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

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

    A Very British Coup, part two

    New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
    What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

    What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

    Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
    Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

    Are you a 50-center?

    Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
    The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

    Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

    The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
    Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

    Hollywood's new diet trends

    Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
    6 best recipe files

    6 best recipe files

    Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
    Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

    Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

    Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Atwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works