Interview : Kubilay Üner, composer of the "For lovers only" soundtrack.
Pour lire cette interview en français, cliquez ici.
Films de Lover : Since there is nothing about you on the French internet, I'll start this interview with just a simple question: Who are you, Kubilay Uner?
Kubilay Üner : Well, I'm a composer and producer of music - as adventurous, eclectic and colorful as I can make it! I make music for all kinds of media - I have written for for film, TV, live performances and records. I was born and raised in Munich in Germany, but I also lived in Canada and in Brazil in my youth. My mother is German and my father was Turkish, that's where my name comes from. Ever since I was a kid I have been very serious about making music. After graduating from a music-focused high school in Munich I studied composition, first in Cologne in Germany, and then at CalArts in Los Angeles. Once I came to CalArts I fell in love with LA and decided to stay. Now I can't imagine living anywhere else, I love this city.
Films de Lover : How did you come to work on "For Lovers Only"?
K. Ü. : I have always been a big fan of the Polish brother's films. Mike and I both studied at CalArts around the same time, and I remember seeing him and Mark around campus, but we really didn't know each other. In 2006 I reached out to Mike to ask him to be a filmmaker judge on "Film2Music", a film competition I was putting together then. In this competition I invited filmmakers from all over the world to create a film to a track from my instrumental CD "Cinematic". Ninety-four films were submitted, and the winners and highlights were screened at the 2007 Sundance Film festival.
After Film2music Mike and Mark asked me to write the music for their film "Stay Cool". So by the time they made "For Lovers Only" we already had a great creative relationship, and I guess that's why they called and offered me the score.
"Les amoureux sur la plage" from Kubilay Üner - "For lovers only".
Films de Lover : How close were the Polish brothers during the scoring process? Did they have a clear idea of what they wanted or did they let you experiment? Did you visit the team during the shooting?
K. Ü. : Mike and Mark are the best collaborators any composer could hope for. I love working with them, and we worked very closely together. They have a very clear vision what the music should feel like in a given scene, but are always open-minded in regards to what it should sound like. So I did experiment a lot, especially in the beginning of the process - I picked a scene that I felt really distilled the relationship between the two main characters, and wrote four different sketches.
I wanted this score to be very tight and thematic, so I really needed to get the "original blueprint" right. They absolutely loved the fourth sketch, and that became the musical road map for the whole score. Unfortunately I did not visit the shoot. I love visiting shoots, but they were already back in the US and well into editing by the time I came on board.
Films de Lover : The film is an homage to the French new wave. Did you try to replicate that in the score or not?
K. Ü. : Not so much replicate, but pay homage. Of course, with all the strong stylistic references in the film to the French new wave, it was clear there had to be a strong connection to that era in the music as well, so that kind of music became the main source of inspiration for all my drafts. The film uses elements of the French new wave, but in the context of a new and contemporary story. I tried to do the same in the music.
So, many of the sounds and instruments I used, as well as the general musical 'attitude', are inspired by the scores of the French films of that era. But I then definitely wanted to make this musical approach its own, new thing, and I wanted to be sure that the score still sounds 'of today', like the story.
Films de Lover : The Polish brothers told us that you based a theme from the film on a piece of music you composed when you proposed to your wife. Is that true ?
K. Ü. : Yes! In fact it is the main and only theme, and it is in almost every cue. After my third draft for the 'blueprint', the brothers still weren't quite happy. They said something like "we're still not feeling the depth of their love". So I decided I had to change my approach. Instead of writing yet another piece from scratch, I went through my old sketches. I have sketchbooks and binders with hundreds of musical ideas that I write down as they come to me, precisely for such occasions.
And I found this melody for a song that I wrote for my wife Jen, one week or so before I proposed to her - at that time I of course already knew I was going to ask her. I thought, well, this melody should work, love doesn't get any deeper. Jen and I have been married for over fifteen years now, and are as much in love now as we were when we got married. So I wrote a sketch based on that melody and sent it to the brothers without telling them anything about its history. They immediately replied that they loved, loved, loved it! So there's obviously some extra magic in those notes.
Films de Lover : According to your website, you've surrounded yourself by a trumpet player, a violinist and a cello player. Is that the whole scoring band? Do you prefer working with a handful of people rather than, I don't know, orchestras?
K. Ü. : That's the band just for this score, it's completely different for every film. Every score I write comes directly out of the film it is written for - the film tells me what the music needs to sound like, and what kind of ensemble needs to play it. So I don't really have preferences, but the films do.
"For Lovers Only" is an intimate, very romantic road movie, incredibly focused on two characters who are pretty much in every frame of the film. And the style of the film is very "new wave", it's close, personal, raw, "improvisatory". So the ensemble used for the score had to fit this feeling.
The trumpet, played by an extremely talented young player, Daniel Rosenboom, is really the main voice of this score. The trumpet is great for this film because it works both as an homage to the 1960s, when there were more solo trumpets in film scores than there are today, and because the trumpet is incredibly raw and emotional when you record it close. The cello and the violin are only featured in the end title, but they have a big impact there, because the feel of the score changes very much, almost to a 'silent film' approach. It still uses the main theme, though.
The violin was played by Lili Haydn, and the cello by Derek Joseph Stein, both very wonderful artists with unique voices. I played the other instruments - piano, bass, guitar, melodica, keyboards and drums. Mostly because I love to play and get my hands dirty as much as possible, but of course I also had to make the budget work. It's all part of being an artist - work with what you have available, and turn that into something moving, or exciting, or delightful!
"Cache-cache" from Kubilay Üner - "For lovers only".
Films de Lover : What are your next projects? Are you going to keep scoring films?
K. Ü. : Most definitely! "For Lovers Only" was I think my twelfth feature film score, and I don't plan on stopping. I am waiting for two films to get ready, one is a documentary about one of my favorite filmmakers of all time, and the other a beautiful, dark drama, but at this point I can't give any more details in public.
I also continue to write music outside of film - I'm currently writing a concert piece based on a Turkish melody for the Unterbiberger Hofmusik, an amazing ensemble in Munich blending traditional Bavarian music with other influences, and I'm working on two new albums of my own. One is the follow-up to "Cinematic", and the other is a concept album based on a book. Again, I can't tell you too much at this point, but there will be news on my website at kubilayuner.com when the time comes.
Films de Lover : Last question, the traditional one on our website : if you had to pick one romantic film for an evening with your special one, which one would it be and why?
K. Ü. : That is easy. Jen and I have a film that we always come back to, by now we have watched it at least two dozen times: "LA Story" by Steve Martin. It's a silly comedy, but it is also a warm love story, and more importantly, it is a love story that is very specific to Los Angeles. So we feel it is our own film, since we found each other here and we love this place.
Thanks a lot Kubilay for this interview !
Interview carried out by e-mail by Frédéric R.
The soundtrack for "For Lovers Only" should be available soon on iTunes.
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