With it's eerie intro, generous use of synth and nostalgic tunes, the soundtrack and score to Stranger Things is nothing short of genius. Perfectly mashing up genuine songs of the era with brand new music written especially for the show, the result is an endlessly listenable playlist and I should know, I've been thrashing it for three weeks straight now. But how did such a perfect marriage come about? Well as it turns out it was a blend of luck, instincts and plain old good taste.
The creators of Stranger Things, Matt and Ross Duffer, had a clear vision when choosing the genre of music to score the series, taking inspiration from John Carpenter. The brothers recently spoke to Collider about their decision to go with the electronic/synth vibe for the show, and revealed that it was after putting together a mock trailer for the show (which they did to sell the show concept to Netflix), and using Carpenter's score to The Fog, that they realized it was the perfect sound for Stranger Things.
Along with using Carpenter's score in their trailer mock up, the Duffer brothers also used the song 'Dirge' from Austin-based band S U R V I V E, who the Duffers had serendipitously come across while watching the film The Guest:
Later when the time came to find a composer for the series, it was two members of S U R V I V E, Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon, they called upon. After talking with the pair, the brothers asked them to come up with themes for characters such as Eleven and the monster, and after hearing what they produced they were immediately hired.
Stein and Dixon actually ended up quitting their day jobs in order to work on the series full time, and all up composed over 13 hours of music for the series. The duo were onboard the project before the Duffers had even cast any of the characters, and sent a demo tape for the pair to play against the actor's audition tapes, something with Stein and Dixon told Rolling Stone they like to think may have helped direct who the Duffers ended up casting.
But the score is only one half of the music in the series, with it's pure nostalgic beats making up the other half. Despite the series being set mostly in November of 1983, the Duffer brothers didn't let the date restrict their music choice too much, instead picking songs which they felt fit the vibe of the story. As a result you get songs faithful to the era such as Foreigner's 1981 song 'Waiting for a Girl Like You,' as well as The Bangle's 1987 cover of 'Hazy Shades of Winter,' and New Order's 1985 instrumental piece 'Elegia.'
But even though the pair were relaxed about the release date of the song, they did try and stay true to the era if the characters themselves were listening to the music in the series, such as the repeated use of The Clash's 'Should I Stay or Should I Go.'
Interestingly, though the songs used in the series seem to fit the show perfectly, aside from 'Should I Stay or Should I Go' they weren't specifically written into the script. Instead the majority of the soundtrack was worked in after the Duffers basically gorged themselves on 80s music, and found songs which they felt worked.
However, after managing such a perfect 10 for the soundtrack in Season 1, the true challenge will be recreating that feeling for the inevitable Season 2. Matt Duffer has already stated that some of the unused score from Stein and Dixon will make it into Season 2, "if and when that happens," ensuring the series will continue with the eerie synth-heavy vibe they've so far nailed. But with further episodes still yet to be confirmed by Netflix, it seems like we'll have to wait quite a while before treating our ears to the otherworldly sounds of Stranger Things Season 2.
Stranger Things Season 1 is available to stream on Netflix now.