There have been a lot of television ends in 2013—Fringe, Futurama, Breaking Bad, to name a few—but, along with these, 2013 will be remembered for the return of Arrested Development at the hands of Netflix’s more than competent television production. Like the return of Family Guy and Futurama many turns ago, it was exciting to see something so revered brought back from the dead, especially with hopes of more to come. Earlier this year I had the chance to briefly talk to David Schwartz whose musical conundrums have been a show highlight from the beginning.
Garrett Tiedemann: When you were first made aware that Netflix would bring Arrested Development back, what did you think?
David Schwartz: First there were many rumors … and false starts. Then when it was finally announced I was thrilled … and slightly terrified.
GT: Did you have any worries about going back to its worlds?
DS: Yes, I think all of us who had done the first three seasons were at first trying to top ourselves. Once I was composing to video again it was like going back home, only better.
GT: How early or late in the process did you get to work on the season’s music? What was it like to return, but also take forward something that had been your past for a while?
DS: I started to write while they were shooting. I wrote some themes to dailies and rough cuts. In retrospect, those early themes were very useful later on. I knew the schedule would become tighter, so it was great to get a head start. After the first few episodes it was a week or less to write, record/mix and deliver the cues. Towards the end of season we were doing a show every two to three days. Kinda crazy, also fun.
GT: Was there anything you particularly wanted to do differently or evolve more in cahoots with the show?
DS: Doing all 15 episodes simultaneously had me trying to compose more thematically. The show and scene lengths in the Netflix season were longer, allowing me to write longer cues.
GT: You’ve been a part of some really iconic shows like Northern Exposure and Deadwood, as well as a number of films and other television series. Can you talk about the process and how other shows/films compare to your work on Arrested Development? Is it different when doing a theme or just a few tracks compared to something like this?
DS: Yes, I’ve been very fortunate to compose for some fantastic shows. Each show is, and should be, totally unique. It’s my job to find that musical identity for each series that I compose for. Main title themes can be intimidating. It’s sometimes your audition for the scoring job (Northern Exposure, Deadwood). It being the sonic identity of the show, it is often subject to a great deal of discussion and many people’s opinion.
GT: Did anything you worked on previous to Arrested really benefit your compositions for the show?
DS: Yes, it is the total summation of all my experience, musically and otherwise.
GT: Going back to the beginnings, how hard was it to locate the sound? Did you go down any alleys that led to nowhere before getting a handle on it?
DS: Yes, a few stray alleys. I had just returned from Bora Bora (wedding anniversary). There I heard and procured a Tahitian ukulele. That became the sonic signature of the show.
GT: Was the process of composing this time around different because of Netflix or the cult following of the show?
DS: Netflix has been fantastic. Their policy of hiring great show creators, then allowing them to do what they do, has been very successful. I hope it really catches on.
GT: What do you do now?
DS: I’m working in the Banana Stand and finishing the final touches on the Arrested Development soundtrack for Varese Sarabande Records. I’m hoping it will make me a huge pop star à la Mark Cherry. Also, I co-produced this just released record.