Composer Drum & Lace, Sofia degli Alessandri-Hultquist, Discusses Her Work On COBWEB And RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE
Drum & Lace, aka Sofia degli Alessandri-Hultquist, is an artist and composer from Florence, Italy. Her music has been described as being genre-fluid and having a “chameleon-like nature” (A Closer Listen), melding together sampled field recordings, lush layers of synths, chamber instruments and electronic beats. She draws inspiration from film music, music concrete and nature to create textural electronica, often blending unlikely sounds with one another.
Her feature-length film scoring credits include Netflix film “Night Teeth” (directed by Adam Randall), campy-thriller “Deadly Illusions” (directed by Anna Elizabeth James, Netflix), THEY/THEM (directed by John Logan) and the just released RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE. Television credits include AppleTV+ Original Series Dickinson (created by Alena Smith), seasons 3 and 4 of NBC Good Girls (created by Jenna Bans & Bill Krebs) and I Know What You Did Last Summer (created by Sara Goodman) for Amazon Prime Video.
Sofia recently discussed with WAMG her terrifying and thrilling score for Lionsgate’s COBWEB, how music and legendary film scores have played a big part of her career, and how she went about scoring for a film that goes deep into the “horror land of things.”
Eight-year-old Peter is plagued by a mysterious, constant tap, tap from inside his bedroom wall – a tapping that his parents insist is all in his imagination. As Peter’s fear intensifies, he believes that his parents (Lizzy Caplan and Antony Starr) could be hiding a terrible, dangerous secret and questions their trust. And for a child, what could be more frightening than that? The film is from writer Chris Thomas Devlin (TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE), producers Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen and directed by Samuel Bodin.
COBWEB is streaming now and will screen August 26 at FrightFest.
WAMG: I’m so glad to speak with you Sofia. I saw the film on opening weekend and oh my goodness.
Sofia/Drum & Lace: Thank you.
WAMG: It’s really scary and I’m so glad that the trailer and the clips don’t give anything away.
Sofia/Drum & Lace: Yeah, that was a really, like I mean, I had nothing to do with the trailers, but yeah, I’m so glad that they really played into the whole first half of it. But yeah, the last half, last third, nobody knows that’s coming.
WAMG: Before we get into the film, I want to back up quite a bit and I want to start off with how the name Drum and Lace came about.
Sofia/Drum & Lace: Oh, my goodness. So, I, at the time, was living in New York City. I was recently out of grad school, and I was working for this sort of up-and-coming music marketing, music composition company. And I decided to leave because I finally felt comfortable enough to sort of go off on my own.
And at the time, the plan was to start scoring, doing things for fashion, and subsequently try to do film and TV. And then I was like, well, I need to come up with a name. And it was so hard that I think day after day I just kept scribbling down names and they were just so serious. And then I think I just wrote down Drum & Lace, it’s a play on drum and bass, and it was a style of music that I used to listen to when I was growing up. And I was like, oh, well, that’s kind of clever. And I was like, it kind of works and ties in with fashion stuff, so that’s kind of how it came about. That was ten years ago.
WAMG: Who are the influences on you as an artist, as a composer?
Sofia/Drum & Lace: I have a lot of influences that aren’t necessarily scoring related, I guess musically, I would say obviously Bjork and Radiohead. Definitely Aphex Twin and Telefon Tel Aviv. There’s this kind of very specific sort of electronic current which has always been what I listen to and what I sort of take from, even from my scores in terms of scoring.
I mean, when I was growing up, I feel like I always struggled to find composers that I really sort of related to. The one composer that I’m a huge fan of is Thomas Newman because the way that his music has moved me, literally, Finding Nemo, and I say this all the time, Finding Nemo is it gets me every time the low strings come in for Nemo, it’s so good. I would say those are sort of my references mean, I could just keep going forever. But I think that that’s a good sort of mixture of composers that I sort of look up to.
WAMG: I was reading Indiewire’s interview with the director of Cobweb, Samuel Bodin. And I had previously seen, before I knew this movie was coming up, the Netflix series Marianne.
I read it and thought, oh, my gosh, he’s doing this movie. This is great. And in the interview for Cobweb, he talked about American culture and not really knowing, as he called it, the reality of Halloween in the US. But he really did know about pumpkin patches and little kids in costumes and all of it. But your score and the music cues, the soundtrack, which I’ve been listening to over the weekend when the whole score dropped on YouTube and Spotify.
Your track titles are called “It’s Halloween” and “Pumpkin Patch” and “Cinnamon”. Your score so made me not like Halloween anymore because it’s so eerie. What did you discuss with him to where he said, “this is what I want it to sound like.” Because the strings the strings throughout it and these otherworldly eerie noises create an ominous mood.
Sofia/Drum & Lace: The process of working on this film was pretty long. I was brought on very early, before they shot, just because there used to be some on camera moments, so they needed music to be sort of ready when they were going to film. And Sam and I have talked about music ad nauseam because I think he’s such a horror lover and he has so many references, and he, I think, in his work, just wants to continue and sort of do the best that he can by the genre, but still honoring its themes. So, I think that there was a lot of conversation, especially in the first half, about it sounding more like a traditional score. So, we talked about traditional horror suspense scores.
We talked about John Carpenter movies, and we talked about Hitchcock movies and Bernard Hermann scores, Psycho and The Birds and something like that. And then another reference musically was created from M. Night Shyamalan’s “Lady in the Water” by James Newton Howard. There was this kind of history that he musically wanted to associate with the first part of the movie just because it had this kind of timeless fairy tale, dark fairy tale quality, and we had to get the sound right and also really not give anything away. That was the biggest thing. We couldn’t go too horror too soon.
So that was one of the biggest notes that even when we started scoring we thought, no, we’re getting too creepy too quickly. We have to wait. And it was hard for me because I was so ready to go there, so ready to go into the deep horror land of things, that it was kind of an exercise in restraint for me to be like, oh, but we’re still kind of in this mode which is sort of ambiguous. You don’t really know what’s happening. And the family is so strange. And I really do think as much as he doesn’t have firsthand account of what Halloween is like and it’s the same for me. I’m having Halloween experiences as I’m getting to see it for the first time now that I have a daughter and I’m not even in the US anymore. But I do think that his sort of idea of what Halloween is as a foreigner helps to make the film and the sound of the film even stranger because he didn’t want to fall into the tropes of Halloween, to kind of make it his own.
Woody Norman as Peter and Antony Starr as Mark in the Horror/Thriller film,
COBWEB , a Lionsgate release. Photo courtesy of Vlad Cioplea
Those are the conversations for the first half and for the second half, he was so open to just letting me do whatever. And the only note from him was, we need to go bigger, and we need to go bigger, we need to go bigger. And you’ve seen the film. Now, there are some moments that I’m like, I literally cannot get any louder. It’s still strict and there’s so many other elements, like the more guttural elements that you mentioned. One of them is manipulated, so they sound very throaty. Some of it is my singing into the microphones and distorting and pitching down. There’s a lot of these sort of roars of different instruments and different things that are a cello of doing the same thing and provides the sort of eeriness too. But yeah, the strings really do a lot of work.
Listen here – https://ingrv.es/cobweb-mz4-g
WAMG: It’s really scary. It’s so eerie and as I was listening to it, and then when I went back and listened to it again, I was like, what did she do here? Is this instrument? Is it really strings? Is it just a lot of things, just regular objects just banging together. It’s just such a really rich mix of everything. To give it that sound, and it’s kind of a twisted Halloween. It’s Halloween, but it’s kind of a nightmarish Halloween.
But one of your outstanding good cues is the vocals on “The Girl” track. Because when you finally find out what the twist is in the reveal and you’re listening to this eerie, what sounds like a young girl with the vocals, how did you go about saying, this is where I put this in?
Sofia/Drum & Lace: The vocal stuff is some of the first demos that I ever sent Sam. And it was electric piano pieces and then the melody for the girl. And then there’s another one that shows up. I believe in “Carving pumpkins” or “Muffins for my Muffin”. Or there’s another couple of cues that have vocals.
And those two melodies, I literally sang into my phone the first time I resent them afterwards. But it was one of those I was so in the zone having read the script, and it’s just like the first thing that came out. And I think that we really wanted to play into the innocence and really wanted to play into this sort of like, what’s purer and more innocent than a single vocal minor melody?
My original idea was that I was going to take that and orchestrate it and then I think it was the editor, the film editor or the music editor, had placed in just the vocals, go a couple of places and we were like, oh, this works great like this. And most of them are very sort of like takes that I did not expect to be final takes. They were just kind of like to get the ideas down. And that they possess such a quality to them, so breathy and so whatever. And I was like, I don’t know what I was doing when I was singing these.
WAMG: You have composed for various different genres, but you also did the score for the documentary “First Monday in May. “ Do you approach it the same way because you’re trying to facilitate the story of the director? Or do you go, okay, got to switch gears from documentary or feature film and vice versa?
Sofia/Drum & Lace: I think ultimately the inspiration comes from the same place. And I think, as you said, it is just a matter of supporting pictures. I do think there’s genres that I prefer to do. And I have been enjoying myself a lot, like doing horror. I mean, I really think Cobweb might be my favorite score that I’ve ever worked on because I think it really just kind of fulfilled so many different things that I’ve been wanting to do.
But ultimately, I think if the story and if the film makes me feel in a certain way, then I’m happy to work on it. And the thought process, it all comes from just trying to serve picture. Of course, then figuring out the palette is a whole different thing. And working in documentary, for example, is so much more music and there’s so many limitations because a lot of time it’s underneath dialogue, whereas in horror, for example, it’s like you’re helping support picture, but you’re doing it in such an extra way because you’re also then supporting and anticipating scares and fights and suspense. So, I mean, I’d say it comes from the same place, but there’s definitely things that I prefer to do.
WAMG: I’ve only spoken with probably a handful of women composers. What’s it like to be a woman composer and what do you want to see happen in the industry?
Sofia/Drum & Lace: Even since I have started to compose for film, I think I’ve been seeing a shift. And I think the industry as a whole is trying to incorporate more diverse voices, whether it’s women or people of color or anyone that just hasn’t had a fit of status quo before. And I think what I would love to see is really I think people like women coaches, for example. We’re not asking to be given jobs because we’re women.
It’s literally this conversation about trying to just be allowed to be in the room, to be considered. So, it’s about leveling the playing field so that it’s like, we can be up for projects. And I’m 100% for the right composer for the right project. And that’s so subjective. But I think for so many years, people of color and women were sort of left outside of this glass house where it’s like you can see what’s happening, but you’re just not in the room.
I think through a lot of kind of groundbreaking and glass ceiling breaking, women that have come before me, they’ve sort of allowed for a lot more of us to be in the room and then to be up for bigger projects. And, I mean, being a woman, I try not to think about it just because I do really believe that it’s like, the right person for the right project. Of course, there’s times when I think that on the filmmaker side or on studio side, I feel like sometimes people do get lazy and it’s easy and I get it. It’s safe to hire people that you know will get the job done for a myriad of reasons. But I do think that it’s an exciting time for anyone who wants to try to be a composer and maybe not in this moment, with everything going on in Hollywood but in general, I think there’s a lot more opportunities for different types of people and I hope that it continues.
I really hope to see sort of in the next ten years women who are getting out of college or sort of like becoming adults that get into the field because that’s really where people were sort of shut off, was sort of like at the beginning phase.
WAMG: I love film scores. Since I was little, my mom would listen to her records, and they would be film scores. And I love to speak with new composers. I spoke with Transformers Rise of the Beast composer Jongnic Bontemps, who is the first person of color is doing a Transformers movie.
This is a historical thing for a movie and for the franchise. And then I was thrilled to see that you were doing Cobweb and you composed the score for it, so I totally agree with what you’re saying.
Does your schedule permit you to perform live? I read on your website you do concerts.
Sofia/Drum & Lace: I do when I’m not working on scores, I release music as well. In the past I’ve released a bunch of EPS and singles and then last year I put out my first full length record and now I’m currently working on my second full length.
But in between, I love performing. I feel like my first love is performance. And it’s fun because it’s a completely different type of release of energy and emotion. It’s really like during these hours I can just kind of be myself when I’m performing.
It’s always a nice challenge too because it’s really shifting gears. Scoring different types of film and TV is one thing, but then completely shifting and being like, okay, now I have to be socially front facing and put on a performer hat. But the best part about it is that the music that I release, that I write for myself, informs the films I end up scoring, if that makes sense. So, it’s like I’m able to express the genre that I like to work in and then as a result I can build a body of work that way. And then I get hired for things of talent that way. I don’t know. It’s been a nice sort of symbiotic relationship. And I get to test out a lot of stuff too. Like with my own records, I get to do things that I can’t do with scores. Often, it’s just another great outfit.
WAMG: Are you working on any movies right now?
Sofia/Drum & Lace: Well, I just finished working on another film, which is a completely different genre from Cobweb, but it’s a movie called Red, White and Royal Blue, and it is an LGBTQ romance. And it comes out August 11 on Prime Video. It’s an Amazon movie. Again, it’s a completely different genre, but it’s based on a book that is very successful and very popular. I’m hoping that a lot of people will see it and it’s a much more sort of like heartfelt score as opposed to obviously a horror one, but that’s coming out and then hopefully it’ll have a record out in 2024.
WAMG: This was a real pleasure getting to speak with you. I love COBWEB and your score just really elevated it and made it so much better.
Sofia/Drum & Lace: Thank you for watching the movie. Tell your friends. I feel like it has gone really under the radar, but I’m hoping people will get to see it.
Lakeshore Records is set to release Red, White & Royal Blue—Amazon Original Motion Picture Soundtrack digitally August 11 with an original score by Drum & Lace (AKA Sofia degli Alessandri-Hultquist). In addition, Lakeshore will release two singles from the project—the first available today, a version of the iconic ballad from Carousel “If I Loved You” performed by Vagabon (AKA Lætitia Tamko), and the second “Fruit (Red, White & Royal Blue Version)” by Oliver Sim who recorded the song with a full orchestra, on August 4. The Amazon Original directed by Matthew López (Some Like It Hot), streams exclusively and globally on Prime Video August 11.
Alex Claremont-Diaz (Taylor Zakhar Perez), the son of the President of the United States (Uma Thurman), and Britain’s Prince Henry (Nicholas Galitzine) have a lot in common: Stunning good looks, undeniable charisma, international popularity … and a total disdain for each other. Separated by an ocean, their long-running feud hasn’t really been an issue, until a disastrous—and very public—altercation at a royal event becomes tabloid fodder, driving a potential wedge in U.S./British relations at the worst possible time. Going into damage-control mode, their families and handlers force the two rivals into a staged “truce.” But as Alex and Henry’s icy relationship unexpectedly begins to thaw into a tentative friendship, the friction that existed between them sparks something deeper than they ever expected. Based on Casey McQuiston’s critically acclaimed New York Times best seller, Red, White & Royal Blue marks the screenplay co-writing and feature film directing debut of Tony Award-winning playwright Matthew López (The Inheritance). The screenplay is co-written by Ted Malawer and the film is produced by Greg Berlanti, p.g.a. and Sarah Schechter, p.g.a.
Vagabon notes: “Composing a rendition of “If I Loved You” for Red White and Royal Blue was a exercise in discovery. I wanted to preserve the melodic information that makes this song from the 1945 Rodgers & Hammerstein musical “Carousel” so special, while reimagining the instrumentation and arrangement. It was great to have the support and trust from Matthew Lopez and the entire team in this.”
Adds López: “Music has always been an important part of Red White & Royal Blue’s place in the world, and I knew that the movie would be no different. I’m excited to able to share these songs with the book’s fans and to bring the soundtrack to a global audience.”
Notes Drum & Lace: “With this score, I had a chance to really have the music lean into the emotional weight and importance of the story, as well as a chance to write thematically, giving each character their own sound and instrumentation. Working with Matthew Lopez (director) was a delight, his passion and dedication to the project and its story was incredible.”
Purchase / Stream “If I Loved You”: https://lnk.to/RWRB-iily
- If I Loved You – Vagabon
- Buckingham Palace
- Anxious Alex
- Press Day
- Soft Side
- Later Your Majesty
- Text Bants
- First Kiss
- Red Room
- Or I’ll Else I’ll Vanish
- In Good Hands
- Pillow Talk
- I’m Coming In
- Dear Henry
- Lost in a Moment
- Dive Deep
- Tell Me to Leave
- Runway Goodbyes
- Leaked Emails
- No Turning Back
- Election Night
- Openhearted Fearless and Alive
- We Won
- Fruit (Red, White & Royal Blue Version) – Oliver Sim