Gravitas Ventures has become known for their vast horror catalog, releasing titles such as Exploited, Tethered, Madelines, and The Free Fall this year. Another one of their recently released horror, fantasy tales worth noting is Christine Chen’s Erzulie.
The film’s synopsis is as follows: Four women who accidentally summon a water goddess while reconnecting at a camp in south Louisiana, and a local decides to capture the goddess for himself. There are many important aspects when it comes to horror films, the score being one of them.
We spoke to composer Nick Longoria about his musical work on Erzulie. Read the full interview below.
What attracted you to the Erzulie script?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say first and foremost, it was because I had never scored a full feature film. I had some offers in the past, but they didn’t want to compensate properly, so being able to score a full film, get paid a decent wage, AND keep all the rights to my music was a no-brainer. Aside from that, all the short films I had scored up until Erzulie had been dramas, which I love to score, but never gave me the chance to venture into my favorite realm of epic and tense music.
You have worked with director Christine Chen on a lot of projects. Because of this, did she give you more freedom with the score?
Definitely. Of course, as a director, she had her faint visions of what the music might be, but after discussion and some sharing of our favorite synth scores, she trusted me to get the job done.
Do you have a favorite type of horror film?
Lovecraftian cosmic horror is definitely my favorite. Those films have a never-ending pull into the unknown which never fully satisfy your thirst for answers, and leave my pondering well after they are done.
A lot of the time these films will show cracks into the void of space and its frightening bewilderment, as is common in many Lovecraft stories. Some of my favorites in that genre would be The Thing, It, Color Out of Space, the Alien franchise, The Mist, and Event Horizon. Also, can’t forget the “interact film” of the Dead Space video game series.
We heard you used a lot of synths for the Erzulie score. Do you have a favorite synth?
All the synths used in the score are soft synths by u-he. Soft(ware) synths are programs that emulate synths, in the case of u-he, highly flexible analog synths. Nothing can replace physical analog synths, but u-he comes pretty damn close, and in many cases beats them in functionality.
The u-he synths I used were Diva, Hive 2, Repro, and Zebra2. To easily explain the caliber of these soft synths, Zebra was used on The Dark Knight films by Hans Zimmer (most notably creating the bat wing flaps) and Hive was used by Johnny Klimek on The Matrix Resurrections.
Out of my soft synths, Diva is my favorite as it emulates the analog sound the best. As for physical synths, the modern Sequential Prophet designed by Dave Smith is number one, and I’m sure I’m not alone on that opinion as it has remained a staple in the synth world since its birth in 1977.
How would you describe your signature sound as a composer?
Emotional damage. I would also say my signature sound is usually dark, and not necessarily horror film dark, but dark in the sense of brooding, lamenting, anguish, torment, sadness, and evil battling with good. Many times when I have free range, my sounds have synths, sorrow, monstrous percussion, blaring horns, and powerful strings.
As much as I indulge in the epic action scores, I also love the subtle emotional moments, especially when they are in tandem. The closing piece in The Dark Knight Rises is a good example, it has epic drums, horns, but the melodies carry a huge weight of emotion.
Erzulie is classified as a horror, fantasy film. Would you like to score more horror films?
For sure. At first glance of the script, I didn’t really read it as a typical horror film to me, but more about the emotional journey of 4 girls moving past their trauma, so the chance to score a more straightforward horror, especially some cosmic Lovecraftian film would be a dream come true.
Your band, Infugue, also has some tracks in the film. How did this come about?
Christine knew of my band and wanted to throw some songs in if possible. For the opening scene, we tried one of my rock songs to amp up the energy but ended up deciding on creating something from scratch. So what we ended up using my band’s songs for were practical moments. The first being Drifting Away playing in the background at the store/office of the campsite, and Cosmic Crystals playing on the radio as the girls go to get medical supplies.
Can you tell us something about the Erzulie score we might not know?
A lot of the creepy droning noises whenever you see Rhett being scary or Pierce looking for the chemicals, is a distorted guitar digital tuned down with delay and reverb. There are a lot of cool noises you can make with a guitar when you process it on a computer to where it sounds like a synth or even a whale!
Is there a specific director you would like to work with one day?
Christopher Nolan is at the top of the list. Could you imagine a horror film by him!? The music in his movies never misses. Whether it’s Hans Zimmer or Ludwig Göransson, he knows how to pick a composer. Others would be Guillermo del Toro, Denis Villeneuve, Panos Cosmatos, James Wan, Robert Eggers, and George Lucas.