Hooked On A Feeling: Kirby Krackle Provides The Soundtrack For Animated ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ [Interview]
For nearly seven years, Kirby Krackle have been proving themselves as one of the preeminent nerd rock bands, with songs covering topics from the Great Lake Avengers to Game of Thrones’ Night's Watch. Their high energy, passionate style has gained them a worldwide fanbase and has now led to a partnership with Disney and Marvel to produce new, original songs for Star-Lord’s mixtape in the animated Guardians of the Galaxy series.
The first of these songs, Gotta Get Back, debuted this past Sunday as part of an episode that sets the Guardians and their resident destroyer Drax against The Destroyer of Asgard! ComicsAlliance spoke to Kyle Stevens of Kirby Krackle about writing songs inspired by Peter Quill’s Awesome Mix, and what songs would be on the rest of the Guardians’ mixtapes.
ComicsAlliance: How were you first approached by Disney and the people behind the Guardians of the Galaxy cartoon?
Kyle Stevens: I was first approached in 2014, a few weeks before GOTG hit theaters, regarding the possibility of doing some songs for a cartoon in development. I, like everyone in the world, was intrigued by the 70s sound in all the promotion for the film, but it was then that I was told how big a part music would really play, and it being the important component that grounded the audience to Earth.
I was invited down to the GOTG premiere in L.A. and that was an amazing experience for me seeing the film in that setting and getting stoked for the possibility of contributing to the franchise in the future.
CA: How closely did you work with Disney on the songs? Was there an ongoing notes process, or were they generally hands-off?
KS: First off, I have to thank Joe Quesada and the Marvel Animation Dept. for trusting Kirby Krackle with the task of creating songs to compliment the amazing collection of music already put together around the GOTG world. It was pretty daunting at first, and [I had] a few days of staring at a page in analysis-paralysis until the ideas started flowing.
I wanted to create songs that sounded very different from each other for the late-70s/early-80s time in pop-music we were asked to represent, and have them not sound out of place if they listener put them in a playlist that included the amazing movie soundtrack.
For the song "Gotta Get Back," which debuted this week, it was actually a song our guitarist Patrick Porter had in his pocket for his other band Explone, and the theme just fit so well for what I was trying to come up with at the time for GOTG and Star-Lord’s longing to return home.
There was a period of going back and forth with the animation team on musical drafts before we went into the studio, and it was important to me that we did everything we could to knock it out of the park. The feedback we received from them was essential leading to the final product and the feeling that we did the best we could.
What I imagine is normally reserved for their writers and artists, it was an honor to be a part of the Marvel editorial process for our music as we submitted drafts, and their notes definitely made the songs better. Stuff like suggesting the bridge be the verse, the repeating chant in “Gotta Get Back”... stuff like that.
CA: Did you have access to scripts or story beats to influence the content of the songs?
KS: I was given a general idea of where the cartoon was going, but like everyone else I just had a blast tuning in every week to see what adventures the gang was up to. I was excited to record the songs, but even more stoked after seeing the first episode, and how good a job they did.
CA: Were there any songs that didn’t quite make the cut that might turn up elsewhere?
KS: We were asked to do a handful of tunes they could pick between for scene selection, and there might be a few yet to see the light of day. It will be interesting to see if or where those turn up. Each song had such a unique personality as we literally tried to be a “different band” with each one. We had a few rockers, a song that drips sunshine in it’s infectious happiness, and one with a definite Jackson 5 vibe. It’s been a unique experience for us to not know where the songs would turn up, and a lot of fun.
CA: What were you listening to around this time, outside of the original Guardians soundtrack?
KS: It was important to me to really dive into the mentality of the core of the original soundtrack; infectious hooks, songs that get your hips moving, and music that created an interesting parallel between what you see on screen and what your ears are taking in. The soundtrack created such a high bar, and listening to that over and over as well as Bay City Rollers albums, Jackson 5 collections and like-genred music helped immensely to put the melodies I wanted to write in that place.
Kirby Krackle is a nerd-rock band by trade with a heavy rock-pop lean, so making sure we were conservative with that both in song structure and tone was very important in keeping the songs as authentic as we could. A big part of that was the ears and mixing skills of our longtime producer Don Gunn and the conversations with him regarding creating sounds reminiscent of that time in music. Everything we had in our power to do that, from the mics to what guitars we used, I know played a part in coming up with the final product.
CA: The Guardians of the Galaxy songs are heavily influenced by Peter Quill’s mixtape in the film. What kind of music would you write for the other Guardians? What’s Groot into?
KS: Well, right off the bat, Kirby Krackle has a song called, “Dancing Baby Groot” on our 2015 release MUTATE, BABY, so that’s for sure on the playlist. Also, I’m positive Groot would be into those nature albums they put on during massages; birds chirping, etc. Or, “Best Of The 90’s” compilations where every lyric is translated into, “I Am Groot”. Makes sense.
I can confidently say that Drax is a yacht-rock guy; Peaches & Herb, Manilow, etc. I can see Gamora being into Metric-sounding music for some reason, but she’d kill you the moment you asked. And for Rocket... he’s still mad Limp Bizkit isn’t active these days. Probably some bro-rock for him; detuned guitars, vinyl scratching. No judgment... maybe a little.
CA: We just saw the publication of a three song Black Canary EP. If Kirby Krackle could inhabit the role of any fictional band and bring them to life, who would it be?
KS: I know, and it’s killer, right? Such a great idea, and it would be so fun to do something like that. I have a soft spot in my heart for The Wonders from “That Thing You Do”... did you know that those recordings were actually Fountains Of Wayne? So catchy, and of course they did those songs. Also, if J.J. Abrams wants us to be the cantina band, he can call my grandma and leave a message. A nerd can dream.
CA: What can people expect from Kirby Krackle in 2016, outside of the Guardians of the Galaxy songs?
KS: The band and I are so thankful to have been given the opportunity to be a part of GOTG’s world with these songs, and my wish is that new fans follow the trail to our albums and all we do on the convention trail. We’re taking this momentum and hitting the comic con circuit hard this year, going into our seventh year of Kirby Krackle, and I feel like it’s the best place our band has been in.
I’m very proud of the guys, the work we’ve done up until this point, and the fun we’ve had with our Kracklehead fan community by our side. I want to keep spreading the nerd-rock gospel everywhere we go with upcoming appearances set for North America and Australia. I’m having a lot of fun with our fan-supported Patreon campaign that powers our music and videos and music lovers can expect more songs, more performances, and more surprises like this going forward. People wanting to learn more and join the fun at kirbykracklemusic.com, and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone on the road kicking off with KRACKLEFEST 6 at Emerald City Comic Con in April.
Guardians of the Galaxy airs Sundays at 8:30am on Disney XD.