“I think it’s gonna be one of the most beautiful shows on television.”
Moonbeam City, Comedy Central’s Archer-meets-Patrick Nagel prime-time cartoon cop show that is inspired by 80s shows like Miami Vice, debuts Sept. 16.
The show, starring Rob Lowe, Elizabeth Banks, Will Forte, and Kate Mara, has the bright, neon colors of the 80s and Nagel’s indelible art-deco interpretation, but more importantly it has the 80s-inspired synthesizer score of Los Angeles-based duo Night Club.
“… We’ve had our songs placed on television, but this is our first real foray into composing and it’s been nothing short of amazing,” Emily Kavanaugh, one-half of Night Club, said in a recent interview with Vehlinggo.
Mark Brooks, the other half of Night Club, told Vehlinggo that landing the show was somewhat akin to maintaining the natural order of things.
“We were already making electronic music that had dark 80s overtones, so it seemed like a perfect fit,” Brooks said. “Basically, we just kept doing what we were already doing. It was a dream come true.”
Night Club first became involved with Moonbeam City in 2013 — the show’s been cooking a while.
Chris Prynoski, co-owner of Titmouse Inc., which developed Moonbeam City, caught one of the synth-pop duo’s early live shows, Brooks said.
Prynoski asked them to provide some instrumental music to use as a sound bed for a presentation reel that Titmouse was using for pitches.
Scott Gairdner, the creator of Moonbeam City, dug the piece and thought that Titmouse was the right place to make the show, Brooks said.
“Ultimately, we ended up scoring the pilot, and then when the pilot got picked up by Comedy Central, [we scored] the rest of the season,” Brooks said.
Kavanaugh had high praise for Gairdner.
“Scott is the coolest person to work for and he has a unique vision that really comes alive when you watch this show,” she said. “Also, aesthetically, I think it’s gonna be one of the most beautiful shows on television.”
Hitting It Off Over Slayer and Vangelis
Kavanaugh and Brooks formed Night Club in 2011. They met through friends and “hit it off instantly,” Brooks said.
“We quickly realized that we had almost the exact same musical taste and loved the same crazy array of artists — from Top 40 pop all the way to Vangelis,” said Brooks, who aside from being a synth-pop guru is also an acclaimed director of music videos for the likes of Slayer and The Melvins.
Kavanaugh remembered having text conversations back and forth with Brooks, and saying “Wait, so you’re into The Vines, too? Wait, you also like Kylie Minogue? And AC/DC? And Slayer? And T. Rex? And so on and so on and so on. Every single genre.”
When I was asking them about their influences, I mentioned the artists I hear in their work: The stripped-down chemistry of Peaches or early Glass Candy; the vocal stylings of Britney Spears and Minogue; the catchy songwriting of Robyn; or the 80s synthesizer concoctions of Depeche Mode and New Order.
“I know both of us are hugely influenced by Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, and Madonna, who’s a fucking boss and continues to kill it — sorry haters,” Kavanaugh said. “I’ve been obsessed with Britney since ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time.’ When that came out that pretty much blew my mind.”
“I think I just naturally have a deep love for pop music, which definitely influences the way I write music, especially top-line melody and lyrics,” Kavanaugh continued. “I’m inspired by people who can write a great hook, because I know how fucking hard that is to do. Billy Joel is a genius.”
How They Write
Their unified taste in music doesn’t stop at their love for other people’s stuff, either. When they write their own music together, Kavanaugh and Brooks approach it with an artful cohesion.
“… We won’t allow anything we do to be finished unless both of us love it,” Brooks said. “Otherwise, we throw it away.”
They trust each other’s opinions so much that if one person says that something “sucks” and they’re “not feeling it,” then the other nixes it without squabble, Kavanaugh said.
“We don’t get married to anything,” she said. “We’ve written and recorded entire songs that we’ve thrown away. We won’t put out something that both of us don’t think is great.”
An example of what happens when they agree:
From ‘Too Retro’ to Just Right
Although Brooks and Kavanaugh have had their share of successes with the Night Club project, they’ve run up against some challenges, too.
One of them, Kavanaugh says, is not being taken seriously because “you sound retro.” It’s an assessment I’ve heard from several other bands as well, but Night Club was at least able to have the last laugh. After all, she said, they got the scoring gig for Moonbeam City because they sound retro.
They give a ton of credit to Gairdner for hiring them on to his show and for providing them with a wealth of inspiration.
“The scripts that he and the other writers turned in were so funny and inspiring that we wanted to make music that lived up to them — Basically, make cool kind-of-vibey, dark-electronic music that could stand on its own, but was aware of the comedy and would accentuate it whenever possible,” Brooks said.
Gairdner would have a certain idea for how he wanted the music to match his retro storytelling and imagery.
For example, Gairdner would ask Night Club for a song that “sounds like Toto,” and they would get started on it immediately.
“We were so excited to write something that we don’t normally get the opportunity to write,” Kavanaugh said. “We’ve written songs in pretty much every genre for this show. [Gairdner is] 100 percent the musical director of this project and we’re just happy we’re the ones who get to help make it come alive.”
Going forward, Kavanaugh and Brooks are excited about Moonbeam City and want to make sure everyone gets a chance to see it and love it.
“We hope that people become as obsessed with Moonbeam City as we have,” Brooks said. “It’s turned out so awesome and we’re truly fans of the show. It would be great to keep making more episodes!”
Moonbeam City premieres at 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday, Sept. 16, after South Park.