Having worked with the legendary composer Hans Zimmer for over five years on films such as Rush, Man of Steel & Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and more recently scored films such as Bad Karma and Drive Hard composer Bryce Jacobs was more than equipped when he was presented the opportunity to score Sanjeev Sirpal’s feature film, Random Tropical Paradise, now out on VOD. Having not worked on many comedy features, Jacobs expanded his musical boundaries with the film’s score, which he describes as “yacht rock”. Successfully doing so, especially with tracks such as “Best Man”, for which he also produced and provided vocals for and “Yacht That Rock”. The full soundtrack, which we highly recommend, is now available on iTunes. Hear more about Jacobs’ process of scoring Random Tropical Paradise below.
How did you and Sanjeev, the director of Random Tropical Paradise, first meet?
Through my agent (Kevin Korn) at Gorfaine/Schwartz. The music supervisor (Andrea Von Foerster) had recommended me and I put a reel in for selection. Sanjeev and I met and bonded over our love of 80’s and 90’s classics. I watched the film and pitched my ideas via email… he rang a couple of days later to ask me if I wanted to do his movie… and I said: “I’d love to!”
How do you keep your film scores original and unique as you continue to work on more projects?
I think it’s important to add at least one new element/instrument that somehow feels like it will contribute something interesting to the project. There’s a great new approach to scoring that is very close to my heart - scores are now often approached in the same way a record producer would an album (every sound, every instrument and nuance has to count). Once I feel I have something unique to build upon, I then endeavor to surround these elements with a cohesive cinematic glue. This usually means lush orchestra…. but other times, it might just be a touch of something more familiar to the soundtrack world. If you’re on the right film, you may need to be very selective in your instrumentation and content, to build a sonic palette that has a real definite character to help bring the score to life – Random Tropical Paradise was very much like that.
Random Tropical Paradise is one of your first comedy features with you solely as the main composer. Did you find the genre more difficult or easy than previous ones you have worked on?
Years ago, it felt more intimidating – the only thing instinctive I felt back then was try to avoid to double down on the comedy. There are times when you can fortify the onscreen hilarity, and then there are other times where the funniest approach is playing against what is happening on screen. As basic as it sounds, I believe it all starts with a sense of humor – one that you share with the film and the film makers behind it. In this instance, I found the movie hilarious and Sanjeev and I shared the same sense of humor, and as weird as it sounds, we knew we were onto something if we were laughing at the combination of each other’s work!
What song on the soundtrack was the most difficult to create and why?
It’s probably now my favorite cue to picture in the film (which is not atypical of what comes out of the harder situations). It was a hilarious scene involving the wedding band where the singers are singing in between dialogue, commenting on the conversation the jilted groom and best man are having on a rooftop (after they skeet shoot the dinner plates off the roof itself). When Sanjeev gave the scene to me, the singing had already been recorded to the onscreen performance… and I had to write the music after the fact. This made for quite the experience, but I was able to take their vocals and somehow write the music around them. It was an interesting task as I still had to hit some more emotive moments outside of the onscreen vocals. The result is kind of like scoring yacht-rock to picture (which Sanjeev and I absolutely loved doing). I’ve also played in my fair share of bands, so know what certain requests actually mean. Whenever you’re performing at a wedding and someone says: “we just need 15 minutes of fill-in music here” – you usually have to multiply that by about 4 and then you’re probably still going to be short! I kind of went into that mentality of the band trying to keep the song going (which usually means everyone’s taking a solo (even the bass player), which pretty much signifies the band’s just gone off on their own tangent now!). There’s even a flashback in the middle of all that where 3 other short cues play…. then back to the yacht-rock. It’s a pretty manic sequence and I was a bit nervous at first about the pre-recorded vocal lines, but then ultimately had a lot of fun bringing the whole scene together musically.
Not only did you compose the film but you also performed one of the songs on the soundtrack titled ‘Best Man’. Can you tell us a little bit about creating this song? When you initially began working on it, what was the first thing you did and how to decide on the vibe?
Well… it’s some of the most honest writing, producing and performing I've ever done (my voice included).
The lead up came from a very personal place. My Grandmother had passed away in January of last year (about a month before Random Tropical Paradise came in). I was amazed by the instant support of my American friends here, and Australian friends when I flew back for her funeral. Three of my closest, longest, dearest friends spoke and they all considered it an honor. The four of us walked her casket out and I couldn't help but think how she would have loved that; she'd watched us all grow up together, and now we were escorting her out of this life and into the next. It made me look at all my closest friends - the best men AND best women in my life, and marvel at the unique and special friendships we all know so well.
When "Random Tropical Paradise" came along, about a jilted groom on the worst day of his life, the best man navigates his best friend with warmth, humor and a healthy dose of distraction. First thing I wrote for the film was "Best Man" - and it arrived quickly. I felt like I’ve lived both sides of this song many times over.
The “bromance” of the film is really the centrifugal force to all the crazy, zany, romantic comedic adventure. Best Man was the first thing I wrote and was intended to be a suite of ideas to draw from. It quickly became a song that I spent some time recording and producing up on my own - I then led with it in my first playback with Sanjeev. I had no idea how he would receive it (I couldn’t even look at him when it was playing – I just faced the picture rolling at the front with him sitting behind me on the couch). The song finished and I sheepishly looked around. There he was with a huge grin on his face; he simply said “I love it!!”… then my heart rate went down!
About how many instruments have you played to date? Which are some of your favorite and least favorite?
This is hard to answer. There are instruments I play and instruments I try and “get away with”. My main instrument is guitar and voice. Guitar really covers a lot of “guitar orientated” instruments; there’s bass, pedal steel, ukulele, mandolin, banjo, guitar viol, classical guitar… and then there is the guitar I designed. Beyond that, there is also piano, keys, drums, percussion… then the instruments I will try and fluke however I can (all to get a sound out of it while trying to capture it in a recording). I remember once being given a bass banjo about 30 seconds before I had to record it on Puss in Boots. I’ll even try and do what I can on a violin or other bowed instrument; then there’s digeridoo and most recently, an erhu… but it’s kind of like seeing how far you can ride a surf board before falling off.
Who are some of your musical influences?
I’ve always loved and respected the pioneers of any genre; from Debussy to Miles Davis; Led Zeppelin to Massive Attack; Peter Gabriel to Tool – I would jump from one extreme to another and marvel at how they all had created and cultivated their own unique voice. I’ve always found it incredibly important to cultivate a real identity - to inject your personality into what you do. You can’t really compete with a personality, you’re either drawn to it or you’re not. How can you compare Jeff Buckley to The Mars Volta? – You simply gravitate to one more than the other, and the decision is different for all of us. I started playing guitar as a kid in 1991, and it was an incredible year for really innovative and iconic guitar based albums: Nirvana’s “Nevermind”; Metallica’s “Black”; Pearl Jam’s “Ten”; Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Blood Sugar Sex Magic”; Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Use Your Illusion 1 & 2”; U2’s “Achtung Baby”; REM’s “Out of Time”; Soundgarden’s “Bad Motor Finger” – the list is astounding and the list goes on. It was a really interesting time where the hard rock and metal of the 80’s was overlapping with the ushering in of the Grunge era of the 90’s. Then shortly after, dance and trip-hop evolved into main stream. I really started to explore what a guitar could do in those realms - a fun diversion from guitar based music and something that very much informs my writing, production and performance still. When I started to understand recording, engineering and technology a little more, I immediately began experimenting with bringing together disparate ideas and concepts… a large degree of that was experimenting with the sonic landscape of guitars. Before I understood synthesis, I knew guitars, and would experiment with creating synthesized or orchestral like sounds with them. By default, I was already embarking on my own way of composing and producing (you can hear the blue print of that in the very first short film I did). If I’m worth anything in what I do, it is because I have done a vast array of listening - constantly thinking how one extreme relates to another… and the sinuous connection is usually via emotional or narrative subject matter.
What are you working on next?
There’s an animation project I can’t really talk about yet - but I’m very excited about it. I’m also producing a few artists right now in the cinematic song contexts that I love doing so much. I really love the collaboration (it reminds me of when I used to be in bands and all the interesting paths you shoot down with the unique people, personalities and ideas in the room). It’s funny, I’ve had such a weird and seemingly disparate array of experiences, that all seem to come together in one way or another in what I do now. I truly love bringing extremes together, while searching for a convincing cohesive force between them that can really move you in unique and compelling ways.
You can learn more about Bryce here.