Amazon’s The Boys combines the world of superheroes with Hollywood consumerism, drug addiction, government contracts, corporate propaganda, and social media. It’s Iron Man with a dash of Entourage and ground by incredible performances from its cast (Jack Quaid, Karl Urban, Anthony Starr, and Elisabeth Shue to name a few).
It’s also one the best written and directed series currently in Emmy contention. Another awards worthy component to the Garth Ennis adaptation is the score by International Film Music Critics Association Award winner Chris Lennertz (Lost in Space, Supernatural).
Awards Focus’ interview with Lennertz includes excerpts from his Society of Lyricists and Composers panel with series writer, producer, and showrunner Eric Kripke. The two collaborators are longtime friends and share their fascinating story with Awards Focus.
The SCL panel, moderated by Awards Focus founder Byron Burton, is available at this link for SCL members.
Fans should note that season two of The Boys premieres on Amazon this September 4th, 2020. For a look at the new season, enjoy this newly released clip:
Awards Focus: Chris, you’re a longtime friend of showrunner Eric Kripke, going back to your college days. How did that friendship develop?
Christopher Lennertz: We met in the fall of my sophomore year, Eric was coming in as a freshman and we found out right away we were both huge Spielberg fans. We were both transplants to California and had a similar upbringing. For three years, I scored all his short films, and eventually we started taking them to film festivals.
Eric Kripke: Chris has scored everything I’ve ever done, for one of our school short films we snuck an entire orchestra into the USC Film School and recorded the orchestra all night. As collaborators, we have an incredible shorthand and we have a real sense of gratitude for being able to work in this industry we love.
AF: What are the types of stories that you’re both passionate about?
Lennertz: We wanted to bring back the stories that we fell in love with, the stories of the 1980s. We wanted to do stories that would jump headfirst into fantasy and folklore, and of course, we ended up doing Supernatural together. Eric is great at taking a genre and making a vivid world and populating it with real, feeling characters. He’s so talented and working with him for twenty-plus years has been a fun ride.
AF: Supernatural and The Boys are two very different shows, notably in terms of episodes count. How does that affect your workflow?
Lennertz: Well, in a twenty episode show, you’re up against a deadline every week. You can put in some amazing work in that format, but it teaches you how to be productive on a tight schedule. What I like about an eight or ten episode season is that you get to dive into the season’s arc musically versus an episode-by-episode style of writing, which is more cinematic.
For The Boys, I decided to score each episode one at a time. I didn’t want to watch ahead because I wanted to mirror the audience’s shock and suspense as the story unfolds.
AF: You’re known for using unorthodox instruments with The Boys. What led you in that direction creatively?
Lennertz: It’s funny, because I kept turning in demos and Eric would say it would say it’s too clean, too good, or too practiced. This is a ragtag group that’s rough, they don’t have it together at all. Eventually, I realized that I needed to approach this like a garage band.
I wanted to incorporate elements of British punk for Butcher, so we went shopping to pawn shops, junkyards, and we’d pick up anything, random pieces of junk and the cheapest instruments. It led to things being choppy and rough, and I think that accentuated the character of the show.
AF: We really appreciate for recording a walkthrough of your process in the studio, it’s really beneficial for our readers.
Lennertz: It was my pleasure, I enjoy sharing the behind the scenes details.
AF: You’re submitting “Cherry,” the second episode of the season, for Emmy consideration. Throughout that episode, there’s this tone that accompanies the dissolution of Huey’s psyche. How did you make that?
Lennertz: It’s actually feedback. Sometimes it’s from a guitar amp, sometimes from an echo effect panel, sometimes a percussion instrument or violin – it depends on the character. It became the underlying tension builder, the internal pressure that characters go through. We used it to suggest insanity. It’s a different thing, because most studios would never want feedback, but Eric was thrilled, so it’s a testament to his artistic spirit that he was willing to take chances.
AF: Were there any scenes in season one that you dedicated a lot of time to?
Lennertz: The scenes with Homelander and Stillwell, where you realize he has these deeply-rooted mommy issues, were hard to nail. Homelander is the most powerful superhero in the world, but he’s got so many issues and he’s acting so vulnerable in those moments.
We had these bells that sounded almost childlike, playing weird tones, but Eric and I talked and we decided to take it further. So we altered them digitally, to bend the bells out of tune, to show the warping of this lunatic’s brain. We do the same thing with the Seven theme over the course of the show, especially in the darker scenes. In the scene where Homelander lets the plane go down, I’m playing the corporate Vought theme, digitally twisted to represent how wrong things have gone.
AF: The Boys had some fantastic cultural commentary in season one. How did you consider that in your work?
Lennertz: It lets me be more creative, and I think, intense. There’s a lot to draw from when there’s some biting commentary to go off. After seeing the reaction to season one, and how many people enjoyed it, I think we’re going to have even more of that going forward, the commentary on corporate culture and social media. I don’t want to give anything away, but season two will be better than season one.
AF: One of the interesting elements of season one musically is you get to score several of Vought’s corporate superhero propaganda videos. Can you talk about that process?
Lennertz: Sure, we wanted to capture that glossy corporate feeling and I infused those with the brass and percussion that is sort of classic superhero music turned up to eleven.
Eric Kripke: There’s also a superhero doll commercial that Chris scores. In season two, Chris writes this ballad on Translucent’s passing once that news goes public. He really delivered this “Candle in the Wind” style number, and then on the other end of the spectrum we had him write porn music for superhero porn. It doesn’t get more versatile than that.