Andy Grush and Taylor Newton Stewart
Netflix new series “The Haunting of Hill House” is set to premiere on October 12th. Ahead of the premiere, I sat down with The Newton Brothers, the duo responsible for the haunting scores that bring the series’ haunting atmosphere to life.
Andy Grush and Taylor Newton Stewart (aka The Newton Brothers) are very distinguished composers working on films such as Gerald’s Game, Open Water 3: Cage Dive, Ouija: Origins of Evil, Before I Wake, Hush, and Oculus.
Horror Fuel: “How did you get into composing for films and series?”
Taylor: “I started writing music for shorts back in high school for college students. That led me to assist for other composers, I worked for Hans Zimmer for a bit and several different composers. I did what I had to do, make copies, get coffee, record stuff, help write stuff. It just led from one thing to another. That’s how Andy and I met in early 2000.”
Horror Fuel: “You usually go by “The Newton Brothers”. But you’re not actually brothers?”
Taylor: “No [laughter]. Basically, the short story on that is I was working for someone on a project and needed to be all in and they didn’t want me working on other things. Andy had a similar situation. We need something that could kind of hide who we were at the time, fortunately, and unfortunately, it kind of stuck [laughter]. As we started to work more on our own work, the more it stuck. I think it came from the fact we are both big fans of Isaac Newton (mathematics is used a lot in music). It’s kind of a blessing and a curse, that name.”
Horror Fuel: “I see. I can understand where you were coming from. If you will tell us about your process when it comes to creating a score for a project.”
Andy: “It’s kind of split, some of the time we work with projects that have already been shot. Other times we are brought in much earlier. It Depends on the project we are working on. If we are brought early on we base the score on conversations we’ve had with the director. If the project is already done, we will usually start with some of the main themes which are usually at the end of the film and work backward, weeding out the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
Horror Fuel: “Netflix sent me several of your tracks from “The Haunting of Hill House”. They are fantastic. I’ll confess, “Haunted Past” is my favorite.”
Taylor: “Awesome, thank you. That whole project was quite an undertaking. There were a lot of things happening, there were large characters and many interesting scenarios. It was really, really fun to work on that.”
Horror Fuel: “After I listened to the tracks I went and dug into clips from some of your previous projects. It’s amazing how subtle the music can be but still has such an effect on the atmosphere of scenes. Why do you think music has such an effect on us?”
Taylor: “I think that when you are watching something and it affects you, whether it scares you or makes you tense, or emotional, depending on what you’re seeing, I think the music just heightens that and you can play with those feelings you pull the audience, the viewer, one way or another. I think it strikes a nerve and hopefully, if it’s good music. Sometimes it misdirects things or be there or not make you feel anything. It’s a kind of ability, a tool to pull and manipulate the audience. I think what’s great about music is that it can transform and become anything.”
Horror Fuel: “Is there anything you can tease about The Haunting of Hill House?”
Taylor: “I would say that it does have episodes, but it feels like one big movie. It’s very thought out and very true to Shirley Jackson’s novel and that it is very, very scary in parts and very, very frightening but that’s more so its outside skin. Inside of it is really about a family and kind of what happens to them, between love and loss and tragedy and how they deal with it. Ghosts can be a memory, it could be the past, it could be things that you’ve done that you regret. There are some characters that are at a young age and we see them grow older and it kind of takes you as they are discovering things, you are discovering things. It plays really well with emotion. The characters, by the way, I’m not saying just one, the members of the ensemble are incredible. They really bring such depth and complexity to the characters. It impacts you as a viewer while you are watching it. There are moments in the show I would say pay attention for. There are moments that may seem not much is happening intensely, but there really is. I think that makes the show very, very special. I like the show. We are really proud to be a part of it. I think viewers will really like it.”
Horror Fuel: “I can’t wait to see it. The images and trailer look great. Luckily, we won’t have to wait long for it to premiere.
You’ve worked on so many films. Do you have a favorite score or song you’ve done?”
Andy: “Oh, wow there are so many. There’s one Taylor actually wrote for the movie Hush for a very dramatic scene, called ‘Crossbow’. That’s the score for a very pivotal point in the film where she’s standing up for herself. It’s very cool in an eighties way. That’s it for me. What about you Taylor?
Taylor: “For me, it’s the movie we did called Before I Wake, starring Jacob Tremblay. It’s the sequence when an adoptive foster mom, played by Kate Bosworth, goes to confront one of his previous foster parents who is in a mental institution. He explains why the boy is dangerous and it kind of tells you a little of his backstory and how he lost his wife and how powerful the boy is. The piece is kind of magical, fantasy, and there’s a choir. It’s really beautiful and kind of sad and scary. I think that is one of my favorite pieces that we’ve written.”
Horror Fuel: “I’ve seen both Hush and Before I Wake. They are really great films.
If you had to pick one, what instrument do you think is the key to composing music?”
Andy: “For me, it’s the piano. There’s just so much you can do, but there’s a lot you can’t do. For me, the piano is something I rely on for everything from melodies, rhythm, to writing, even filling out those really lush string parts, and to get a clear sense of tone. How about you Taylor?”
Taylor: “I think my favorite is just to be able to sing and hum because you can think of an idea in the bathtub [laughter] or wherever, sitting at the piano, out with your family, or you’re watching something and you just start to think of this melody or this idea and start to hum. You hum it, you remember, and you write it down. If there was just one thing I could have that would be it. But out of instruments I probably use the piano the most.”
Horror Fuel: “If you don’t mind me asking, how old were you both when you started playing music?”
Andy: “I was four when I started taking piano lessons.”
Taylor: “I was about eight or nine when I started taking piano lessons and voice lessons (that I resisted taking) [laughter].”
Horror Fuel: ” [laughter] Wow, that’s young.
When you’re working on a project how do compose for say, fear versus happiness?”
Taylor: That’s interesting, it’s a very good question. I’ve never been asked that before. With fear, I typically like to play no music because when it’s done really well the tension of the room will be super intense and I think you would only need music to drive it over the top. I think that should wait until the very last second. As far as happy goes, I think again it goes to extremes. If you play something to on the nose it feels a little bit forced. I tend to tread delicately around those kinds of things. I like to play more to the character and what they are feeling, even if they are in a happy moment in their lives rather than just make everything happy.”
Horror Fuel: I really noticed that a lot in Ouija: Origin of Evil.”
Andy: “That was scary for sure. That was a creepy project, with a lot of creepy elements. Mike Flanagan set that up. I don’t usually get scared while we work on something, but with that one, I got pretty freaked out. It starts to stick in your head, that one. We really dove into that one. But thank you, it’s good to hear that it came off well.”
Horror Fuel: “Oh yeah, like the scene when Patrick Mack’s character had his arm in the hole in the basement wall.”
Taylor: “Everything that happens downstairs is really creepy, and that whole doctor thing.”
Hear the music of The Newton Brothers on Netflix’s series “The Haunting of Hill House” premiering on October 12th from director Mike Flanagan (Hush, Oculus, Gerald’s Game).
Timothy Hutton, Carla Gugino, Victoria Pedretti, McKenna Grace, Michael Huisman, Henry Thomas, and Lulu Wilson star in the series that “explores a group of siblings who, as children, grew up in what would go on to become the most famous haunted house in the country. Now adults, and forced back together in the face of tragedy, the family must finally confront the ghosts of their past, some of which still lurk in their minds while others may actually be stalking the shadows of Hill House.”