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Interview: ‘Rosaline’ Composers Drum & Lace and Ian Hultquist

Ian Hultquist and Drum & Lace are the composers for the Hulu/Star romantic comedy film “Rosaline” which is available to stream now as a Hulu Original in the U.S., on Star+ in Latin America and on Disney+ under the Star banner in all other territories.

“Rosaline” is a fresh and comedic twist on Shakespeare’s classic love story “Romeo & Juliet,” told from the perspective of Juliet’s cousin Rosaline (Kaitlyn Dever), who also happens to be Romeo’s recent love interest. Heartbroken when Romeo (Kyle Allen) meets Juliet (Isabela Merced) and begins to pursue her, Rosaline schemes to foil the famous romance and win back her guy. Directed by Karen Maine (“Yes, God, Yes”), the film also stars Sean Teale (“Skins”), with Minnie Driver (“Speechless”) and Bradley Whitford (“The Handmaid’s Tale”). The screenplay is by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (“500 Days of Summer”), based on the novel “When You Were Mine” by Rebecca Serle.

Having worked previously on Dickinson, Ian and Sofia’s musical palette translated easily to “Rosaline.” While Dickinson was a more lush, traditional score, Rosaline’s sound can be described as “Baroque-Pop,” using antique renaissance instruments such as harp, harpsichord, lute, Baroque flutes and wooden recorders, and a petzoldt. The pair found a way to mix orchestral and synth instruments while staying true to the quintessential story of Shakespeare.

The score is comedic, contemporary, and fun, using as many live instruments as possible. Sofia’s vocals can also be heard within the score. The film uses cover songs diegetically, having the actors perform them on screen with a unique early-2000s influence.

Disney Plus Informer recently had the opportunity to chat with Drum & Lace and Ian Hultquist about composing the score for “Rosaline.”  Read on for our full interview below:

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today.  I just watched the film, Rosaline, which you both composed the music for and I absolutely loved it. Congratulations because the score is just beautiful.  Before we dive into Rosaline,  I was wondering if you could each tell us a bit about your musical background and what other projects you’ve worked on in the past.

Drum & Lace: So, I work as the name Drum & Lace.  I grew up in Italy, and was always sort of the music kid, whether it was in my school or amongst my friends. And the town is very small, and it’s not particularly very good when it comes to live music and music in general, but I started taking piano lessons when I was young and was encouraged by my grandmother…and that turned into trying to pick up different types of instruments and by high school, I was singing all around and I was at this small music academy. I was kind of very academic, too. So, when I came to choosing what I wanted to do after school, I applied to a bunch of universities and colleges that were not music related, and then I just happened to apply to Berkeley College of Music and I got in.  I was just like, you know, I really love music, It’s really what I love to do, and went to Berkeley.  When I was there, I sort of fell into film scoring, which was something that I’d never thought about as a viable career for various reasons. I don’t think technology was where it is now, and there certainly weren’t many women doing it back then.  So, just kind of fell into film scoring, and then took some detours, but just the idea of scoring to visuals and being inspired by film was kind of always there.  So, that’s sort of how I’ve ended up where I am.  A very simplified version of it.

Ian:  For me, I got into music really early on, like around fifth grade. I started playing saxophone and the school band and then when I was around 12 or 13 I got my first electric guitar and that really kind of sent me off on a path of constantly playing music with people, learning all the songs out there on the radio, and just kinda always wanting to be in a collaborative environment.  At the same time, I was always completely obsessed with movies.  I just was never necessarily making them. I was more just fascinated by how they existed.  And then, same with me, when it came time for college, I ended up at Berkeley College of Music.  It took me a couple of years to figure out film scoring was what I wanted to do. Actually, after I graduated, I didn’t go straight into it because I was in a band that was touring, and I really kind of put everything I had into that for a few years. Then around 2011, I started to figure out that scoring might be more of my long term path that I wanted to follow and fully just started from the bottom… asking anyone I knew if I could score their short film, local car commercial…anything just to kind of get me writing music. And thankfully people let me do it, and that kind of led to more opportunities down the line.  Now I’ve worked on films, like Animals starring and written by David Dastmalchian, Axl from Lakeshore, Assassination Nation, and the show One of Us is Lying on Peacock.

Let’s go back to Rosaline.  The score is so unique and described as Baroque-Pop which is so fitting.  How did you create something that fits according to that Rennaisance period but also feels very modern?

Ian: We kind of had the idea quickly on, like we wanted to try to swing for this, to make a Renaissance pop score but I think it took us a second to find the right footing. I think when we first got into it we were writing much bigger orchestral sounding pieces, and Karen Maine, our amazing director, would guide us back and be like no…let’s pair this back down a bit… and then we would end up with something close to like a string quintet, like only 5 string players, and once we kind of solidified that ,we started to really find our footing with it.

Drum& Lace:  But we also did have to find our footing super early on because we were brought into the movie while they were still filming because there’s some on camera music moments that they needed sort of settled to begin with.  So, we did have to come up with our Renaissance ensemble sooner than later.  The addition of the other instruments, such as synths, and strings, and what not… that sort of came, like Ian was saying, a little bit later… but one of the first things we were asked was to cover the pop songs, but also to choose what the band configuration was going to be like on stage at the party… so, that definitely got us to dive into the the creation and palette of the film immediately.

One of the things I noticed is that the score seemed to have this core sound or theme, but it almost takes on its own personality during different scenes in the film. So, sometimes it sounded angelic, and then you’d feel suspense and adventure, and almost comedic at times…What techniques do you use as composers to create that emotional connection with your audience?

Drum & Lace: That’s a great question. Also, that’s very astute of you to have picked up because I feel like when we were working on themes, it just felt like we kept working on another Rosaline theme, another Rosaline theme… But essentially what ended up happening is that it’s Rosaline as she interacts with someone else or something else. So, the sound of the score overall is very cohesive, which kind of happened not by accident, but just by coincidence.  It’s like Rosaline’s scheming theme, or like as you said, Rosaline’s comedy theme which happens a lot with Juliet… or like Rosaline and Dario’s theme.

Ian: Early on, we started writing these initial themes and even though we knew what we wanted to do, it also takes a while to find the right way to approach it, like something as simple as the croquet scene… which is just like a minute and a half comedy scene… took multiple attempts to really find the right voice for it.  So, I think it’s just how to approach the initial idea, but always finding the right path to it. And it’s always a bit of a journey to get there.

How did you prepare for the project?  Was there any kind of research involved beforehand and were there any inspirations you used to develop the score?

Ian:  A lot of the inspirations were more like the vibe of certain films. We had a lot of conversations with Karen about early 2000’s rom-coms like Can’t Hardly Wait, 10 Things I Hate About You, She’s All That... We wanted to try and capture whatever energy they had in those films and bring it into this world, because we feel like it’s been a little bit since we’ve seen that in a comedy. As far as musically, I think the only research we did was when they asked us to do those songs we quickly were like…Okay, what are Renaissance instruments? What’s still available today?  What can actually play fast notes that would work in a pop arrangement?

Drum & Lace:  And what could we get and who exists as a player that can play these for our live sessions.

Ian:  And then, after that, I think it was just a lot of experimentation of trying up these themes and seeing what actually stuck to picture and what didn’t.

So, how does the collaboration process work with two composers?  Do you bounce ideas off each other and did you always have the same vision for the sound?

Drum & Lace:  Yeah, Ian and I have been working together for a very long time.  We met in college and we started kind of collaborating on short films and playing on each other’s scores when we were right out of college. And then, we had kind of like a side project band together…so, we’ve sort of been working together for so long that it all comes very naturally. When it comes to scoring and a project like Rosaline, we were just always watching the same thing at the same time, we are in the studio at the same time, and somebody will have an idea and we’ll start the cue, or we’ll start writing a specific theme, and then the other person comes in and adds a little bit, and then it kind of goes back and forth like that. and I feel like we were both very inspired..not necessarily in different ways but I really think that the score reflects both of our musical personalities in a really great way.  There’s themes such as the horse escape one, where it feels like a great coming together of our styles.  So yeah, we do everything together all the time.

What would you consider the biggest challenge when composing the score for this film?

Ian: First, I think finding the right band arrangement, basically getting the right sound, making sure we weren’t going too big and too outside of Karen’s vision.  And then secondly, a lot of the comedy scenes were really difficult.  Sophie and I always say whenever anyone asks us that comedy is one of the hardest things we find to score, even though we do it a lot… just because it’s hard to do it well.  It’s very easy to have comedy music fall flat, or just kind of be even more silly than it needs to be.  And I think we always find if comedy on screen is really good, it doesn’t necessarily need music.  So I think, finding the right way to approach those is always a challenge.  And this film was no different.

What is the most important element to you when creating a piece of music?

Ian:  I guess for me, it’s just that we’re serving the film the right way, that the music that we’re writing is doing what it’s supposed to on screen and it’s not stepping on toes as far as dialogue or getting in the way of the story. It should feel like the right fit for what’s happening.

Drum & Lace:  Yeah, and always supporting the visual and the overall vision of the director. Exactly what Ian said

Do you have any advice for aspiring composers?

Drum & Lace: Yeah honestly, I say this all the time, just be nice.  Be a nice person, and be open to other people’s thoughts and ideas.  And also, don’t have an ego because even this project, even the best project, even the smoothest project, you always have to remember that you were brought in to amplify and to expand on someone else’s vision.  And chances are they’ve been working on this film for years before you even get brought in.  So, it’s just really important to stay humble and to always be grateful too. It’s amazing how much a thank you, or a note of kindness can go such a long way in this industry, just because everyone works so hard. Very often people just don’t have the time to stop, and another big advice is always follow up cause I feel that’s something early on even that we didn’t used to do. If you have a meeting, or if you meet someone,  just follow up because it’s just good to show that your interested.

Ian:  Yeah, I agree with everything that Sophie said. Also, show that you have drive and ambition, but without being overwhelming to another person.  Also, have confidence in yourself, but you don’t want to come off too overly confident. We’ve seen composers who really need a confidence boost which is fine but then we see some people who just seem like they know everything.  So I think, just really being humble about how you approach people.

Drum & Lace:  And also have a sound. Don’t try to sound like someone else because that person’s already doing a really good job. So, try to develop your own sound because that’s what’s worked for us.  That’s kind of what’s worked for us to just kind of do what we do best. And thankfully people have been resonating with it.

Finally, if someone wants to follow you or your work, how can they do that?  Do you have a website or can you be found on social media?

Drum & Lace:  Yeah, I think we’re both pretty good on social media.  I’m @DrumandLace on Twitter and Instagram, and I’m pretty active on both.  I also have a Youtube, where I have some music videos but also live improvisations and some techie videos, and that’s just searching for Drum & Lace on Youtube.  And then I also have a website but it’s not as much fun as a social media.  And obviously on Spotify and all of the music platforms as well.

Ian:  Yeah, same for me. You can find me @ihultquist on Instagram and Twitter and then all my music is on all the multiple music streaming platforms.

The soundtrack album for “Rosaline” is available now on several platforms including Amazon and Spotify.

The producers of “Rosaline” are Shawn Levy, Dan Cohen and Dan Levine, with Kaitlyn Dever, Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber, Whitney Brown, Emily Morris and Becca Edelman serving as executive producers.

You can watch a trailer for the film below:

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