With Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Daniel Hart’s Making A Big Splash In Film-Scoring World.
Perhaps Daniel Hart should’ve been somewhere else this past Friday night.
In future years, he might wish he had been. August 16, after all, should go down as something of a milestone date for the Dallas-based musician: On that date, the Dallas-based director David Lowery’s Ain’t The Bodies Saints — already lauded at Sundance — earned its national release to critical acclaim. As the composer of the film’s score, Hart played no small part in that film’s production.
And yet Hart wasn’t out on some red carpet on Friday night. Nor was he hidden in the back row of a nondescript movie theater, scanning audiences for reactions to his work.
He was on stage at outdoor live music venue The Foundry in West Dallas, performing a set with his new band, Dark Rooms, where he’d make no mention of the film at all. Instead, he just played another fine set with his new band, and reinforced the notion that, yes, Dark Rooms is very much the best new band in town.
To hear Hart tell it, though, this is just the way he prefers things: Film-scoring dalliances aside, live music remains the violin virtuoso’s first passion.
Still, side work or not, it’s clear that Hart has a gift for soundtracking film. His efforts on Ain’t Them Bodies Saints — the first film Hart’s ever worked on in this regard — have already earned him more praise than can likely fit into a press release blurb. Among those singing his praises: The New York Observer, which calls his score “sublime;” new film site The Dissolve (from the creators of Pitchfork), which calls his score “immediately arresting, reminiscent of Jonny Greenwood’s work on There Will Be Blood;” and Indiewire, which calls his score “incredible” and “striking” and calls Hart himself one of the five film score composers to watch this year
Hart’s more modest than that when given the forum to describe his work for the film, which will be released as a Video On Demand title through its IFC distribution deal this coming Friday, August 23. He’s rather matter-of-fact about it, really: “The film itself is both a Western and a non-Western. It takes place in a small Texas town and there are criminals on the run and there’s a sheriff. But in all the in-between moments, we see the internal struggles and the subtleties — the move away from Western archetypes. Those required a more nuanced approach. So we decided to use a lot of the instruments you would hear in a more traditional Western score — banjo, mandolin, violin, trumpet, percussion — but to use them in non-traditional ways.”
It’s not that Hart doesn’t enjoy film work. He does. Very much so.
“I do love them both,” he says of balancing his film-scoring work with his more traditional rock band leanings. “And both have their own rewards and require very different parts of my musical brain, and it’s good to stretch all those parts. To be able to come home from a tour and work on something else about which I care passionately — well, I suppose I would count myself incredibly lucky to be in that position.”
Still, given a choice, Hart has no trouble deciding which he would rather do — watch his film-scoring efforts in a theater or prefer his own music in a live setting.
“I would perform live,” he says without hesitation.
And that’s how Hart ended up on that Foundry stage this past Friday night, simply enough. It’s where he preferred to be is all. It’s where he felt like he belonged.
Stream one of Hart’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints compositions, “Ruth And Sylvie,” here.