1:1 with Disasterpeace – Talking the Chilling Score of ‘IT FOLLOWS’

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Preston Barta // Editor

it_follows_xlgThe sheer horror of IT FOLLOWS’ mix of suspense, style, and atmosphere extends all the way to Rich Vreeland’s haunting score. Its synthesized, artful sound design and contrasting flavors are dead giveaways that Vreeland had a hand in the music, as are the carefully chosen motifs.

Recording under the name Disasterpeace, Vreeland has been working with sounds like this for years, and with particular precision on games such as FEZ. However, Vreeland uses them with remarkable flexibility here, conveying apprehension and vulnerability on some tracks, and almost sinister determination on others.

We recently had the opportunity to speak with Vreeland about his stirring score for IT FOLLOWS, process for creating such tones, and David Robert Mitchell’s take on a plausible occurrence and injecting it with supernatural horror.

Well, first, I guess I should say I saw the film at Fantastic Fest and was at the screening that you did the Q&A with Scott Weinberg. I loved the film so much that I had, HAD to take my wife to see it when it had a regional premiere at the Lone Star Film Festival in Ft. Worth, TX. And your score has stayed with me, as I found it very fitting for the film and its whole retro/creepy feel. But IT FOLLOWS is one of those movies that follows you (excuse the pun) long after it’s over. I’m not sure how much of a movie fan you are, but are there any other films that you’ve watched that maybe have had a similar effect – where the film stuck with you long after the movie was over?

Rich Vreeland, aka Disasterpeace.

Rich Vreeland, aka Disasterpeace.

Disasterpeace: “Oh sure! I’ve had that experience many times, where a movie really hits me like a ton of bricks, and it’s got my mind racing for hours, sometimes days after I’ve seen it. A recent movie that did that for me was HER. I went to see it with friends and I remember us all just kind of sitting in silence for a good while after the fact. It was a lot to process.”

Are there any movie scores that you particular like, or found inspiration in?

Disasterpeace: “As a treatment, I really like NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. When there’s no music it’s hard to screw it up, and not having music really lends itself well to the feeling of that film. David used a lot of Penderecki, John Cage and Jon Carpenter in the temp score for IT FOLLOWS, so I gravitated to those as a source of inspiration. I also channeled Goblin a bit. As far as more recent films go I’m a big fan of Jon Brion and Alexandre Desplat.”

Where did your inspiration for music come from? Where did you find your voice, so to speak, in the music that you create?

Disasterpeace: “Everywhere. Anywhere. There’s no singular answer to this question, I think that inspiration is informed by life and is continuously evolving. The music I listened to as a teenager and as a kid played a large role in helping me figure out my musical identity. Artists like Vince Guaraldi, Joni Mitchell, The Beatles, Tool, Rage Against the Machine, and Led Zeppelin.”

We spoke with writer-director David Robert Mitchell at Fantastic Fest, and he spoke about how he came to know your music and contact you. What was the process like for you: receiving that call (or email) and getting asked to do the score for the film? What was going through your head at the time?

Disasterpeace: “Having never done a feature before I was excited! I was also a little skeptical because you never know when someone e-mails you out of the blue, but after watching THE MYTH OF THE AMERICAN SLEEPOVER I knew that David would be a very worthy collaborator.”

Maika Monrow (center) and the cast of IT FOLLOWS.

Maika Monroe (center) and the cast of IT FOLLOWS.

What were your thoughts when David first told you about the film?

Disasterpeace: “When I first read the script I thought it was pretty silly. But I bit my tongue because I knew based on his prior film that David had a magical way of treating subject material in a way that makes it relatable and endearing. So I had hope.”

After watching it, what did you think?

Disasterpeace: “My hopes were fulfilled — the film was more than I could have expected, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work on it.”

Check out our review of IT FOLLOWS in our Fantastic Fest wrap-up.

How does the process of creating the score work for you? I’ve talked to several other composers and they each have their own unique way of approaching the score. Some don’t watch the movie and they just go off of what they feel when reading the script, while others do it by watching dailies or when the film is in post-production. What was it like for you?

Disasterpeace: “We had a very tight deadline. We were supposed to have six months to score the film, but then it got into the Cannes Film Festival and we only had three weeks. It was very fortunate that David and his editor created a really solid temp score for the film, and that proved to be a boon for me in writing 60 minutes over the course of three weeks. There were some hiccups; for instance, David temped the film with some music from FEZ and it was difficult for me to best those pieces in his eyes, and I had to sacrifice my ego just a bit here and there when it came to capturing the essence of some of that music, but in the end I am overwhelmingly happy with the work we did.”

How is scoring a film similar or different from the music you’ve done for games?

Disasterpeace: “Scoring to a film that is close to being locked is very different in that the format is laid out in front of you, and you get to fill in the spaces. A video game also has spaces to fill, but the scope of its structure is often unknown until very late in development and it can make it difficult to get a grasp on conceptualization.”

Outerlands Short: Rich Vreeland is Disasterpeace.

Outerlands Short: Rich Vreeland is Disasterpeace.

Do you think it is something that you would consider doing again (score a film)?

Disasterpeace: “It’s a lot of work and the film industry is so much more stressful than working on video games, but it was a net positive experience. So yes, I would love to work on another film!”

If you were to score another film, do you think the material would play in your decision to do another film? In other words, do you have to like a film, or a film’s concept, to do the score for it? Maybe you can relate this to the games or projects you’ve worked on in the past.

Disasterpeace: “Absolutely. I only work on things that resonate with me. Life is too short to put your heart and soul into projects you don’t care about it. In the beginning, as a composer, I had to take what I could get, but once I had the freedom to start making choices, I became very selective.”

Are they going to release your score for purchase come March, whenever the film releases?

Disasterpeace: “Whenever the film releases, the soundtrack will also be available on my website, Disasterpeace.com.”

UPDATE: The soundtrack for IT FOLLOWS will be released digitally on March 10th, with the CD following on March 24th, and the vinyl arriving on April 7th. You can listen to three tracks from the soundtrack below, along with one track from FEZ.

IT FOLLOWS opens on Friday, March 13.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.