Italian musician and composer Sofia Hultquist’s creativity knows no bounds. The Berklee College of Music and NYU alum has settled in LA, but travels frequently to collaborate with designers to fulfill their creative vision through music. Hultquist works closely with her clients to compose the perfect compilation whether it be a runway show, fashion short film, campaigns, and events. She has recently added a film credit, as co-composer on the documentary The Frist Monday in May. The film opened the TriBeCa Film Festival last month.
How does one get into film scoring and composing?
The way I was first introduced to it was while attending college in Boston at Berklee College of Music. I’d always loved movies and had gone to Berklee to perform and delve deeper into music theory so the initial love started that way. There’s a few programs in the US (and the world) that offer actual film scoring programs, so I think that’s usually the way. Lately, though, my husband (who’s also a film composer) and I have been noticing that a lot of our friends that were in bands are starting to show interest in scoring. Also, because of the way music and technology are evolving, people are coming into film scoring and composition in totally new ways, often without the years of schooling that have brought me to this point!
You’re a Berklee College of Music alum – do you miss performing?
I sometimes really do. My adolescence was spent performing and singing, and then in college it was somewhat ‘required’ for me to keep singing (since my instrument was voice). After college I was in a dream-pop duo called Aislyn and we performed up until going on indefinite hiatus somewhere around 2013 or so. I’m always looking to start performing again, and will often just have evenings when I sit at the piano and just belt out a bunch of songs for a few hours. It’s hard though to get yourself back to that performance ready place- it definitely takes some practicing.
Tell me about your company Drum and Lace?
Drum & Lace lately has evolved into being more of a monicker that I write music under rather than a company. When I first started the whole concept of Drum & Lace I had structured it to be more of a ‘company’ because that’s where I was coming from previously. But it’s definitely very much a one-woman-show and I think it’s been sitting better with me to have it just be an extension of myself! Either way, Drum & Lace came to be because I felt like there was a real gap between somewhat cheesy stock music and the licensing of music from band/labels, and I was noticing a lot of people were having a hard time finding good music to fit their aesthetics and creative budget. I’ve always had a love for fashion and thought that by creating music for emerging designers and artists it would create a really nice collaborative work in the end. It’s been really great to be able to compose music based on the mood boards and aesthetics of really amazing designers, and it’s so rewarding to see the designers I work with get bigger and bigger with time!
Do you create music outside of your work with brands and designers?
I do. Since moving to Los Angeles from New York two years ago I’ve been delving into film scoring more than I ever had. My husband was also finally coming back to film scoring after playing in a band for a long time, and it’s been really great! I’ve recently had the chance to work on a lot of film projects, whether feature length or shorts, and it’s been really fun and really different of an experience from the typical Drum & Lace projects. I’ve also started to write music that I’m planning on releasing every few months as ‘mood’ EPs under Drum & Lace. The EPs are just exciting because I get to write what I feel is the best representation of my work and style.
What’s the process like when you meet a new client and they need music for a fashion show? Where do you start?
Every project so far has been a little different. Usually, we will talk about the overall inspiration for the collection and look at any mood boards or references they have. It’s really helpful for me to also know what materials will be used in the collection and to (if possible) see sketches or ideas of how it will all come together. Different textures and colors are really important for me and, when paired with the mood board and reference, really help set the tone. Usually I’ll then go off and start sketching out some musical ideas, and once I have something rough, I’ll send it back to the designer/client to see if it’s all feeling like it’s going in the right direction. From there, it’s just all a matter of communicating back and forth up until the presentation/runway show to make sure that the music is completely in line with the visual aesthetic and vibe of the collection. The openness of this process has been great, and also makes it so there aren’t any last minute ‘surprises’. God knows that the whole process of putting on a fashion presentation is stressful enough for an emerging designer!
I read that you lean toward brands and designers with a sustainability element – why is this important to you?
I definitely do, and I’m not quite sure exactly when it started, but I have a feeling it might have been as early as when I was growing up in Italy. I think it’s important for fashion to start wanting to build stronger and more sustainable communities, as these can not only help preserve trades that are slowly being bypassed (such as weaving, cobbling, etc) but can also create jobs that provide living wages and thriving communities. From an ecological standpoint, fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world, and I think that so much good could be achieved if everyone started giving a damn about the process of making and disposing of clothing and garments. It’s been so exciting to see so many new designers and stores embrace the sustainable aspects of fashion, and I really believe that with time and education we can help the world and help ourselves.
Tell me how the opportunity to compose the documentary The First Monday in May came about?
My husband Ian had actually worked with Andrew Rossi, the director, before on two feature length documentaries. While they were filming The First Monday in May, Andrew asked if we would both be interested in scoring the fashion documentary as he wanted to keep working with Ian and felt that my work with Drum & Lace would be a great mix. I’m so thankful to Andrew and everyone on the project, as it really was such a great opportunity for me to co-score my first feature length film.
What was meeting Anna like? Did you attend the Met Ball?
You know- we had the chance of meeting Anna while in the green room at the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of the documentary, and I somehow chickened out. It didn’t help that she was also talking to Robert DeNiro (who started Tribeca). But who knows, maybe one day! And I did not get to attend the Met Ball- but if anyone wants to sponsor me to go one year then I’d love to (haha)!
Do you have a favorite project to date? Most challenging?
Oh man, there have been so many incredible projects I’ve worked on that it hardly seems fair to leave anyone out. Most recently, though, I feel like I’ve gotten a chance to work on some of the most interesting projects to date for me. I did sound design and composed the score to a fashion film called “Toro”, directed by Charlene Bagcal, that looks amazing and is really right up my alley both aesthetically and mood wise. I also really loved working on À MOI’s most recent NYFW presentation for FW16 as their inspiration was Bauhaus Ballet, which meant I got to have a really fun time writing some pretty out there neoclassical electronic music. Another fashion film I worked on recently with The Palatines and director Basak Erol is a definite favorite as the concept and way it was shot was so neat. And the most challenging project was by far The First Monday in May- but I’m so happy with how the score ended up!
Does your ear for music ever interfere when you want to just enjoy a film or fashion show?
Yes actually, quite a bit. I find that I listen to less and less music during my time off, literally as a result of making and listening to sound all day everyday while working. In film, it’s really easy to start picking the music apart, and that very often will take me out of being into the film itself (this only happens if the music doesn’t seem to fit or isn’t good to my ears). Fashion and music-wise I think there are some designers and publications that do a really fantastic job, but there’s definitely room for improvement in many other sections!
Who would be a dream collaborator for you?
Ohh this is a fun question – in the music world I would love to collaborate with Grimes or Depeche Mode. Whereas in fashion it would be incredible to get to do anything with Nick Knight, Iris van Herpen, Miuccia Prada or Dries Van Noten.
What’s your personal style like? Do you enjoy the non-music side of fashion?
I ask myself this question often- I think the best way to describe my style is ladylike-eclectic. A mix of good tailoring and minimalism, mixed with a lot of print, vintage, and interesting shapes. And I very much enjoy the non-music side! Especially around fashion month or when campaigns start coming out I find myself making folders and mood boards just like I did before starting Drum & Lace.
Do you split your time between NYC and LA? Pros and cons of each city?
I’m actually more or less always in LA at this point. When we first moved to LA I thought I would be going to NY more often than I do. Now I’m usually there about 3-4 times a year, usually around fashion week and then again to visit the few friends we have left! The pros of LA are definitely the more laid back attitude and the weather, as well an incredible sense of community amongst creatives. The cons are probably the slight flaky nature of the industry out here. For NY I’d say the pros are the walking everywhere and the nightlife. And the cons…. let’s just say I moved to LA for a reason!