BEAK> on scoring Couple in a Hole

Bristolian krautrock disciples BEAK> provided a menacing and evocative score for the Pyrenees-set drama. Ahead of its screening at Restless Natives, Geoff Barrow and Billy Fuller tell us how they handled the task

Feature by Graeme Campbell | 03 May 2016

What stage was the film at when BEAK> initially got involved?

GB: It was at the script stage about two years ago. We’re assigned to Kobalt as a publisher and there’s this lady called Corinne who we work with there. The director, Tom Geens, had done some work for a charity that used their music. She then sent our album to him and he really liked it. As soon as he sent us the script we could tell it was going to be a really good one.

What was your initial take on it?

BF: Well, the film’s more about the human condition, isn’t it. It strikes a chord in that way. It seemed unusual and simple, which is a bit like our music. You could read the script and imagine how it was going to go down.

There are times during the film where the forest can appear really quite beautiful, then there are other points where it’s a far more foreboding landscape. Your music certainly helped evoke those moods...

GB: We thought of their dehydration and malnourishment, and tried to capture that sort of woozy state. Being out in the woods alone, not knowing your future would send you crazy. We didn’t want to make beautiful music in a traditional sense.

Geoff, this isn’t the first soundtrack you’ve worked on having scored Alex Garland's Ex Machina last year – a blockbuster in comparison. How much did working on this differ from that experience?

GB: When we sat down with this we were only ever going to sound like BEAK>. With a commercial film, on the other hand, it’s very difficult because people expect you to be able to do anything from kodo drums, to dulcimers and electronic; they come to you expecting a certain kind of score, even if you aren’t that type of band. With this we were just like 'You’re getting BEAK> whether you like it or not!' The process was just a lot freer.

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Like that score, this is predominantly non-orchestral. Can you picture yourselves ever embracing that more traditional approach? 

BF: The end of Couple in a Hole featured the one track where we'd done some overdubs and built up double bass and synths to give it more of an orchestral feel. The beauty of BEAK> has always been that it’s a three-piece trying to make a lot out of a little.

Soundtracks in general seem to have become particularly resonant as an underground art form again. Why do you think this is?

GB: You look at some of the films that are out now and there seems to be a movement towards this new wave of British psychedelic cinema. It’s really interesting and there’s music with it as well; whether it be Blanck Mass or Mogwai. I think people are genuinely interested in it. I think it’s just a matter of time before someone puts the whole film/music thing together as a more complete live experience. You can already see that starting to happen.

Join Geoff and Billy for BEAK>'s screening of Couple in a Hole at the Winter Gardens' Glasshouse, Glasgow on 13 May (to be seated for 7.30pm)