French undead give new life to Scottish band: Mogwai fuel nightmares and sales with their sinister score for The Returned

Mogwai are riding high on their spooky music for TV hit ‘The Returned'

Who will be remembered as the sounds of summer 2013? Well, Daft Punk, obviously, and Robin Thicke, unfortunately. But also some musicians less likely to have you up all night to get lucky and more likely to keep you up with cold sweats:

The Scottish veterans Mogwai, namely, who have been fuelling nightmares with their sinister score for The Returned, the French horror TV show whose first series reaches its climax on Channel 4 next Sunday.

Over the last six weeks, their eerily stark soundscapes have been key to the sense of impending doom brewing in this tale of the undead residents of an Alpine town. Indeed The Returned’s creator, Fabrice Gobert, has referred to the music as the show’s “narrator”. And the series is important to the band too, bringing them a mainstream audience after 18 years. The soundtrack album, Les Revenants, originally released in February, is being re-promoted to coincide with the series finale, and frontman Stuart Braithwaite notes that “it’s been selling more digitally than physically, which is the complete opposite of our other records and leads me to believe it’s new people [buying it].”

The band was approached by Gobert on the basis of their similarly eerie score for 2006’s Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, about the footballer Zinedine Zidane – which they are performing live at the Barbican, London on Friday after doing the same at the Manchester International Festival last week.

As to the surprise of a Glasgow quintet soundtracking this deeply French production, Braithwaite says they have always had an affinity with the Gallic sensibility. “It’s [a country] that has always taken to our music.

“When we were starting out, it was one of the first places where people took us quite seriously… it all goes back to Bonnie Prince Charlie,” he chuckles.

Unusually, the band did the bulk of their composing before any filming had occurred, in early 2012 – a consequence of their touring commitments last summer, though it also enabled Gobert to use the music to set the mood for the actors and production team. Working from scripts for the first two episodes, the band were also given a few influences to gauge their tone by, including the Scandinavian vampire film Let the Right One In and David Lynch’s seminal TV mystery Twin Peaks. It helped too that they were serious horror soundtrack buffs.

Braithwaite says their main goal was “to not make it cheesy”. And while their own work can be grandiose, they decided to quieten things down in this instance, sticking mostly to minimal, piano-led arrangements. So what’s the key to making music to watch ghouls by? “Dissonance and flat fifths,” Braithwaite says, referring to what is dubbed “the Devil’s Interval” for its sinister effect.

Braithwaite says he has been watching the series for the first time every Sunday night, but is finding it no less creepy for his involvement. “I think that’s testament to how good [the show] is. Normally, when our music comes on something, all I can think of is when we recorded it and that kind of thing, but in this case it transcends that mundane level.”

The band will start working on series two at some point next year, and already know something of what will happen. Is he wary of giving any spoilers? Is a zombie starey-eyed? “We have to guard the secrets with our lives,” he says.

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect