Trey Edward Shults on Waves: 'Every song on the soundtrack has a reason and is chosen for a specific perspective'

Trey Edward Shults on Waves: 'Every song on the soundtrack has a reason and is chosen for a specific perspective'

American director discusses his dynamic use of music in his third feature film

Over multiple generations, music has been a fiery prism for teenagers to learn about life and duly express their thorny emotions. Whether they're flicking through inserts in CDs, cassettes or records learning lyrics, obsessively watching MTV, TikTok or YouTube videos, music provides a conduit through which to see into their souls and articulate their inner desires and feelings.

Director Trey Edward Shults knows this and uses it to the max in his dynamic third feature film, Waves, following It Comes at Night. He picks through his own youth and that of the young cast members, Kelvin Harrison Jr. (who has been nominated in the Rising Star category in this year's controversial BAFTA awards), Taylor Russell, Lucas Hedges and Alexa Demie to craft a bittersweet coming of ager with a banging soundtrack that features Frank Ocean, Animal Collective, Dinah Washington and Kendrick Lamar, to name a few.

Trey Edward Shults on Waves: 'Every song on the soundtrack has a reason and is chosen for a specific perspective'

'I basically built a large playlist of a lot of my favourite songs but also a lot of songs that I thought could exist in the world of the movie.' Shults explains, perking up like a passionate teen at the mention of the soundtrack. 'I pulled from that and let it happen organically as I was writing. Every song in there I love and every song on the soundtrack has a reason and is chosen for a specific perspective.'

Shults goes on to explain that the original cut of the movie ran for nearly three and a half hours, and he had to cut some of his favourite songs in the editing process. 'There were definitely more songs that were in a longer version of the movie … 'Runaway' by Kanye West. For me, I have to edit alone at first as I'm going on a feeling or an instinct. For this one it was seven months before we brought on another editor. We tried to make the movie shorter together and not lose our minds!'

Out of all the artists who feature in the film, Shults' love for experimental pop band Animal Collective speaks the loudest. He uses three of their songs, and explains his motivations in depth, saying, 'We have 'FloriDada', 'Bluish' and 'Loch Raven'. The lyrics to 'Loch Raven' are really beautiful and whispery. That song to me feels like love and new beginnings. It feels beautiful, healing and cleansing. 'Bluish' is another personal song. It's a song me and my girlfriend love and I remember one day looking up the lyrics and it finally clicking that it was a love song.'

He concludes on how the opening song 'FloriDada' works as a way to feed into the themes and tempo of Waves. 'For 'FloriDada', it was just too perfect that a band that I love made a song about Florida [where the film is set] so we had to use that in the movie! The beautiful chaos of that song echoes how we shoot the scene. We use the bridge of the song and it opens on a bridge. A bridge to me speaks to the yin and yang of the movie, the highs and lows, the good and bad, life and death and the dichotomies in our lives and how they're connected.'

General release from Fri 17 Jan.

Waves

  • 4 stars
  • 2019
  • US
  • 2h 15min
  • Directed by: Trey Edward Shults
  • Cast: Kelvin Harrison Jr, Taylor Russell, Lucas Hedges, Sterling K Brown
  • UK release: 17 January 2020

Tyler (Harrison Jr) is suffering from a wrestling injury; meanwhile, his sister Emily (Russell) falls in love with Luke (Hedges). Microbudget drama about addiction and family dysfunction, capturing the teen experience through creative flourishes that mimic Instagram and TikTok posts; captivating and hard-hitting.

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