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This is how the music for Stranger Things was chosen

"They let us hire these guys who had never composed anything in their lives"

This is how the music for Stranger Things was chosen

Has there ever been a better soundtrack to a TV show than that of Stranger Things?

The answer you're looking for is 'No, no there hasn't and get out of my head'.


Matching the Amblin-inspired antics on screen, the Netflix sensation owes much of its success to the eighties playlist and moody synth which so immerse us in small town eighties Indiana. It's a retro revelation.

So, with an official soundtrack on the way, who better to tell fans about how such a playlist was crafted than the Duffer Brothers (Matt and Ross), who created the show and called upon Austin band SURVIVE to score it?

Speaking to Complex, the siblings revealed everything you wanted to know about the mixtape of the year.

Modern film soundtracks actually provided the biggest influence for the electric score

Matt Duffer: "Before we were even talking about John Carpenter, we were inspired by the movement of film composers moving back into the electronic space. We were really into what Cliff Martinez did with Drive; we were into what Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross were doing with David Fincher. When I read about how they worked with David Fincher, they're composing hours and hours of music and then he's working and figuring it out. It's a different approach, very different from the John Williams approach.

"Then, the other thing we were talking about, because we knew we were going to get all of these Spielberg references - the minute you put kids on bikes with flashlights it screams Amblin - we were looking to differentiate Stranger Things, because we wanted the show to be a little darker. We wanted the Stephen King DNA, the John Carpenter DNA. We thought, let's get more into electronic music."

SURVIVE had day jobs when they handed them the score to write

Matt: "We came upon S U R V I V E from the soundtrack to Adam Wingard's The Guest. We used one of their songs in that little trailer we cut together. So of course when it came time to actually find a composer, they were one of the first names to pop in our heads. We talked to the guys like, "What would music for Eleven sound like? What would music for the monster sound like?" The Eleven theme that plays throughout the season, that's what they came up with. We immediately went, "Oh my god, these are the guys for us."

Ross: "What's cool about it is that when we first showed Netflix the show, it was entirely scored with S U R V I V E's music. I've never seen the show with different music on it—it's an integral part of the show."

Matt: "It's funny because they had regular day jobs. We were like, "Hey guys, do you want to quit your jobs and do this Netflix show with us?"
Ha, they must've quit right then and there."

The Duffer Brothers’ childhood soundtrack wasn’t the same

Matt: "Most of [the songs] were not [in our childhood]. We were such movie nerds - I hate to say this, but yeah, we would just listen to movie soundtracks growing up. I think music is one of the reasons we fell in love with movies."

The music wasn’t planned

Ross: "For us, we didn't Tarantino it - it's not like this stuff was written in the script. The Clash's Should I Stay or Should I Go? was planned, but all the other stuff, like [Jefferson Airplane's] White Rabbit and The Bangles, it was more us listening to as much eighties music as we could and seeing what hit the right mark. It was definitely trial and error. Obviously, we played around in terms of what would actually be played around 1983 - for us, it was more about the tone and the feel, and the stories these songs were telling."

But there was one rule...

Matt: Kind of a rule we had is that if it's a song a character is listening to in the show then it really needed to be from that era. If it was just playing for the show then it was all about tone. That's why we have The Bangles and Peter Gabriel's cover of Heroes, which was actually [director] Shawn Levy's pick. I was blown away when I first heard that at the end of episode three.


Matt: "I'm so glad you're asking so much about music, and I'm so glad that it's working for people. Because I think I was so frustrated that I'd watch television and the scores felt like an afterthought. Either there wasn't a lot of score or the music that was there felt really uninspired. When we saw The Knick or True Detective, they had very distinct scores that were doing very distinct things. It was really important to get the music right - we knew it would make or break the show. And it's a testament to Netflix and how crazy they are: they let us hire these guys who had never composed anything in their lives."