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Music

How Son Lux wrote the perfect score for the year’s most bonkers Oscar movie

Imagine you had your whole life to live over again. You could make different choices; you could take an entirely different path. Who would you be? Who are the people in your life? What’s your relationship with them like? Would you change anything?

These are just some of the existential questions raised by Everything Everywhere All At Once, which is the leading contender at this year’s Oscars with 11 nominations, including best picture. It’s a movie about the biggest (and smallest) things in life and the vastness of the universe. But, at its heart, it’s about family and the love that binds us together.

Everything Everywhere All At Once is also a genre-bending, epic film full of unimaginable twists and turns and, to pull it off, filmmakers Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert needed a score that was just as wild, but also intimate and deeply emotional. So they turned to the band Son Lux, a group fronted by Ryan Lott, with percussionist Ian Chang and guitarist Rafiq Bhatia. Now, about a year after the film came out, that score by Son Lux, along with a song they wrote for the end credits called “This Is A Life” are both up for Oscars.

In this conversation with Ryan Lott, the singer, pianist, sound designer and composer talks about how the band kept pace with the seemingly endless changes and creative demands of a film that’s so many things all at the same.

You can hear the full conversation with the listen link at the top of the page and read edited highlights below.


Interview highlights

On filmmakers Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s decision to use Son Lux for the score

[The Daniels] are zany [and] we’re such a self-serious band. And I was like, “Are they sure they called the right dudes?” But they knew they didn’t want a “Hollywood” composer and they knew they didn’t want to make a movie like any other movie. That was the trick: How do we smash tropes and yet give in to tropes? How do we explore idiom by destroying idiom?

So as they were perusing their options, like, the wide world of music, I think Daniel Kwan first came upon the idea of Son Lux. And my guess is what he heard in our music is a type of density of information that was akin to the sort of density of storytelling and texture that they were going to be going for in this movie. But not just that. There’s this sort of beating heart of it all — a kind of heart-on-your-sleeve, unrestrained emotional quality that is a trademark of much of the Son Lux discography.

On the recurring use of Clair de Lune in the score

This idea came from Daniels themselves. So Kwan said, you know, one of our antagonists is Dierdre. But her character evolves, obviously, and we see her from multiple perspectives as we do every character in this film. Their insight was that even though she’s an antagonist, what if we used Clair de Lune as her theme? And I remember in my gut, I just have such a vivid memory of being like, “Yeah, that’s not gonna work. We’re obviously not going to do that. You must forget what that song sounds like.”

But sure enough, it was such cool insight because there is a point in the film in which this [song,] one of the most tender and melancholic and sweet and romantic pieces of music ever written, serves its purpose in that way. They were reverse engineering this character across the multiverse. They were wondering, “Could we hear this melody for this character? She’s kind of a monster. She’s she’s like a domestic monster. She’s a surreal monster. She’s all these different versions of a monster. But in the end, she’s also a broken, beautiful lover.”

Son Lux, left to right: Ryan Lott, Ian Chang, Rafiq Bhatia

On what they thought when they first learned about the film

Honestly, our early meetings were really confusing. They told us about the story, which didn’t really make sense. But we had a great connection right away and they said, “OK, so before we get ahead of ourselves, we’ll send you the script and you see what you think.” So they sent us the script and we read it. I wasn’t intelligent enough to follow it. I just could not wrap my mind around this thing. Meanwhile, my smarter and more attractive and more intelligent bandmates, they loved it. And, you know, Rafiq [Bhatia], just laughed his butt off the whole time, couldn’t put it down. I couldn’t make my way through it because it felt like my PDF [was] broken. Like, there’s no way I’m not missing pages here. This doesn’t connect. Until I got to the end. And then I had some “a-ha” moments and I started to understand why they called us. But my response was, they’re never going to make this movie. Nobody’s ever going to make this movie. What a cool thing that the Daniels have reached out to us about this project that they have in mind. Too bad nobody’s going to press play on this thing. And then, you know, at some point they were like, “Guys, guys, great news. We got Michelle Yeoh.” And I was like, “Wait, what? Oh, so we’re actually going to do this?”

On what the film is ultimately about

Oh, I think it’s love. I think it’s love. After all the madness and absurdity and fanfare and shock and sadness and melancholy and so on, you know, at the end of the day, it sort of all adds up to just this big, warm embrace.

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