Puget Soundtrack: Cock & Swan presents Only God Forgives

Jul 09, 2015

(Nicolas Winding Refn, Denmark/France, 2013, 90 min)

Live Music Score!

“Two years ago, we moved to Seattle, and we were setting up our tracking studio,” Cock & Swan’s Johnny Goss starts telling me. “We were decking it out—putting up these party bulbs, colored lights, gold fringe, big red drapes on the walls. When it was all said and done, we all were like “huh, it kind of looks like Only God Forgives down here. [Director Nicolas Winding] Refn and us just kind of fell into a similar world at the same time.” 

Goss and his musical partner Ola Hungerford of Seattle ambient lo-fi duo Cock & Swan might be some of the few people pleased to find themselves inhabiting the same world as Refn’s Only God Forgives, the 2013 spiritual successor to 2011’s critically lauded Drive. While Ryan Gosling’s performance as a muted, scorpion-jacket wearing stunt driver had filmgoers saying “masterpiece,” Refn’s follow up, also starring Gosling, openly elicited boos at its screening at the Cannes Film Festival, going on to earn a dismal 37 out of 100 Metacritic ranking. Reviews alleged the film’s striking lack of dialogue “spits in the face of coherence,” despite some far and few between 5-star rankings praising the exact same narrative murkiness. 
“Refn seems to follow the same inspirational engine we do,” Goss says, who personally fell in love with the film the moment he saw the opening scene—a slow panning shot up an unsheathed sword. When Cock & Swan provide a live soundtrack to Only God Forgives for the next Puget Soundtrack, part of the band’s job will be to illuminate the subtle narrative details Goss thinks most critics missed, something they attempt to do in their lo-fi recordings as well. 
“There’s an important character a lot of people don’t identify as a character you’ve seen before who appears throughout the movie, so we are using a similar musical theme each time they are on screen,” Goss explains. “Its kind of a Peter and the Wolf thing.”
Cock & Swan will be the first Puget Soundtrack band to combine live scoring with pre-recorded elements—a technique they hope will allow them to focus on the film’s highly rhythmic pacing. What Only God Forgives lack in dialogue, it makes up for in action, which Goss hopes to emphasize. 

“Swords chopping at different times, blood spurting, we want to hit those moments, each with its own sound—even just dramatic shifts in color between scenes.” Given that Cock & Swan’s Technicolor basement studio is already colored like a Refn film, they should have that one down pat. 

-Kelton Sears
Seattle Weekly Music Editor 
Special Ticket Pricing: $15 General Admission/$12 for Film Forum Members

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