Director Mike Flanagan collaborate from the beginning of writing the score to the conclusion of it?
Andy & Taylor: It was a process for sure. We spotted the film with Mike and Trevor (the Executive Producer) and discussed general ideas. We then went away and spent a good month manipulating sounds and creating a tonal palette. We also scored all the key scenes that we felt could be thematic material. Then we had a playback session with them. Originally I think they were imagining a completely tonal score. But we had a few scenes with orchestra and melody. We were a bit concerned that it wouldn’t fly, but it did. They really liked that we played on the emotion as well as the terror and suspense.
In regards to putting together the score, were you and Mike on the same page from the very start in regards to how the film sound in particular moments that didn’t need that full bombastic horror stinger sound which is typical of most horror films after spotting the film?
Andy & Taylor: We were. Mike has a very good feel for what’s “enough” and what’s “too much” in terms of style. I think we all agreed that the more you felt the emotion of a real family and felt connected to them, the more you felt the terror of what they were going through. There are definitely moments in the film that required taking it to “11” with massive collages of disturbing noise, but then we also found that moments of silence were as important as some of the more intricate scenes.
After watching the film for the first time, did the themes come to you quickly or did it take a little time for you to come up with the material that you ultimately came up with?
Andy: The thematic elements came pretty quickly. It was getting all the processed sounds in a good place that took forever.
Taylor: I remember writing this one cue in a couple hours and then spending 4 hours on the tonal bed.
How much music did you end up recording for the film?
Andy & Taylor: I think we ended up recording about 110 minutes of music. Not all of it was in the final film, but we definitely had quite a bit of music recorded.
What were the recording sessions like?
Andy & Taylor: We had roughly a 50 piece string section recorded in Macedonia. The orchestra was also deliberately bass heavy. We had so much low end in Oculus we really wanted the orchestra to be able to mimic some of the synths and sound processing we did.
Let’s talk about the soundtrack album released by Varese Sarabande Records. How did the release come about?
Andy & Taylor: They just contacted us to put it out.
How did you both feel when the label contacted you and said “we want to release your score”?
Andy & Taylor: It’s been very exciting. We were really psyched.
How did you guys assemble the album? Did you want more of a listening experience?
Andy & Taylor: As we dove into assembling the soundtrack, we realized that there are two experiences with soundtracks. One is to string the themes through the soundtrack and feature those and the other is let the score dictate a tone and emotions through the experience in the way the film takes you through it. We chose the second approach. The soundtrack plays really creepy. I think we’ll get some good play out of it in October as well.
Do you think fans of the film, will enjoy the soundtrack as well?
Andy & Taylor: I hope so. We have a pretty good response so far.. especially from viewers. I’m sure the film score purist will complain, but that’s bound to happen with this style.
In looking back on “Oculus”, how do you feel about the movie and do you feel your music has made it a success?
Andy & Taylor: We think the movie is fantastic. Mike is an incredibly talented director and he has a great team helping bring his vision forward. Mike made it a success we just tried to support the beautiful and tragic story he told.
You also scored another thriller recently in “Proxy”. What lead to your involvement in that film?
Andy & Taylor: We’ve worked with Zack on all his films. He seems to be a regular collaborator. He’s one of those rare directors that gives us a ton of freedom to write what we feel is working.
Was this an easier film for you to score in terms what was asked of you musically?
Andy & Taylor: Definitely not easier, just different. Musically speaking the two scores are very different.
Was this film any different stylistically than “Oculus” would be?
Andy & Taylor: Very different. It’s almost all orchestra and no synths. It also conveyed a different type of story. While both were psychological, both had completely different tones. It was fun tackling such different styles.
What were the recording sessions for the score like?
Andy & Taylor: Rushed. The budget was humble on that film so we were quite limited by time. Also the score had rhythmic challenges that took the orchestra a few attempts to get.
Let’s talk about the soundtrack that MovieScore Media/Screamworks Records released not too long ago. How did you feel when the label decided to release your score?
Andy & Taylor: We love those guys. It was our 2nd release with them. It’s always an honor.
Tell me your experiences on putting together the soundtrack album and working with Mikael Carlsson?
Andy & Taylor: He’s very involved and cares tremendously. He has a great sense of how the flow of score should evolve.
Are you happy with how the album came out?
Andy & Taylor: We are.
Do you enjoy orchestrating as much as you do composing?
Andy & Taylor: We did 10 films last year. I wish we had more time to orchestrate (we do enjoy it)… but with these compressed schedules.. we have to pass that duty to our orchestrator Jason Turbin.
What is your favorite film score that you’ve written to date?
Andy & Taylor: That’s tough. We like certain tracks more than entire scores. There are elements of several scores that we really like. Different films afford different opportunities to emote and strangely, hearing each always evokes a different emotion even from within us.
Who is your favorite director that you’ve worked with so far in your career?
Andy & Taylor: We’ve been lucky to work with a bunch of amazing directors. We love them all. It would be too tough to narrow that one down.
What is your favorite film that you’ve personally scored to date?
Andy & Taylor: We couldn’t say what our favorite film is, but our best experience was on Oculus.
Please tell the readers about your future upcoming projects.
Andy & Taylor: We’re currently scoring Mike Flanagan’s next film Somnia. It’s incredible. We can’t wait for everyone to see it. Our Elmore Leonard film, ‘Life of Crime’ Starring Jennifer Aniston comes out later this year. We also have a Bruce Willis film coming out later this year called, “The Prince.”
I really want to thank you once again guys for granting me this interview and I really honored to meet you and everything.
Andy & Taylor: The honor is ours Danny! Thanks for listening and taking the time to interview us.
Very special and heartfelt thanks to Andy & Taylor for being very gracious for their time to chat with me. You guys are way cool! We have to do it again! Also very special thanks and get well wishes to Beth Krakowker. You're truly a class act!
"Oculus" will be released on Blu-Ray & DVD on August 5 From Fox Home Entertainment
The soundtrack to "Oculus" is available from Varese Sarabande Records and available to purchase @ http://www.varesesarabande.com/servlet/the-1164/Oculus/Detail as well as iTunes digital download.
The soundtrack to "Proxy" is now available from MovieScore Media/Kronos Records to purchase @ http://moviescoremedia.com/proxy-the-newton-brothers/ as well as iTunes digital download.
Please feel free to visit Andy and Taylor's official website for more information on them as well as their current and future film projects @ http://www.thenewtonbrothers.com/THENEWTONBROTHERS/news.html
Here is Andy & Taylor Newton's Bio:
"Film and television Composers Andy & Taylor have been making music since they were kids. Both raised on Opera, radio, concerts and movies, The Newton Brothers find influence from greats such as, Puccini, Debussy, Bernstein, Kraftwerk, NIN, The Beatles, Herrmann, Hall & Oates and Erich Korngold. Their passion for music combined with their knowledge of classical music and electronic technology allows them to build collages of sound from broken glass,detuned Steinways and an orchestra of angelic choirs. Multi-talented, The Newton Brothers (TNB) bring a musical arsenal to every project. Well steeped in the classics as well as modern electronic and rock sensibilities, TNB can pull off a full orchestral, a club-smart remixed electronic, a guitar based acoustic,a piano centric romantic and a dirty garage, full pump punk rock score with grace and authenticity. Taylor and Andy play piano, guitars, basses, clarinet, flute, accordian, sax, harmonica, percussion, Organs, kazoo, cello and wine glasses. The two originally thought to call themselves Andy Taylor, but that would make them a member of Duran Duran. Simon and Nick have not returned a phone call for that request.
The Newton Brothers have just completed the score for Elmore Leonard’s “Life of Crime” directed by Dan Schechter (starring Jennifer Aniston, Tim Robbins, Isla Fisher, John Hawkes and Mos Def). They have also just completed Wayne Kramer's dark comedy ‘Pawn Shop Chronicles’ (starring Paul Walker, Matt Dillion, Elijah Wood and Brendan Fraser) and Tony Kaye's acclaimed dramatic feature ‘Detachment’ (starring Adrien Brody, Lucy Liu, Christina Hendricks, James Cann). They have scored and written songs for feature films such as: 'Oculus' Directed by Mike Flanagan, Setup, Directed by Mike Gunther, Revolucion, Directed by Rodrigo Garcia, 'The Mothman Prophecies' directed by Mark Pellington and 'Rules of Attraction' directed by Roger Avery. The club track ‘Later Guy’ from the film became an underground success with people online dedicating forum threads to hunting down a copy as it was un-released on the soundtrack. TNB greatly enjoy the creative freedom and energy of films, but also understand the pressures and demands of deadlines and last minute adjustments. While on the scoring stage of a film we will not name, a producer phoned Andy at the session and said he could make more money on the film if it was a horror film. “Can you guys change the music in 7 scenes of the film?” Over a 50 minute lunch break, Andy and Taylor reworked 7 scenes on the fly. Taylor wrote new parts while Andy conducted the players. 5 days later, they were on the Dub stage with 68 minutes of music complete to the producers delight and satisfaction. Shares of Red Bull stock went up 12.5% that week.
They currently split their time between LA, NY and Toronto."