Thomas Mars from Phoenix interview: ‘On the Rocks’ composer
“Most musicians know how to whistle,” reveals Thomas Mars, whose band Phoenix did the music for “On the Rocks.” In the A24 film streaming on Apple TV+, Bill Murray’s character Felix chastises his daughter Laura (Rashida Jones) for forgetting how to whistle. In our exclusive video interview, Mars continues, “Whistling is a big part of how you get harmony and learn to tune. I’m lucky it works for me. I don’t know if you can lose the ability to whistle like Laura, but all Phoenix musicians are pretty good at whistling.”
In “On the Rocks,” Laura suspects her husband of having an affair and recruits her father Felix to get to the bottom of things. The film is written and directed by Sofia Coppola, who won a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for her previous Murray film “Lost in Translation” (2003). Mars is married to Coppola and says that “when she writes the script she writes with music. Music is always there. It’s not something we add later on.”
Phoenix composed the score for the film and wrote and the original song “Identical” which plays over the end credits. Mars admits the song “was the trickiest part for us. Very few pieces of music were working. Sofia right away liked this demo we did. We finished the song as quickly as we could. It was the only thing that fit. We spent two months working on that song. We were looking for a balance between something that is very ethereal and something that has this pop quality; so you leave the theatre still in the movie but at the same time enjoying the walking out. It’s exciting for us because it was something we have not done. It’s not scoring and it’s not music supervision.”
The French indie pop band members are Mars, Deck d’Arcy, Christian Mazzalai and Laurent Brancowitz. In 2010, they won the Best Alternate Music Album Grammy for “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.” This is the third Coppola film the band has scored, along with “Somewhere” (2010) and “The Beguiled” (2017).
Mars explains, “Music is almost like sugar. You don’t want to overdo it. You have to just put in the right amount. There is this French movie, ‘Ascenseur pour l’échafaud,’ scored by Miles Davis, that’s scored in real time. We set up our studio inside a movie theatre and recorded everything. You are watching the movie and doing something. You are experiencing the movie in a different way. That was another way to find where it should be scored and where it should not be scored.”