How Son Lux Made ‘Mountains of Music’ for ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’

TheWrap magazine: “The challenge was to keep it from being a total mess,” says Ryan Lott, whose group Son Lux wrote the song “This Is a Life,” featuring Mitski and David Byrne

Everything Everywhere All At Once
"Everything Everywhere All at Once" (A24)

A version of this story about the music in “Everything Everywhere All at Once” first appeared in the Race Begins issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.

For the collective known as Son Lux — Ryan Lott, Ian Chang and Rafiq Bhatia — doing music for the dizzying, multiverse-hopping film “Everything Everywhere All at Once” always sounded crazy.

“It didn’t make sense at all,” Lott said, laughing. “That was kind of the brand.”

The original plan was to utilize some existing Son Lux music, tweaking and adapting it for the film. But two days before the production was scheduled to wrap, the pandemic hit. What followed was a lengthy period of post-production in which the band was able to create “mountains of music” for the film while also recording its own three-album release, “Tomorrows.” Son Lux eventually wrote an entirely new, appropriately varied and aurally enormous score. “The challenge was to keep it from being a total mess,” Lott said. “It’s a two-hour-and-12 minute movie, and there’s an hour and 55 minutes of music, which is bananas.”

Initially, Lott said, the band figured it would write some of the score and bring in other people to come up with music that “wasn’t in our wheelhouse.” But it didn’t work that way. “In the end, we just wound up discovering all these different versions of ourselves,” he said. “They came to us because they loved our music, but they also loved the music we’ve all released as individual artists as well. I think they saw an ecosystem, a kind of a multiverse of possibility.”

“Fortunately, we have the ability to divide the work, and this was our first film that we scored as a band,” Lott said. “I have a good amount of scoring experience, but this was the first time scoring a feature for the guys (Chang and Bhatia), and it was so cool to do it together as a band. We could divide and conquer. It was a lot of fun to come up with a plan for who takes lead on what, and then do a bunch of swapping files and, ‘OK, it’s now it’s up to you to orchestrate and up to you to put on the finishing touches.’”

Late in the game, the band decided it also wanted to write an end-credits song. “It felt insane to take it on, but we thought, ‘This movie deserves a song,’” Lott said. “We pitched the idea to (‘EEAAO’ directors) the Daniels and they were like, ‘Well, sure, if you can handle it.’”

Looking at the song, titled “This Is a Life,” as an opportunity for collaboration, Son Lux approached Japanese-American singer Mitski. “We got her a nearly copy of the film, and she flipped out, which happened every single time with everyone we reached out to,” Lott said. “I started envisioning a song in which two voices were singing together, but it was almost like they were singing two different songs over the same piece of instrumental music, and then they would come together in these ecstatic tentpole moments, these little explosions of color and madness.”

David Byrne was also on their wishlist, and he also loved the film. (“It turned my head around,” he told Son Lux.) Byrne suggested that the song be comforting and spacious after the film’s wild ride, “and as soon as he said that I was like, ‘He’s totally right,’” Lott said. “I was so excited that I sat down with the intent to write this song — and this never happens, but I wrote the song in 20 minutes, front to back with the exception of David’s contribution.

“There’s a fine line between being a complete revelation and a complete flop,” he added. “But as I’m talking to you about it, I’m getting goosebumps.”

Read more from the Race Begins issue here.

Jeff Vespa for TheWrap