Score!

The independent superhero comedy Spaghettiman made its theatrical debut in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and is now available on VOD from all the places (iTunes, Amazon, etc). It’s about a self-centered, lazy, and generally repugnant slacker named Clark who gets the ability to shoot spaghetti out of his hands, then uses that ability to fleece crime victims out of some cash. It’s a legitimately good movie, and I have to tell you, the music is pretty kick-ass.

And I’m not just saying that because I made it…

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I want to give the credit to director Mark Potts (who also made the wonderful Cinema Six), because he had the vision for what the score should be, and I was happy to be able to execute it. Mark and I have a mutual friend, and after I saw Cinema Six, I reached out to Mark to let him know that if he wanted to use any Sci-Fi Romance songs in future movies, I’d be happy to make that possible. He responded that he was actually about to start shooting a new movie in a few days, and they were looking for a composer, if they could afford one. So we went to get drinks.

Mark wanted Spaghettiman to be a ridiculous send-up of superhero conventions, but played totally straight. No winking to the camera, no broad slapstick or direct parody, just everyone taking these absurd things happening around and to them seriously. The script was written by the Heckbender comedy team, Benjamin Crutcher, Winston Carter, Brand Rackley, and Mark, and I read it and loved it. I totally got it — in spirit, it had a lot in common with Return of the Forest Monster, the horror comedy I made over a decade ago.

Mark pitched the idea of a big, rock and roll score. Very sort of self-serious, like the characters in the movie. Not rock songs, but a legitimate film score, just played by a rock band. I told him I was pretty sure I could do that, and I came aboard.

I tried to apply film score “rules,” as best as I understand them. So for one, I created character themes.

Here’s the “Spaghettiman Theme,” which plays when mild-mannered slacker Clark goes into Spaghettiman mode:

Dale, Clark’s deliriously supportive roommate, also got a theme:

Both of these themes evolve over the course of the film as the characters change. There’s also a minor theme for the movie’s other main character, an ambulance-chasing freelance videographer named Anthony. His theme weaves in and out of other pieces of music to subtly indicate his presence, and his ultimate importance to the movie.

I worked very, very late at night and recorded all the instruments into my desktop. It was kind of amazing to be in the theater for the premiere and remember things like, “Oh, I remember doing that at 3 am and the cat started meowing and blew the take…” I’m happy it turned out as well as it did.

I did make a vocal version of one of the songs, and the video is below. It’s written from the perspective of the character, so this isn’t an indication that I’ve turned my back on my usual sort of cautious optimism about humanity. For about $6, you can buy the whole score on Amazon, Bandcamp, and iTunes, even though Apple seems to be hiding it for some reason…

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Out front of the Vintage Los Feliz 3 in LA for the premiere

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“Fields” Music Video

My folks were both raised in small, rural towns in Texas, but moved to Houston in the 1970s, where I was born. I spent my childhood, then, living in the suburbs and for holidays, summers, different events, shuttling back and forth out to farm and ranchland and towns too small for grocery stores. I spent a lot of time there.

A few years ago, my grandmother started experiencing rapidly declining health. I had moved to Los Angeles by then, an even bigger city even farther away, and felt tremendous remorse at not being around. I spent a lot of time thinking about the days and weeks I’d spent as a kid with my grandmother — and the self-sufficiency that kids were just expected to have. The here’s-a-dollar-walk-into-town-and-buy-some-candy-or-something-be-back-for-dinner laissez-faire approach to childcare that was so empowering and fun and formative and now has almost been literally outlawed. It’s a shame. The song “Fields” came out of those memories.

As I was working on this album, my grandmother passed on. While I was packing for the trip to go back to Texas, it dawned on me that while the emotional ties I have to that area will always be there, the literal and physical ties were now almost gone. Even now, I could no longer navigate the roads with no names that I drove so many times to get to her house. So I took a camera with me, because I didn’t want to forget those scenes and images that to be honest I took for granted for too much of my childhood.

A lot of footage I shot on that trip made it into this video. Maybe that could seem morbid to some, or too personal, but to me it’s a celebration. This was a difficult song to sing in the studio, something I tried not to shy away from in the video, and it was a difficult video to put together. But this is all very deeply a part of me, and wrapping it in a few bars and pictures and handing it to the world like that felt like the best way I had of sharing it.

 

 

All the References: Goodbye at the End of the World

We recently gave away a pair of autographed CDs over at the all-purpose geek-themed site Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together to people who correctly identified the most sci-fi and film references hidden in the animated video for our song Goodbye at the End of the World. But nobody was particularly close to getting all of them. There were a lot.

Now that the contest is over, it seemed like a good time to put together all the references in one place for those who might be interested. Let us know in the comments, on Facebook, or Twitter if one of your favorites made it into the background.

Robby the Robot, Forbidden Planet

Robby actually makes two appearances, one in small scale in the couple’s kitchen, and one in large scale in the museum. You can spot him in the background of each of these shots.

Robby at Home Robby in Museum

And for what it’s worth, in the museum shot you can also see the band’s old logo (itself an homage to the old RKO Studios logo) and the album cover against the wall.

Arthur Dent, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Although only the one shown above made it into the final video, the museum set has two exhibit halls, both named after characters from Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Arthur Dent, and Ford Prefect.

Vampira

Vampira, the iconic late-night horror TV show host from the 1950s who was the model for Disney’s Maleficent and was immortalized in one of my favorite movies, Ed Wood, was a persona created by the Norwegian model Maila Nurmi. The “V.” on the character’s museum ID card is for “Vampira.” I have a distant personal connection to Maila Nurmi, in that when she passed away in 2008 I helped buy her a headstone.

ID Card

CRM-114, Dr. Strangelove and Others

Maila’s employee ID number is “CRM-114,” which is a designation that began life as the code device in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Kubrick himself went on to reference this number in several other films, including 2001: A Space Odyssey, and since then many, many filmmakers have hidden nods to it in their movies. Like, for instance, Doc Brown’s giant amplifier rig in Back to the Future.

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Speaking of…

The Time Machine, Back to the Future

Maila, or possibly her boyfriend Roger, drives the time machine, which is parked in the driveway.

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Tiptree Science Musuem, Alice Bradley Sheldon

Alice Bradley Sheldon was a gifted science fiction writer who had to work under a male pen name in the 1950s because of awful gender stereotypes, and that pen name was James Tiptree, Jr. I thought a sci-fi video with a kick-ass female hero should work at a place named after a real-life sci-fi female hero. You can listen to a great radio story about Alice Sheldon here.

Museum Sign

Gort’s, The Day the Earth Stood Still

In part, this video began with the idea “I wonder if I can make a giant robot step on a gas station?” Seemed a very 50s sci-fi thing to do. Like Robby the Robot, Gort is one of the signature robots of 1950s science fiction films, and appears in maybe the best genre movie of the era.

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Bester Library, Alfred Bester

Alfred Bester wrote The Stars My Destination, which had a tremendous impact on me. As a matter of fact, as soon as I finished it, I put it down, picked up a guitar, and wrote the song “Gulliver Foyle,” the first track on the first Sci-Fi Romance album.

Bester Library

The library sits at the corner of…

Wm. Castle Blvd. and Harryhausen Drive

William Castle produced a number of great, schlocky B-movies, notably those with Vincent Price like The House on Haunted Hill, and maybe surprisingly, Rosemary’s Baby. Ray Harryhausen was a stop-motion animation master who brought hundreds of creatures to life and gave them personalities and soul you wouldn’t expect in films like 20 Million Miles to Earth.

Intersection

Karloff’s at Le Moulin, Frankenstein

At the end of Frankenstein, which inspired the Sci-Fi Romance song “Frankenstein’s Lament,” also from the first album, Boris Karloff’s monster gets torched inside a windmill. Like Le Moulin Rouge, which was a restaurant and named after a windmill, I went for a little obvious symbolism.

Karloffs

Karloff’s performance is particularly meaningful to me, and it also inspired our song “The Bride of Frankenstein, 1935” from our October EP.

Crane Shot, Citizen Kane

These last two are probably the most pretentious, but when am I ever going to get the chance to tip my cap to these films ever again in quite the same way? So when the camera swoops through the domed ceiling of the museum, this is where that came from.

Citizen Kane Shot

Final Shot, The Third Man

Like the stereotypical film school graduate I am, I love Orson Welles. But probably my favorite movie with him is one he didn’t direct, Carol Reed’s masterpiece The Third Man. I love it, and its final shot is, for me, one the most indelible ever.

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Third Man Shot

Since I animated this thing myself, I had nobody to tell me I couldn’t be as self-indulgent as I pleased.