The making of The Beach Boys’ ground-breaking Pet Sounds album in Bill Pohlad’s Love & Mercy necessitated a soul-searching exploration of Brian Wilson’s musical genius. It began with Atticus Ross’ use of score, which aesthetically crossed over into sound design.
“Conceptually what was interesting was what goes on inside Brian’s head and integrating his music with the score so that the lines are always blurred. And I wanted Brian always present—there’s no piece where he’s not somewhere in it,” explained Ross.
But to achieve that, Ross needed all of the music to do the story justice. Fortunately, Wilson handed over his master tapes, a treasure trove consisting not only of the music but also hours of outtakes and Wilson talking to “The Wrecking Crew” studio musicians.
In addition to incorporating production tracks, Wilson vocal stems, and The Beach Boys instrumental stems, supervising sound editor/music editor Nicholas Renbeck had the challenge of making Paul Dano’s voice match closer to Wilson’s (particularly during “You Still Believe in Me”). “It seemed too much like lip syncing if you used too much of Wilson. And yet Dano does not have the range of Wilson, so it was a tricky balancing act [sliding the two together].”
Re-recording mixer Eugene Gearty also did a pass at the sound design and met Ross in the middle. “In hearing his first pass, it was almost too much of a good thing, so we went with more of a stripped down version using the cues from the recordings. But there were many opportunities for collaboration on so many levels, particularly in the mix itself, and hearing the soundscape in 7.1 gave it more emotional intensity.”
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