Alex Somers opened up his ‘treasure chest’ of toys to write the ‘Honey Boy’ score in 6 weeks [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

Alex Somers was under a major time crunch when Alma Har’el asked him to score her narrative feature debut, “Honey Boy.”

“I think Alma was searching for a composer for a really long time,” Somers revealed at Gold Derby’s Meet the Experts: Music panel, moderated by this author (watch above). “They were getting down to the wire, and I think some of my music reached her ears. I’m not sure how, to be honest; I’ve never asked. And she called me when she realized it was me. Because she just knew me as Alex and I just knew her as Alma. She really dug my stuff and she was like, ‘Oh my God! It’s you! You have to do this! You have six weeks.’ So I did it.”

“Honey Boy” was written by Shia LaBeouf while he was in rehab and is based on his life as a child actor while under the guardianship of his abusive father, whom he paid to be his on-set chaperone. LaBeouf plays his own father in the film, named James, while Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges play him, Otis, as a kid and a young adult, respectively.

Somers, who’s one-half of Jonsi & Alex, never spoke to LaBeouf for any sonic direction, but Har’el gave the composer one important guideline via the actor: Never make the audience feel sorry for LaBeouf. “There’s definitely an awareness to not paint it too sympathetic. He didn’t want people to feel sorry for him,” Somers shared. “I think he was aware that he was not the story he was telling. That was a really fun challenge to see these really depressing things happening to a child and not to just paint it over with that feeling.”

SEE ‘Honey Boy’: Shia LaBeouf and Alma Har’el’s behind-the-scenes podcast explores fame, toxic masculinity and recovery

If he did, Har’el would instruct him to take it down a notch. “There were times where she had me do rewrites like in the middle of the night … if it was ever on the nose. If you looked at the screen and you felt sorry for Shia, she was like really allergic to that,” he said. “It wasn’t so much instrumentation; it was just melody and harmony and pacing.”

The result is a gentle, evocative score, capturing a different kind of love that’s “colored by addiction and jealousy.” Somers also created a crank motif peppered throughout by literally playing with toys. The sound often signaled one of the film’s numerous dream sequences or that something was afoot.

“It got really out of control because we just kind of started putting these toys everywhere. It started in one scene and then we all really liked what it was doing, so I pulled out a treasure chest full of percussion toys and instruments, music boxes and laid them all out in my studio and just started recording a lot of it,” he recalled. “And I kind of built like a percussion piece from music box cranks and metal toys, and you turn them upside-down and you hit them with brushes, bottles.”

Eventually, Somers started putting the sound in other scenes, which he felt “carried the music.” “It kind of bridged us between young Otis and more mature Otis. It kind of lent this otherness to it. Alma comes from documentary and she’s not afraid of doing something that’s properly abstract.”

Video by Andrew Merrill

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