"I see 'Peaky Blinders' as a Western set in Birmingham”
Peaky Blinders series five will receive its world premiere tonight (July 18) as the first episode receives a special screening in Birmingham. Those lucky enough to see this early look at the new season may recognise the voice and guitar stylings of multi-Mercury Prize nominee Anna Calvi, who has written a new and original score to run through every episode.
“It’s exciting. It’s been hard to not talk about it,” Calvi told NME. “It’s incredible to be part of something like this. It’s a whole new thing for me, but it felt completely natural. Bizarrely, I feel like I can really relate to the characters. It was a really good fit.
“I’ve always loved the show – everything about the way that they dress, the music that they feature, how strong the characters are and how filmic it is. It’s just much better than most things you see on TV.”
Calvi soon became so engrossed in creating the perfect soundtrack that she found herself having dreams about the show.
“What’s been really fun is to write lyrics for Tommy [Shelby] and to really get into his mind,” she said. “It’s been really interesting to write as if I was Tommy and really believe in this character. I really got lost in that, as if he was real.
“When you’re writing a soundtrack, you’re watching something all day. I was dreaming about Peaky Blinders and got completely obsessed. That’s how it should be.”
As for her inspiration behind the new music, Calvi said that she was driven by “trying to explore the psychology of Tommy”.
“I wanted to see how far I could get into the dark abyss of his mind,” Calvi told NME. “As a writer, it was really exciting to try and express that musically. Cillian Murphy is just the most incredible actor and can say so much with just a facial expression. To try and match that has been really incredible.”
She continued: “There’s an atmosphere in trying to explore something that has both a darkness and vulnerability. That’s what’s interesting about Peaky Blinders – not only does it have a brutality and violence to it, but there’s also a lot of love for the family. There’s a vulnerability that comes from being damaged from the war and how that affects your relationships, and there’s no much heart in there.”
As for where the new score takes her sound following what was explored on her acclaimed third album ‘Hunter‘, Calvi said: “The sense of beauty with brutality is something I’ve always been interested in exploring with my music. What was exciting to me was how to demonstrate that with the guitar.
“I took a lot of inspiration from Westerns, because I do see Peaky Blinders as a Western set in Birmingham.”
- Read more: Anna Calvi on queerness in art: “When I see Bohemian Rhapsody, I realise that we’re still far from some kind of equality”
Fans will be excited to hear that Calvi claims that the new series of Peaky Blinders is the best yet, praising the efforts of director Anthony Byrne.
“I was really lucky because Anthony really trusted my instincts and let me go wherever I wanted with it,” Calvi added. “When he did give direction, he had such great ideas. Having watched all the other series, I really feel like he’s taken this new one to the next level. He’s a real genius.”
Bryne, who said that there will be the usual mix of contemporary music as heard on previous seasons from the likes of Nick Cave and PJ Harvey, compared Calvi’s work on the soundtrack to what you’d expect from a David Lynch movie.
“She sounds a bit like Angelo Badalamenti and the stuff that he’s done for those Lynch movies,” Bryne told NME. “There’s an element of violence to her work and it certainly sticks in your head. She’s managed to become part of the images as well. I think it would be difficult to separate.
“Apart from maybe ‘Red Right Hand’, Peaky Blinders has no ‘Tommy’s Theme’. The likelihood now is that you could be humming an Anna Calvi cue from Peaky in a way that you wouldn’t have before, because you’d perhaps remember something by Nick Cave, PJ Harvey or Radiohead instead.
“I’m really excited to see what people think and have to say about what she’s come up with.”
Executive producer Jamie Glazebrook added: “We are beyond thrilled that Anna Calvi is composing and performing the music for Peaky Blinders five. Her score has brought a whole new level of feeling and emotion to the show. It’s astounding and I can’t wait for viewers to hear it for themselves.”
Check back at NME soon for more of our interview with Calvi and the team behind Peaky Blinders.
While no official air date for Peaky Blinders season five has been revealed yet, we do know that the plot follows the Shelby clan dealing with the fallout of the 1929 financial crash, while Tommy’s new life as an MP finds him at odds with the rise of Oswald Mosely and the far right.