What if every band was assigned a movie? Not to re-score it a la Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz, but rather to seamlessly live inside the world of the movie. What band would go where?
So this idea popped into my head; what is the perfect band analog for a movie? Not as much which band I would most like to re-score a film—though that would be a cool piece (except for the fact I’d probably pick Trent Reznor for every movie)—but more like, which band’s essence is simpatico with what movie. Taking everything about them into account—their sound, their style, their energy—what movie universe do they belong in.
Could this band fit in in the movie’s local bar? Could they fight with the heroes? Could one of the members be the bad date in the exposition of a rom-com? In short, the movie sorting hat for bands.
Some movies incorporate this idea organically. Seu Jorge in Life Aquatic jumps out. I Love You, Man and Rush. Midnight in Paris with Cole Porter. Sex Bob-Omb in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Marie de Salle in High Fidelity.
Here’s what I came up with.
Lord of the Rings – Grateful Dead
For what it’s worth, this is not the band that would stand on the battlements of the castle and defend Helm’s Deep against the invading Uruk-hai. That band feels probably like Flogging Molly or Led Zeppelin.
I’m thinking Shire. Which group would be the perfect house band for the Shire. Play the parties, rock the festivals, hell take gigs at the Prancing Pony on off nights. There are A LOT of directions to go in. Damien Rice came to mind, something about the Irish folk feels right. I think the hobbits would love Nickel Creek… maybe Old Crow Medicine Show?
But in the end, there was only one way to go. It’s just too good. I can hear the whole shire singing along to “Friend of the Devil,” or maybe it would be “Friend of Sauron.” I believe the hobbits can shake their tail feather all night long and this is a band with the material, stamina, and improvisational ability to match. I also love their range. They can do big rock, full band stuff for harvest festivals and new year’s celebrations, but can also do the stripped-down acoustic thing for riverside grills and porch parties.
Plus, I mean if you can’t see Jerry fitting in in the Shire… I mean, good lord. Nothing feels more satisfying than Jerry sharing a post-gig toke with Merry and Pippin.
Princess Mononoke – Janelle Monáe
Can’t you see San lifting up her red mask and it being Janelle under there? Would be huge! I believe Janelle shares the Princess’s fierceness and strength. I think she would thrive in this world in any capacity and can even see her as a higher-up in Irontown. I would also love to hear songs like “Make Me Feel,” “Screwed” or “Primetime” synced to Ashitaka darting through the forest on the back of Yakul.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Radiohead
So I am not talking about Johnny Greenwood and Philip Selway playing members of the brit-pop supergroup Weird Sisters who perform at the Yule Ball in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Though that’s 100% true and does strengthen my case. Instead, I’m thinking about the identity that the band and movie share between pop/blockbuster and indie/alternative.
As most of us know, after Chris Columbus brought Harry to the screen by directing the two first films, acclaimed director Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men, Gravity, Roma) stepped in to bring a darkness and maturity to the franchise. Critically lauded as one of the best films in the series, Prisoner of Azkaban beautifully threaded the needle between a Hollywood blockbuster and an art-house fantasy-drama.
This is Radiohead. For all of their spectacle and mystery, at the end of the day, they’re a pop band wrapped in the tendrils of ambiance, indie-ness, and frankly, darkness and maturity.
Plus they’re both British. Plus, if you jump to the fifth movie and Thom Yorke just showed up as part of the Order of the Pheonix, would you even bat an eye? Hell, if tomorrow Boris Johnson and Biden held a joint press conference and announced, “nobody be alarmed, the Harry Potter books were meant to soften the ground for this, witches and wizards are real.” Thom Yorke would absolutely be one of the names I would expect to listed as a secret wizard. Idris Elba, Mitch McConnell (Death Eater), Kevin Garnett, and definitely Thom Yorke.
Ocean’s 11 – Black Pumas
Danny, Rusty, and Co. are as cool as they come. And no band oozes cool more in 2021 than the ascendent Black Pumas. I can imagine a scene where Rusty is hanging with the band in the green room and eating their spread before going to work an angle. I can picture the Black Pumas playing for the grand opening of The Bank.
I can even totally see the band being incorporated into the plot. I’m imagining Turk and Virgil rushing the stage and before you know it there are 100 people on stage dancing and going crazy with the band. In the chaos, Danny slips a diamond/jewel/gem into Eric Burton’s coat pocket. Then like the security is crazy at the front door and no one can get out or even the Ocean’s team gets arrested as they tend to do. But the Pumas use a loading dock door that has no security and are able to leave unencumbered. Then the next day they meet up with Danny and hit him up with the diamond. Not bad!
Pacific Rim – Kiss
I mean… come on. First of all, the Kiss costumes literally could be the blueprint for a Jaeger design. Second of all, how badass would it be if Stanley, Simmons, Frehley, and Criss manned a four-person Jaeger? It’d be fantastic. The teamwork, coordination, and connectivity needed to pilot a Jaeger are identical to performing together.
And these two just have the same energy. When it’s Friday at 9PM after a long week and I want high-octane, pure entertainment, I’m going Pacific Rim on the screen and I’m going Kiss on the stereo. This isn’t Wednesday at 8 where I’m trying to mature my artistic pallet with If Beale Street Could Talk or Stravinsky, this is yolo, let’s have some fun, blow off some steam time. No one does BIG better than Simmons, Guillermo, Kiss, and Pacific Rim.
Give me “Lick It Up” over a Jeager-Kaiju battle ALL DAY.
The Fifth Element – Daft Punk
They can literally wear their helmets and fit in walking across the background of a scene. “Harder, Better, Faster, Strong” would be perfect while Leeloo is going ham on the Mangalores. And I’m a big fan of Plavalaguna, but give that show to D-Punk and it would have been crazy fun.
He Got Game – Lenny Kravitz
Ending with some trifecta talk and oh it feels so good! Nothing warms my COVID-worn heart like writing about which band best fits in a basketball movie. I can totally see Lenny one door down from Jake in the shitty motel. He’s a struggling, alcoholic musician and it’s all got can find after getting evicted from his apartment.
I bet Jake and Lenny would strike up a friendship during Jake’s week persuading Jesus to go to Big State. Lenny evokes such amazing no judgment energy. I can picture him being like, “so what happened?” “Well I killed my wife,” responds Jake. “Oh you know, things happen in life.”
I can see Jake convincing Lenny to go to Jesus and ask him to go to Big State. Lenny rolls up to the court and he’s like, “Hey Jesus, I know your Dad has his issues, but if you would go to Big State it would mean the world to him.” Jesus is like, “you know man, you’re cool as hell, so I’m not gonna blow you off. I’m still weighing my options, but I appreciate you.”
Not to mention, as much as I love the Copland score in the film, put “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over” over top the Ferris wheel, amusement park, breakup scene: gold.