Published Feb 28, 2020BADBADNOTGOOD have moved a long way away from their hip-hop-covering, viral fame-accruing early days, and they're about to keep pushing things further. While the acclaimed jazz-hop troupe have maintained a slow but steady drip of collaborations and live shows in the four years since putting out IV, they are on the precipice of a new era and flurry of activity, including a forthcoming fifth album.
First up is the score to Canadian thriller film Disappearance at Clifton Hill, out today, composed by two-thirds of the band, drummer Alexander Sowinski and saxophonist Leland Whitty (bassist Chester Hansen was living in California at the time). Speaking with Exclaim! about their first foray into film scoring, Sowinski and Whitty discuss at length the lessons learned from the experience and how it's influencing their band's new material.
"The film feels like it doesn't have a specific time or era that it's from, and from that there's all these elements of nostalgic jazz music or saxophone-based stuff that came to mind for me, at least," says Whitty. "You don't really know when this film's set because there's nothing really dictating that at any point. Giving some sort of old-school sound in regard to synths and woodwinds and stuff, but having a modern approach to the production suited the vibe of the film." Adds Sowinski, "It's not a jazz score, it's very drone-y, heavy mood, really slow or heavy and frightening. I feel like there's a lot of cool elements in composition that I really felt I had a good time exploring."
The dissonant score serves as a fitting companion to director Albert Shin's tense thriller, which follows a young woman (Tuppence Middleton) as she attempts to solve the mystery of a kidnapping she witnessed as a child, and also works on its own — the duo have self-released the score on streaming services today — and as the starting point for the next stage in the evolution of BADBADNOTGOOD. Things were already changing when founding member Matthew Tavares left the group (though he's not fully outside the fold — he and Whitty are releasing their collaborative album Visions on March 20), and the group are evolving further as they write and record their forthcoming fifth album, tentatively due "this year," according to Whitty. The band's next record will find the band returning to their live recording, off-the-floor roots, along with being mindful of a "live film element" planned for their upcoming shows.
"We're approaching it almost like live scoring, visual and audio, and I think the experience of recording Clifton Hill has really helped in terms of understanding the ways that music and visuals can work together, in more of a cinema sense," says Sowinski. "There's actually been a weird transition from just scoring a film to now trying to create something of our own."
Each and every BADBADNOTGOOD release has found the band pushing their artistry further — 2014 breakthrough III was the first to feature all original material and IV, released in 2016, was the first with Whitty as a full-fledged member of the band, and included high-profile collaborations with Colin Stetson, Kaytranada and Charlotte Day Wilson — and this new one appears to be no different. While details on the upcoming new album are scarce, Sowinski and Whitty are excited to discuss their new, visual-minded approach to conceiving new material.
"Now there's a lot more to dream about and think about and feel," says Sowinski. "You can think about the song being played live, maybe think about a visual element working with it and how those things pair and can create a more impactful experience for someone listening and watching."
While the pair were tight-lipped about the specifics of the new live show, they went into detail about how it's been impacting their new material. "We were recording live with the band recently and that's been the primary measure of it: All live performance, working out the songs and understanding them and doing the style instead of using the computer as a tool to make the music happen," says Sowinski. "It's been a lot more about using ourselves as the foundation and getting away from the quick editing and things like that, and just really focusing on our performance and feeling and understanding what we're trying to create. More sensibility from the experience we've had, as we experience life and performing and touring and making music."
He adds, "I feel like a lot of our music has often been paired with visual elements, that's been an inspiration on all of us on an individual level but never this whole package together."
Listen to Disappearance at Clifton Hill (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) by Alexander Sowinski and Leland Whitty below. Disappearance at Clifton Hill is in theatres now via Elevation Pictures.