An Interview with Brandon Boone of the NoSleep Podcast

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Intro by Anthony Montalbano

Just like other forms of storytelling, whether visual or audio, especially in the podcasting universe, music is key for setting the mood and guiding the listener through a series of emotions and at the same time compliments what’s happening in the story giving audio clues on what is going on and what to feel.

Kicking off our second interview in a series of The NoSleep Podcast family is none other than the show’s music composer Brandon Boone as previously mentioned in David Cummings interview which can be found here. Joining the show in Season 3, Brandon Boone is responsible for the entirety of the show’s musical compositions starting from the show’s fifth season and does one hell of a job bringing out the life and emotions of the stories told on the show.

Whether it’s action-packed sequences of terrifying chases and fight scenes to slow, creepy ambient background sounds, Brandon can do it all! I really have to say his work in Season 16 has been exemplary so far, and I want to shout out his work in the story Final Investment from Season 16 Episode 10. So, without further delay, here’s The Nosleep Podcast’s very own Brandon Boone!

Andrew:
Brandon, thank you for taking the time to speak with us here. How are you? What have you been doing to pass the time?


Brandon:
I think my life is a lot like everyone else’s at the moment. A lot of time at home, with my family. I’ve done all I can to keep busy, focusing on work.

Andrew:
Tell us a bit about your backstory. What are your origins? How did you become interested in music, composition, and subsequently, horror?


Brandon:
I’d say my musical origins began when I was around 13 years old and started taking guitar lessons. I’d taken about 6 months of lessons, then broke my arm skateboarding. By the time my arm healed, the Mars Music I was taking lessons from had closed. Needless to say, I’m not much of a guitar player. I started playing around with software life fruity loops or reason, making beats and Electronic Music. From there, I started scoring audio dramas for a local radio station that catered to the blind and visually impaired. I made a reel of some of the work I did there and sent it to David, and now I’m here! My love for horror started with Goosebumps; I read every single one of those books when I was a kid.

Andrew:
Since 2013, you’ve been responsible for the musical score we hear on the NoSleep Podcast. How did you end up with the podcast?


Brandon:
I started as a fan. I started listening during season 2. Once David mentioned how much work the show was, I emailed him and offered to help with the music. Little by little, David gave me more responsibility until, eventually, I was responsible for all of the music for the show. A dream come true.

Andrew:
You’re completely self-taught, right? What drew you to the piano? Was it difficult teaching yourself theory and composition, or did it come naturally to you?


Brandon:
Once I started with NoSleep, I decided I needed to take this music thing more seriously. I initially took 2 months of piano lessons but started teaching myself with Berklee workbooks and online classes/YouTube videos. I think some of it came naturally. Learning piano really laid the groundwork for a better understanding of theory and composition.

Andrew:
As a composer and musician, who are some of your greatest influences? That aside, how did you develop your own signature style?


Brandon:
I’d say my influences change from day to day, but I always circle back to Trent Reznor and Jonny Greenwood. There Will be Blood, and The Social Network are two of my favorite film scores. I never really thought about having my own style, but I guess it just developed naturally as I tried to sound like the people I admired.

Andrew:
For the show, how does the composition process work? How do you go about creating the music we hear? What inspires you? Do you listen to the story first and then compose, or do you have a sort of queue waiting that you match up later?


Brandon:
Every score is written specifically for that story. I start by listening to a mix of the audio the producers send me. I prefer hearing the audio first because I get to hear how the actors. Portray the characters rather than make assumptions. Once I’ve heard the story I start to think about instrumentation. That way I have a starting place by the time I’m in the studio and recording. As far as inspirations go, it’s always the story. I just want to do my best to help fulfill the author’s vision.

Andrew:
I’ve always considered the music on the show to be sort of Ambient. Would you agree? Is that a genre that interests you?


Brandon:
Ambients a tricky word for me. Some people think Ambient means without form or just long droning notes. For some stories, Ambient music works best, for others it needs a full orchestral score. I think the genre changes depending on the story. I never want to default to drones or formless music. I like melody and rhythm, so I use them when I can.

Andrew:
What does the genre of horror mean to you? What keeps you coming back for more? What is it about horror as a genre that continues to fascinate us all?


Brandon:
Horror is my favorite genre because it encapsulates every genre. It can be somber or horrific. It can be a period piece or science fiction. It’s what I love about horror and what I love about Nosleep. One day ill be writing chamber music for a gothic story about an old haunted house in England, then the next day I’ve gotta boot up the synthesizers and score a story about astronauts in a space station.

Andrew:
On the subject of horror, what subgenre within are you most fond of? Psychological? Slasher? Occult? Gothic? Which is your favorite, and why?

Brandon:
I guess I would say Occult. Some of my favorite horror movies that recently came out were Hereditary, Midsommer, and the new Suspiria. I like the ceremonies and witchcraft. Pagan stuff. Old religions and magical beliefs.

Andrew:
The NoSleep Podcast wrapped up its 15th season last year. It’s was a great one. I really enjoyed the “Lost Highway” theme. I’d like to dig more into that. In your opinion, what has the through-line of this season been? What should the listeners take away from this season?

Brandon:
It’s hard to grab a thorough-line when you’re looking at roughly 120 stories plus. But I think we leaned more toward the abstract this season. Not a lot of traditional stories with twist endings, more slow builds, and wondering what’s real and what isn’t. I think the finale is the perfect cap on season 15.

Andrew:
Seeing as you’ve just wrapped up another season, let’s look back. What are some of your favorite tales from this past season? In your opinion, how does this season compare to past seasons? How has the show evolved over time?

Brandon:
It’s really hard to pick favorite stories, but if I had to pick some personal favorites, I’d choose:

-Sketchbook
-The Escher Room
-The TV In the Woods

The Halloween and Christmas stories are always some of my favorites. A Christmas in Pinegrove was especially fun. Comparing It to past seasons is interesting. Being an anthology series, we have variation constantly. I would say the biggest difference this season is we leaned a little more into the unsettling, slow horror, going for the David Lynch feel. I think the show evolves more as a production rather than the stories we choose. Productions have gotten tighter and more refined over time. I just try to grow with it.

Andrew:
2020 was a horrific year on many levels, and yet I’ve personally taken a lot of comfort in the depths of NoSleep. Does that make me a sadist? [Laughs]. In all seriousness, why do you feel shows such as NoSleep are important? Especially in a year like 2020.

Brandon:
David talks about this a lot, and I absolutely agree. I think what attracts people to NoSleep, especially in troubling times, is that the listener gets to experience horror in a controlled setting. A lot of fans have told us the show helps with their anxiety.

Andrew:
Being that this is started as a music publication, I may as well ask, what types of music are you into? Are you into vinyl? How important is music to the aesthetic of the NoSleep Podcast?


Brandon:
Speaking at the show’s composer, I hope the music is VERY important to the aesthetic of the show. [Laughs]. I hope that I bring a specific sound to the show, which makes it stand out from other horror-audio programs.

I listen to all sorts of music, but mostly Classical, Film scores/instrumental, or Hip-Hop. Some of my favorite composers are Jonny Greenwood, Trent Reznor, Clint Mansell, Bernard Herrmann, and The Newton Brothers. I’ll stop myself there; I could go on and on. I try to limit my vinyl collection to absolute favorites; it’s mostly Radiohead, Bjork, Sigur Ros, and Massive Attack.

Andrew:
How do you stay inspired from season to season? How do you feel you’ve progressed as an artist over time?

Brandon:
I don’t really think about the show as season to season, but more story to story. It keeps me inspired because every story is a chance to try something new. All the various genres that are under the umbrella of horror that’s what keeps me inspired.

Andrew:
Last question. Over the last several years, I’ve noticed a lot of contempt toward creatives within all sectors of the art world. Be it music, writing, acting, horror- it’s a hard road. What do we as creative people need to do to keep our heads above water?

Brandon:
I myself haven’t noticed much contempt, but I will say I can be my own worst enemy. Imposter syndrome is very real, and self-doubt can really hinder your growth. I think the best way to combat that is to surround yourself with people who motivate and push you. I have close friends who push me and keep me motivated every day. It’s crucial.

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island and works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night.
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