MUSIC+SOUND AWARDS TALK TO...
Soundtree Music, London
Composer + Head of Music Production // Film + Advertising
Luis joined Soundtree Music in 2011, where he is now Head of Music Production. With a background spanning both studies in classical music and playing guitar in bands, his compositional, production and arranging skills have leant themselves to many of Soundtree’s award winning scores.
Luis worked with Nick Cave and Warren Ellis on the recording of ‘All the Gold in California’, featured in True Detective and was score engineer for Mica Levi’s BAFTA nominated score - Under the Skin.
In 2018 he scored feature The Flip Side starring Eddy Izzard for 20th Century Fox and more recently Wale, a short film by Barnaby Blackburn which was shortlisted for both Oscar and BAFTA awards in 2019 nominations.
And so, over to Luis…
It would be great to hear how your musical journey began. Was it apparent from an early age how musical you were?
I've always loved music. Some of my most vivid memories as a kid involve listening to certain songs on a little cassette player I had. I would listen to a Beach Boys compilation non-stop for months. Singing along to those harmonies is still one of my favourite things. I also enjoyed messing around with instruments and recording myself playing all sorts of different songs.
My parents always thought studying music was important, and although it is invaluable to me now and I’m very grateful, I did it very reluctantly. As a young person I found classical music hard to relate to, but maybe it was just me? I’d love to be able to find a way for kids to learn the theory without being bored to death.
The real bug didn’t bite until I was about 15, I got kicked out of the basketball team for being lippy and spent more time playing the guitar as a result. From that point on music was all I wanted to do.
How did you land your first job? And can you tell us about your career path to date…?
My career path looks a bit like this: BA Music Tech -> MA Audio Production -> Runner -> Editor -> Sound Person -> Composer
Although I knew I had to do something music-related, I was desperate to get in any way I could so after university I took a runner job in a post house.
I met some great people there and slowly worked my way up and sideways. Over the years I got to know Peter Raeburn and Jay James at Soundtree - I loved the quality of the work they were putting out and the dedication of their team, so I was over the moon to join them eventually.
You scored Marion Pilowsky’s movie, The Flip Side, last year, starring Eddie Izzard, Tina Bursill and Vanessa Guide. Can you tell us a bit about your experience of working on it.
Marion is a brilliant film maker. She always has a unique creative point of view and she’s a lot of fun to hang out with. We’ve worked together many times before so even though this was our first feature, there’s a good shorthand between us established already. We try to start the music conversations early on, so I’d be developing themes at script stage, that kind of thing.
We put together a great little band of musicians I work with a lot, recorded it at Soundtree and then took it to Sam Okell at Abbey Road to mix. So it was a very fulfilling experience for me.
What would you say the main differences are between composing for ads and scoring a movie?
The job is exactly the same: to help the film be the best it can be and to support the story emotionally.
When you’re writing on a commercial you have no time to build up any kind of context or backstory, so the music needs to get to the point very quickly and effectively.
Personally this experience has really helped me when working on longer form, because you get to identify the main themes very quickly, but then you can expand on them and really take your time to tease them out.
Has there been a favourite ad you’ve worked on recently? And a most challenging one?
They’re all my favourites of course! But the most recent one is a beautiful promo for ITV by the guys at Uncommon, directed by James Marsh. Great work done really well and with lovely people, which is my favourite combination.
Most challenging? Probably down to my own deep-rooted issues which we haven’t got time to get into here, I am able to find a challenge in the simplest of situations. But I do find that the different pressures of each job become an intrinsic part of the creative challenge. Whether you’re musically going somewhere you haven’t quite gone before, working to a tight deadline, recording a huge orchestra, not recording a huge orchestra, it’s always a challenge in some way.
What’s the most important element of your studio? What’s your go-to instrument? Your favourite plug-in?
Hmmm… The most important element. Hard to say. The chair? Vintage guitars are a particular vice. And at the moment I’m loving all of the Soundtoys stuff.
Lastly, it’s a great honour to have you on 2019’s Music+Sound Awards’ jury. How do you think a competition like this impacts on the industry?
Great collaborators, be it directors, agencies or clients, always recognise the importance of the audio craft. So it’s brilliant to have a forum where we can really focus on those things and appreciate everyone’s art and hard work.
Also, some people seem to have trouble telling music and sound apart so hopefully the name will help clear things up...
Find out more about Luis and Soundtree Music on their website, here