KCRW Exclusive Download: New Nick Urata from the Ruby Sparks Soundtrack

Written by

When I was in junior high, my favorite television program was a monthly MTV show featuring underground music called ‘I.R.S.’s The Cutting Edge’.

It was the first time I ever saw people like Iggy Pop, The Cramps, X or the Red Hot Chili Peppers (I recall at the time I was convinced they were mentally handicapped).

It was where I saw Husker Du perform “Makes No Sense at All” live, where I witnessed Stiv Bators create a mock personal dating video and where I first heard D. Boon from The Minutemen had died. Needless to say, the show had a big impact on me.

At the time, I had no idea the show was directed by a couple of young filmmakers named Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (who later would become an actual couple). And I would definitely have no idea that some 25 years later I would have the pleasure of working with Jonathan and Valerie as Music Supervisor on their new film “Ruby Sparks”, their follow up to their wildly successful hit “Little Miss Sunshine”.

“Ruby Sparks” is an inventive, surreal story of a struggling author who, through his writing, conjures up the perfect girl. One day, she inexplicably appears in the flesh and he soon realizes there is no such thing as “perfect”. The inspired screenplay was written by Zoe Kazan, who also stars along with her real-life boyfriend Paul Dano, with supporting roles from Chris Messina, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Elliot Gould and Steve Coogan.

For months, we worked on different approaches to the music for the film, trying a number of thematic styles as well as countless individual songs for various scenes… getting a sense of what works, what doesn’t, and making many decisions along the way. But the best decision Jonathan and Valerie made was hiring Nick Urata to compose the score for “Ruby Sparks”.

Nick had previously worked with Jonathan and Valerie on the score to “Little Miss Sunshine” – thanks to KCRW DJ Anne Litt — using many songs from his band Devotchka. For “Ruby Sparks”, Nick took the romantic soul of Devotchka and infused it into a lush, breathtaking Hollywood score… making it unique by adding elements of opera and unexpected instruments like the tambura.

A friend who saw the film described the score as “beautiful Frankenstein music”, which given the context of the story I couldn’t disagree with. It is a stunner and I honestly believe it to belong among the great modern film scores.

Stream “Inseparable” below and DOWNLOAD IT HERE

The soundtrack release is thankfully score-heavy, rounded out by some songs that appear in the film: some French music from Plastic Bertrand, Holden and Sylvie Vartan, along with a couple of reggae tracks from Derrick Herriott and LA outfit The Lions. The soundtrack is available Tuesday, July 24 on Milan Records.

Also, Nick Urata will be performing material from “Ruby Sparks”, as well as solo material, at a special live show at Largo on August 16.

— Dan Wilcox