I recently had the opportunity to speak with composer Torin Borrowdale about their work on season 2 of Locke & Key, which released on Netflix in October.
Torin Borrowdale is a composer who writes music for film, tv and video games. His past works include (but are not limited to): Run (2020), Alto’s Odyssey, Searching (2018), and Alto’s Adventure (2015). It was wonderful getting to talk with Torin Borrowdale about their work on Locke & Key and I hope you enjoy our conversation about the music of the new season.
- How did you get started as a composer?
My mom signed me up for piano lessons and I liked playing my own stuff rather than what other people had written. I also loved movies and tv shows so when I realized I could combine my two passions in life, music and movies, I was all “sign me up for that.” I went to USC and studied film composition and the rest is history.
2. What was it like returning to score Locke & Key for season 2? I bet it was really exciting.
It’s been great. Season 1 was a ton of fun and for Season 2 we really got to expand on the world. It was a way to develop the themes I created in Season 1 further and elaborate on things we’d [already] done previously. There are a lot of new characters and new themes and new shenanigans for the characters to get into in Season 2. It was great to continue what we started in Season 1.
3. Musically speaking, how is season 2 of Locke & Key different from season 1? Did you have any specific directions on where to take things?
Not particularly. It was really fun to bring back some of the more popular tracks from the first soundtrack and update them. For example, the Matheson theme is very melancholic and it’s a bittersweet time for the family. In season 2 I used that same theme but it’s a little more upbeat. The Lockes are a little more comfortable in the town and as far as they know everything is going just fine. It was fun to bring back old themes and update them for how they fit the narrative for season 2.
4. Does this season build on the music of the first season, or is it all created new?
Yes. One of the main differences between season 1 and season 2 involves creating new sounds for several characters including Gabe. For season 2 I felt he needed a more modern sound, which I created from pop-oriented percussion and synthesizers for his theme. That was the main expansion for season 2, which was exploring a slightly different sound palette for some of the characters.
5. How was it decided what the world of Locke & Key would sound like in general? A lot of the music I heard didn’t sound like what I thought an adaptation of this story would sound like, not at first anyways.
That was decided early on by the showrunners. They wanted something that was a little more family friendly and orchestral and cinematic rather downright dark and scary. They wanted to have elements of whimsy and childhood wonder alongside the horror. Basically they wanted the whole family to be able to watch together and not alienate the kids. There was a specific tone they were trying to capture from the beginning and the demos that I had written happened to match what they were looking for.
6. I think ‘The Mannequins’ might be my favorite cue in the soundtrack, how did you create that creepy, spine-chilling sound? I can hear that it’s strings but I’m not sure what’s being done to them and it sounds really cool.
“Mannequins” was really fun. Our heroes are being chased by these mannequins in someone’s head. I wanted to find a way to capture the craziness of being chased by a bunch of plastic zombies. Since they’re in a department store/fashion runway setting, for the scene, I thought it would be cool to borrow from some punchy, electronic dance music and combine that with a lot of horror elements and sound effects. One of the scarier sounds is a Shephard tone that’s pretty aggressive on the soundtrack, as well as a lot of cool string effects that are used in a rhythmic and “jittery” sort of way. It was just a really fun track to compose because I was able to structure it like a pop song but it’s so intense and scary, it was probably one of my favorites to compose.
7. How far into horror did you go musically? Was there a limit on that? Because I noticed the farther into the soundtrack I got the scarier the music got.
Yeah, I saved the “pretty” tracks for the beginning of the soundtrack and the more intense ones for the end for the true fans who got there. I really pushed it musically, there are some very scary, intense musical underscore tracks. I think the amount of horror that it brings to the screen is dependent on what they show on screen, which is generally not very graphic. I think a lot of these scenes would’ve played more gruesome had they shown more gore and stuff.
As far as music, if the characters are scared, I’m writing the big scary music and I’m not holding back. Another one like that is the spider sequence when there’s a giant spider chasing them through the house. I wanted it to sound erratic and crazy. I got [the piece] back from the orchestrator who said it was impossible to play because it was too hard for the string players. And I said “No, no, that’s okay. I want it to sound out of tune, like the players are trying to hit a spider that’s running across the fret board.”
8. How much time did you have to score season 2 of Locke & Key?
That’s a really good question, I’d say about seven months. We recorded in several batches and were at the mercy of the VFX timeline, so that gave me plenty of time to get our spotting and recording sessions in. We had plenty of time to make it exactly what we wanted.
9. Where there any particular moments you had difficulty in scoring?
I think Gabe’s theme was the first big hurdle to overcome in season 2 because I knew that we needed a more pop-oriented track for our villain this season. I’m really glad we settled on his sound early on because I think if we had just kept it in an orchestral palette, it wouldn’t have had quite the impact that it does. This score would’ve suffered if we’d tried to contain it orchestrally.
I want to say thank you to Torin Borrowdale for taking the time to speak with me about Locke & Key and I hope you enjoyed reading the interview!