12 Bands That Should Score a Film

By  · Published on December 11th, 2009

It’s nothing new for a band to pick up the baton and write the scoring for a film. Even Danny Elfman was doing his thing with Oingo Boingo at the start of his film career. But the cultural trend seems all the more conspicuous these days with Karen O doing music for Where the Wild Things Are, Arcade Fire scoring The Box and Alexi Murdoch adding the tunes behind Burt and Verona’s journey in Away We Go.

So it got me thinking. What bands would I love to see cross over into the world of film, taking a shot at elevating the visuals instead of being front and center on an iPod?

And, yes, I realize that some of the entries here aren’t “bands,” but you’re smart. You know what I’m talking about.

More importantly, you’re probably already day-dreaming about which musicians you’d love to hear alongside some great dialog and camera work.

But slog through my list first, will ya? Just as a courtesy.

12. The New Pornographers

The Genre: Pop

The Pitch: The New Pornographers are a versatile group that can pretty much deliver any emotion in their music – there’s just going to be a happy pop feel buried as the base. Or right out in the open. Ranging from the sugary sweet to the downright dark, they also have the chops to make the complex sounds needed to round out a story. But, let’s face it, it would probably be for an indie romantic comedy. Plus, if lead singer Neko Case also starred in it, I don’t think anyone would be complaining.

11. Tool

The Genre: Progressive

The Pitch: The rumor rolling around the halls of my high school when the album “Lateralus” came out was that Maynard James Keenan had locked himself in a room for a month doing little more than studying geometry and occasionally eating. Whether that’s true or not, the man is a musical visionary (and happens to have the best living drummer in his band) which could make for a brilliant score. Probably a drama or action flick, but most obviously for an experimental art film.

10. Two Gallants

The Genre: Neo-folk and blues

The Pitch: Two Gallants does more with a guitar and drum set than most bands can manage with ten instruments on stage. The energy and song writing talent here begs to be translated to film – especially considering the resurgence in the Western genre and Southern story-telling.

9. Electric Light Orchestra

The Genre: Electrically Lit Orchestral

The Pitch: Despite calling for a moratorium on using their “Mr. Blue Sky” for run-of-the-mill comedy trailers, I truly believe that the band (with its robot bass player) should do the complete scoring for a movie. Lead songwriter Jeff Lynne did at least half of the soundtrack for Xanadu, but I’m waiting until ELO can claim a full score as their own. I have no idea what kind of movie that would be, but that’s part of the reason it’s such a great idea.

8. Bjork

The Genre: Bjorkian

The Pitch: I’m sort of cheating here because Bjork has already done two film soundtracks – and if you haven’t heard (or seen) Dancer in the Dark you should go ahead and do that right now. But, considering that it’s a Danish musical drama, I’d angle for seeing her do something just a tad more mainstream. She’s haunting, beautiful, conflicted, and all of those elements could blend together to make for a great touch to a character study.

7. The Mars Volta

The Genre: WTF

The Pitch: Described as a jam band from outer space (think Phish if Phish grew up on Jupiter (thought I was going to say Mars, didn’t you?)), this band is absolutely ridiculous. They’ve slowly worked at blending noise rock, jazz, blues, funk, cajunto, and fifteen other styles to create something ethereal that also rocks. The director who hired them for a score would be the ballsiest director of the year, but the outcome could be something astonishing. (Proof of this can be found in the score for El Bufalo de la Noche, but, again, I’d love to see them work on a film that sees more U.S. play).

6. Jay-Z

The Genre: Rap

The Pitch: We got a taste of what this might be like with American Gangster, but I’d love Jay-Z to do the complete score work. Do I even really need to write about this one? A prolific story teller in his own right, Jay-Z has the sonic sensibility to match. Plus, he seems unafraid to move into other genres and team up with strange creative bedfellows. This is a no-brainer. Not for a romantic comedy, but a no-brainer nonetheless. Demand a collaboration with Jermaine Dupri? I wouldn’t complain.

5. Guided By Voices

The Genre: Lo-fi

The Pitch: This stems probably more from my desire to see them reform than anything else, but regardless, Guided By Voices has always done well to surprise fans with their albums. They may be hampered by using only a four-track recorder, but their style seems naturally meant for the screen.

4. The Decemberists

The Genre: Baroque pop

The Pitch: Besides being fantastic songwriters and musicians, The Decemberists are already accustomed to telling stories through their albums – focusing on concept both in the song and in the album as a whole. They have a sense of humor and a diverse use of instruments that would definitely make for an interesting score. Why Wes Anderson doesn’t have them on speed dial, I do not know.

3. Wyclef Jean

The Genre: From reggae to folk

The Pitch: What’s most striking about Jean is not just is musical ability, but his ability as a producer. The man knows how to put sounds together to invoke a mood – which is, at its barest, exactly what scoring is all about. I get the feeling that he’d be able to score just about any genre of film out there. He’s another cheat on my list (since he’s already score Sun City), but he goes in as my entry as a musician that should score a film every year.

2. The Raveonettes

The Genre: Shoegaze and white noise

The Pitch: I admit upfront that this duo would probably need to turn off the white noise for at least some of the songs to make a varied score, but even when their electric guitars are stripped away from them, the songs they write are absolutely pure and beautiful. Two-part harmonies and a mid-50s sensibility that’s been updated would match great for both comedy and drama. Maybe not the right band to score a police thriller, but just about anything else would be fantastic.

1. Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Genre: Alternative

The Pitch: Wow. Why hasn’t this band come together to score a film? They are one of the most consistently impressive bands of the last two decades, living rock legends, and most likely insane. That last factor combined with the ridiculous ability of John Frusciante on guitar and Flea on bass makes it almost criminal that they haven’t collaborated on a film. Flea has made the jump to acting from time to time (watch the way he runs with scissors in the nightmare sequence from The Big Lebowski) but it’s high time someone out there got them in the studio with a full orchestra in front of them, a bunch of blank sheet music, and permission to go crazy.

Editor’s Note: This list might as well have been 112 bands that should score a film, because there are so many talented musicians out there that I hated to cut from the process. Seriously – Gnarls Barkley? The Flaming Lips? Mary J. Blige? The Polyphonic Spree? Sufjan Stevens? How awesome those scores would be.

Additional Editor’s Note: I Love Horror writer Brad McHargue gave me the idea to include Bjork on the list.

Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector [email protected] | Writing short stories at Adventitious.