Me and You and Everyone We Know
The most successful art is often unplanned, and for Michael Andrews, composing the score for a film as unique as Me and You and Everyone We Know was just another in a long series of happy accidents.
Andrews fell into film score composition by chance when the band he was playing with-cult soul/jazz collective The Greyboy Allstars-was asked to score Jake Kasdan\'s first feature, The Zero Effect. One year later, Andrews got hired to write the music for the highly regarded, though short-lived TV show, Freaks and Geeks (NBC), and soon after, he landed the score for indie film hit, Donnie Darko. Andrews considers himself primarily a guitar player, but Darko\'s director, Richard Kelly, told him he didn\'t want any guitar in the movie. So, he taught himself to play piano by ear. It\'s part of the reason that the score is, as Andrews describes, so simple. \"In a way,\" he says, \"your faults become your trademark.\" Darko\'s original score album went on to sell over 100,000 copies (in part because of Andrews\' remake of Tears for Fears\' Mad World, featuring Gary Jules), and Andrews became a composer to watch.
Andrews, who talks at warp speed with an infectious, nervous enthusiasm, is really part composer, part producer (recent albums include Inara George\'s critically acclaimed album All Rise, and Metric\'s Old World Underground), and part performer. He heard about Miranda July\'s Me and You and Everyone We Know when he ran into the husband of producer Gina Kwan (with whom he went to college) at a party. Kwan\'s husband praised July\'s exceptional script, and so Andrews asked for a copy. It blew him away.
Coincidentally, during that time, July had been listening to the Darko score, which she loved. \"I would die to work with this person,\" she thought, but assumed Andrews was out of her league; still she began strategizing ways to approach him anyway. Based on his interest in the script, Andrews arranged to meet July. He was then working on material for a new solo album, and when they met and July heard some early tracks from his record, she was all the more convinced he was perfect for her film.
Andrews and July share similar outsider backgrounds. Andrews does not have any formal music composition training, and July, though she had made a few short films prior to Me and You, had been known primarily for her writing and performance art. July knew that she wanted the music to not to sound \"like movie music,\" and to sound as if someone who didn\'t quite know how to play music had played it. As if the music was somehow a mistake that worked. It\'s a theme that provides a thread throughout the film: people come together accidentally but they must make a conscious decision to act after fate has done its part.
Initially taking cues from the characters\' dialog, Andrews began writing the score. For example, when Richard, played in the film by John Hawkes, says he\'s \"prepared for amazing things to happen\" and that he wants his kids \"to have magical powers,\" Andrews came to understand the film\'s world as a kind of alternate reality where people believe in fate and chance-and this was the world he needed to paint with his music. He also saw the feelings July was trying to get across in her film as very primary. \"She tries to break things down to very basic, simple shapes-the simplest shapes possible, and that totally influenced me in my music.\"
Working out of his custom-built backyard studio in Glendale, CA, Andrews spent three months creating the score using an orchestra of obscure vintage synthesizers (a miniature hotwired Casio keyboard was unearthed at a garage sale for $10) and drum machines. His concept was to play what he termed amateurish, emotional, naÃ¯ve, magical and simple music on highly unemotional, inorganic instruments-for example, a calculator with built-in twelve-note keyboard that lends a haunting portamento melody to one of the film\'s motifs.
Other instruments used in the score include Andrews\' modified piano (rather than hitting the strings directly, the hammers first make contact with a piece of soft felt, creating a warmer, slightly muffled tone), as well as his Moog and Vocoder synthesizers. Despite all the electronic gear, no MIDI was used in the recording, so that all the humanness, all the subtle variations of rhythm, are intact. Inara George adds vocals in several climactic moments throughout the film. In some cases, cues were composed of only two or three tracks in order to attain the magical simplicity for which the film called out.
As with many film scores, it took some time for composer and director to learn each other\'s languages. Gradually, Andrews and July began to \"get in tune with each other\'s psyche,\" a process he refers to as paralleling that of the film\'s characters, who are each struggling in their own ways to communicate. \"It was like he was channeling me,\" says July. \"It\'s a movie about connecting, and not being able to connect, and we had to live through that-that\'s where the music came from.\"
Large portions of the score were written, then tossed out, and written again, and while the iterative process of film scoring can be frustrating, Andrews felt lucky to have the time to make sure the tone was exactly right. Both Andrews and July are obsessive perfectionists; but over the course of the collaboration, they came to recognize and respect each other\'s instincts. When something \"accidentally fit perfectly,\" Andrews says, \"that\'s when we said, that\'s it.\"
Or, as July says of the music\'s effect on the film, \"It was like seeing something you\'d only dreamt of right in front of you.\"
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