Recently released comedy, The Unicorn, is a story of an engaged couple that has some deep-rooted problems. They decide it's time to spice up their sex lives by looking for a "unicorn" to join them in the bedroom. Robert Schwartzman, singer, songwriter, and director of this film connected with Allyson Coff, who works with the talented artists of 300 Entertainment, to create the soundtrack for the movie's storyline. The indie rock and classic blended soundtrack feature artists such as Nick Lowe, Phony Ppl, Alex Lilly and many more. Music from Robert with his band Rooney is also included. I was able to spend some time talking with Robert and Allyson, learning more about what went into making this movie soundtrack, which is out now!
HQ- Can you both talk about the tendency or theme of the album? How did you two come together and bring new artists to the table?
RS- When you put music to the picture you get a different feeling — a scene kind of takes a different life. Music to me helps define tone and characters. You want your audience to lose themselves in the storyline and music is such a big part of that.
I connected with Allyson, and she sent music and different artists who are with 300 Entertainment. With an independent feature like The Unicorn you need all the help, you can get. It's all hands on deck at all times, so it was great to have Allyson so open-minded to the collaborative process of music for the film.
It was 300 Entertainment's first soundtrack, so I could feel there was a lot of excitement from them as a company. It was a healthy collaboration from the beginning. Even when we ran into hurdles, we were able to pivot and try a new song. That was the beauty of the label's participation; trying to make our lives easier from an editing, post-production, and storytelling perspective. Working on this with them has been awesome.
AC- And from my standpoint, this was entirely new ground, and everyone was willing to take a risk on us because we've never put out a soundtrack. It was cool because Robert had an idea of the music that he wanted for the scenes, and with our roster being so diverse we had a bunch of options that could work.
HQ- What would you say the overall genre of this album is? I know that with Rooney it's more indie rock, so can you tell us how you got this sound for the record?
RS- Yeah, I have a history of making records under the Rooney sound, but my listening habits are mixed. The band is known as indie rock, pop kind of music, but my listening habits entirely stray from that. I find it inspiring to listen to a Bossa Nova record as I do, a classic rock record, so it's kind of all over the place for me.
Through a movie, it allows you more flexibility to tell different sides of the story, a musical story, and with Rooney, I get to make Rooney records as like a creative outlet, but with film, it's a separate outlet. It allows me to show different tastes and different influences in various ways and ultimately it's more about what suits the movie. I think music, in general, is beneficial for making movies because you establish a rhythm, you cut the music, there are pacing, and a style that comes out of music and I gravitate toward how music affects me visually and emotionally. So anyway, it is a part of the process, but having a band history has been beneficial because it always reframes everything I work on. There are no constraints based on a history musically; it's more opening minded when it comes to how we select songs.
HQ- There are three songs from Rooney on the soundtrack. How did you use the sound of Rooney to fit in The Unicorn's plotline?
RS- "1-2-3" was sung originally by an artist named Len Barry. Growing up, I was an oldies but goodies fanatic, so I love throwback early pop songs, like the 50s and 60s pop. So the "1-2-3" song has this throwback sound to it- I mean it is a song from many years ago. I love that song and thematically the movies about threesomes, so you hear "1-2-3" and see people dancing together, it completes the idea. It plays well on screen. We wanted to bring back the song and reimagine it, and Phony PPL were willing to participate and give it a shot.
There's a song called "Do You Believe" on the soundtrack, and it works so well in the picture. It came out as a single last year but ended up making the movie cut. It's also a fun sequence in the movie so it felt like it should be in the soundtrack.
The last song is "Time and Time Again," and that's an entirely new song that was written for the film. It's very different than what people may know Rooney to be in terms of the full band sound. It's more stripped down, more like singer/songwriter kind of vibes. I'm proud of it, and I love the way it plays in the movie. It's emotional; it's in a moving sequence, and it's played musically – most of it's instrumental. The vocal is taken away and comes back in the end. I played that song to Allyson, and she loved it, genuinely.
HQ- Allyson, I know the other artists on the album came from 300 Entertainment. What made these artists stand out for you to pick their songs?
AC- I think there were a few things. One, a bunch of them are more up and coming, so I think it was a cool opportunity to get their music out in other places. I felt like their music also just fit right into the scenes of the movie as well as the overall theme. Rooney had some songs in different scenes, and we were looking at where things could be swapped out, and a bunch of the 300 Entertainment music was able to work. The various artists all seem to be on the edgier, experimental side, and it just really meshed well with the movie.
HQ- Do either of you have a favorite track on the album?
AC- I mean, there's a few but what was cool about the Phony PPL and Rooney cover was that it originally wasn't going to happen. We were on the phone going back and forth, and I think Robert, you had mentioned maybe covering the track and I was saying Phony PPL could be a great option. Robert then went into the studio with Phony PPL, and it became this collaboration, and it was recorded at 300 studios which made it cool, and I love that song as well.
RS- I love the Nick Lowe song.
AC- I love that song too.
RS- "And so it goes" opens the soundtrack.
AC- and the scene that it's in is so uplifting.
RS- It's awesome. It's such a good song, and Nick Lowe is an amazing artist. The beauty of this whole project is about discovering. A lot of young listeners don't know Nick Lowe or some of the musicians we have on the soundtrack, so it's a great opportunity for discovery. The beauty of music is sharing, you can tell a story, and it gives music context. Pre-existing music even has new meaning, within the framework of a film, so it's fun to be a part of that journey and expose music from all generations to a new audience.
I did a panel at USC film school, and 300 film students were there to see The Unicorn. Some of them kept coming back to see the screening multiple times. It was so cool to see all these young aspiring filmmakers, and it shows you the great power when you make something-there's a great responsibility when you make anything. You need to strive for the best, knowing people are going to see this and hopefully they're going to take something away that's changed their life in some way or make them think about music or movies differently.
Typically today if you're using Spotify or Apple Music, these platforms make it easy to follow the thread, to support each artist. So if you're listening to The Unicorn soundtrack and you hear Nick Lowe, the hope is that you click on Nick Lowe as an artist and you want to hear everything he's ever done. So it's a great entry point to learn about cool music that's out there.
HQ- How was it working with these new artists, finding the right song for the right scene, and overall collaborating with 300 Entertainment?
RS- Well it's actually the 20th anniversary for Rooney this year which is crazy, so I'm just happy to be making music. I love playing under the Rooney name, but I've caught the directing bug, and now I want to be making movies like every day.
So for this movie I more heavily focus on delivery and being a director, my contribution was more being able to shape the musical landscape, and contribute my own songs to the film, and then the "1-2-3" cover was hands-on with those guys which was cool. That was the more collaborative experience musically. But a lot of the songs existed, like Nick Lowe or Phoenix, a lot of 300 artists are shared with the label for the movie. Really, we were kind of like DJ's. Like Alyson and I got to play DJ and pick songs that were going get people excited.
AC- Some scenes will give the songs a new life. I know for me, even some of these tracks from 300 artists that I was very aware of, or the Phoenix song when you hear those songs with the movie they take on a whole new life, and you like them that much more.
RS-I think the best way to fall in love with the soundtrack is to see the movie.And of course we have filmed Robert performing with Rooney several times over the years. This has to be our hands down favorite with the band performing under the Brooklyn Bridge.
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