The plethora of soundtrack selections in Joe versus CarolPeacock’s genre limited series that spans multiple time periods, might intimidate most music supervisors – but not Anne Kline.
Kline enthusiastically embraced the task of selecting a wide range of material for the show, which benefited from his attention to detail – something instilled in him by his years of practicing law in the music department of the William Morris Agency before embarking on his career as a music supervisor with credits ranging from top dramas such as Emergencies and The west wing to comedies like The Goldbergs and The last OG.
Kline has worked closely with Joe versus Carol creator and writer Etan Frankel to musically illustrate the myriad emotions experienced by these complex characters without satirizing them or making them sound hokey. The series follows a fine line, like Joe Exotic and Carol Baskin are real people who have become mythical figures through the telling of their doomed history.
Understandably, Kline is very protective of how the show’s music is perceived, almost like a tigress protecting her cubs. When a joke is made that some of the music can be described as “redneck rock”, she quickly clarifies that “southern rock” is the appropriate term to define time and place. Some of the southern rockers that are featured on the Joe versus Carol soundtrack are the Marshall Tucker Band, The Allman Brothers Groupand Lynyrd Skynyrd.
These iconic bands are joined by an eclectic group of artists, including Tom Jones, simply red, brown 5, Radiohead, Yo-Yo Ma with Bobby McFerrin, Katrina and the Wavesand Katy Perry, to name a few. There’s even an obvious nod to animal-themed songs like “Tiger” from Abba“Roar” by Perry, “What’s New Pussycat” by Jones and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” sung by Kate McKinnonit’s Baskin.
under the line spoke with Kline about how she narrowed down her musical choices, which songs were deemed too expensive and which songs were used in their place to achieve the same effect, as well as how she convinced certain artists to say “yes” to a story that has sparked heated debate in the animal rights community.
Below the line: Explain to me how the idea of a song comes to you when you choose the music for a series?
Anne Klin: It really starts with talking with the executive producers of the show. The whole series is their vision. I have known Etan for a long time and have very easy interactions with him. I just met alexander [Katsnelson] about this project and it’s so easy to talk to him, and because they’re both writers, they’re so good at describing what they’re looking for in a scene. For example, in the scene where Carole rides her bike through her sanctuary and we want to feel her unbridled happiness in her beautiful place, we chose “Walking On Sunshine” by Katrina And The Waves.
There were songs that were more campy for some of Carole’s moments, like [hearing] “The brakes” (kurtis shot) the first time we see her on the bike. He’s a really cool person and his heart is in the right place, so we didn’t want it to feel like we were playing a joke. She is happiest in her sanctuary and there is nothing that makes her feel better than animals. They were very specific.
BTL: What was your initial approach to choosing the different musical genres?
Kline: The music is very eclectic. Initially, they were going to keep it in-house and not bring in an outside supervisor. It ended up being so much more cutting edge than they originally intended. When I arrived they [had] almost finished episode 1 so I could see where they were going and how much fun they were having with the music. Their overall journey for music was, “It’s happening in the South and we love the southern rock vibe”. So, [the music shifts] between the southern rock for time and place, and Dodge! (quirky late 50s/early 60s lounge music), [which offers a] hipster, playful, affectionate and feline feel. I can’t take credit for it. It was really Etan and Alex who had the vision [for the soundtrack] and it was just fun to follow [that] and play with.
Then we used the big genre of camp/glam songs, whether it’s Tom Jones or Eddy Grant (“Killer On The Rampage”) or the French version of “These Boots”, even Katy Perry – great songs that are anthemic, over the top and fun. Serious heartbreakers are more along the lines of indie rock like Radiohead (“My Iron Lung”) and The National (“Runaway”), and opera and classical [music] are well-known songs that stir up emotions and make a giant statement, just like our characters do.
BTL: What were the financial challenges in getting “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and “What’s up Pussycat?” »
Kline: They were very expensive, and all the editing songs were expensive, whether it was Allman Brothers or Tom Jones, so we knew where the big money was going. Plus there are so many great indie southern rock bands like natural child (“Baby”) which we chose instead, or crutch (“Keep on Risin”) which were totally affordable [and] have the same vibe and let the public know which direction we’re going.
For opera highlights we would use something in the public domain like “Ode To Joy” and “Ave Maria”, although the Yo-Yo Ma recording we used is expensive, editing is domain audience. This is where we chose to save money so we could afford Abba and Katy Perry and Tom Jones. There were great moments that tempered The stones or Bowie it worked great and beautifully, but we just couldn’t afford to do it all.
When Joe takes the stage at his trial, we got the “No More Mr. Nice Guy” (Alice Cooper) moment. We knew we had to spend a little more money to get audiences to know these characters even more. It could be fun and camping, but we could achieve those goals in less expensive ways. I think we would have gone crazier if we had all the money in the world, but having budget constraints really helps you be more creative.
BTL: How did you get some of the most prominent artists to say “yes” to lend their music to this story?
Kline: When we request a song, I’m very specific about how it’s used, why we want to use it, and why it’s appropriate for the scene. If someone wants to see the scene, if we can, we send it to them. We don’t want anyone to be surprised when they see their song in a scene, [so] whether it’s sex, drugs or violence, we get it all – “Here’s the song for the stage, we think it works great, and we hope you do too.”
Etan and Alex understood if someone didn’t want to be part of the project. We know they’ve seen the documentary and maybe listened to the podcast. Of course, there were times [we had to] convince them that this is a story from the point of view of [how] they are trying to save the animals. We didn’t want people to be uncomfortable with their music being used in something. Some of the classic artists might have been more nervous about southern rock being considered “redneck rock”. There are no songs that make fun of the characters, and I think they saw that those characters are genuine.
There were times when we used songs to introduce characters [when] some people said “no” because they didn’t want their song to be shorthand for “hey, he’s a bad guy”. Some people were animal activists and just didn’t want to be involved. Even though they knew what Carole wanted to do, they didn’t want to be involved in anything that could be seen as glorifying someone who harmed animals. As sweet as Joe’s intentions are, we know what’s going on. Although it’s campy, they all come from a place where we love animals. We understood that, but for the most part people were happy to be involved.
BTL: What scenes are you most proud of in terms of music matching the emotion on screen?
Kline: There is a very great moment when [Joe’s husband] Travis dies and those moments when you see him fall apart. He’s the only character who never crosses over. Joe falls, but he’s still famous, and Carole falls, but she comes back to be a better person. But Travis is a real tragedy and Nat [Wolff] did such a great job of representing. The music worked very well. I think it was Etan who chose The National’s song “Runaway” which plays at the end of the episode. Right before that, when we play Radiohead’s song “My Iron Lung,” which plays throughout Travis’ disappearance, where you see him lost, getting high, and wandering around the zoo. I thought the song really captured his unhappiness and worthlessness. I [think] it was my favorite because it was heartbreaking. We were all so happy that they agreed to let us use the song. I found the “Ave Maria” moment of the trial magnificent. Gotta give amazing props to our music editor Jen Nash, who designed it so perfectly [for] the scene. I would say those are my two favorite moments of the series.
BTL: Why did you choose “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” by Simply Red and “Lady In Red” by Chris De Burgh for the dance scenes between Howard and Carole Baskin?
Kline: They made sense for these characters. They are so romantic. These are songs that make you smile, like songs of guilty pleasure. We played a lot with the songs of these two scenes. Etan and Alex were like, ‘those are the ones.’ Even if they have this groovy side of the 70s or 80s, I can imagine these two characters turning on the car radio every time these songs play.
BTL: The diversity of music really works and it would make a great soundtrack.
Kline: I like that you say that, and I agree. It’s such a different time for soundtracks. We’ve posted all the information for fans to find. I hope Peacock or the fans will host a Spotify playlist for this. It was a really, really fun project from top to bottom. Everyone was so cool. I loved the way they scripted it. It really showed the characters in a much more personal way and really touched the heart and soul of who they are. I was so excited to see what they were going to do and I was just all in. It was a truly wonderful experience.