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From the primal energy of Kate Bush to the hypnotic magnetism of Animal Collective, Director Lisa Cholodenko shares a set of songs that have influenced her throughout her filmmaking career. She credits Joni Mitchell with perfectly capturing an era in Los Angeles and features the singer prominently in her new film “The Kids Are All Right,” which just opened the Los Angeles Film Festival and made a splash at Sundance. The film is out on July 9.
LR: Hi, this is Liza Richardson from KCRW and I am here with screenwriter and director Lisa Cholodenko. I had the honor of putting the music together for her new movie, The Kids Are All Right, which made a huge splash at Sundance this year. We will be playing excerpts of songs that have inspired her over the years as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Lisa, what did you bring to play for us today?
LC: The first is Joni Mitchell's "Car On The Hill," from the record “Court And Spark.” “Court And Spark” was one of those records that you never forget. I was like 11 or 12 when I was exposed to it, and I just immediately kind of fell in love with Joni Mitchell's voice and vibe.
When I think about that song, I realize that it was the first time, having grown up in L.A., that I could feel a sense of place where I was raised. "Car On The Hill" was expressly about climbing up the hill and I knew that it was Laurel Canyon. And I had never really thought about it in contextual way, like what is Laurel Canyon and who lives up there, and had any kind of fantasia about it, but this song kind of like just galvanized this thinking, this kind of meditation on place. And on time. I really felt the spirit of the time that it was recorded, which was the mid ‘70's and how people behaved and what the kind of zeitgeist was.
LR: That's "Car On The Hill," it's by Joni Mitchell and your second choice -- Lisa, what's next?
LC: Next is Kate Bush's "Pull Out The Pin."
LC: I had a long period of being kind of obsessed with Kate Bush. I can't exactly say why, but something about the kind of primal energy that she exhibited, especially on that record, there was just a real throwing open her soul, but beautiful. It was almost like this rage and anger and beauty all sort of co-mingled.
LC: That song in particular, I remember feeling really aware that this woman that just had this kind of soprano voice, was singing in a first person that she was a soldier in combat in Vietnam and was singing this narrative of pulling out the pin of a grenade and throwing it at the guy across the gully or whatever it was, and thinking that that was just such a butch, crazy, mindset to get into. First of all, just to build a narrative, just to write a song around that. And then, the way that she sang it, I felt like there was zero filter, it was just like this very deep, primal expression of fear and feeling.
You know, those were the kinds of songs that made me feel brave enough to start writing and feeling like I could express my own stories that, ultimately, I started making films and I think these women, these singer-songwriters that were so willing to go that deep into their own psyche and experience or, like the meditation on somebody else's experience, gave me a lot of mojo to do it for myself later in my life.
LR: That's "Pull Out The Pin," it's by Kate Bush and it's Lisa's choice. Lisa Cholodenko is with me in the studio, I'm Liza Richardson. Next, this is a little bit of a departure, so tell me about it.
LC: "Roygbiv" by Boards Of Canada. Great band. I remember hearing it for the first time; it was right around the time that I had made High Art. The record really captured my imagination and I loved that there was no words. I just loved that I was so taken with a record that was just sonic -- it was just sound. It was kind of a relief not to have that concrete narrative, the way that lyrics demand that you have to follow along like this storyline and think about things in a kind of literal way, that it could just be more, sort of, non-verbal, non-visual, just kind of primitive feeling.
LR: So that's Boards Of Canada, it's Lisa's choice today and she's our guest DJ. I'm Liza Richardson. Up next, what have you brought?
LC: Ok, so the next track is "Teardrop" by Massive Attack. I was a huge fan of Cocteau Twins and this song featured Elizabeth Fraser singing.
LC: It's a beautiful song and I hadn't heard her for a stretch because the Cocteau Twins sort of hadn't been making records for a few years. And so, it was like a delight to hear her again and I thought that it was a wonderful track.
That record featured a real trip-hop vibe - it was sort of the end of that tradition of music. I mean, it kind of started morphing into something else and I think this song was like a culmination for me, of that period. After this record my attention turned elsewhere; I started listening to different kinds of music and I felt like things that were coming out -- there's Tricky records and -- things that I just wasn't so interested in anymore. So this was sort of like the high point for me in that era of music.
LR: That's Massive Attack and "Teardrop" featuring Elizabeth Fraser on vocals and our guest DJ is Lisa Cholodenko, the director of the new film “The Kids Are All Right.” So what else did you bring?
LC: The last one is Animal Collective, "Summertime Clothes." I chose it because, for a long time, we were using this song as temp music for the opening credit sequence in this new film. And when I started finding the music for the film -- with your help Liza -- I had been sort of out of it for a while, like I was very focused on…I had a kid, writing this script and then directing this film and blah, blah, blah -- and I felt like the radio was off for a long time. I would listen to KCRW, but I felt like I wasn't even in the car. And so, when I came back to like, well, what music -- you know, what are we gonna do? Like, what are the needle drops here? I felt like I had to catch up with what was happening.
I knew that Animal Collective was an important band and had been for the last few years and had made a really important record. So I sort of listened to it very carefully and this song just really struck me. I felt like, wow, it's complicated, it's kind of like atonal and bizarre and unusual in some ways, but yet it's so hypnotic. I felt like I could immediately hook into it and it worked in a kind of hypnotic way for this opening sequence.
LC: As it turns out, we didn't use it, but that's not here or there. I really fell in love with it and I listened to it sort of endlessly while we were cutting the film -- I mean many, many a time -- and came to really adore that record.
LR: That's "Summertime Clothes" by Animal Collective, it's the choice of our guest DJ, Lisa Cholodenko. I'm Liza Richardson, and Lisa, thank you so much for joining us on KCRW.com
LC: Thanks! And it was fun working with you.
LR: For a complete tracklisting and to find these songs online, go to KCRW.com/guestdjproject