Anyone who’s binged through Netflix’s new comedy Living With Yourself over the last week will have noticed the brilliantly unnerving soundtrack driving the show. The person behind the music – Anna Meredith – has been a classical composer for the past 20 years and is the first woman to be commissioned for both the First and Last Night of the BBC Proms. She’s also released several EPs of her own along with critically acclaimed debut album ‘Varmints’ in 2016 and she’s set to drop her new LP ‘FIBS’ this Friday (October 25). We spoke to her about the popular Netflix series, meeting the Queen and getting a special shout out from Paul Rudd himself.
How did you come to score ‘Living With Yourself’?
“The directors Jon Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine) have done tons of music videos in their time so they’re really up on their music. They said they found my Tiny Desk (NPR gig in a small room) performance online and they loved it. Between them and writer Tim Greenberg, we ended up doing it, slightly terrifyingly, over Skype. So they’d be in LA and Tim would be in New York and I’d be in London, which was a challenge at times but it was great and they’ve done a really nice job of the whole thing.”
A lot of the tracks were from your debut album ‘Varmints’, your EPs and new album…
“Yeah that’s right. There was so much music in it, I think they wanted fifty cues! I thought, ‘Oh my God how am I gonna write so much music?’ So I was lucky that they’d already delved into the vast Anna Meredith back catalogue.”
The music fits with the show because it’s so unnerving.
“Yeah it’s quite a dark show. I was surprised because if you watch the trailer, it seems more like a comedy. It is funny but I find it quite dark, heartbreaking and sad in places. So it was nice to kind of lean into that stuff.”
I don’t suppose you met any of the cast when you were scoring the soundtrack?
“Wouldn’t that have been good? I kept dropping all these really unsubtle hints but no I never did. I managed to record Paul Rudd giving me a shout out on the radio that’s about as good as it got. I just heard him saying (adopts American accent): ‘Oh yeah the music’s great, it’s by Anna Meredith,’ and I was like ‘Ahhhhh!’ So I recorded it for my own personal use and I’ve had fun replaying that.”
Are you surprised the show has blown up so much in the past week?
“Er, I don’t know. It does feel like there’s a ton of stuff on Netflix with new shows coming out all the time and there’s always that worry that it might get lost. But I’ve had loads of nice messages from people and a lot of people saying they hadn’t heard my music before because of it. So I’m really happy it’s taken off. It’s the sort of stuff I’m gonna hopefully carry on doing as well.”
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They haven’t commissioned you for a second season already have they?
“Not that I’ve heard of but I reckon there’s a bit of an open door for the show to continue, so we’ll see. I hope they do.”
Would you consider performing the soundtrack live?
“A lot of that music is already in my own live shows anyway but yeah maybe. A few people asked the same question when I did the soundtrack to Eighth Grade as well. If it felt like enough of a thing, it could work.”
Not one track on your new album ‘FIBS’ feels the same. Was that deliberate?
“Yeah, I just enjoy writing in a way I feel balances the record up as whole. Right before I started, I knew I wanted fast and slow instrumental stuff, more upbeat vocal material and quieter vocal stuff. So I had those four areas that I wanted to keep in balance.”
Was it hard getting your LP done in time with so many other projects on the go?
“Definitely. All the other music I do is commissioned and has deadlines, budgets and production schedules so trying to carve out the time for something that is self-driven, it’s harder and financially more difficult.”
Were you surprised to recently receive an MBE to services for music? And will you get to meet The Queen?
“Yeah, totally! There’s a ceremony next year where you get the big medal which I shall ostentatiously wear in Sainsbury’s and there’s a dress code which I’m stressing out about a bit. I’m not sure if I’ll get to meet the Queen but hopefully. ”
I believe you were the first woman to be commissioned for the First and Last Night of the BBC Proms?
“As far as I know! I’ve been lucky over the years to be able to do stuff for the Proms as well as the other stuff. I was really proud of the piece (‘Five Telegrams’) last year because it was a huge thing to do with visuals and big outside projections and it was about the First World War which was a big, scary thing to take on. I was just hugely relieved it came off.”
You’ve been involved in lots of music projects over the last 20 years. How does it feel looking back on your body of work?
“I started training as a classical composer and I’ve kind of evolved from there, moving into electronics and performing and soundtracking film and TV stuff. It’s helped me get better as a composer and helped me write music that is better than what I could have done 10 years ago. I couldn’t haven’t written some of the stuff I have done before so it’s taken me this long to figure it out. I’m a slow learner I guess.”