A Q&A with film scorers Joshua Morrison and Jeramy Koepping.
Jeramy Koepping is best known as founding guitarist and producer behind chamber-pop group Grand Hallway. His friend Joshua Morrison, an Iraq war veteran, has garnered accolades for his dark and lovely acoustic performances and incisive songwriting. A couple of years ago, a chance encounter with filmmaker Megan Griffiths during the filming of a KEXP documentary led to Morrison and Koepping composing the score for Griffith’s debut feature, The Off Hours. Morrison and Koepping—who met a decade earlier when Koepping was an engineer for the recording studios at the Kirkland Teen Union Building—added spare sonic textures to Griffiths’ character sketch of a spiritually unmoored truck-stop waitress, their music melding seamlessly with cinematographer Ben Kasulke’s muted palette of grays, browns and blacks. Griffiths was so pleased with the results that she asked the pair to score her second picture, Eden, a harrowing thriller about abduction and sex slavery that screens as part of SIFF this month.
How did you react when Megan initially approached you to score The Off Hours?
Joshua Morrison She sent me the script when I was overseas. I was just about to get out of the army and I was very intimidated by the idea of scoring a film. I pretty much immediately asked Jeramy to be involved.
And you never saw the film until the score was completed?
JM A little towards the end, but mostly we would just sort of sit down and write [pieces], throw them at Megan and she’d give us feedback. She was really good about that and she knew we hadn’t done it before.
Jeramy Koepping It was like a shotgun blast. We’d create 20-minute-long ideas and send them to her. It was an interesting way to work! We were both used to writing songs in a traditional manner—here comes a verse, here comes a chorus, and there’s a definitive length. You don’t want people to become uncomfortable during a song. But for scores—especially on Eden—we really had to fight the temptation to play it safe. You had to let things be uncomfortable, get dark and not resolve. For me, that was the biggest shift. Especially if you can’t see what you’re supposed to be matching.
What sort of instrumentation did you use for The Off Hours? Was it different for Eden?
JK The Off Hours was mostly acoustic guitar with electric guitar, Fender Rhodes piano and a Vox Continental organ from 1968. Old and dusty stuff. Eden was much different. Very little acoustic guitar. Lots of effects pedals, delay, reverbs, lap steel, synths. More airy and ethereal stuff overall. And the range on Eden was a lot wider. We had chase scenes, simulated cowboy-western stuff, and then all these weird drone-y parts—like metal grating on stone.
How has this impacted your writing process within your other projects?
JM A great deal. I was forced to sit down with Pro Tools and learn to work with that, so it’s less of just me and my guitar now. It’s actually really freeing creatively to start working with a broader palette, using loops and other non-traditional elements.
JK It actually takes the pressure off. Now when I sit down at the keyboard and start plunking something down, it doesn’t necessarily have to turn into a song. I can just write a weird keyboard texture and maybe it will end up being right for a film in the future.
Photo by Nate Watters.