Scoring three sync placements in one blockbuster movie is rare enough, but when that movie happens to be Tarantino’s latest masterpiece you’ve pretty much hit the sync jackpot.
That’s exactly what happened to Pop-Up Music, a London-based independent sync company run by Jim Meacock and Mark Garfield, who have built up a catalogue of rare musical gems spanning multiple time periods. We caught up with the pair to find out more…
Hi Mark & Jim, huge congrats on landing such huge placements! When and how did you first find out that your tracks had been chosen for Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood?
One evening in a very exciting way (drum roll and the results are…) we received an email from Mary Ramos requesting one of the songs – Jim and I texted each other in amazement. Then, to even more amazement, another request came in 5 minutes later. At this point we were wondering if we might just score a hat-trick… and we did! The third request came in. It was like watching a game on TV.
Let’s go back to the beginning… how did you first come to represent these three tracks?
We are constantly on the lookout, crate-digging for interesting material. A few years back we started to seeing / hearing really cool re-issues on vinyl coming out of Italy so we went digging – to our ears all these really cool OSTs of Spaghetti Westerns, library albums, soft porn OSTs, Italian James Bond-type OSTs all shouted sync gold. These tracks are from 3 different soundtracks of Spaghetti Westerns from the late 60s.
You’ve stated that it all started on a tennis court…can you elaborate?
That’s correct. I (Mark), in an attempt to keep in touch and keep fit with an old mate with whom I played in a band and produced an album – we used to talk business over the net in between the gasps for breath and staying alive. The friend in question is so made-up that he said he wants on his headstone – ‘I am the other guy on the tennis court’.
Was it an opportunity you actually knew about and pitched for and did you have an existing relationship with Tarantino’s music supervisor Mary Ramos?
We did have a relationship with Mary as she had reached out on other projects before – in fact I can still remember the place I was when the first email came through from Mary – I was very excited.
In this instance we did not know about the film – I think our Track Of The Week did the trick – we had blasted out late last year and early this year tracks from the Spaghetti Western OST which must have been on Mary’s radar – what’s funny in hindsight is we had even used the imagery that is very similar to the Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood poster of Rick Dalton (the Ringo Gringo with the cowboy boot) for one of our mail outs!
Can you talk us through what you do at Pop-Up Music and the service you provide?
We are a music publisher and sync agent – we pitch and provide music for any kind of sync, film, TV, advertising and gaming. We do bespoke composition as well. I (Jim) have a background in TV and film and have just finished a comedy TV pilot.
What does your catalogue look like? We like the dogs home analogy you gave in a previous interview
Ha! Yes we are a glorified dogs home equivalent for abandoned and homeless songs which we intend on giving a new life. Our catalogue is very panoramic – on one side you have 1920s American, Cambodian 60s surf rock, a lot of vintage from all over the world through to 2019 synth pop / hip hop / indie and in-between. We also have rarities like Blondie drum tracks by Clem Burke .
Every song that comes in we both ask ourselves two questions: do we love the track and what kind of sync could it work in?
Can you tell us anything about the actual placement of the tracks in the film? You’ve mentioned that they feature in one of the key moments…
‘Ecce Homois’ a very dramatic church organ piece by Francesco De Masi and it introduces very dramatically the film within the film. It sets up the Spaghetti Western perfectly. ‘Mexico Western’ also by Francesco De Masi is used in the build-up to where the lead Rick Dalton (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) forgets his lines – it’s a slow build of dialogue broken by the line fluff which is some of the best acting by Mr DiCaprio; then our music continues (it’s a long sync, 1:40 to be precise). Then last but not least is ‘Seq 1: Un uomo chiamato’ which is used in a cool montage showing Rick’s work in Italian films. The syncs work so well in the film – we could not be happier with how they turned out.
How was the premiere?
Unbelievable – we took our two best mates, one of whom introduced us both, so that was quite fitting. Mr Tarantino certainly brought a huge Hollywood vibe to London. When bringing the talent on to the stage it was like, “Please welcome Braaaaad Piiiittt!”. The man’s enthusiasm vibrated around the Leicester Square Odeon. To our amazement Mr T was ushered up into the circle and was sat in the same row as us. The film itself is nothing short of a masterpiece, tea-spitting funny, very emotional, a 60s soundtrack which introduces amazing lost gems as well as killer needle drops (only Tarantino could have few seconds of Aretha Franklin). For us as a relatively young company to have these syncs in this huge movie, it made all the hard work pitching for projects that sometimes don’t come off seem so completely worth it. We were grinning from the white carpet moment through to the end of the credits roll.
All three tracks are taken from original Italian Spaghetti Western soundtracks. Repurposing score for sync is something we’ve spoken about before at Synchtank, for example with our client Music.Film. What do you think existing score music can bring to a new film (or TV show, advert, game, etc.)?
The three tracks were taken from Spaghetti Western soundtracks and placed in scenes where Rick Dalton is acting in a Spaghetti Western so the music had to be authentic to the period in the same way as the costumes and art direction. The music cues just screams late 60s Italy. For a composer today to write and record new music, to recreate the sound of the players, the acoustics, the microphones and every piece of vintage gear used at the time, that would not be a straightforward option. As well as authenticity of sound, you have the added magic of hearing the old music once more in a new movie.
Placing cues from existing movie scores into a film whose dramatic context is quite different is another fascinating approach to using music and it was pulled off to such amazing effect in the series Homecoming, directed by Sam Esmail and music supervised by Maggie Phillips. The first few seconds you might assume the music you’re hearing is original score for what you’re watching but it’s not. There’s an added excitement that what you’re hearing is a score but it was born inside another earlier film – it’s now in a different home and it’s possibly telling a different musical story because of the different dramatic context. And if the original source was from a different era it brings the added magic of the sound of that time, the players, the studio. We are so used to songs being used like this but instrumental music far less so. I (Jim) as a composer love the interplay of the original score and its new home.
Using existing scores can be great both for juxtaposing or 100% supporting – we did a commercial for Estee Lauder earlier this year and the music used is a 70s bossa nova track from an Italian composer. The pictures were of a beautiful yacht with a beautiful woman and to match this we have a beautiful piece of music that just oozes class.
How do you think these placements will help to raise the profile of Pop-Up Music?
It’s early days but so far the response from people in the industry has been amazing. Tarantino is regarded generally as being one of the most imaginative directors when it comes to using music and so his use of these tracks in Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood can only be a great plus for us.
Can you talk us through any other recent cool syncs?
One that was confirmed this week was the TV show POSE the track was a lost gem ‘Messed Up Paradise’ from a band called Frank Joshua recorded in 1988 (in that great London studio Metropolis) it’s a cracking track (very English sounding vocal). Others include:
- A Pop-up Music artist – the super talented Arlene Gould with her song Dreamer – made it into the USA version of the Channel 4 TV show This Way Up.
- We also placed a very cool vintage Japanese track in season 2 of The Terror.
- The UK band COAX with their track ‘Over It’ – in the game Watch Dogs Legion which is out next year.
- A vintage Italian song in the CBS show Blood And Treasure.
You’ve done Tarantino. What’s the next big sync goal?
Big or little we just want to continue putting cool music in cool projects and of course there are many dream goals similar to the Tarantino – a Wes Anderson film would be great – we would love to work with Randall Poster, a Nora Felder Stranger Things sync would be great, a worldwide Prada campaign (directed by Wes) or an Apple campaign (directed by Ridley Scott). High profile trailers. Finding a film for the Clem Burke Blondie drum tracks (in a Birdman type of usage). Scoring a great movie and recording it at Abbey Road would be amazing. And finally, land the opening and closing song in the 10th Tarantino Film – we’ve got our work cut out!
How can people pitch their music to you? What are you looking for?
If anyone has music that’s authentic and interesting or has a nan or grandad, mother or father, brother or sister who does, and the rights are all in place please send our way – we are all ears.