Matt Bowen is the co-composer behind Hulu‘s original movie The Binge, even though music fans probably wouldn’t expect that from him. It’s a completely different kind of project for him – and the way that he and co-composer Christopher Lennertz created the music for this offbeat picture is entirely a departure from the norm, too.
I connected with Matt to talk about their process on The Binge, stretching his musical range even further, and if he’s ever been inclined to score real life. You can watch the film now on Hulu.
Brittany Frederick: The Binge is a departure for you, so how did you get involved with the movie?
Matt Bowen: It has to do with Jeremy Garelick, who’s the director on the movie. He had directed a Netflix series called Best.Worst.Weekend.Ever. that I co-scored with Christopher Lennertz. Qe had worked together before, been in the trenches before, and had just an awesome working relationship. So when this movie came up, it was a pretty seamless process. Sometimes working on a movie can involve a lot of demoing and stuff like that; however, for this one he just called and said, “Are you available?” And I said, “Of course.”
BF: Having worked with Jeremy before, and working with Christopher before, how much did that familiarity help you on The Binge?
MB: It’s the shorthand, it’s just such a luxury to have that with someone. I have been working with [Christopher], primarily working on his music teams, for the past decade, and we’ve recently started collaborating on stuff. I’ve spent a long time learning his sensibilities and then as we’ve started collaborating, it’s been so fun and so rewarding. I think we just share a similar aesthetic, and we have the shorthand and can collectively get stuff done really fast.
BF: There does seem to be a growing trend toward co-composers instead of single composer credits.
MB: I do think it is becoming more common for whatever reason. I know Hans Zimmer has shared co-credit when appropriate, and has helped launch quite a few careers because of it. Personally I’ve done a lot of co-scoring, and have enjoyed the collaboration process immensely each time.
BF: What I love about this project is that you spent time on the set of The Binge, which most composers do not work on the set. How did that happen and how much did that enhance the product?
MB: How it came up was that the writer, Jordan VanDina, came up with the concept of, “Hey, I want there to be a musical here.” He did a rough sketch of the lyrics, and at that point we knew that I was going to do the score and Chris Lennertz and I were going to co-write the themes. When we saw there was a musical in the script, Chris and I just said, “Boy, we really want to write this together.” And of course, that needs to come first, before shooting, because the cast needs to sing to it.
It was an awesome experience. It was mostly Chris and me collaborating in L.A., and then Jeremy and Jordan collaborating. They were already shooting out in Syracuse, so there was no getting the four of us into the same room. There was a lot of Chris and me throwing it their way, them collaborating, then them throwing it back our way. That was a pretty darn new experience for me, but an area in which Chris has a lot of experience. He’s done quite a few projects with Alan Menken. It was just a really fun, creative experience.
It did very much inform the score that I wrote, some in a subtle way, and some in very obvious ways. Chris and I kind of teased out some of the themes from the chorus of the musical, and talked about how to apply that over the course of the score, which I will just say I did liberally.
BF: You’ve not only worked on scripted projects, but on reality TV like the Bachelor franchise. So especially because you’ve scored real people, do you ever get inspired to score real life or have ideas pop into your head when you’re watching something as a viewer?
MB: It certainly permeates all walks of life. You try to shut it off as best as possible. You know, when you’re not working, you really try to not be working. Sometimes you can’t help but be like, “Oh, that was a really different way of doing that, and I need to remember to loop back around on that.” But ideally, if the product is really well done, I get lost in it. I can actually get lost in the programming and forget to listen to the score that I wanted to clue into.
A lot of times what I’ll do just to try to get out of my head, because I’m in my workspace a lot more than I’d like to admit. If I’m done with something but I’m not ready to check the “done” box, I’ll throw it on my phone and listen to it in my earbuds as I take the dog for a walk around the block. And I do find myself thinking, “Oh, you know, this is very tense or action-y,” and then I’m walking down the street and like okay, this cue is doing what it needs to be doing because I feel way more emotion than I’m supposed to as I’m walking my dog. (laughs)
BF: What does Matt Bowen listen to as a fan?
MB: it’s really all over the map. My broad-sweeping answer is I really love listening to music that’s worlds apart from what I’m working on at that moment. It helps the music be a release and something for me to just enjoy and not analyze. I’m really a huge fan of music, so it’s hard to specify.
I will say that I think the composer that I’m the most excited about currently is Daniel Pemberton. Of course his writing is just brilliant, but I love the level of production that is in his scores, the uniqueness of the production in his tracks. I particularly appreciate that because I came from a record-making world first and then transitioned into composing. I can really clue in on the level of production that he’s doing in the studio, and it’s just really unique. I think anytime something excites you, it’s because they’re doing something that’s different than it has been done before.
The Binge is now streaming exclusively on Hulu.