How a 13-hour playlist turned into Mogwai’s ‘KIN’ score

Courtney Howard // Film Critic

If you saw directors Jonathan and Josh Baker’s KIN over the weekend, you probably connected with the highly inventive sci-fi tinged action-adventure about a teen boy (Myles Truitt), his recently paroled brother (Jack Reynor) and a bad-ass ray-gun. You also were privy to a sonically satisfying score courtesy of Scottish post-rock band, Mogwai. We’d wager you ran directly to your nearest record story to pick up a copy of the soundtrack album – or download it as the end credits rolled. But how the affable Aussie directors were able to secure the in-demand band to work on their movie was a case of simply asking for what you want.

In fact, the number one revelation working on this feature dealt with approaching collaborators. Jonathan Baker told us,

If you have something cool, ask people if they wanna work on cool shit. Generally they’ll say yes. Just ask.

Turning their pristine short, BAG MAN, into a feature required the twin brothers to find the correct tone for the narrative. The best way to do this was to communicate through music to writer Dan Casey what mood they were attempting to capture. That’s where Spotify came in handy. Josh Baker said,

We came up with a playlist for the short film that was thirteen hours, to set the vibe of the movie. It ranged through a whole bunch of different music – from folk, to score, to Mogwai, to Three Six Mafia. And that’s basically the imprint of the movie.  

They quickly realized through this curation that Mogwai had the most tracks on that list.

Mogwai was like thirty tracks. When we’d talk to the writer, some of our favorites would be a Mogwai track.

That’s when lightning struck and the idea to give the film a sonic identity took form – one that’s surprisingly not often done these days.

We wanted a band  – something we could feel special. We didn’t want to go through the normal composer route and just have it feel disposable of yet another movie with yet the same score. Since we wanted the tone to feel different from other movies, we were like, “Why are we just gonna use a composer that’s gonna give us the same score as the POWER RANGERS had?” There’s a handmade quality about this movie, not a machine made quality, in every way. And Mogwai is just people making music.

Jonathan continued,

We started with them and they read the script. Their response was, “We’re being sent a lot of big stuff and the moment and none of it interests us. We emotionally connected with this and would love to jump on it.” It was their first feature. They had done a bunch of TV and documentaries. Turned out they were giant sci-fi fans as well. They were very coy at the beginning, but by the end they were like, “Dude we love sci-fi! This is a dream for us!”

As fans of their professional collaborators, Josh likened it to a dream coming true.

We got to go to Glasgow and sit in the studio for 4 or 5 days and talk about the film – offering up ideas – and just collaborating with them.

Jonathan quickly added further insight,

For them, it was probably nerve wracking for directors to come to the studio. But by the end, a bunch of Australians and a bunch of Scottish were just chilling in a room talking about cool stuff – movies and music – and we came up with something everyone was really proud of. Mogwai have since said it’s some of their favorite music they’ve ever made. That blows my mind as a Mogwai fan.

Josh augmented,

They loved it so much, they talked about lengthening the tracks and make a legit studio album out of that and tour with it. Having one of your favorite bands in the world agree to do your movie, but beyond make it into their own thing and put ownership of that is incredible.

And like any fan who gets to work with their professional idols, Jonathan couldn’t help but marvel,

We’re Mogwai fanboys that are now somehow friends with Mogwai and have an album that’s kind of our album to our movie. Having that vinyl in my hands is going to be the full circle moment.

KIN is now playing. You can order the special edition red vinyl here.

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