The story behind the music is often as entertaining as the feature itself. Learn all about the music behind the film, Life Cycles, as Ryan Gibb talks to us about each song and how it played a part in shaping the award winning movie.
As with all movies the music is both one of the hardest and most important things to help create the mood. Using popular music has its own set backs, most people hear a familiar song and already they have certain visuals, emotions, experiences associated with it. This in turn takes the viewer out of the movie on some level and they may not be totally feeling what the director intended them to feel. With this in mind we set out on the hard task of finding obscure music, but at the same time having a level of quality that people would enjoy it. We felt we could accomplish this by doing two things. The first was to use smaller bands on independent labels. The very nature of smaller bands means that they usually have a niche audience and the likely hood of the masses being familiar with the song are greatly reduced. The second and more important thing was to have a large amount of custom composed music. Usually when editing an action sports film, you pick your music first and then you edit your footage to the music. 7 songs in the Life Cycles are custom composed music for the movie. This allowed for a different kind of freedom where we could edit the sections exactly how we wanted them, direct the music how we wanted it, and just be able to create the exact mood we were looking for. Going custom is always scary as we had a few bad experiences in the past where the custom music felt cheap.
Luckily we were able to find Ajay Bhattacharyya of Data Romance who killed it on the music front, he was able to do everything we asked of him and ultimately I feel his music added greatly to Life Cycles.
The most important thing in this section was the Voice Over so we didn’t want the music to be too overpowering. Ajay did a great job of keeping the music subtle with a nice build near the end to take the audience into the factory.
Factory Section Composed by Ajay Bhattacharyya Preformed by Data Romance www.dataromance.ca
The factories and the process to make the bike is dark, gnarly, and gritty. We wanted the music to reflect this and we knew the only way we were going to get that was to go custom. We also wanted it to have the feeling of building an army so we decided to go with something that was drum heavy. We wanted to have a little bit of a war drum feeling.
Into Nature Section Song Title: Sunday Seance (Loka Remix) Performed by Blockhead Courtesy of Ninja Tune
This is the first time you finally see someone riding a bike in the film. We wanted this song to have an epic feeling, especially coming out of the dreary city, we needed a song that gave the sense of “overcoming”.
Seasonal Section Composed by Ajay Bhattacharyya Preformed by Data Romance www.dataromance.ca
In essence this section is still apart of the previous section, but we change the theme in this section and the music from the previous section didn’t match. We didn’t want the music transition to be abrupt or that noticeable. Ajay did a great job of taking elements from the previous song and incorporating them into the song for this section, that made the transition much more seamless.
Prairies Section Song Title: Powerslide Written and performed By: Graham Tracey Recorded at High Lonesome Recording, Rossland, BC www.highlonesomerecording.com
We really wanted a song to give off the cliché country feeling for the beginning of the Saskatchewan section. Graham Tracey who narrated the film is also an accomplished artist and he wrote us a song that did just that.
Where to get it: Contact Graham directly at website above.
Levee Camp Holler Remixed by: Ajay Bhattacharyya Performed by: Data Romance www.dataromance.ca
We originally had another song picked out for this section and a week before we were to hand the movie in to the duplicator we got denied rights to use the song. In a pinch Ajay wrote this song to accompany the section. He did an amazing job capturing the same emotion the original song did and in the end it was awesome to a have a song that is totally ours and used nowhere else.
Destruction Section Song Title: Above Performed by Hecq From the Album: Night Falls Courtesy of Hymen Records
This section deals with the lose of trails and trail closures. We want the music to put the audience into an unhappy, weird headspace and this music does just that. It also had to be something that Voice Over could easily be laid over. The music almost sounds custom to this section, but it isn’t. Hecq is one my favorite sound designers/musicians and does amazing work. Check out his website below.
Building Section Song Title: Flower Performed by Moby Album: Play: B Sides Courtesy of Warner / Chappell Music Canada
This by far is the most popular song we have on our soundtrack and for sure has other associated meanings as it’s been used in other popular movies. When editing this section we threw all kinds of music at this section and for some reason this one felt the best. We really liked the beat and felt it conveyed a feeling of work. Even though it was such a popular song we couldn’t deny how good the footage felt to the song.
Where to get it: On Itunes
Riding the build Section Song Title: In A Sweater Poorly Knit Performed by MeWithoutYou Album: Brother, Sister Appears courtesy of Tooth and Nail Records
This section has about a 50/50 mixture of slow mo footage and real time footage. We needed a song that accompanied the slow mo footage, but at the same time made the real time feel fast. This song had all the elements we needed and after a few times listening to it, it gets pretty catchy. We almost went with a Red Hot Chili Peppers track, but in the end we liked that this song was much more obscure.
Road Trip Section Song Title: Recurring Performed by Bonobo Album: Days To Come Courtesy of Ninja Tune
This song need to be light especially since the Road trip section dealt with childhood and a light theme. We listen to a lot of lastfm and Pandora to find our music and Bonobo was one of the artists we found on these stations.
Elements Section Composed by Ajay Bhattacharyya Preformed by Data Romance www.dataromance.ca
From the beginning we knew this would be the hardest section for Ajay to compose music to. It’s a pretty long section and deals with so many different themes. In reality the song Ajay wrote had to be three different songs in one. Ajay hit one out of the ballpark with the song he brought to us. He took a section that we felt was one of the weakest in the film and made it one of the strongest.
Bike Shop Section Song Title: Daylight Performed by Aaron Nazrul Album: Butterfly Man Courtesy of Lit Fuse Records
Being a bike shop section we really wanted causal late night mechanic music. A song we really liked was “Midnight Rider” by “The Allman Brothers”. Sadly we didn’t super budget for the film. Luckily our music supervisor Androo brought us this song by Aaron Nazrul. It had all the elements we were looking for and it’s always nice to promote up and coming artist.
Destiny/Death Section Song Title: The Birth and Death of the Day Performed by Explosions in the Sky From the album: All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone
The very first time we heard this song we knew we wanted to use it and exactly where we were going to use it. This song is so powerful and this section is the climax of the film so it needed a powerful song to go with it. The title of the song alone is very fitting for this section and I don’t think we could have found a better song to fit this section.
This was another section where we had a song picked out and the section already edited and we got denied the rights to use the song. We just couldn’t ever find another song that sat quite right with us and we threw pretty much everything at it. So we turned to Ajay and once again he came up with something we were happy with. If you listen Ajay used elements of the intro song in this song. We thought it would be cool if the intro and end songs had some of the same elements. That way the music was like bookends and tied everything together.
We were able to talk to Ajay about the custom music he created and working with the film, here is what he had to say:
1. What's your favorite track you wrote for Life Cycles? I think the Saskatoon section, which was actually the last one written for the film. The boys had an amazing track lined up for that section, but they couldn't get the go ahead to use it so about 3 or 4 days before the final mix I got a call "We love that last track you sent us, oh by the way we need something for the Sask section too". Ha ha! It was a fun challenge to match the vibe of the temp and I got to work with a beautiful vocal acapella sample the boys handed off to me.
2. What was the hardest track to write or the one that was most work for Life Cycles? The Elements section was probably the most intricate and time consuming. It was the first track that was asked for and I felt I kind of had to prove myself with it. On top of that it essentially was like writing 5 completely different tracks and then making them blend into one, without letting people know "ok, here's a different song". Getting them to flow was probably one of the biggest challenges with it.
3. Where did you draw a lot of your inspiration from when writing your music for Life Cycles? I came onto the movie having a really worker bee mentality. I wanted to write to whatever Ryan and Derek wanted for each section. They had a pretty clear vision and they have amazing taste in music so I trusted them. As soon as it came to actually sitting down and working though, I realized I do have limitations as a writer because I do have certain things that I just think sound good and others that I think sound bad. All I can say is thank god the guys have similar enough taste in music to myself that they thought what I ended up doing was working. In the end it's the reason why we decided to attach the Data Romance label to the soundtrack. The songs in the movie really do capture the style of the band and they come from just what I think sounds good.
4. How was it working on a Mountain Bike movie not being a mountain biker yourself? To tell you the truth the actual athleticism and performances of the riders was one of the last things I noticed when first getting onto the film. The shots and camera work and locations themselves are so gorgeous and breathtaking, I almost forget that there really was a person doing these amazing stunts on screen.
By now of course I have realized how amazing all the riders are and what an incredible sport and profession it is. I've met a lot of people who ride since starting to work on this and a lot of my friends that I had no clue had a mountain biking history have let me know that they used to do it and are super passionate about it. I can relate to it and respect it on a basic level in that people who do it for a living put so much passion and energy into something for an artistic and personal expression. That's how I treat music in my life.
5. What was it like working on Life Cycles compared to other projects you've worked on? It was a dream simply because the film makers and I were both just so into each other's style and what we brought to the project. In a lot of ways they did half of my work for me by providing such incredible footage. I've worked on projects that don't look as good and when you try and put bold and epic music overtop footage that doesn't hold up, it just comes off as cheesy. I feel it actually makes the picture look worse because most people are accustomed to a certain level of quality in every aspect of the picture and when certain things like audio and picture are out of balance, it just seems off kilter and weird.
That's not to say other things I've worked on I'm not happy or proud of, I just feel that I had to hold back on how loud and epic I could get. All that Ryan and Derek kept asking me for was "get bigger, get bigger!". It was a blast.
6. What are you doing now? Data Romance are working full time on our debut full length album. We're getting more and more songs together for the release and we're not rushing it. We want to be really happy with it before we put it out there. I'm saying no to a lot of things just because I'm keeping that as my focus, but when there's time, I'm still drumming and performing DJ duties live with some amazing bands like The Zolas and Dirty Radio. Data Romance just released our first video Bones and an EP of the same name online for free.