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Exclusive Interview with Julia Mattison and Noel Carey of Brooklyn Sound

72f5ca7a-319d-43c9-87af-e9aa9e98cf2cBrooklyn Sound is a new musical ‘docuseries’ developed by Julia Mattison and Noel Carey.  The show revolves around a legendary recording studio in danger of closing its doors for good.  The docuseries will feature a different band or artist visiting the studio in each episode.  Some of the bands featured in the first six episodes include a death-obsessed pop sensation, YouTube child stars Kookie & Milano, “Real Housewives” wannabe Yolanda Princhard and the legendary 70s folk trio Why the Lilacs?   In addition to playing characters in each band, Mattison and Carey also composed and play all the original music in the show.

 

The series will also include guest actors include guest actors in each episode and we’re told they’ve snagged talent from “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “Empire”, among others.  They describe the series as “’Portlandia’ meets ‘Parks and Rec’ meets ‘A Mighty Wind’.  The show is driven by exciting original music and eccentric characters, all of whom are grounded in a loving tribute to the arena of recorded music.

The duo recently sat down with us here at Talk Nerdy With Us to talk about Brooklyn Sound and the history of their long friendship.

Just a little background for those who don’t know you.  You’ve worked together for a while now, how did you meet? 

934d41b1-d737-4d7d-b2ef-95f1de302998Noel: We met in Emerson College’s Musical Theatre program about nine years ago… holy moly, nine years ago.

Julia: Time is flying!! Yeah, we met at Emerson College and became good buddies freshman year, making up weird songs and teaming up for class projects to make funny videos and presentations. Our interest in collaborating together creatively started pretty instantly.

Time moves infinitely faster as the years roll by!  What was the first project you worked on together?

Julia: I’m tempted to say the first project we worked on together was a ridiculous movie we made in our freshman year English class. We had this assignment to create a tour of Boston that would educate people about the city’s history, so we decided to create “The ‘That Guy’ Tour of Boston”. It was a completely made up tour that told the stories of random people in the background of historical images. For example, if you saw an illustration about “Paul Revere’s Ride”, we would ignore Paul Revere and just talk about the man behind the tree that’s staring up at the sky for some reason. The video we made is embarrassing.

Noel: Yes, that video will remain secretly buried somewhere on the internet. Our Senior year, one of our teachers Scott Wheeler, a fantastic and accomplished composer in his own right, started a small songwriter’s class that met weekly in his office. Julia and I paired up one week to write music and never really stopped after that.

The video sounds like comedic gold, I may have to go searching.  When did you realize you’d make a great team?

Julia: I think I realized we’d make a great team once we started writing songs and coming up with funny ideas together in school. I feel like you can tell pretty instantly when riffing back and forth with someone who you’re clicking on a different level. We tend to always be on the same page comedically, so it’s fun to throw an idea out and have the other person heighten it, and then shape it from there.

Noel: We would find ourselves spending time on funny little side projects just because they made us happy. We’d meet outside of class and mash-up Beatles songs together and make up new harmonies for no reason except that it was fun, but we still worked really hard at it. When you find someone else who takes fun that seriously, it’s always a good sign.

Brooklyn Sound seems to be a natural combination of your musical and comedy backgrounds, what was your inspiration for the series? 

Noel: We wanted to create something that could utilize both those backgrounds. We knew pretty quickly that we wanted to play multiple characters that sang and played music in different genres. For a while we tried imagining those characters in different scenarios like traveling to music festivals or touring different legendary cafés in New York, until we finally landed on the idea of filtering all of the bands through one recording studio. I think this allowed us to have a real through line and give the show some focus and structure.

Julia: We love so many different genres of music, and we love playing different comedic characters, so this was really born out of a desire to enter all of these amazing musical worlds that we are so obsessed with. It was so fun and freeing to be able to write songs for a 70’s folk trio one day, and then write some Top 40 pop song the next. I think comedically, we’re definitely influenced by sketch and character-based comedy that involves music, whether that’s from SNL, Christopher Guest, Tenacious D, etc. Setting the show in a recording studio felt like the perfect environment to combine everything we love to do.

I absolutely adore Guest and Tenacious D.  How close are the situations in the series to your real life experiences in a recording studio?

7ee9360c-cc63-4b9d-b01f-95306f8aba2eJulia: Personally, my recording studio experiences have mostly been as a singer on the other side of the glass, so I can’t say I’ve seen many of these characters stopping by. That said, I’ve always loved hearing stories from sound engineers about clients who need to light candles to set the mood, or who bring their posse without asking, or who have bizarre demands about what they do or don’t want at the studio when they arrive. I’ve always been interested in how one studio shifts and changes each day to make each client feel like the space is his or hers. We’ve obviously heightened the show a lot, but it’s awesome to hear from engineers who’ve watched the show that we are definitely tapping into some very real and crazy situations.

Is the recording studio based on a real studio or combination of studios?  If so, do you think people will be able to recognize the studio(s) that served as your template

Julia: It’s definitely on an abstract combination of studios. The studio we filmed at was Virtue and Vice Studios in Brooklyn, and it served as a major influence in the development of the show. Virtue and Vice was built and is run by my boyfriend Anthony “Rocky” Gallo, and I was very influenced by watching him build this place from the ground up and grow an awesome business independently.

As far as the now struggling legendary studio, we were very influenced by Dave Grohl’s documentary Sound City, about the now-closed Sound City Studios, as well as Grohl’s series Sonic Highways. When you combine all of that with the constant news about other amazing studios closing, like the Magic Shop in NYC, it wakes you up this fight going on to keep these incredible studios alive. There’s definitely an underlying message in the show to support indie recording studios, because they’re some of the coolest places on earth.

Did the show end up being ‘spot on’ with your original idea and if not, how many iterations of the project were there before you were satisfied with the outline? 

Noel: I’d say it came out better than what we imagined, to be honest. I know that sounds cliché, but especially in our generation of Kickstarters and twenty-somethings trying to make something out of nothing, it’s very hard to realistically project how an idea like this is going to take shape. Luckily we knew we were writing for us, so that helped us think practically about what we could be capable of accomplishing. It wasn’t until we had our whole team assembled when we started realizing what all of them were capable of accomplishing; that’s when the whole thing really exceeded our expectations.

Julia: Totally. As far as different versions and iterations, this show was put together SO insanely fast, so there were maybe one or two rounds of script edits and then we were ready to film. I think Noel and I had spent so much time imagining this world and these stories (alongside our director Drew Van Steenbergen), that the scripts didn’t take long at all. I feel like moving this fast was probably risky, but I’m so happy with how it turned out. I also enjoyed the adrenaline rush of throwing it all together:)

What type of viewer do you think the series will appeal to the most?

Julia: Anyone who likes music and laughing. Is that too broad? Broad feels right.

Noel: That sounds about right. I think it’s for everyone, but it helps if you have a special love for music.

When writing the different episodes did the situation, the music or the characters come first?

Noel: Well, it mostly started with the music. We wanted the show to have a fairly wide range of musical styles, especially for only having six episodes. So once we hit every genre we wanted to touch on, we said “So who are these bands? Who are these characters making this music and what’s their story?” After the characters were solidified we started asking ourselves how they would affect the flow of the studio and what kinds of problems they could create for Lucy and Joel.

Julia: The music and characters definitely came first as far as building the show as a whole. We wanted to first establish who all of these characters are and what they sound like. Then we established the overall situation for the studio itself and how we would connect the six episodes. As far as episode order and plot, I basically just wrote the episodes in an arc that felt like it told the best story, and then as a group we did some rearranging, both to shift the energy a bit, and also for logistical reasons. It’s fun to go back and see how it all came together.

Will you share a little of your creative process with the readers?

Noel: It always starts with us laughing and having fun. If Julia and I are having fun, anything’s possible in the writing process. We go with things that give us guttural reactions, even if we don’t understand them. No, let me correct that—especially if we don’t understand them. There have been lyrics tossed around and sung while we’re writing that come out of nowhere and make absolutely no linear sense, but they crack us up, so we keep them and polish them and see if we can make them work even better. And if a lyric can make us crack up a second time and a third time and so on, it usually stays till the end. I’d like to think that if there’s any joke that loses its punch for us along the line, it gets dropped or changed.

Julia: My favorite moments for us creatively and collaboratively definitely stem from when we’re working and something makes us laugh so hard that we know we have to keep working and honing in on that- whether it’s a new song or a joke or a scenario. As far as Brooklyn Sound, we definitely started by sitting together and brainstorming and riffing about these ideas and characters in-depth, and then we built outlines to further solidify the stories. Then I would go off and write the scripts based on all of these ideas and songs, and we’d come together with our awesome creative team and shape it from there. 

That sounds like fun, I’d love to be a fly on the wall.  Brooklyn Sound will feature a different band working in the studio during each episode and you both will be playing members of these bands.  How difficult (if at all) was it to get into character for the different roles?

Julia:  Getting into each of those characters was an insane and really fun whirlwind. We never really gave ourselves too much time to work on the characters once we started filming, so we just had to dive right in and trust that we knew who each of these crazy people were. We filmed everything in one week over 15-hour shoot days, and we filmed everything out-of-order, so sometimes we were playing four different characters in one day. We had to just fully commit and trust that we were in good hands with our awesome director Drew, DP Matt Figler, and the crew. Also our makeup artist Lili Kaytmaz was the greatest gift to the show- everything she did really gave us the confidence we needed to fully embody these characters.

Noel: It’s true. One day Lili had to transform me from Stu Miller to Danté to Joel, each character being about 20 years apart in age from the last. Julia’s right, it was an incredible help to have that kind of detail to work with in making those guys come alive on-screen.

Do either of you have a favorite band from the series?

Julia: It is very hard to pick a favorite. Character-wise, I really loved being a part of Josiah and the Teeth as a bearded man. I think a part of me has always wanted to be a bearded male folk singer. I also really love SHEE and hope we continue to write songs for her forever. Why the Lilacs? definitely feels like the band Noel and I always wanted to be in.

Noel: Why The Lilacs? strikes a particular chord with me because it’s the kind of music I grew up listening to on records around the house. A part of me identifies with their sense of nostalgia and the era of sweet optimism in their songs; Julia and I are also suckers for tight harmonies, and the Lilacs? harmonies are particularly fun to sing.

If you were to actually join a band, record a record and hit the road touring, what kind of band would you choose to join or form?

Julia: Definitely a rock band, but an epic theatrical rock band that puts on amazing shows, like Queen or Muse or Aerosmith. Or maybe even like Katy Perry or Beyoncé. Basically, I’m looking for explosions and to fly over the audience in a sparkly costume.

Noel: I would like to say that I’d form a rock band, but I honestly don’t think I could keep up with that kind of lifestyle. I admire the careers of artists like Tenacious D or Flight of the Conchords or Reggie Watts who can play anything from teeny tiny cabarets to huge venues, singing face-melting harmonies or making you bust a gut laughing.

Julia: Agreed. Tenacious D is the dream. Tenacious D plus explosions and flying over the audience in a sparkly costume is the ultimate dream.

Are there any plans to release a CD of the music from the series?

Noel: I’m sorry, what’s a CD?  (laughs).

Julia: I would LOVE to release the Brooklyn Soundtrack on Vinyl. We should print those and have them forever. Right now all of the songs are available on our website, but I would love to move them to iTunes so they can be downloaded more easily. We will make that happen soon!

Noel: In all sincerity, I’d love nothing more than to make a Why The Lilacs? double-sided 45 vinyl record and sneak it into a few garage sale bins here and there. We knew with the website that we wanted to make the songs accessible to viewers separate from the episodes, and we’ve done that, but I think there’s always room for more possibilities. We’ve tossed around the idea of doing a live show in character or perhaps even writing more songs for the bands, but we’ll see what materializes.

What would each of you like to say to our readers to help convince them to watch this show?

Julia: If you watch our show I will personally send you all of my good vibes. You won’t be able to see them, but you sure will feel them. Honestly I think if you love following bands and musical artists, and enjoy weird comedy, there’s a good chance you will enjoy this show. Also, it’s only an hour of content in total! That’s six short episodes that you can watch all at once, or in six enjoyable little comedy snacks! Take THAT, House of Cards. 

Noel: Watch it however you want; there’s something in it for you. Treat it as a documentary or treat it as a comedy. Watch it for the songs or watch it for the character make-up. There’s going to be something in there that catches your eye or your ear.

Our site is called Talk Nerdy With Us and we are proud of that label and know that the word ‘Nerdy’ can mean different things to different people.  Will you share with us just what it is that qualifies you to “Talk Nerdy with Us”?

Noel: Personally, “nerdy” has never meant bookish or math-smart or anything like that. A nerd to me is someone who shamelessly loves what they love, and isn’t afraid to obsess over it or celebrate it. The nerd collects, the nerd dresses up, the nerd writes fan-fiction, etc. Julia and I are this way with our jokes and our songs. We love them. Shamelessly. That’s what this show is kind of all about: sharing that love for music and comedy and heart and absurdity with everyone.

Julia: Well I don’t think I can say it any better than that. Perfectly said Noel! You have a way with words. We should collaborate sometime!

 

Watch the series NOW at:  Brooklyn Sound

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