Midnight Mass composers The Newton Bros talk about its Catholic inspiration


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One of 2021’s biggest supernatural horror masterpieces is the Netflix limited series Midnight Mass which centers on an isolated island community that experiences a series of miraculous events resulting from the arrival of a mysterious priest. As the series progresses, we discover how the towns faith begins to turn into chaos until its tragic end. The Newton Brothers in Andy Grush and Taylor Newton Stewart have worked on several projects across film and television, including the last two recent avengers movies, The Haunting of Bly Manor, The Walking Dead: World Beyond, and The Haunting of Hill House. The duo spoke with Bleeding Cool about their history with the series creator Mike Flanagan & capture the voices of Crockett Island.

MIDNIGHT MASS (left to right) SAMANTHA SLOYAN as BEV KEANE and HAMISH LINKLATER as FATHER PAUL in episode 106 of MIDNIGHT MASS Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021

Bleeding Cool: How did you get involved in “Midnight Mass”?

Andy Grush: We got involved on ‘Midnight Mass’ thanks to Mike Flanagan and [EP] Trevor Macy. It was a fearless project and Mike told us about it many years ago. He had the idea in his head and I think it took a long time to come. We have already worked with Mike on several projects and have developed a great working relationship. Also, Mike and I were both raised in the Catholic Church at the time, so we both had a good understanding of hymns and all that goes with it. So in the beginning when we were working on “Doctor Sleep” and he kind of mentioned it to us, there was a reference to specific hymns that are in “Midnight Mass”, and he and I had them memorized, obviously by singing them thousands of times. time. So it was a good kind of stepping stone to the project from there.”

Midnight Mass
Midnight Mass (left to right) KATE SIEGEL as ERIN GREENE in Midnight Mass Episode 106 Cr. EIKE SCHROTER/NETFLIX © 2021

BC: Can you break down ‘Midnight Mass’ from its humble beginnings before it descended into chaos?

Taylor Newton Stewart: Originally. we wanted it to be mostly the traditional anthems, and they were kind of going to intertwine from the anthems to the score, and then we ended up writing a more traditional score that would play with the tension and what was going on with the characters. We didn’t want to hint too much at what was to come, which made our job much easier. That was the approach, kind of take it as you see it, as you see it, experience it as a spectator, rather than trying to hint too much at what’s to come [laughs].

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Midnight Mass (left to right) ANNABETH GISH as DR. SARAH GUNNING, IGBY RIGNEY as WARREN FLYNN, ANNARAH CYMONE as LEEZA SCARBOROUGH, KATE SIEGEL as ERIN GREENE, and RAHUL KOHLI as SHERIFF HASSAN in episode 107 of MIDNIGHT MASS Cr. EIKE SCHROTER/NETFLIX © 2021

BC: How do you distinguish this project from your other horror projects?

growl: I went to Canada where it was filmed, I could kind of see what Mike was looking for in terms of what the island was and who the people were. It played directly into what the score kind of had to be. I’d come home from shooting during the day or night and upload to Taylor like, ‘Hey, here’s what’s going on in town here.’ Since there were so many details given even when it was raining, like what kind of umbrellas they would use, right? Like something I wouldn’t even think of like, ‘Oh, an umbrella is an umbrella.’ But no, they are people from a fishing village who are used to working in the rain. So like they have some type of umbrella, as opposed to me in LA who would say, ‘It’s raining. What is that?’ I had a huge umbrella, like the rain was going to melt my skin or something. When it came to the score, that same kind of idea applied and we kind of had to create the city as it would sound instrumentally, which for us kind of meant it had to be imperfect like all of life is, and she should be kind of very… not feeling calculated, but on our side being calculated in the moves that we made.

So there may be a single sound, but if you put single sounds everywhere, it starts to sound like a cacophony of nonsense. So we were very specific: “Hey, we’re going to play a short cello note with a lot of articulation several times and these 70 notes in the space of 30 seconds.” It’s like a piece of music, which sounds really catchy and silly, but is also very effective. We are not looking to do concert music. We’re just trying to set the tone for the island. A lot of it ended up being very successful and there were a lot of things we tried that we ended up giving up on. But for the most part, a lot of those initial ideas ended up being on the show.

Midnight Mass
Midnight Mass (left to right) ANNABETH GISH as DR. SARAH GUNNING, HAMISH LINKLATER as FATHER PAUL and SAMANTHA SLOYAN as BEV KEANE in episode 103 of MIDNIGHT MASS Cr. EIKE SCHROTER/NETFLIX © 2021

BC: What do you think would be the biggest challenge in capturing the essence and the score of “Midnight Mass?”

Nibble : I think the hardest part was probably getting to sing well from a performance perspective. I don’t mean it’s really easy to have a nice sound, it’s to produce music. So it sounds polished and something you’d love to listen to on your way home from work and that’s one thing. In this show, the hymns had to sound humble and had to have. As a listener, you needed to not feel like you were listening to the greatest singer of all time, but rather listening to passionate people singing about their beliefs and how their spirituality plays out in their lives. This was the trickiest part. Once we figured out the singers, we were in good shape and we used the word ‘humble’ and we felt bad because Taylor and I were specifying all the tracks and we were layering and saying, ‘This is what we ‘research.’ Then we get the tracks back into that amazing sound. It would be like, ‘This is crazy. It looks so good,” but we had to go back to them and say, “We can’t quite use it like that. We need everyone to go back” and be like, “Don’t sing not bad, but sing like you don’t care about your voice, but care about your family and your spirituality” and humbly.

Stewart: But then you lost your voice.

growl: At one point, I lost my voice quite badly, because I was doing a lot of throat singing, like blowing to a rather quiet sound. It’s really bad for your voice to sing like that, but it all worked out, so it was fine.

Posted in: Netflix, streaming, TV | Tagged: Andy Grush, interview, midnight mass, netflix, Taylor Newton Stewart, The Newton Brothers

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