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a conversation with
Composer Jaye Barnes Luckett (aka Poperratic)



With the release of her scores on a recent limited edition CD from La-La Land Records, film music and horror fans finally got a chance to hear the funky sounds of Jaye Barnes Luckett (aka Poperratic), writer/director Lucky McKee's longtime composer and collaborator. Luckett's career has followed the director's own tough trials, going from the deservedly praised indie hit May, about a wonky girl who just wants a perfect friend, to what should have been her first score for a major studio film, The Woods.

Kept on the shelf for several years after falling victim to fractious studio polictics when MGM/UA underwent a regime change, The Woods was ultimately given a brief theatrical run before popping up on DVD in a bare bones edition - an indication the studio had little interest in the movie beyond fulfilling a distribution agreement.

In this sometimes harshly honest interview, first printed in a shorter version in the August 2007 issue of Rue Morgue magazine and published here in its original Q&A format, Luckett offers a window into what happens when indie artists are courted by studios who later seek to shape them into something conventional, and the tough battle to protect your vision when too many cooks are mulling about in the kitchen.

Canidid, humorous and affable, Luckett has the right instincts to compose and perform music that transcends genre limitations, and in the primary works showcased in her CD - May, Sick Girl, The Woods, and Roman - she demonstrates a balanced use of original score and songs, and shows a rare gift in combining two components of a film that, when composed by disparate talent, often battle for dominance in the final mix: the original score, and songs.



Mark R. Hasan : Had you always thought about writing film scores, or did the career sort of fall into place because of your familiarity with the May script, and friendship with Lucky McKee?

Jaye Barnes Luckett : I grew up mostly wanting to be a songwriter for other artists, work in the theatre and hop around in bands on the side. I didn't have evidence that any of those were realistic choices, so after religiously watching a TV show called Movie Magic, I decided that I was best suited to become a stop-motion animator. But while I involved myself with all sorts of things in college, other kids noticed before I did, that I spent most of my time writing and recording songs.

became the go-to girl for some of their student films and eventually scored a 35mm short , but it still didn't occur to me that scoring would ever be a career option. With May, it was definitely more of a case of Lucky seeing something in me as a friend, sibling and bandmate, that I hadn't thought to see. I had been around from the beginning of the story's existence, and he was always surrounded by my music, so I guess it made sense to him. I was just looking forward to him going onto a bigger film and finding his Bernard Hermann, while I was off making records! Honestly, it wasn't until Roman that I stopped thinking "This might be my last one."


MRH : Were you initially asked to write songs for May, or did McKee request score material for specific scenes?

Lucky suggested in college, that he could see me writing some songs for any feature that might ever come of the script, but when it actually happened, he insisted that I do an actual score, too. He already had a list of songs I'd written around the same time he was writing May, which he was set on using, along with songs by The Breeders, and Nirvana.

I later wrote a bunch of new songs for him, when we began talking about score and sound design. We had a pretty solid plan laid out for a much more layered and intricate soundtrack, but unfortunately, we ran into some interference from third parties. We had to scrap the original plan, which left me with only one score piece and a few of the newer songs, that I knew I could still easily record with what I had, but everything else was owed to Lucky's faith and trust to let me run free and make up the rest as I went along.

f he wasn't already in the room, as soon as I would finish a something, I'd run down the hall of the apartment building, signal him to take a listen and get an instant response on specific scenes, so I could keep plowing through. We spent more time talking about scenes where we didn't feel we should have music than we did actual music, though. I think because we spent so much time talking about the emotions, the new music still came together quickly.


MRH : The impression I get from your résumé is that you enjoy all kinds of creative outlets - performance, post-production, visual - because they test and further your creativity. How has film scoring affected your approach to composing music overall?

It wasn't a conscious choice, but I always seemed to approach most of my songs and albums as though they were miniature films or books. They tend to be very cinematic in structure and the way the characters and stories are handled, many different twists, layers, and surprise endings. So while scoring hasn't changed the general approach of my writing, it's had a little bit of effect on the result of the output.

The process of scoring has influenced more sparse writing on occasion, because in film, you have audiovisual accomplices and so aren't required to tell every piece of the story 100% musically. Before May , the majority of what I was writing was very aggressive, borderline punk and experimental, but since then, I've come to write more straightforward, mellow, three minute songs than I ever have, and also written more electronic music, mostly because scoring led to me having the equipment around to play with.

I haven't abandoned my roots, but scoring has exposed much more potential for me as a songwriter, and encouraged me to explore them. And since I'm primarily responding to the contributions of other people, film music requires a specific kind of focus. The feeling is that it's led me to be more aware of how my own actual creative process works, and as a result I've learned to be more confident, decisive, trusting of intuition, and committed about my ideas and choices.

Writer/Director Lucjy McKee on the May set


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