Briarpatch is a new anthology series coming in February, which stars Rosario Dawson and produced by Sam Esmail (Mr. Robot). 30 Rock alum, composer Giancarlo Vulcano, is the man behind the music of the shifting series.
The series is based on a novel of the same name written by Ross Thomas. The first episode follows Rosario Dawson as she returns to her hometown to find out what happened to her sister, a local police officer. Upon arriving, things are already weird. But as the series plays out, and more of the town is explored, things just get weirder and for Giancarlo, weird was the main course on the sonic menu.
PopAxiom spoke with Giancarlo Vulcano about his work as a composer across comedies, thrillers, and weirdness.
Guitar To Composition
The first topic of conversation was Giancarlo’s name, which is epic. “My mother is Colombian, and my father is Italian-American. I’m really sort of Colombian. I go there a lot. My family is all still there.”
Giancarlo’s musical journey started with a popular instrument. “I’m pretty much the only musician in my family. I was a guitar player in high school.”
From guitar, Giancarlo evolved into a whole new realm when he got to college. “I studied composition and what they call ‘concert music.’ I went to graduate school for that.”
A fan of film compositions all his life, Giancarlo says, “Slowly, my life put me in contact with film and TV people.”
Giancarlo worked on 30 Rock and Kimmy Schmidt (among many other things) before the suspense-filled Briarpatch. The mindset for projects, no matter how wildly different, is the same. “You’re always serving the story and what the story is asking for.”
Giancarlo describes Briarpatch as “ … dark, but it has aspects that are surreal and out there. That’s what I love about the show.”
Creating the music for the show was a weird process, to say the least. “Sometimes, Andy Greenwald, the creator of the show, would say ‘This needs to be weird.’ I would say, ‘well, he probably only means like 10 percent weird, so I’d write a 10 percent weirder cue. He’d say ‘No, it needs to be weirder.’”
Giancarlo wrote a lot of music for the show. “… like 30-40 minutes of music. I kind of took a risk and didn’t show it to anyone until it was all done. I was lucky that it was well-received, and it became the backbone of the music for the show.”
Giancarlo’s creative DNA is full of influences. “I would say Twin Peaks was a huge thing for me. The original one and even the one from last year. Angelo Badalamenti is a huge influence for me. I’ve been fortunate to work with him a few times as an orchestrator. He’s just spectacular. That sort of collaborative thing he has with David Lynch is the model I aspire to.”
Giancarlo lists another vital influence. “I love Nino Rota, who wrote The Godfather. He’s really in my DNA. I’ve done a lot of work arranging music, and I’ve made a lot of arrangements of his music. I really got into it. There’s so much that I’ve learned from him in terms of melody and simplicity without being simplistic. A few elements can say so much.”
Early in his career, Giancarlo worked for Howard Shore during Lord of the Rings. The experience was a great teacher. “You get to watch someone produce and learned so much about technique from him.”
The process of expanding his musical repertoire is never-ending. “I’m always trying to listen to stuff and find things that I really connect to.”
In the age of remakes, what project would Giancarlo want to be a part of? “Probably, like, La Doce Vita. Something to do with Italy in the 50s. In general, I’m interested in doing something like that.”
Giancarlo is in the home stretch of finishing up Briarpatch. So, what’s next? “There’s a filmmaker named Marc Levin, I’ve done one documentary for him, and we’re doing another one for HBO. It’s about Michael Tubbs, the youngest mayor in America. I like working with Marc Levin because the films we’ve done are socially aware. We’re aiming to time the release to land closer to the election. I have other things, but I don’t think I’m supposed to talk about them just yet.”
Will you be watching Briarpatch on USA?
Thanks to Giancarlo Vulcano and Rhapsody PR for making this interview possible.
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