Heitor Pereira is the Brazilian composer who created the music for Minions, and for its two Despicable Me predecessors. He spoke to me about some of the 1960's classic songs on the soundtrack of the new film and creating music that is "a rollercoaster for the emotions."
This film is a prequel that gives us the backstory of the Minions, the adorable yellow sidekicks from the Despicable Me films. So a big part of it is set in the 1960s. Was it a lot of fun to pick songs from that era?
Those songs represent an era but they also have to have a relationship to the moment in the movie where they appear. The directors love music and those were the songs that they felt at the moment represented the storytelling the most, like "You Really Got Me" or "My Generation."
And there are '60s songs that the Minions sing as well, like "Hair." It was a very fruitful, prolific period in music. It was fun for me to write music around it and try to make the orchestral music and band music to somehow be holding hands with the music of the period without sounding like somebody that wrote the music then.
That's the whole thing that I love about movies that take place in a period of time or in our case, for part of the movie, the beginning of time. We can travel in time in the capsule of music. And every opportunity you have to introduce Jimi Hendrix to a 10 year old boy or girl, I'm all for it.
Some of the music is so fully orchestrated and dramatic it could be in a classic action movie.
Follow the story. If I let the story drive the music and dictate the pace and weight or lightness of the emotions, then it's part of what I love doing. And from the audience. You don't want to sound like a hundred percent throwback, even though it is set in the past.
I want it to still sound like a movie that was made now. It looks like a movie that being made now, the technology used and all that, it's for sure contemporary.
Those tracks follow the moments in the movie. They cover you and then they start building up when it needs to be massive or just a solo, simple instrument when it needs to be intimate. And that's what I love about theme music, the little rollercoaster of emotions and how those emotions translate in music and scope.
It gets big, it gets very small, it gets long notes and it gets very short notes, one after the other many of them, and that's how I go about this.
I hold onto the melodies. There are Minions melodies in both "Despicable Me" movies. Scarlet Overkill [played by Sandra Bullock] is a new character in this film so when they are running away from her I just use the baseline of the Minions and I put a Scarlet theme on top.
When I wrote the Scarlet theme I made sure that they could live together. Because eventually there will be a scene or many scenes where they are sharing the screen, and now somehow now those melodies have to live together.
So when I write something new for Scarlet or for Herb [played by John Hamm], what happens is you write like a big suite that covers in your mind all of the needs or a lot of the needs the movie will eventually ask you to go through.
You don't need to write a score in one afternoon but you need to write the idea that will lead you for a year and a half, that is enough melodically and harmonically that when you get to the end of it and you need to write the grand finale it has two legs, you know, musically.
How do you create a theme for the new villain, Scarlet?
Scarlet is not like Lucy in Despicable Me 2. Lucy was helping. I tried to make her a little more sweet in a way. But with Scarlet, I tried to make her sound as hard as possible, powerful and mean but with a groove.
She is a beautiful character and we can use her movements to accent the music. For example where she puts all the villains to a test, so that the one that captures the diamond is the one that eventually she will chose to be her helper.
All the bad guys and girls are there and it's a fight but it's also a ballet. So I made sure it was rhythmic enough throughout that at any given time she could make a pas de deux. She could become like a soloist. With her movements, she is making the music for you instead of you making you making that music for her.
The Minions have such a distinctive sound themselves. Does that affect the way you think about the music?
Yes totally. Their language is not language, but the cumulative aspect of the repetition of those words is like creating a language in itself. In the first two movies, they were always working for Gru.
So we would come from regular language into this thing that they do and then back into regular language. In this one, a lot of things go by and then the narrator has left the movie and now they are out there on their own.
Instead of compensating for their lack of language I decided to back off, give them space, and let their phonetic sounds be very clear. That was a lot of fun because we almost made a dictionary of their sounds and let the music follow the same kind of repetition.
If you had a Minion of your own to take home, which one would you pick?
Bob. I tend to go for more the heart. Kevin is more like the mind, right? I like Bob because of his charm. I like Kevin, too, because his is not easy music, it's a little complicated. Melodically, Kevin's music kind of goes places harmonically, too. I'm thankful to him because he stretches the score. I like them both!