Solomon Grey Talk


Remember how much fuss there was about The Casual Vacancy when the book first came out? Following up on the Harry Potter series was always going to be a tough ask but by all accounts J.K.Rowling seems to have done a pretty decent job of it, so much so that the BBC have just started broadcasting the TV adaptation of the book. Much of the soundtrack to the 3 part mini-series comes from musical duo Solomon Grey's mini-album Selected Works. I caught up with the pair to find out a little more about them and how this combination of art forms came about;

Tell us a little about yourselves – who are you, where are you and what are you?

We are Joe and Tom. We are in our South London studio, and we are a duo/writing partnership called Solomon Grey.

When did the two of you first start making music together? How have things changed since then?

We have been working together for a long time, a long time. We met in Oxford and we earned our keep doing a ten-piece covers band. It was a good way of learning but we were both more into writing our own stuff so we started building our studio and making tunes. Then we got into more and more music and into production and a few years ago we started Solomon Grey.

Do you each have set roles in the music making process or is each track different?

Well it is never the same twice. Ever. Sometimes we bring tracks into the studio, sometimes we come up with ideas while we're here, sometimes it is just a production idea that starts us off. Normally we start with either a clearly worked-out idea or a purely improvised idea, but both of these ways of working end up on the final piece. By the time each track is finished we can't remember who did what and it doesn't really matter. 
Both of us have backgrounds in classical and jazz, and similar tastes.

Tell us a bit about The Selected Works – was it created with The Casual Vacancy in mind?

The album as a whole wasn't, but some of the tracks were. When working on the Casual Vacancy we took a lot of inspiration from the Spike Jonze film Her, where they interwove tracks from the Arcade Fire album along with the composed music for the piece. We tried to use stems and segments of some of our previous work and weave it into the score and at the same time we wrote a lot of completely new music. Four of the tracks on Selected Works were specifically composed for the Casual Vacancy and another four are our original tracks that ended up becoming a large part of the soundtrack, in full or broken-down form. The other tracks are from other projects we have recently been working on including the film Gozo we scored. It was interesting putting it all together. It made sense putting both sides of Solomon Grey on the same record.

How did being involved with the mini-series come about? Was it something you were particularly looking at doing or was it a chance encounter?

We are both extremely interested in film/TV. When we started writing our full album (that is coming out later on in the year) we watched a lot of film as a base to draw ideas from, and when we are writing there is normally a lot of discussion of the piece in visual terms. The Casual Vacancy probably came about mostly from Dathanna, an EP we wrote for Tourism Ireland. The director Jonny Campbell was a big fan of it and when we met him and Ruth (Kenley-Letts, the producer) we described how we worked on the EP and how we would bring some of those approaches to The Casual Vacancy. We talked about working before picture, not using guide tracks, integrating sound-design elements and weaving in recordings from the locations and the surrounding area. In the end it was a very collaborative process between us and production.

Have you been involved with creating music to accompany other mediums before?

The Dathanna EP – a soundtrack for Tourism Ireland, and the BFI funded film Gozo.

Are there any other soundtracks that have inspired you over the years?

The score to There Will Be Blood by Jonny Greenwood blew us away. It sounded like Planet Of The Apes in places and we now both want an Ondes Martinot (look it up!). John Williams' Close Encounters. Vangelis Blade Runner. When we lived in a lighthouse in Ireland (long story) at the beginning of Solomon Grey that was all we played. Other big inspirations are Clint Mansell's Moon score, the music for Animal Kingdom by Antony Partos and John Carpenter's Assault On Precinct 13. We also love Mica Levi's score for Under The Skin and a lot of Thomas Newman's work. We were really inspired by the recent Fargo TV series soundtrack as well.

Have you seen The Casual Vacancy in full yet? What did you think? 

More times than you can imagine and we are very proud of it and what Jonny and the team have created. A LOT of hard work went into it and we hope the depth and detail we got into shows and adds to the piece. Still can't quite believe we did it.

Do you have a favourite actor/actress from the series? There's a pretty hefty cast on board…

To be totally honest, when you get involved in it and are so close to the creation of the piece from the beginning you fall in love with everyone's performance along the way. You get to spend more time with everyone's character and you identify and enjoy all the little details that they have put into the part. It was a good one for that because the casting was basically perfect and because everyone put so much into it. Everything starts from good casting and they nailed it on this one.

If you could go back and soundtrack any film or TV series, what would you choose and why?

Well we both would have loved to have done 2001 or The Shining. Not that we could have done any better but at least on 2001 we could have tried to persuade Kubrick not to use Strauss as a guide track so he wouldn't have fallen in love with it and our score could have had a shot. Poor Alex North. Still an incredible score, and film though.

What can we expect to hear from you in 2015?

An album, hopefully around August and some more live shows. Fingers crossed we will get to work on another interesting project before the end of the year, but no rush. 

Selected Works is out now, grab your copy here.