Phil Lord, Christopher Miller and Mark Mothersbaugh Go Inside the Music of Mitchells vs. the Machines

“The Mitchells vs. the Machines” centers around a dysfunctional family battling a Skynet-style robot uprising during a family road trip.

And what’s a road trip without stellar tunes? Mark Mothersbaugh served as the composer for the Netflix animated feature, working alongside producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. The soundtrack also includes songs by Los Campesinos!, Bangs, Talking Heads, Le Tigre, Sigur Rós, Grimes and Alex Lahey.

One of the film’s songs, “On My Way,” is about new beginnings as Katie (voiced by Abbi Jacobson) seeks to grow up and looks for new adventures.

The pic, vying for a spot in the Oscar animated feature race, pushes the boundaries of animation with watercolor-inspired techniques and impressive visual storytelling.

In the video below, which is a part of the Netflix Playlist series, the composer explains that each family member had their own sounds at the beginning. For the dad, Rick Mitchell (Danny McBride), “I tried different sounds — the ukulele, the guitar and banjo and harmonica,” says Mothersbaugh. In contrast, the kids had a younger sound with electronica.

Synth sounds were used for the “good dysfunctional robots,” which the composer said makes listeners think about music in different ways.

Miller says the advantage of animation is that as a visual medium, it allows room for the music to take center stage and allows audiences to feel what the characters are feeling. “You edit the music for two years, and someone like Mark will come along and play you something that works better than anything that I can say … it gives you the opportunity to strip out the crap and open it up and let the music be the thing,” Miller says.

Watch the video below and learn more about the film here.

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