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Craig Wedren: Wet Hot American Soundtrack

on August 27, 2015, 11:30am

It’s pretty easy talking to Craig Wedren. Equal parts friendly and jovial, the 46-year-old singer-songwriter and film composer likes to chat, which not only makes interviewing him easy, but also an enjoyable experience. This revelation was fairly reassuring last week as I pored through the man’s exhaustive body of work. From his post-hardcore days in the DC-based outfit Shudder to Think to his second life scoring and soundtracking eclectic films and TV, there was almost too much to talk about with the former Clevelander and current Los Angeleno.

But there’s a reason we’re talking: On July 31st, David Wain’s long-awaited prequel series, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, brought everyone back to Camp Firewood for further adventures, and with it came a cassette’s worth of new tunes by Wain’s trusty go-to composer and longtime best friend. The snappy songs, all of which could best be described as a collection of bizzaro echoes, takes us back to the most pronounced music of the late ’70s and early ’80s: The Pretenders, Billy Squier, Sweet, Elvis Costello, Foreigner, Gary Numan, et al.

They’re at times hilarious yet often catchy enough to dig into your ear for hours on end. Those familiar with the original 2001 cult comedy will undoubtedly recognize both “Higher and Higher” and the film’s punchy title track — and most likely replay those again and again — but what’s fun is trying to match each track with its original FM radio counterpart. For instance, Wedren’s ludicrous ballad “Love is Law” might be the greatest cover of Journey’s “Faithfully”, even if it’s technically a totally different song. Again, they’re like little echoes.

What’s crazy is how those little echoes are actually big windows into the headspace that Wedren and Wain were in while conceptualizing the world of Wet Hot American Summer. The two grew up together in Cleveland, Ohio and they naturally attended the same Jewish summer camp, which is why most of the film and series’ music stems from the albums and singles they were obsessed with during that era. This was but one of many surprises in our hour-long chat, which you can read along below.

I’ve always loved the music from the original film and for the longest time I would always listen to recorded clips on YouTube. So, having the studio versions of these little snippets has been such a relief. They haven’t left my car all week.

They’re super good driving jams. You know, that thing about them being snippets … I’ve been debating. First of all, obviously I want to put out a complete soundtrack, but there’s something about this deliciousness about them never being released, that I just keep and this sort of thing kind of exists and kind of doesn’t exist. That has me thinking about the whole snippets thing. My team and I were creating the music for the series so fast. It was such a massive volume of music that some of the songs are actually full songs that you only hear part of in the show or movie. But some of the songs are just like 10 seconds, or something that feels like walking music. I don’t know. What’s your opinion about it? Like, if I was gonna put out a soundtrack, should I do it more like a mixtape, where it’s almost like rolling a dial through radio stations and you only get snippets? Or does everything need to be developed like a full song? Or do I lose the snippets thing altogether, and just put the full songs out?

wethot Craig Wedren: Wet Hot American Soundtrack

That’s a really good question. I love the idea of it rolling through radio stations because that’s what it does feel like. One song sounds like The Cars, and another rings by as Steely Dan, and further down comes Elvis Costello.

Yeah. It’s like … how much work does it need with what’s there? We tag it and we know what it is. If you’re the kind of person who’s going to love that stuff, you already know it.

Totally. Was it like that developing the songs and choosing who you’d tag?

Oh, completely. I’m 46 years old, as is David Wain. David and I grew up together since we were about two years old. So we have the exact same music mapping, certain music DNA. We were discovering everything at the same time, or everything was discovering us at the same time. [Michael] Showalter grew up in Princeton, but he’s either our age or a year younger, so he was getting a lot of the same stuff from different radio stations.

David grew up in Cleveland. We went to Jewish summer camp together in Waterville, Maine from 1980 to 1985. So, the challenge of the series was the schedule and the sheer volume of material, not the actual material itself. Really, everything was done together or separately — what you’re hearing and seeing in Wet Hot is like the — what’s the word? — the foundation, the core material, the primordial goo.

At this point, David, Showalter, and everybody that was involved in The State and also Wet Hot American Summer, we’ve all worked together so much. There’s a shorthand that’s particular between me and David. If he says the word “mellow,” I know exactly what chord progression and tempo he means. So it’s a very rare and precious relationship that we all really appreciate as the rare thing that it is.

People spend their whole lives trying to find and communicate psychically with collaborators and we’re very fortunate because we grew up together and in that respect it’s easy. All the other stuff — you know, budgets and schedules — that stuff’s not easy. But the actual work is … it’s like breathing.

So how did you decide which artists you wanted to emulate?

[Laughs.] You mean to honor?

Exactly.

Who knows how long ago it was now … six months or whatever. At the beginning of the creative process, when we were starting to just have conversations about the music for [the series], I put together a Spotify playlist of anything that crossed my mind as potentially great or inspiring for the show. A lot of it harkened back to cassettes that we were listening to at summer camp and, being a sort of obsessive, wonky music nerd, the way I mark time and the way I have memories, both visual and emotional, is directly associated to the music that I/we were listening to at the time.

So, 1980, we were 10 years old. It was our first year of summer camp, the place was called Camp Modin. The cassettes we were listening to that summer were Glass Houses by Billy Joel, which was like his Elvis Costello record, and Emotional Rescue by The Rolling Stones, which a lot of people think is a throwaway album but I actually think it has so many weird little gems on it. And at 10 years old, I didn’t care. I didn’t distinguish. I was a little kid from Cleveland that was psyched there was a new Stones record, I didn’t care. So I was listening to that that summer.

Then 1981 … it was the weird Cars album, the one with the flags on it. Panorama! It’s the one where you can hear Ric Ocasek’s love of the band Suicide, but, of course, we didn’t know what Suicide was. We heard The Cars: these delicious, creamy, doo-woppy hooks.

Then 1982 was The Game by Queen and the soundtrack to this great, unsung movie — it was a watershed moment for me and my friends — called Times Square. The Times Square soundtrack had the Ramones, XTC, Patti Smith, The Cure, Roxy Music, Garland Jeffreys … all of these so-called new wave bands that we were only very, very distantly aware of, because we were in the so-called privileged ghetto of the upper middle class Cleveland suburbs. So, we were not privy to the underground. The closest thing we knew that was edgy was like The Pretenders or Blondie, which were huge for us. But that album Times Square totally cracked it open. It was an introduction to our music, our generation’s music: the early MTV hard rock top 40 and the new wave that was happening between 1979 and 1981.

Bands like Rainbow, which was whoever the hell’s his name, the guitar player from Deep Purple’s band after Deep Purple [Ritchie Blackmore], and “Ah Leah!” by Donnie Iris, which was a huge hit regionally in Cleveland, where they were still road-testing new bands because Cleveland was the sort of “rock n’ roll capital”, a Midwestern town extremely passionate about music, rock n’ roll, and sports. There was literally A&R people from record labels who would just drop experimental singles on Cleveland radio, and if they did well, they would sort of branch it out to the rest of the country. And “Ah Leah!” by Donnie Iris was a huge hit in Cleveland. I don’t know if anyone else knew it or had heard of it. There was also this other band called The Babys, which was John Waite’s band. He was the guy who sang “Missing You”. He was a solo superstar with a couple of the guys from Journey. It was this weird classic rock stadium pop thing.

So, I was listening to all of these bands and all these songs. Whenever they would pop in my head, I’d put it in the Spotify playlist, thinking everyone would listen to it and when they start editing the show, it could be a grab bag for editors and for David and Showalter when they needed a song. And they would take stuff from that and my team and I then would replace, and in some cases, do away with them altogether. There were certain things where it was like, “That’s the original band! That’s my heart and soul when I was 11! So I’m going to worship it and lovingly pay homage to it.” Which, especially in like 10 to 40 second snippets, is perfect.

It’s funny. For the longest time, I thought the song that soundtracks the gang’s trip to town in the original film was one of yours. When I went to look it up, I was surprised to see the song (“Love Is Alright Tonite”) belonged to Rick Springfield.

Yeah, that Rick Springfield record, Working Class Dog, at the time, all the boys hated it and all the girls loved it. So, it turned out to be an amazing power pop record, I guess.

But I still can’t get over how long you’ve known David.

Yeah it was like two or four or something.

That’s quite a bond. Honestly, I haven’t known anybody that long outside of family members. I imagine he had to have written you into the script, at least spiritually. Is there a character you ascribe yourself to?

Somebody asked David if the Eric character (Chris Pine) was based on me, because Eric is supposed to be a long-haired rocker guy, and David’s answer was, “The Eric character isn’t not based on Craig.” [Laughs.] Which is to say everybody in the show has a little hodgepodge of different people we know and love. So there’s a little bit of old me in Eric’s character, I’d say.

Going into First Day of Camp, did you feel like you had a clearer vision than you did 15 years ago?

Oh, absolutely.

What was it was like revisiting the old material again?

Well, I hadn’t watched the movie in a long time and I sat down with the music supervisor, Bruce Gilbert, who’s also a good friend and who I often work with, and we were just like, “Let’s watch the movie again.” I couldn’t remember the last time I listened to all of the songs and it certainly had been a while since I heard them in context. But it came rushing back. [Pause.] When we’re talking about the score and songs that Teddy Shapiro and I made 15 years ago, we were relatively kids. We all had nothing but time. None of us were married, none of us had children, none of us really had careers to speak of. The top music of our youth that inspired the songs in the show, it was just right there. It was like riding a bike, it all came back immediately.

Nice.

Having said that, there were times over the years when we revisited it because “Higher and Higher” became this weird cult hit. It was never released, but people would just ask for it or other songs online and we would just send it to them or we would license it. I think we licensed it to a few other Wain-Showalter-related projects. I think it might have even been in Stella. So, it was never that far from us. And frequently Teddy and I still work together on lots of stuff. We do lots of songs for movies and he’s obviously an amazing, big movie composer at this point.

But, it was never far from us and we often would joke about how our high-water mark was a novelty song, a joke of a song that we made 15 years ago called, “Higher and Higher” and we still have that. [Laughs.] So that’s the best thing we’ve ever done, the thing that people will love most. I don’t actually think that — we routinely make music that I love — but there’s something about “Higher and Higher”. And when we wrote it, we kind of looked at each other, and even then we were like, “Oh yeah, okay, so there’s that. This is what we will be known for, love it or hate it.”

So, you felt the power even then?

Well, we knew for ourselves. I remember we just looked at each other while we were writing this and we were just laughing. It’s like the sort of comedy version of that story you hear about bands when they write a special song and it feels like it comes out of the air and they look at each other and are like, “Wow! Thanks for that!” We had that feeling when we were writing it, but we had that feeling about the original movie.

So, when it landed flat on its ass upon release and was so roundly, uniformly, and universally lambasted by critics and moviegoers, we thought maybe we were crazy — and it wouldn’t be the first time. I was in the band Shudder to Think for many years and I thought we were making extraordinarily special music and a lot of people really hated it. So, you start feeling after a little while that — maybe I’m crazy.

But it didn’t really matter because we had those wonderful moments of craziness and we knew what it meant to us and we knew how we felt about it. And I’ve always believed that if you have a good feeling about something you’re creating, somebody out there is going to have that same feeling. So Wet Hot, the movie and the music, particularly “Higher and Higher”, is a nice example of how that can happen even if it takes, like, the experience of watching paint dry. I mean, it took 15 years to happen.

I think that magic rubbed off on a lot of the songs, though. The one I keep going back to is the title track. That chorus…

I’m so glad to hear you say that because that was one I wrote by myself and that was another one I was like “There it is! That’s what I mean!” Speaking of Rick Springfield, it’s very Rick Springfield and very like Working Class Dog and kind of Cheap Trick. And I don’t know, I don’t remember anybody responding that well to it. I remember I was surprised at how unresponsive David was to that song because I thought for sure it was a slam dunk. And, of course, he’ll deny it now, but I always felt like that was sort of a special song and nobody quite believed me. I don’t know. Now it seems like people like it.

Part of the problem is that David’s a drummer and the snare sound in that song is so terrible. I was making all the music in our apartment and we didn’t have any money. I don’t know if I should admit this or not, but there’s this one clean snare moment, literally one, in Highway to Hell by AC/DC, which has one of my favorite rock drum sounds of any record. I think I grabbed that one clean snare and just cut-and-pasted throughout the song. So there’s no dynamic change. There’s no change in the sound. It sounds like a mechanical robot.

abby victor Craig Wedren: Wet Hot American Soundtrack

But it’s used to great effect and really speaks to why I love the original film so much. Sure, the movie is crazy and ridiculous, but it’s also charming and whimsical. There’s a palpable, soulful middle to Wet Hot American Summer, which is why when that title track comes on, especially the chorus (“Get ready and get set baby…”), it really strikes that nostalgia button. I feel like a lot of songs on here do that. They might be bouncing around from Foreigner to Journey and wherever but it still feels like they’re all unified by that feeling.

Yeah, exactly. Every piece of music … certainly all of the songs have some element of memory and longing. And I think that’s the key to being that age and to being this age looking backward at that age. So from 46 looking back to age 15, there’s a kind of longing and certainly a kind of memory. But at age 15, there’s nothing but longing. Everything is just about yearning for this girl, or that kiss, or this record, or someone to come, or something to end, or something to be different. Everything’s so intense. While looking backwards is hilarious and insane because all you have is the world in front of you and freedom and love. So you’re sort of existing in this strange state of grace and luxury but also of perennial dissatisfaction when you’re a teenager.

Oh, absolutely. I tend to think about that a lot. I only turned 31 this year, but even so, it’s crazy how you hardly ever appreciate a given time in your age. Like even your 20s! I’ll look back now and think, Christ Mike, if you just would’ve known how awesome that moment was…

I know. And even if you did, just hormonally, biologically, developmentally, you’re in this total state of metamorphosis and internal combustion. It’s chaos! There’s no way to fully appreciate it and I feel the beauty of it, the beauty of rock n’ roll being a sort of useful expression has everything to do with this pure explosion or … what’s the word … purging of frustration. Except that it’s kind of Edenesque, it’s utopian frustration. It turns out it’s like the most real thing, because it really is like physical and psychological, but in retrospect, it’s the least real thing because there are truly very few external pressures.

wet hot nerd Craig Wedren: Wet Hot American Soundtrack

Absolutely. I feel like the film Midnight in Paris kinda tackles that idea a little bit.

I didn’t see it. That’s a Woody Allen movie?

Yeah. The idea is that Owen Wilson gets to go back in time and revisit this wild era he never got to live and one that he always felt he belonged in.

Right. But you’re still you.

Exactly. And it ties into what you were saying about always being in a state of hallucination and how you’re never going to be what you were and what time was like. I do wonder if for those that create and write, if that’s a way to get to that feeling. I wonder if Wet Hot American Summer came from a place where maybe David thought, “Well I was a kid during this time, but wouldn’t it have been great to have been a wild teenager?”

Yeah, yeah. The truth is in 1981 we would have been 12. So we were just starting to come into ourselves, pun intended. So we weren’t 16. But we were precocious 12-year-olds. I know David was. Hell yeah.

Having seen both the film and the series, is there still a ton of stuff from your times at camp that is still unaccounted for, story-wise?

Oh, that’s so funny. [Laughs.] Nothing is literal.

Oh yeah, yeah. I didn’t expect Ronald Reagan to show up to camp.

But that’s an interesting question. I had never thought about it. Whether there was anything we didn’t really touch on. [Pause.] One thing that I think would be interesting to explore is — and over the years, there’s been casual talk and sometimes not so casual talk about doing a sequel, or a prequel, or a spin-off or something like that — but my thought a few years ago was “What about Wet Hot American Summer … winter?” The in-between months were really interesting, because so many of our very good friends are still friends from that era and from that summer camp. And so many of the communities we seek out have echoes and ripples of what we learned and who we became there.

But the winters were fascinating because David and I were from Cleveland and a lot of people from camp were from New York and Long Island. And so like when I was saying we didn’t have access to underground — we were listening to top 40 and watching MTV — we would go to New York and visit our friends who were searching their souls. We would all get dressed up and go to Studio 54, or go out to Limelight, or whatever club was happening at the time, and it was this entirely different existence. It was like that weird 80’s teenage post-sophistication thing. And we were drinking and doing drugs and having sex and going to shows…

Studio54_Piece_1

But the way that the permission one has to be oneself or to explore multiple possible selves in a protected environment like summer camp — and I’m not saying this is the case for everybody because I know some people had a horrible time at camp — but I definitely speak for myself and for David when I say it was again utopian for us. We could truly be ourselves and be celebrated for it. You get back home to the fairly conservative Cleveland suburbs in the fall and winter and the snow and it’s a totally different story. So several interesting things would happen in the winter when people had to tuck it in and play the game.

You had different people in different cliques and different relationships, you would be in love with somebody in the summer then try and keep that going through the school year and maybe see each other over Thanksgiving or for Christmas. It was different. A different color of the prism. Less colorful, it was darker, it was greyer. That’s the only thing I think of. That’s not even summer, that’s kind of its doppelganger.

That would be really interesting and the possibilities alone feel endless. Has there been any discussion of continuing the series? I imagine everyone’s going to be doing something together down the road based on the previous track record…

Well we’re always working together. In terms of actually, literally another Wet Hot moment, I don’t know. It remains to be seen.

You should totally push for that idea.

Lightning striking three times? I mean, that’s incredible how well the series came out. Part of it is that we’ve all been doing it every day of our lives, working on some level within that sensibility together and apart for the last 15 years. So, it wasn’t like anybody was rusty, it’s just that, “Yeah, this is the original thing.”

That’s partly the genius of it. You look at past comedy troupes — even The Kids in the Hall, which I worship — and most of them went their own separate ways and tried really different things for years before coming back together again. But David and his team never really did that, they’ve always stuck together.

A lot of us, we did Stella. We did They Came Together. We did The Ten. Wanderlust. The Baxter. All of those movies are some mutation on Wet Hot American Summer. But the motherlode is really The State. So I guess we’re just all used to each other at this point.

Of course.

Going back to that idea of this psychic shorthand. It’s really easy. So for Electro City, the musical in the series, David and Showalter wrote a few lines here and there, sketches of things. And I would just take them and, in some cases, I wouldn’t change them at all, because they were so hilarious. In some cases, I would just riff on them and develop them and edit them. Showalter said to me at one point — for “Retro Metro”, which I developed with him in another verse and it’s ridiculous and hopefully at some point we’ll release a proper full version of that song — “It’s like there’s no difference. It’s like you took some lines that I wrote and finished them exactly how I would’ve finished them or wanted them to be finished.” Showalter and I have known each other and been good friends since we’re 18 or 19 years old. So it’s just there.

Were you with them while they were filming? Did you have to write on the spot or in post-production?

It was sort of both. Again, it was very much a team effort, there was so much music that had to get made. I work with a team that I call the Kink 8. It’s kind of like my E Street Band of composing. The team members rotate depending on the music of the project but for this one it was all hands on deck. Our co-pilots were Jefferson Friedman, who’s amazing, and a guy named Matt Novack who composes for Children’s Hospital. And then all the people who were involved in the original Wet Hot music.

We started writing around Christmas because we knew that some of the first things we were gonna shoot were gonna be the on-camera performance pieces. So all of the Electro City stuff, big performance numbers like “Higher and Higher” with Chris Pine and “I Am the Wolf, You Are the Moon” with Paul [Rudd], Andy and the counsellors singing in the staff party, and then Paul’s audition song which is called, “Champagne Eyes”. We needed to write those songs — and “Heart Attack Love”, which is the big audition scene where everybody is singing this song while someone is ostensibly auditioning.

So all of those things needed to be written by or around New Year, which is basically when they started shooting. So, we were going to the set, Jefferson and I, pretty regularly in those first few weeks because every other day there was some on-camera musical thing that needed to happen, and obviously we wanted to make sure that it went down right in so little time. So I would at best have 10 snatched minutes with whoever was about to shoot their scene, just to run it through a couple times and make sure there was nothing horribly awry. And certainly, testimony to everybody’s talent, everybody nailed it.

Certainly, I know Paul’s a great singer. We’ve worked together musically before and done a lot of drunk karaoke singing. But Chris Pine I’d never met before. In fact, that role was not even cast until about a few days or a week before we shot “Higher and Higher”.

Wow.

Yeah, it was crazy! But everyone assured me he was a very good singer. I had about five or 10 minutes with him in his trailer before we shot the thing and he was amazing. He totally killed it. Again, it was really another very fortunate experience getting those talented people who just got the material. So yes, we were on set a lot.

It seems like you got the hardest stuff out of the way first, though.

…which was a real blessing because by about the middle of the shoot, they really used a lot of budget. They had to start making cuts. David and I turned to each other, like “Oh my god, it’s so good that we got all of the big musical production numbers out of the way first because who knows?” It could’ve gotten slashed. And I think they add so much heart and color to the series.

Music seems to be so essential to David and Michael’s world. It makes the films feel so dreamy and, I keep returning to this word, but whimsical.

No, I think that’s right. Whimsical, dreamy, sentimental without hopefully being treacly. It has heart. I think that’s what sets The State and friends’ stuff apart from a lot of maybe colder absurdist comedy. There’s a lot of very cold or even mean modern comedy which may be really funny and absurd but there’s something about the work that we all do together that’s just very hopefully open-hearted and warm. In a weird way — obviously it’s a very different aesthetic and a very different sensibility — but when I watch Louis I get that. It’s just very human at its core, which then allows you to go in even further into impossible retardation.

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In a strange way, and this might be a reach, I feel you probably found that mix with Shudder to Think. You covered so many sounds in that band and I imagine that’s where you truly flexed your muscles musically.

That’s interesting, I think we all started flexing our music muscles and finding our voice in David Wain’s basement, when we were 12 years old. Because he had a basement full of gear because his dad was a radio guy. There was a two-track, a reel-to-reel tape machine like the one you see Eric working on in “Higher and Higher”, a drum kit, a couple of amplifiers, a beta cam video cassette recorder, and all of David’s mother’s old discarded wardrobe from the 60’s. So it was this crazy basement, where we would all hang out, have band practice.

David would make ridiculous videos for himself and we would record music and then make music videos. I literally remember the very first recording, the very first moment where I was like, “Oh shit, that’s something that doesn’t sound like a ripoff of somebody else.” It was a song — it was two songs, actually — I made with my friend Matt Fields, who was a good friend of ours in Cleveland, and I feel like I can even remember how it goes. Sort of like Tones on Tail, which was one of those Bauhaus spinoff bands. That was the first inkling … like “Oh shit! Maybe there’s actually something new I can add to the culture heap.”

And around the same time, if you look at David’s videos of himself, they’re just not that different. They’re unrefined, they might not be particularly funny except for being hilariously crazy, but if you put his video from then, age 12 to 15, next to my original music, which was just starting to happen from 12 to 15, it would make perfect sense.

By the time Shudder to Think happened, which was when I was a senior in high school living in Washington, D.C., very quickly that coalesced into a kind of clarity and sort of unique approach to music that was like, “Oh yeah, this is my thing, this is what I’m going to do.” And I think it was happening for David and Showalter and Tom Lennon and Ken Marino, everybody was having their version of that. Then we all just converged in college, and because I was in Shudder to Think and we had actual records, I was actually in a touring band, I wound up being the kind of go-to, default, de facto music guy. “Oh, we need music for something. Ask Craig!” They were all in film school, I made music for them.

And the same thing was happening at Brown University, which was where Teddy Shapiro went, and Michael Showalter went to Brown half the time and NYU half the time. Teddy was more of a traditional kind of conservatory composer, but he was their de facto, go-to music guy because they were all actors and filmmakers and comedians. And then when the time came it just all smooshed into one big thing and The State happened and Teddy and I both wrote music for it. And when Wet Hot happened, it coincided with the end of Shudder to Think, when we were all tired of touring and dealing with record labels and we wanted to have real relationships and not utterly destroy forever our friendships with each other.

So we switched our focus to film scoring. We did Lisa Cholodenko’s fist movie, High Art, together, did some music for the movie Velvet Goldmine together… But really, our very first soundtrack together is not dissimilar conceptually from what I and Kink 8 did for the Wet Hot American Summer series. Out friend Jesse Peretz, who has been the bass player for The Lemonheads, who then quit and started making movies … his first movie was called First Love, Last Rites. One of the main characters in it had a record collection, a collection of oldies on 45s. So Shudder to Think, as we were transitioning from being an art-punk band or whatever you wanted to call us, into film scoring, we created this record collection of oldies-sounding kinda homages. And then that spread very naturally, thankfully into where we are at now.

Was film scoring something you’ve always wanted to do? Or was it something that, when it came together, you thought, Well, yeah this makes sense.

Nathan Larson, who’s the second guitar player in Shudder to Think and one of my best friends and creative partners, and I were … well, we weren’t cinephiles, like we weren’t that knowledgeable or sophisticated, but we were crazy movie buffs. Everybody in Shudder to Think was. So we all read a lot of books and saw a lot of movies and listened to a lot of music. So there was a lot of aesthetic and cultural conversation going on in the band all the time about that. I used to go to movies literally everyday when I had time and if I had money. So there was a real obsession with movies I would say, rivaled only by my obsession with music growing up.

It occurred to me in college because I was doing a lot more experimental and more ambient stuff in my free time. I’d play it for people and they’d say, “Oh this is very soundtrack-y.” So I don’t think I ever quite connected the two until my late teens when I was in college. But once I made that connection, I remember even my dad said to me when I was a freshman or sophomore, he was like, “Craig, what are the movies you most like? Write a letter to those directors.” I remember when I was 18 or 19 years old, I wrote a letter to David Lynch, Brian de Palma, somebody like that. I never heard back, but it was there, from a young age.

I don’t really distinguish that much between disciplines like music and movies and books and art or pop music versus film score or classical music. It’s all just sort of one gesture, I think.

I know you mentioned Times Square earlier. Did you listen to a lot of other soundtracks growing up?

The soundtracks I listened to were more pop soundtracks, like Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Star Wars, obviously. I wasn’t ever like a film score buff. I had certain composers that I loved but I was always more into pop.

You know, come to think of it, Shudder to Think really does have a soundtrack vibe to most of their songs.

David and I have been talking for years about doing some movie based on Pony Express Record, which he really wants to do, but it never gets beyond him being like, “When are we gonna make the Shudder to Think Pony Express Record movie?” And I’m like, “I don’t know, could that even be a thing?” It’s so hard for me. I think of music and all of my music visually, because when I write lyrics, I know once I have a visually cinematic or sometimes Polaroid-like, very clear image in my head with a lyric, I stick with that lyric. That’s when I know the lyrics are done, when it’s like a series of photos or like a flipbook that looks sort of like a movie. But I’m not sure what that movie looks like although it would be so fun to make it. It would be terrifying to get back in that moment.

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