Spike Jonze, Karen O and KK Barrett Play “The Moon Song” Live on KCRW

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Photo by Larry Hirshowitz

The story behind the movie “Her” is really a story of a group of passionate, talented people making something beautiful together.  And that’s how it feels when you watch it.

The exploration of relationships and our “need for intimacy” was written and directed by Spike Jonze, who brought longtime collaborators like production designer KK Barrett and songwriter Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) to flesh out his vision.

We got them together in a studio to record a special version of “The Moon Song”, which is nominated for an Oscar. We’d previously heard versions sung by co-stars Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson and Karen with Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig (she describes his voice as a mix of Chet Baker and Paul Simon), but this was the first time this trio performed it – Spike and KK on guitar and backup vocals, Karen singing.

The song is simple, delicate and fragile and a perfect fit for the film.  Spike sent her a script and gave her an assignment to write something that sounded like a made up song between the two characters. Karen says love song are her niche and her favorite thing to do and she referenced another movie moment as inspiration – the part in The Jerk where Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters sing “Tonight You Belong to Me”.

In the studio, the trio locked in together after playing it a couple times to get the right amount of space and it was very clear that they are a team who have tremendous respect and adoration for each other. It’s a short song, but it leaves your heart singing.

At the end of the interview, Jason Bentley asked each of them to name a favorite love song.

KK jumped in first with Gram Parsons’ “Love Hurts”, another simple yet searing track.  Karen suggested “Love Letters” by Ketty Lester, saying the songs she loves the most “have yearning and melancholy in them.” Spike almost went with Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” but switched to Bob Dylan’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”.

Hear the full interview:


p.s.: Karen still seems a bit in shock about the nomination. I truly think it was unexpected! She was consulting with KK on dress options during soundcheck…

p.p.s.: The other versions of “The Moon Song” are available on iTunes.