Labrinth Talks ‘Euphoria’ Season 2 Score, Working With Zendaya and Why It’s a ‘Challenging’ Time For Musicians
Labrinth Talks ‘Euphoria’ Season 2 Score, Working With Zendaya and Why It’s a ‘Challenging’ Time For Musicians
Despite the three-year gap between Euphoria’s first and second season premieres (in January 2019 and January 2022, respectively), show composer Labrinth says he didn’t have to prepare all that much to reenter the sonic universe he had created — because he never really left it.
“I started making stuff ages ago, because I was still inspired and I still had ideas — so I just kept going,” he says. “I would send [show creator] Sam [Levinson] stuff from time to time and just be like, ‘What do you think of this?’ Not all of it got used sadly, but it never goes to waste.”
One of those early demos that did end up in Euphoria season two became “Yeh I F–kin’ Did It,” a sinewy, reverb-heavy track that Labrinth says Levinson was drawn to from the start. Soon after debuting it during the end credits of season two episode two, the song arrived on streaming services — and was later repackaged as a two-track release alongside the season’s standout single “I’m Tired.” The latter of those is now also included on the Euphoria Season 2 (Official Score From the HBO Original Series) collection, out Friday (April 22.) (With 24 tracks, the score clocks in at 49 minutes, but Labrinth swears an earlier version was “the longest album in the history of albums.”)
“I’m Tired” first debuted in episode four of the HBO show during an emotionally grueling scene in which main character Rue (Zendaya) appears on the brink of death from drug abuse. Labrinth himself appears in the episode, acting as a metaphorical weighted blanket aimed to sooth Rue’s troubles — regardless of where they lead her. A new version of the song later soundtracked the finale’s end credits, by which point fans were begging for its release. Labrinth obliged.
For the version released at the end of February, Labrinth tapped Zendaya to contribute vocals (she also co-wrote the song alongside Labrinth and Levinson). As a result, “I’m Tired” took off, raking in over 10 million YouTube views and debuting at No. 23 on Billboard’s Streaming Songs chart (it also hit No. 53 on the Hot 100).
“It wasn’t necessarily like, ‘Oh, this is going to do something to people,’” says Labrinth. “When we were all in the room, we were just super invested in what we wanted to convey.”
For Labrinth, that’s the key to his creativity: basing everything on intention and intuition. “I don’t really think about what do I need to say in the future and I don’t think about what I did in the past, because usually that is the most disruptive kind of thinking,” he says. “You’re never going to do what you did again, and if you try to replicate it, it usually comes out like Adidas with two stripes.”
And while he prefers to live in the present (he says “if you’re worried about the future, you just create unnecessary anxiety”), that’s not to say he doesn’t think ahead. His upcoming third album will arrive this year — and, just like the rest of us, he’s given thought to what he’d like to see happen in season three of Euphoria. He’s also hoping to make more music with his side project LSD, which consists of himself, Sia and Diplo. “There’s loads going on,” he says, putting his plans rather plainly. “Lots to look forward to.”
Below, Labrinth talks about the process of scoring a hit show like Euphoria, and reveals why he never intended to become a composer at all.
What albums or artists did you and Sam Levinson bond over the first time you met?
We mentioned Depeche Mode, The Human League… maybe that came into my head because I love electronic bands from the ’80s and ’90s, electronic punk bands. Gary Numan was a big inspiration… Joy Division. I’ll have Joy Division in my head and then Kirk Franklin will come into the [metaphorical] room and then Nat King Cole and then, I don’t know, Coldplay… It could be anyone. I’m very impulsive when I’m writing. And I always imagine every sound like a character, so it’s kind of surprising that people view the music as a character in the show, because that’s how I look at sound.
How much creative input on the music does Sam offer?
He’s super proactive as a director. He has a vision sonically, and that was helpful, and obviously I have my own vision as well. A lot of the score, even though it’s inspired by what Sam advises, it’s right in the lane of things I want to do. Sam will be like, “I want organs” and I’ll be like, “What if I put some gritty, New York hip-hop beat underneath an organ, what would that sound like?” I’ll just come up with ideas like that, and then build something out of it.
The score is definitely dramatic.
It’s super dramatic. I think I’m a dramatic person. I’m not an extrovert with my personality… Sometimes I’m like that, but all of it is going on internally, and that’s what people get with the music. It’s like, “Okay, this guy’s got issues.”
But they sound beautiful.
That’s it, beautiful issues. That’s what we’ll call it.
You made your scoring debut with this show — was that an opportunity that as a musician you were seeking out?
I don’t think I was excited about composing for a TV show, honestly speaking. I did want to compose music, but the thing that excited me the most was Sam’s passion for the show, and what he wanted to do. When I saw footage, I was like, “Hell yeah, I want to do this.” It was such a vibe. And it also felt like a great segue for something that I wanted to do creatively as a musician. It’s like, “Okay, I can score orchestral instruments. I can be whatever character I want to be sonically as a composer.” It felt like method acting with music. And especially with Euphoria, where one minute you’re making funk and then the next minute you’re making, I don’t know, some Vivaldi piece of music, for me that was super fun. I get to put on as many hats as I want.
You’ve also been at work on your third album. How has what you’ve done on the show seeped into your solo work outside of it?
I think it’s kind of opened up Pandora’s Box in terms of what I was maybe a bit shy to do musically, I’m like, “I don’t give a f–k. I’m going all the way.” And so I think what people are going to hear on my album, henceforth albums, is like: Lab’s going to Pluto. That’s the vibe for me is that it’s Pluto or nothing, otherwise I’m going to quit.
We’re in a time where music is boring, because everybody’s done everything, and it’s so easy to do something that’s generic because we’ve just got so much information going on right now. And so I think that’s challenging us as musicians and as artists to go to places that they would have gone in the ’60s, when they were on acid and LSD. I guess they’re on quaaludes now, but I don’t take any drugs. The keyboard does it for me. But I feel like we’re in a time where we’re challenged to go there, and go much further than we’ve ever gone. And I think that’s exciting for music and I want to be part of that journey as a musician.
How many DMs do you get a day from people wanting to work with you?
I think my management gets annoyed because I don’t necessarily say no to everyone, [but I do] have a vision for what I want to do. When you know what you want in your life, you end up saying no a lot. I do get inundated with “Let’s get in the studio, bro.” And I’m like, “What are we going to do?” But I do love to collaborate with people, I think it’s really fun. Even writing with Zendaya was freeing — and my band with LSD, when I write with them as well I feel super free. I think it’s less pressure to write with people.
We seem to only get new music from Zendaya when she’s working with you.
[Laughs.] I’ve become her conduit.
What do you think you unlock for her creatively?
She loves music, and I think she’s in a place where she doesn’t have to compromise because she’s already made a name for herself. And I think, especially [for] up-and-coming artists, there’s so much compromise because you’re trying to connect with an audience and trying to stay around.
And I think she’s from the same planet that I am – like what I was saying with what Euphoria has inspired for me is that it’s Pluto or nothing — and I think she’s like that as a musician and as an artist. She’s like, “I want to go in, why am I just making random records? It doesn’t mean anything.” So I feel like with us working on Euphoria, she feels like I go there. She feels like, “Lab, you want to do some crazy s–t and that excites me musically.” Once we get in the studio, it’s the easiest process.
When you two first got together for “I’m Tired,” did you know how it would connect?
I’m not external when I’m internal, if that makes sense. So when I’m writing music, I literally zone out. I become more present than I am in anything. It’s like I black out, and I just hear these sounds and the energy in the room, and I’m very sensitive to everything that’s going on around me in that moment. And that sparks a song instantly. And then the chords — I didn’t even think about what chords they were. I just started to blend. That’s the only way I make stuff.
What would you like to see happen in Euphoria season three as far as plot development?
Whew. I wanted to know what happened with [Chris] McKay, because that was weird how he just disappeared, and I felt like he had a story that I wanted to see develop more. And Kat [Hernandez], I think she was an incredible character. Sam is very much like me, he’s intuitive as well. So I think we just have to wait for the universe to pour some new scripts… I’m sure it’s going to be mind blowing, but I would love to see where he’s going to go with those characters.
Now that you have explored composing for TV and film, having scored Netflix’s Malcom & Marie as well, would you want to work with Disney or Pixar?
Yeah, of course, man. The thing is, I’ve had loads of offers to do film stuff and whatever — but I don’t want to be a composer. I want to compose when I’m excited by it. If I’m presented with something that really is flipping out, I would love to do that. Then I would go all the way with it.
It depends on the story.
Exactly. I don’t want to write music for whales in the deep sea. I don’t know. It could be a vibe. Now I’m getting ideas… David Attenborough does some really cool stuff.
What’s your advice for someone who doesn’t always feel inspired? Have you ever had a moment where you’re like, “I’m not really feeling it right now”?
I guess I always have an idea. I don’t know why — and maybe I’m blessed and cursed with it — but I think the biggest thing is understanding your intention. And that goes for every place in your life. Like, why are you doing what you’re doing? And if your intention is mixed up in glory and needing admiration and needing love from other people, you’re actually not transmitting or contributing anything that’s true from yourself. I always think, “What is the contribution I’m trying to make with the thing I’m creating here?” And not that I’m trying to change the world or anything like that, it’s just like, “Am I telling the truth?” That’s all I’m asking myself. “What is my intention? And if it’s not pure, then why am I doing it?”
Labrinth Talks ‘Euphoria’ Season 2 Score, Working With Zendaya and Why It’s a ‘Challenging’ Time For Musicians Despite the three-year gap between Euphoria’s first and second season premieres (in January 2019 and January 2022, respectively), show composer Labrinth says he didn’t have to prepare all that much to reenter the sonic universe he had created —…
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