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Morgan Kibby (M83, White Sea) discusses her seductive score to LFF First-Feature Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story)
After weeks of anticipation the BFI London Film Festival has finally arrived, this year flying the flag for women in film louder and prouder then ever before. Throughout these exciting first few days it can be easy to get caught up in red carpet buzz, which is why we have deemed it necessary to shine a light on one of the more minor releases occupying the beginning of the schedule.
Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story) is the first-feature from Director and Screenwriter Eva Husson – a bold and intense film about a group of rural French teenagers’ loss of innocence over a warm fleeting summer. Away from their nests these high-school students embark on a sexual exploration that makes the once controversial Skins appear tame. If the film were a card game, it’d be strip poker, and Bang Gang certainly lays its hand face up for everyone to see in a strikingly debauched opening sequence that truly signifies that nothing is indeed sacred.
Aside from some seriously committed performances, and a refreshing sway into a majority female perspective, one of the most lasting impacts of Husson’s debut is the contemporary and well-suited score, interestingly provided by Morgan Kibby – aka White Sea – known to many as a member of the popular electronic band M83. While struggling to wake ourselves from the film’s stylised, hypnotic vibe we decided to talk to Morgan about her involvement with the project, her creative approach in composing a film score and to gain any advice she had to offer musicians considering working on a film.
Firstly, how did your involvement in the project come about?
I have known Eva Husson since I was 18 years old. We initially collaborated in an actor/director capacity and when I quit acting and pursued music, I believe Eva and I were just waiting for the right project for me to contribute music to.
A lot of your own music – and that of M83 – is thematically quite interested in youth, while at the same time having its own filmic quality. Did Bang Gang seem like a good fit for you?
The themes in M83’s music are mainly guided by Anthony [Gonzalez], I just help him realise his vision. So in a sense his view on youth is very different from mine. In White Sea I tend to look at youth with a sad eye, not with a sweet nostalgia, I’m more fascinated by the idea of getting older than reminiscing about being young. In terms of cinematic inclinations, yes. Bang Gang was a perfect fit for me. I’m very inspired by images when I write. I feel more to a practical point, that the score had to speak to the youth of the characters but carry the intensity of what they deal with in 2015. Not to mention we wanted to merge the idea of electronic music with traditional score (horns strings etc.) which definitely speaks to me as a composer.
This isn’t the first time your music has been used in conjunction with modern, youth-centric productions (Girls). Have you ever thought about why your style of electronic synth driven music resonates so much with the current generation?
I don’t know. It’s a tough question to answer. Electronic music is the expression of youth culture today for sure, but strangely enough my passion for electronic music stems from the 70s, with bands like Tangerine Dream and Vangelis, so it’s not a youthful palette if I’m being truly objective… I think most of all I’ve written “pop” music in the past, and pop will always be a genre that mostly reflects young listeners. I think the score for Bang Gang is a big step forward for me as a composer.
What is your creative approach when writing a piece of music for a scene? What factors are you considering?
Eva as a director is a rare bird in that she really really cares about music and has a way of eloquently communicating what she wants without using a traditional musical vocabulary or coming from a musical background. So, we established very early on what the palette would be (as a base horns and synths and Fx’d percussion), enabling me to attack new cues without questioning some very basic tenants. I generally just tried to find the right mood for each cue. Major or minor? More organic or more electro? Once those questions were answered I would write at a synth as I watched the scenes on my monitor. I think more than anything I was familiar with the script and tone of the scenes I was scoring. That takes out a lot of guess work.
Some of the film’s most captivating scenes see music and image carefully synchronized – almost like a music video or commercial. Was there a strong collaboration process with Eva in achieving this?
More on her part than on mine. There are obvious moments when the music definitely punctuates certain beats that she and I carefully discussed, but she actually cut a lot of scenes to the music that I had already composed for her prior to filming, particularly the opening sequence. It was a very fluid back and forth because once again, the music was really important to her, so the cues were a factor in her edits if she liked them, not just an afterthought to be sliced according to picture.
Did you draw influence from other film soundtracks while creating content for the film?
We did, particularly the Air soundtrack to Virgin Suicides. Mostly we examined the technique of “less is more” rather than pull directly from the aesthetics of the score as inspiration.
Is there a scene in the film that you feel particularly proud of your contribution to?
I love the scene when Gabriel comforts George in her room towards the end of the film. I played all the cello on that cue and am particularly proud of the composition itself and the main synth lead. It feels almost sickly and so sad… I felt like that reflected where the character was mentally. I remember I sent the cue to Eva and she told me she teared up. We knew a cue was right when she reacted that way.
Have you had an opportunity to see the film on the big screen yet?
I did for the first time at Toronto Film Festival. It was wonderful, I felt very proud to be a part of it.
What advice would you give to musicians who are thinking about branching out into film?
Composing requires major patience and collaboration which I know can be challenging for solo artists who don’t usually have to answer to anyone. Honestly scoring is not for every musician, so dabbling in shorts before features is probably a smart move to ascertain your passion for it without taking on too much. My biggest advice however is pay attention to the vocabulary you develop and use with your director. It will dictate everything and make for a rewarding process and ultimately a better film.
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Where to watch the film
Thursday 08 October 2015 18:30
Picturehouse Central, Screen 1 – Buy Tickets
Saturday 10 October 2015 15:30
Curzon Mayfair Cinema, Screen 1 – Buy Tickets
Sunday 11 October 2015 20:45
Hackney Picturehouse, Screen 1 – Buy Tickets
* Featured image courtesy of Samantha West Photography.