Brandon is an accomplished American composer for film and media with a portfolio that includes working on some of the most acclaimed projects of recent times. He's known for blending traditional orchestral elements with modern electronic sounds and unconventional soundscapes.
S: What were some of the earliest musical influences that you can remember growing up? What instrument did you grow up playing?
B: Music was introduced to me as a baby! I come from a very musical family. I started playing drums around age three, but eventually switched to guitar so I could play with everyone at family gatherings as we sang and played acoustic guitars together. My father was always in bands as well, and they always rehearsed at our house, so I just grew up totally immersed in it at all times. My earliest musical influences were what was around me at the time: classic rock and metal. But the music scene exploded as I played and toured in bands in my teenage years and discovered punk music, emo, metalcore, screamo, pop punk and so much more.
S: What led you into making music for media?
B: Music for media first truly came on my radar in the 2000s with the Lord of the Rings films. Those scores blew my mind. A friend then introduced me to Hans Zimmer and I was in love with his scores for The Dark Knight, Inception, Interstellar, etc. These, and scores like them, were gateway scores that started opening my mind and ears to just the huge breadth and history of legendary scores from the past and present. I started listening to all the classic and new scores that I could find.
Soon, I started trying to incorporate influences from what I was hearing in scores into my work with bands. It just wasn’t fitting and I wanted to start exploring it seriously. I was intrigued by the fact that with media projects, every project was a different story, a different genre and set of instrumentation, a different set of challenges and experimentation. There were infinite possibilities available and that was really intriguing. I met someone who just happened to be about to direct their first film. I asked if they had found a composer yet and they said that they had just planned to use royalty free music. I sent them some demos I’d written and they loved them and hired me to score it. The rest is history.
S: How would you describe your style of writing?
B: My sound has definitely evolved over the years. I started very much in the synth and electronic space of composing. I was inspired by creating and finding unique sounds that no one had ever heard before. The sounds drove the composition. I then went to college to really understand the orchestra and theory as I wanted to keep growing as a composer. This helped shape my compositional style with storytelling in
mind with thematic and melodic writing. My style now mixes traditional orchestral elements with modern electronic sounds and unconventional soundscapes.
S: What was your intention behind "Funky Feeling"?
B: My intention when writing “Funky Feeling” was to write something that was funky and would make you want to dance but also had some intricate playing and musicianship. I’d never really written in a funk style before, so it was so much fun learning and writing in the genre!
S: How did you start creating this song and eventually achieve your vision?
B: This song started with me listening to the playlist of references and also famous funk songs from over the decades to really get into the headspace of the genre. I then really built this song from the ground up. First came the drum groove. It had to be great as it was the foundation for the whole thing. I then added a bunch of hand percussion like shakers and tambourine. The drums and hand percussion were all samples at first. The bass guitar came next. I probably wrote six different bass lines and finally settled on the one you hear in the song now. Then came the guitar, horns and keys.
S: What were some of the compositional challenges that you faced?
B: One of the main compositional challenges I faced was in how to play that accompanying guitar part. I had an idea of how guitar is used in funk, but I wasn’t aware of the types of chords. I did a lot of research and eventually settled on a G#9 chord that ended up working perfectly with the bass line. Probably the biggest challenge wasn’t actually compositional but was instead the mix. The samples just weren’t cutting it, especially with the drums. I went out and bought real shakers and a tambourine and recorded those for real. I hired my cousin Jimi Dalo, who is an excellent drummer, to record the drums for
real and we recorded the drums remotely. Almost all the elements now are organic and I feel like it helped elevate the song a lot.
S: What was your favorite part of the process?
B: It was a lot of fun getting to write and jam on something funky and dancy. I had been working on a string of horror movies prior to this, so this was great to do something totally different. My favorite part of the process was in the collaborations I had on this: my father actually pointed me in the direction of the aforementioned G#9 chord. Working with my cousin to record the drums at my uncle’s studio was a treat. And finally getting to work on a project with Adam Fligsten was great; he gave great guidance on the mix and the various versions needed.
S: Outside of music, where do you find inspiration in your life?
B: I am almost constantly working because nobody knows where music comes from. It’s like there’s a tap up there in the universe and sometimes the music is flowing from whatever controls that conduit and sometimes it’s not coming at all. It feels like the more you work the more likely music will be zapped into your fingers while the tap is running. But I’ve been finding more and more that if you never leave your studio, your brain doesn’t have the capacity to open itself to allow that inspiration to come in, if that makes sense. I might be completely stuck on something and even the most simple things like taking a shower or going for a walk, your brain suddenly gets an idea, I think, because it’s freed from the immediate need to perform. So I’d say I get inspiration from allowing my brain to rest and then giving it a new environment with which to take in inspiration like being outside or with friends or checking out art or reading (I love history). I’ve been trying to get better with this as time goes on!