Singer/Songwriter Sean Spillane
Indie music veteran Sean Spillane best know from his time in Arlo most recently took to the screen providing the soundtrack to the horror film The Woman (Jack Ketchum, Lucky McKee). His music has a feeling of gritty honesty that is rare in the industry today. I was honored to have the chance to sit down with him to catch up with him on the latest in his career.
Can you tell us a little about your background? Where are you from? What where you like as a child?
Well, I grew up in Houston, TX, played violin from 5 years old until I was 12 and thanks to my friend Barney and his older sibling’s record collection got a wide ranging education on classic 60′s and 70′s rock n’ roll. We started playing music in high school and then I went to college at USC in Los Angeles and started another band that went on to put out a couple records on Subpop and did a lot of touring.
How do you think your earliest influences affected who you are now?
My earliest influences mainly came from Film and TV. I was part of that lucky generation that got to see Star Wars when it first came out. Sesame Street and Bugs Bunny cartoons were huge as well. Musically, all three of those examples were sophisticated but had simple melodies I would hum, whistle or sing over and over all day long. When I was 6, we got cable TV and MTV introduced me to the Rolling Stones. I asked my parents to buy me “Tattoo You”, which is still my favorite Rolling Stones album. Later I got into The Beach Boys, The Cult, and Van Halen.
I think the simple, catchy and above all, honest melody has always been my favorite part of appreciating, writing, and playing music, but I like it to be delivered with a fair amount of grit, distortion and attitude, like the Stones. I hope some of that comes through in the music I create as an adult.
What genre would you say you are?
I’d say I’m a rock guy. But I suppose alternative would be more appropriate since my style is always changing.
Are there any interesting facts about yourself that you’d not mind sharing?
Interesting facts… I put my right hand through a glass shower door when I was 12 and severely injured it. It looks normal except for some scars but it has limited my ability to play intricate technical pieces of music. Therefore, musically, I always look for the simplest way to play a melody and still get my point across. It keeps me from getting too complex and losing the emotional quality of a song or piece of score. Another interesting fact… I like sports.
What was it like to provide the soundtrack for The Woman? Are you a fan of Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee’s work?
Doing the soundtrack for “The Woman” was one of the best experiences of my life! Lucky didn’t want score, he wanted songs and he wanted me out in Massachusetts while they were filming in order to pick up on the vibe of the shoot and the subject matter. I think it worked. Not only was it inspiring as a location and an experience, but I found in Lucky, someone who has the same deep passion for creating uncompromised art that will hopefully last. He was the captain of the entire creative process, and was able to articulate every aspect of the themes and colors of the story and the characters. Jack Ketchum was also out there during filming and it was an extreme privilege to get to learn about his craft and background as an artist through many conversations, on the porch of Bob K’s house in Turners Falls, MA. I am obviously a fan of both Lucky and Jack and have immense respect for both of them as writers and human beings. I hope to work with them anytime they want to do anything. Another great aspect of being on location, was becoming friends with Andrew Smetek, the sound designer, and Zach Passero, the editor. I’ve learned valuable information about the sound and editing aspects of film and how it relates to the music. We, including Lucky, became a great team…or a band as we like to call it.
In the film the music provides soothing sounds during some rather horrific on screen moments in a most delightful way. How do you feel about that?
I love the way the music fits into the “The Woman”. It was such a risk, but a risk worth taking. The images on screen just seem to accept the soothing music amid the chaos and what you get is a more unique emotional experience rather than what we’ve seen many times before. Lucky said we were gonna mess with people’s heads and I think we accomplished that.
Has your work gained more notice as a result of your involvement in the movie?
Yes, I have a lot more facebook friends than before and I’m excited that many of them are from outside the USA. Also, this was the first thing I’ve released as a composer or solo artist. Before I was always part of a band, and it’s cool that people have responded well to the material.
Why do you think people enjoy such darkly horrific films, novels, and such?
Not everybody does… my friend, Nathan Jenkins who mixed the soundtrack, is fearless about everything, but can’t watch horror. I like a lot of it but not all. For me, I need to care about the characters. If I don’t care about them…I won’t care if they are being hacked to pieces. It’s hard for me to speculate why others find it so satisfying. I do feel that horror gives film makers a chance to experiment and tamper with some primitive human instincts and that can be very entertaining when done well.
Are you yourself a fan of the horror genre? Who do you consider to be some of the best in the field?
I like some horror, but not everything. My favorite horror flick is John Carpenter’s “The Thing”. Like I said before, I enjoy anything with good characters. Oh yeah, I’ve always really loved “The Exorcist part 3″. Watch that one really loud…the sound design is amazing. I saw it in the theater when I was 16. My date tried to run out but I convinced her to stay. I had trouble sleeping for a night or two. People are often puzzled when I say that’s one of my favorites.
Do you remember you first favorite scary flick?
The first scary flicks I ever saw were at a slumber party. “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, and “The Thing” both in one night. None of us slept.
As an independent artist what are your feelings on the current state of the music industry?
As an indie artist I think it’s great that you don’t really need a record label to get your music out there, but it’s still tough to reach people on a large scale. I’m a little saddened that people generally treat music as a commodity rather than art and that many still don’t feel that they should pay for it. But, that’s the way it is for now. I think the entire entertainment industry is in the midst of tremendous upheaval and things won’t settle down for a least 5 more years. The way we watch films and TV and the way we listen to music have changed so much recently that everyone is just trying to keep up. I think we’re going in the right direction, as long as the artists who create these things are being fairly compensated. Most of us aren’t greedy we just want to be middle class comfortable, I think.
What advice would you give other independent artists out there?
My advice is to keep going. If you can’t help but make something, just do it and put it out there. You never know where something you create can take you once you put it out into the universe.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m currently doing the music for Chad Kinkle’s “Jug Face” which just finished shooting. It was produced by Andrew van den Houten who also produced “The Woman”. Andrew is a great guy and great producer who gets the funding together so we can continue to do what we love.
What are you feelings on life after death and all that?
As death goes, I don’t really think about it very often. I guess I hope the energy that makes up our souls or spark goes somewhere else in the universe and become part of a star or something. Or maybe it we just sleep forever after.
If you could pick your last words what do you think they would be?