For Shudder to Think‘s Craig Wedren and that dog.’s Anna Waronker, playing in their respective cult favorite ’90s rock bands was the perfect prelude to their eventual roles composing the score together for Showtime’s hit grunge-era series Yellowjackets, the second season finale of which airs tonight (May 28).
Shudder to Think’s weird, brainy post-hardcore sound is undoubtedly heard in the show’s theme song “No Return,” a new version of which with vocals from Alanis Morissette was released last month.
“She was very vocal about being a huge fan, and the show wanted her to be involved somehow,” Waronker tells SPIN of Morissette. “The idea was for her to do an interpretation of the theme song, almost like a cover. It turned into both that and her taking a stab at ours as well. There’s all these Alanis nuggets throughout the season that are planted around.” Adds Wedren in his best drunk-on-food Homer Simpson accent, “Alanis … nuggets…”
For tonight’s finale, which features the death of a major character, Waronker describes the score as “just endless. It’s 20 or 30 minutes of all music. I kept calling it a rock opera by the time we were done, between the needle drops and then the score, and the work we’d do to tee up the needle drops. It’s really good. I’m really proud.” Wedren admits “the final cue is for sure the most Shudder to Think-y thing that has seeped through,” prompting Waronker to tease, “but it’s only in one time signature!”
Although both composers demurred when pressed for details, they did reveal that fans can expect at least one more six-string-flavored cue in the finale, which comes, per Wedren, after “a needle-drop with a very particular style of arpeggiated guitar” by a very famous band.
Yellowjackets chronicles a New Jersey high school soccer team’s attempt to survive a 1996 plane crash in the remote Canadian woods, and how the incident continues to impact their lives 25 years later. This juxtaposition often leads to surreal moments, such as a scene earlier this season when the character of Misty (played as an adult by Christina Ricci) hallucinates her pet parrot, Caligula, in the form of Hedwig and the Angry Inch star John Cameron Mitchell. The accompanying song, “Sit Right Down,” nods heavily to classic Hollywood song-and-dance musical numbers.
Asked if this was the vintage show tune he was always secretly meant to write, the theater-loving Wedren shouts, “I mean, are you kidding me? The producers mentioned they wanted some sort of classic MGM show tune, and we could sense that they were trepidatious, like, ‘Do you guys know how to do that?’ We were like, [adopts loud Broadway voice] ‘DO WE KNOW HOW TO DO THAT?'” Thrilled with the finished product, show producers said “We will never doubt you again,” according to Waronker. “That was a real highlight, and then having John Cameron Mitchell sing it was just the cherry on the top. Why don’t you get Liza while you’re at it?”
Wedren and Waronker’s season two score will be released on June 9 by Lakeshore Records. “It was a very, very quick turnaround,” Wedren says. “We had to listen to the entirety of our music for season two, which I did on two plane rides to and from New York. Given the premise of Yellowjackets, that was scary (laughs). But it was also awesome.”
“It has been pretty interesting for Anna and I, who had very parallel band experiences — passionate, cult followings, and friends with and part of worlds that exploded in success and in flames,” he continues. “Seeing how the machine takes over once something reaches a certain level of popularity, and watching that happen with Yellowjackets, has been fascinating from this end of the telescope. Fortunately, working with Anna is basically half therapy session and half collaboration and actual music.”