For More: www.foxsearchlight.com/500daysofsummer
Anthony Valadez: Hi, I'm Anthony Valadez and I'm here with screenwriter Scott Neustadter. He co-wrote the indie hit film 500 Days of Summer, which was based on his real life romance. Today, we will be playing excerpts of songs he's selected that have inspired him over the year as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Scott, how are you?
Scott Neustadter: Great, thank you for having me
AV: Good, thank you for coming. What did you bring for us today?
SN: Well, I brought 5 songs, which I'm sure you've been told before is sort of a Sophie's Choice for a music lover. When I was trying to figuring out where to start I just went with The Long Winters’ "Scared Straight." I looked at my iTunes and it was the song that I played the most, which I was surprised by, that actually shocked me. I thought about it and I remembered that, you know, certain songs I guess come into your life at just the most appropriate times. I don't know what it's about. I never know what it's about. His lyrics are really like little puzzle pieces and they're fascinating to me and I always write my own stories whenever I'm listening to Long Winters’ songs. This song is probably about traffic, I don't even know, something mundane. But I always thought it was a break up song and I wrote a whole story about it in my head because I was going through a similar thing and it was just a very just invigorating kind of thing, especially the ending.
Song: "Scared Straight" by The Long Winters
AV: How influential is music when writing and when creating?
SN: I always write with headphones on. I've been known to go into funks where I haven't heard a new song that I love for a while and I can't write. Then I'll hear a song that I love, or something new that I'd never heard before, and then all of a sudden the creative juices start to flow. And it's also a thing that I love -- and when I want to write I sort of shoot for this -- it's this feeling of happy-sad, you know, something that sounds uplifting and really pretty, but also has this undercurrent of melancholy and bittersweet. They're a great example of that kind of feeling and I just want to emulate that myself.
AV: That was The Long Winters with "Scared Straight." What's next Scott?
SN: Talking Heads song called "This Must Be the Place." It's a very popular song and, for me, it's really one of the most, if not THE most, perfect song that I know of. I'm just sort of obsessed with it.
AV: Why is it the most perfect song?
SN: Everything about it's construction I love, so I could do a deconstruction of the song, and then I could sit back and listen to it and just let it wash over me and say, ‘Wow, that's just beautiful.’ I was a Talking Heads fan as a young kid -- like I loved Talking Heads before I discovered The Beatles, I was one of those weird kids. I always liked things that were a little bit off kilter, I guess. This song is… everyone is playing different instruments, they're going on the same melody over and over. There's no reason for this song to be as beautiful and as extraordinary as it is yet, there's just something about it that is unbelievable. You know, I get a little emotional when I listen to it, even now. I just think it's just one of the best, most unheralded love songs ever written.
Song: "This Must Be the Place" -- The Talking Heads
AV: That was The Talking Heads with "This Must Be the Place," part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. I'm sitting here, records in hand, with screenwriter Scott Neustadter. The Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice" -- very optimistic, very positive.
AV: How inspirational is this song to you?
SN: And yet it's the saddest song ever, and that's what I love about it. It's really, really optimistic, really positive and the way I listened to it when I was younger, it always made me feel good. Now, I can't really listen to it without getting a little sad about it because there's this idea of ‘wouldn't it be nice if we had all these things’ -- which naturally implies we don't. And it's this person's fantasy and he's very hopeful and he wants it to be the case and, man, in his eyes it would be such a great thing if we could live together, and we could be happy, and life would be magical and wonderful and it's just not
Song: "Wouldn't It Be Nice" by The Beach Boys
SN: I don't know what happens, but the older you get you start to realize that, there's two people involved in any of these love stories and, more often than not, you only get one person's perspective. And we say, ‘Oh it's so romantic,’ but if you ask the other person, it's possible they would say, ‘Yeah, not so much.’
AV: That was The Beach Boys with "Wouldn't It Be Nice," released on Pet Sounds, as selected by Scott Neustadter. What's next in your record bag?
SN: The next song that I chose is probably one that not a lot of people know, by a band called Arnold and it's "Oh My." It's a song that I heard when I lived in London and it’s kind of what got me over of my fear of California. I was basically terrified of LA. I grew up on the East Coast in Atlantic City, New Jersey. I went to school in Philadelphia, I lived in New York for a while. I was an East Coaster and LA was terrifying. I wanted to be in the movie business but I was so afraid of LA movie people and the stereotypes and just that whole thing and so I did the natural thing and I moved to England instead of LA. While I was there I saw a lot of music and I discovered this song and they're a British band I believe and yet this song in my mind just said, ‘go to California’ and when you hear it, I think that's just how it feels.
Song: "Oh My," by Arnold
AV: That was UK band Arnold with "Oh My," off their “Bahama” release. What's next, Scott?
SN: My favorite song by my favorite band -- this is a Radiohead b-side called "Lull."
Song: "Lull" by Radiohead
SN: I was a fan of Radiohead from the very early beginnings of the band. I loved the first album when no one else liked them, and I just always feel very protective of them and every single time they come out with a new record, I sort of get a little nervous about it because the expectations just keep getting higher and higher and it's really amazing the way they meet and sometimes even exceed expectations when like, the eyes of the world are watching them. Somehow they manage to pull it off, it's a very inspiring thing.
AV: And why this song?
SN: I absolutely love this song, it was a b-side that reminds me a little bit of "Let Down," which is another song that I absolutely love. It is two minutes long and it just has all the magic of what makes them special to me, so I just love it. I never get sick of it. I remember just listening to it in my car on repeat in college and, I still get the same kind of feelings when I hear it now as I did then
AV: Scott, thanks so much for joining us here on KCRW.com
SN: Thank you for having me, this is really a dream come true
AV: For a complete track listing to find out the songs go online to KCRW.com/GuestDJProject