Composing brothers Marc and Steffan Fantini shift can gears between musical projects and make it seem easy. In addition to scoring the popular CBS series “Criminal Minds,” the duo also created music for the new movie “Moms’ Night Out.” Previously, the Fantini brothers composed the score for the long-running drama “Army Wives.”
When reached by phone for an interview, the composers talked about their early days, including singing and playing on the “New Kids on the Block” records back in the day.
“We were just working in Boston and Maurice Starr was working with us. And the New Kids were in the studio next to us, and they would always come back and forth. As things would happen with things like that, they would say ‘Can you sing on this? Can you play on this?'” Marc Fantini explained.
But for the brothers, working with Ringo Starr on his Christmas album was a true defining moment in their burgeoning careers.
“There were a lot of other great musicians involved: Timothy B. Schmit from the Eagles and a bunch of other people that kind of came around. That was a really fun thing; Marc and I got to sing backgrounds with Ringo and play guitar and keyboards,” Steffan Fantini said. “It’s something that you keep with you the rest of your life because anything that happens with the Beatles is memorialized.”
Inspiration from the Beatles, parents
Speaking of the Fab Four, Steffan said the songwriting of John Lennon and Paul McCartney was some of the best in the history of songwriting.
“I can’t speak for Marc, but for me that was the igniter. Once I heard their music, it was over; this was all I wanted to do. They had everything I loved: their style, their wit. Just so relaxed in front of the press and so fun to be around,” he said.
Steffan also pointed out that they received a tremendous amount of support from their parents as well: “For me, it started with my mom. When we were babies, she used to pull out her acoustic guitar and sing to us. As soon as we could pick up instruments, I think Mom and Dad encouraged both of us to be involved. I have pictures of me behind a drum set at 2 years old and Marc with a guitar bigger than him.”
Every single episode is difference than the next
The Fantini brothers have been creating the music for “Criminal Minds” since the pilot episode. Scott Gordon works with the brothers to create that distinct musical feel for the show.
“We are now in our 9th Season. We’ve done every single episode. And every single episode is different than the next: it’s a little mini-movie. That’s always what [the producers] wanted: “‘Don’t make this one sound like that-they are not really connected,'” Steffan said. “When we first started the show, we wanted to find a voice for it, a sound for the show so that when people turn on the television, they kind of know it’s ‘Criminal Minds.'”
Steffan also pointed out that he, Marc, and Scott Gordon spend a tremendous amount of time creating weird sounds: “We might go inside the piano and scrape the keys with a saw and record that. And take like a dumpster and slam that or take a hammer to things we might find outside or whatever and just process them with all these weird effects. So, when you hear it, you can’t really tell what it is, but it is really disturbing. One of our main objectives on the show-and something they always tell us to do-is to be creepy and disturbing.”
[Check out the creepy and disturbing music from the “Criminal Minds” Season 9 finale by clicking here]
“We try not to limit ourselves to the creative process of being creepy and disturbing. We try to go as far as we can with it,” Marc added. “We did another show for 7 years called ‘Army Wives’; that was the complete antithesis of this. It was very grassroots, acoustic, just a little bit of orchestral elements.”
No disturbing creepiness in “Moms’ Night Out”
The composers try to make every project different and never repeat themselves. When they sat down with the script and the directors of “Moms’ Night Out,” they felt the frenetic energy in the piece.
“Basically, their mandate was don’t go down the generic comedic path with what they call pizzicato, those kind of short-note string things that you hear in a lot of comedies; they didn’t want that. They said ‘We want to find a different voice for this.’ They kind of played us some of the stuff they were thinking of, and we talked about it. Marc and I kind of went back our laboratories, and we took that information and had to translate that into something new and original,” Steffan said.
Marc pointed out that the soundtrack is a kind of fusion of hip, alternative music with orchestral elements.
“And then there are some almost like circus elements that were implemented. Being a father, I know what a family is like, and there are elements of a circus involved,” he said, laughing. “Maybe not played in the style of the circus, but with that subliminal kind of approach where you are hearing a pump organ. Not as far as a penny whistle-or whatever those things are called-but pump organ, accordion, or mandolin. Those kind of instruments you might hear in a circus. There are European instruments that have that kind of style.