If André 3000 playing a Mayan double flute for your band’s movie score isn’t proof that the multiverse exists, we don’t know what is.
But it exists. And there’s so much more. André, Moses Sumney, Randy Newman, Mitski, and David Byrne are among the guest artists Son Lux acquired for what became a 49-track film score with more musical ideas than one universe can hold.
Son Lux (Ryan Lott, Ian Chang and Rafiq Bhatia) have been making music from their own universes for years. In 2019, they were contacted by film directing team Daniels to score their mind bending, multiverse movie Everything Everywhere All at Once. It was a match made in multi-heaven.
Daniels (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) started making effects-based short films a decade ago, rising to fame with their odd, groundbreaking videos for The Shins, Tenacious-D, Chromeo and 2016’s feature film Swiss Army Man with Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe.
“We were lucky,” drummer / sensory percussionist / composer Ian Chang tells BandWagon. “Daniels reached out to us, earlier than what is typical. Nothing had been shot yet. They sent us the script and all of us were equal parts in love and baffled, wondering how this film would possibly get made.”
Chang, Bhatia and Lott are each producers and composers, employing a breadth of musical languages. So choosing Son Lux to score a multiverse movie makes sense – if anything in a multiverse movie makes sense – and they collaborated with the directors in an inverse way. Usually, Daniels create a visual world on top of a song. With Everything Everywhere All at Once, Son Lux had the chance to create a musical story on top of an existing visual.
“How it actually iterates is something that would only come from [Daniels’] brains,” vocalist / composer Ryan Lott says, “and certainly nothing that would come from ours. It was an opportunity to respond to something that we ourselves would never have dreamt. And that’s one of the key differences between scoring and making your own album: you have the opportunity to benefit from forces which catalyze things within you – that you didn’t know existed.”
Son Lux had to approach the score by trying new things inwardly. Weirdly, that sometimes actually meant doing the expected.
“While they were interested in the way we reconcile disparate musical precepts into something coherent with emotional weight,” guitarist / composer Rafiq Bhatia says, “they wanted each universe to have its own distinct musical identity, like it was switching channels. And then for things to cohere into something more. Understanding the musical syntax that accompanies that was really important.”
“[Daniels] are really good at leveraging expectations,” Bhatia continues, “and then you’re not ready when they … turn left.” For makers of surprising, angular music, hitting those expectations and still sounding like Son Lux was challenging.
“That was one of the biggest tricks,” Lott says. “This movie gave us permission to do things we wouldn’t have afforded ourselves. That was a big part of the philosophy: constantly looking for new ways to be ourselves. Finding ways in which we can express who we are – in service of this amazing movie – and let this story, with its big, giant heart, be the doorway to discovering all sorts of things about ourselves.”
Son Lux started releasing music about the same time Daniels started making videos. They’ve released 24 music videos of their own and over a dozen records, the most recent of which form a triple album: Tomorrows I, II and III. They can’t wait to bring this music to the stage for the first time since the pandemic struck.
It’s been a long time, but distance is actually a part of their creative process. Everything Everywhere All at Once was scored remotely via Zoom and Dropbox over the course of the pandemic, and that’s a process they’ve been honing for several years.
“A lot of the work is sort of done privately,” Lott says. “And then we have these really catalyzing moments together.”
The tour in support of Tomorrows hits Boulder on Friday, May 20 and Fort Collins Saturday, May 21. Though Lott is a Denver native, Son Lux appearances in the state are rare and not-to-be-missed, especially as they are presenting these particular songs in new ways.
“We’ve had a bit of distance from [the triple album] now,” Chang says. “Typically, you finish an album and immediately work on the songs to bring to the road. The fact that we finished this film in between, to come back to [Tomorrows] now, it’s actually really nice. We’ve always had fun finding new ways to play live than on the record. But it’s been especially nice to have that space.”
Space seems to be the key, and the shows promise to be new and different. “We’re really excited about giving ourselves more room to experiment and to be spontaneous,” Chang says.
This approach is an outgrowth of the way they wrote Tomorrows, and there’s a certain irony, coming on the heels of making the craziest film score ever.
“We’re trying to be more minimal and give more space,” Chang says. “So with this new show, there’s not necessarily that many things happening at once.”
Everything all at once, so to speak, is an aesthetic the band used to pursue, layering a ton of sounds. But for this tour, they announce the absence of backing tracks, making all the sounds live. For a project rooted in sound design, this is big.
“We are freeing ourselves from tracks!” Chang says excitedly. “We’ve always had to negotiate translating the record but also reinventing it. This time we’re freeing ourselves from these built in structures so that each of us is doing more. It’s been liberating. Moving from verse to chorus, we might want to hang on one idea for longer … and we just kind of look at each other. It’s freeing and more organic. It gives us the ability to respond in the moment to the room and improvise a lot more. I’m very excited about that. I think we’ve grown a lot. It’s a much better show than we’ve ever had.”
The Everything Everywhere All At Once film and soundtrack are out now. See Son Lux in concert Friday, May 20 at The Fox Theater in Boulder and Saturday, May 21 at The Aggie Theater in Fort Collins. Tickets, nation-wide tour dates and more at sonluxmusic.com