INTERVIEW: Composer Gavin Brivik Talks Surprises In The Score For Wild Indian

Wild Indian is a film written and directed by Lyle Mitchell Corbine that stars Michael Greyeyes (Fear The Walking Dead) and Chaske Spencer (Banshee) in a dark thriller supported by the Sundance Institute through the Writers and Directors Labs. Gavin Brivik navigated the process to create an immersive sonic experience.

Michael Greyeyes is Makwa, and Chaske Spencer plays Teddo, two childhood friends. During their formative years, the pair covered up the savage murder of a schoolmate. Now, adults, the men, find themselves in radically different places in life. However, they’re both haunted by the past. It’s now time to confront the tragic secret and the trauma that helped shape their lives.

PopAxiom spoke with Gavin Brivik about his rock and roll dreams, falling in love with Jazz, and the evolution of the Wild Indian score.


Away From Film

Gavin’s musical journey began as “a guitarist. I didn’t compose music for a while. I wanted to do the whole being in a band and touring thing.”

“I grew up loving classic rock,” he says, “so my biggest influences were like Pink Floyd, Cream, and Hendrix. I was obsessed with those bands, and I sometimes thought I was born in the wrong era.”

As a guitarist, Gavin “studied a lot of blues and jazz guitar,” he says. “I would love to have been in a jazz quartet.”

However, Gavin didn’t take to jazz immediately. “I didn’t even like it in high school. My teacher emailed my parents to urge me to join the jazz band because they needed a guitarist. I remember thinking, ‘Jazz music, that’s lame. I’m a rock musician!’ But I grew to love it.”

“I think it takes that sort of commitment where you are either exposed to it, or you are open to learning about it,” he says about Jazz. “Jazz is musician’s music. It’s very complicated music to understand.”

Gavin, the guitarist, ended up injuring his wrist. “I wasn’t able to play guitar for a few years. I was devastated. I was trying to find another path in music. I signed up for a composition class in school and loved it. I stopped pursuing a career as a performer and focused on writing music.”

“I spent six years writing music away from film,” he says of going from guitarist to composer. “In the back of my head, cinema was a passion of mine. In school, one of the teachers offered a course in film scoring, and I felt like I understood how to write music for film.”

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About Wild Indian

Some projects happen via word of mouth, and others come through agents. Gavin’s involvement with Wild Indian came via “mutual friends with Lyle on Facebook.”

“A few years ago,” he explains, “some of our friends were posting about him at the Sundance Labs program. I started seeing him showing up on my Facebook news feed. I ended up messaging him and asking if he had a composer.”

Gavin says that Lyle “did have somebody in mind, but they could not write the score due to a scheduling conflict. Lyle ended up sending me the script, and I wrote some music based on the script.”

“I was so inspired by his writing,” he says about the script. “I ended up writing ten tracks. He listened to them, and he wanted to work with me.”

Did those tracks change over time? “They changed quite a lot,” he answers. “Initially, as you might know, a lot of films use temp scores. We didn’t use any temp scores. We only used those tracks I wrote from the script. Some of it was working, some of it wasn’t. A lot of those tracks more demonstrated my style.”

As the process for putting the film together wore on, “I wrote some new tracks, and those weren’t working either. They were too dark. We needed to highlight the emotions of the character and do less painting of this dark atmosphere.”

“The music was just too dark,” he continues, “and we weren’t empathizing with the characters.”

Gavin and Lyle “wanted to elevate the film with a more melodic and orchestral score.” But this shift was a surprise to both men. “It’s something we did not anticipate doing. The score became more character-driven, less atmospheric, more melodic, and emotional.”

“It allowed the viewers to feel the pain and struggle of the characters,” he says, “instead of wallowing in this dark, moody stew the entire movie.”

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“Lyle had been working on the film for six years,” he says. “I’ve been with it for two years. Over that time, you’re having discussions and constantly revisiting the work. We had so much time to work on it that we could tweak and work on stuff.”

Wild Indian is a gritty film with some heavy themes. “It’s taxing to spend a lot of time in a dark place,” he says. “You take an actor; they do these grizzly scenes over and over. So many actors struggle emotionally sometimes after roles like that. As a composer, we’re watching these scenes, and we have to write music to draw out even more of that darkness.”

Gavin goes from scary to funny and back. “When you watch a scary movie, you follow it up with a sitcom. I might spend a day writing some dark music and then find time to switch gears and watch some light-hearted stuff, chat with some friends, or play video games. Anything to escape a little bit of the darkness.”

Wrapping Up

Gavin draws inspiration from a wide range of musical wells. But we discuss a few in particular who went from rock musicians to composers. “Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are some of my most highly regarded composers and musicians. I love Johnny Greenwood. His scores are some of the most creative and unique. He writes a lot of concert music. I find that he elevates everything he’s a part of from Radiohead to all the other stuff he does.”

What remake, reboot, or reimagining would Gavin love to score? “Maybe a Hitchcock film? I love Bernard Herman. But I’d also be down to do a James Bond film or a remake of a classic horror film like how they did the recent remake of Suspiria.”

Wild Indian premiered at Sundance in Jaunary 2021 and will be streaming soon. So, what’s next for Gavin? “My first solo project will be coming out. It’s called Realms and Forms. It’s an instrumental, experimental ambient album. It’ll be coming out through Bitbird”

Is Wild Indian on your watch list?

Thanks to Gavin Brivik and Rhapsody PR
for making this interview possible.

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Ruben Diaz
Ruben Diaz
Writer, film-fanatic, geek, gamer, info junkie & consummate Devil's advocate who has been fascinated by Earth since 1976. Classically trained in the ways of the future.