Drum & Lace on Composing the Haunting Score for Cobweb
Composer Drum & Lace (aka Sofia degli Alessandri-Hultquist) is renowned for her captivating musical creations. Her latest creation emerges in the form of a haunting score for Lionsgate’s horror film, Cobweb. The film was released in theaters on July 21st and delivers a bone-chilling cinematic experience, coupled with an original soundtrack from If This Then Records.
Cobweb unravels the frightful tale of an eight-year-old boy named Peter, as he embarks on a harrowing quest to uncover the enigmatic knocking noises echoing from within the walls of his house. Unbeknownst to him, his sinister parents harbor a dark secret, buried deep within their abode.
Inspired by the charm of Amblin-esque films, the film’s first half exudes a sense of tradition, albeit with a twisted essence. As the narrative progresses, Sofia’s music takes an exhilarating turn, transforming from a fairytale-like quality into a haunting and malevolent soundscape.
Drawing from her personal experiences as a parent, Sofia ingeniously incorporates unconventional percussive elements, sampled from her collection of “weird kid” percussion, to add an eerie touch to certain cues, further accentuating the horror fairy tale atmosphere.
We had an opportunity to ask Sofia a few questions about her creative prowess. Check it out below and be sure to check out Cobweb’s soundtrack here.
Can you start by telling us a bit about you?
I’m an Italian composer and artist, currently living in London after many years spent in the US (in LA last).
So, what about Cobweb lured you into working on the film?
I thought the script was absolutely exceptional. I was lucky in that I was brought onto the movie before anything had been shot, so the script and initial conversations with Samuel Bodin (director) were all I had to go off of. Sam’s dedication to the project and his vision for the film were so strong and passionate that I knew it was going to be a special project to be a part of.
Cobweb definitely brings a different type of ambience even in comparison to other horror films. How do you approach finding the right sound for a horror film to bring that auditory terror to viewers?
Cobweb is definitely a very interesting horror movie in that there needed to be a real shift in the score to reflect a change in tone in the film. It was definitely an interesting challenge to find a way of bridging this gap, and it felt like an exercise in restraint (until it didn’t).
The first half of the score is an ode to more traditional horror and Hollywood scores in that it’s more tonal, acoustic and features more melodic movement that you might be used to in a horror film. Samuel (director) and I spoke at length about creating a tone that was suspenseful and creepy like a dark fairy tale, rather than scary and dreadful from the start.
It was important to find the right palette to also support the characters from an emotional standpoint. Once the shift happens in the film, the score follows suit, and I was able to slowly introduce more elements that can be seen as more part of a traditional horror score.
This part of the score felt more easy on my end, to be honest, as I love working with string effects, electronics and manipulating drums, voice and anything else that makes interesting sounds. Being able to have the score evolve and change so much throughout the course of the film was definitely something really fun to approach.
Diving a bit into the technical part of composing music for a horror film. How do you approach developing the sound for these scenes? Is it something where you’re composing sounds for each character, or do you focus on the scenes/acts of the film instead? And how involved are other members of the production team in your compositions?
When it came to involvement, Samuel was really driving the conversation with me. The studio and producers were super supportive of our ideas and sort of let us do what we thought would work best for the film. There are some distinctive themes throughout the film, which are recurring and come back as characters and situations arise, and very often the composition process for these is very subconscious.
I try to first and foremost write what feels right for a specific scene and moment, and then often times that then ends up becoming a motif. What was interesting for this score is that the motifs and music for characters is constantly evolving, and the way I was able to express this was through introducing new elements as the score went on.
For example, the piano-like instruments and more sostenuto strings from the first part of the film, slowly get replaced by shorter and more dissonant strings and lower bells and percussion. In a way it’s as if the innocence of the beginning slowly devolves and degenerates into what the film ends with.
Was there anything different you did or anyone you collaborated with on this project to ramp up the intensity or sounds of your score?
In terms of anything different, I feel like I was really able to utilize a big arsenal of pedals and gear that often I don’t get to do. The genre and the story of the film lent themselves well to creating new sounds and using a bit of a heavier palette than I often get to use. Before starting to write the score, I also worked with two excellent musicians/composers- Ro Rowan on cello and Jon Natchez on sax. For both sessions,
I had them record various articulations and sounds, in different keys and tempos, and a lot of these sounds ended up in the score. Most of them were mangled and manipulated, but it was extremely helpful and beneficial to have these sounds recorded as I was building the palette of my score. Once the score was done, we also recorded with a 40 piece string orchestra in Macedonia called Fames Project, and their playing really helped ramp up the intensity of the score.
Could you share with us any challenges you came across with the score and also your favorite moment composing it?
As I lightly touched upon earlier, the biggest challenge was to not get to the horror bit of the score too soon, and not to give too much away with the score. It was the first time that I really consciously had to think about this aspect, and Samuel was great at helping make sure we kept the audience on its toes.
My favorite moment of composing for this was once we get to the final chapter, and I quite literally was able to just let loose with sounds, rhythms, electronics and the likes. It was great to get the notes “we need to go bigger!” as I’d never gotten this before. I particularly enjoyed scoring scenes that were very closely tied to scare/tension moments on screen, such as a dream sequence and a break-in sequence.
You’ve composed quite a few projects that fall into other genres with Rosaline and Red, White, and Blue being comedies and then also composing another horror film in They/Them. Do you have a favorite genre to work on?
That’s a great question as I have absolutely scored a wide variety of things. Ultimately, it comes down to the story and whether I think I could be a good fit sonically. I do have to say that I have been greatly enjoying working within the horror genre, and find that my musical skills are quite well suited for the genre. So right now it would be amazing to get to explore this darker sound a bit more.
What can fans expect to see from you in the future? Also, any social media handles you’d like to plug?!
So I have ‘Red, White & Royal Blue’ also coming out soon on Prime (August 11th) which is exciting since the book and film have such a huge fan base. I’m also currently working on my second record, and it’s been going really well. Writing my own music and getting to perform it is such an important release for me, so keep an ear out for new music soon. I’ve been posting updates on the process of writing this record on my Instagram (instagram.com/drumandlace), which people seem to really be enjoying.
A variety geek who enjoys geeking out with friends over video games, comics, or movies/TV shows. An avid wrestling fan since the days of the Attitude Era and N64’s No Mercy, he now spends much of his time reading and collecting comics. All of my puns are intended.