INTERVIEWS: Disco Ocultista – Preparing music for a film is liberating

La Petite Sonja and Hank J. Mancini left water indie for a while and as Disco Ocultista they composed the soundtrack to Michal Nohejl’s film “Occupation”. “Working on film music was a big challenge and a dream come true,” summarizes the process of making Hank. But we also talked about whether new the duo will perform.


You created the soundtrack as Disco Ocultista. In an interview, Sonja revealed that the name has nothing to do with the occult, but that the Occult is a species of fish. What attracted you to the fish so much that it got the honor of being a part of your name?
Hank: I don’t know anything about that… (laughter)
Sonja: But yeah, once you, Hank, came up with the fact that you found a fish named Ocultist. There really is one. The phrase is so absurd even without a fish that I immediately liked it. Hank: Oh, that’s possible, I love coincidences. It just seemed like a great and a bit strange connection.

Why did you actually choose a new name for the occasion and not work on the music for the film as a band?
Hank: When we got an offer to work on film music, it was a big challenge and at the same time my dream came true. I’ve always wanted to do this, regardless of the band I’m in. In addition, we only worked with Sonja on the original original music, so it was actually offered to create a new one, secret project. Sonja: In the end, we still invited members of Kill The Dandies! To some of the songs, because we enjoy working together. Drummer Vratislav Placheta, accordionist Jehan Paumero and Amák Golden also took part in the Disco Ocultista project, not only as a sound engineer, but also as a bass player.


© Tereza Kopelentova

How did you get to work on the “Occupation”?
Hank: Michal Nohejl and I have known each other for a long time, we are very close friends and I think we have a very similar opinion on art, humor, music, style and so on. Michal directed some of our older clips and we always thought he would do his first big film, he will address us by creating a soundtrack for it.

How did you form? How is composing stage music different from composing songs for a group?
Hank: My approach is more or less quite similar, however, when composing music for a film or theater, it is necessary to respect the director’s opinion and know the aesthetics and storyline of a particular work. Plus, I don’t have to explain anything to the rest of the band here, just the director. It gets me into a kind of timelessness, when, unlike a more personal statement in the band, we do something like atmospheric sounds to pictures and events, we support emotions and invent where the sound will be and where, on the contrary, only some bustle or even complete silence will stand out. And since we more or less also worked on the overall musical dramaturgy, the work was all the more interesting. Sonja: Preparing music for a film is liberating for me personally, as Hank suggested, I’m not telling my own story, but I’m part of a story directed by someone else.

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Who had and still has the main say in Disco Ocultista? Did you come across a controversial moment when, for example, you did not agree on which motive would be better for a specific moment in the film?
Hank: I think we agreed on everything and each of us has more or less the same share in the end result. In addition, we have a similar approach here as in the band. This means that at first we work more alone. So each of us composes the lyrics or just the melodic lines on a specific topic of the basic composition, if necessary, and from that we prepare other motifs in the studio and complete the complete arrangements. We then put the whole thing together in a pictorial part for specific places in the film.

And how did director Michal Nohejl interfere with the result? Did you have to rework a lot, or was everything good at first?
Sonja: Since we were preparing the music for the finished cut and Michal and I discussed the individual scenes in advance, it was relatively easy. There were perhaps only two or three passages where we did not promote our vision, but in the end it was for the good.

occult record

The Disco Ocultista duo consists of matadors of domestic indie music La Petite Sonja and Hank J. Mancini, known from the bands Moimir Papalescu & The Nihilists or Kill The Dandies !. The project was basically created to compose the soundtrack to the film “Occupation” by director Michal Nohejl. Under the new brand, Hank and Sonja wrote not only stage music for the film, but also several original songs, which they supplemented with songs by friendly bands and pieces from the home of Dandies, and they released the whole album at the end of November. The album “Occupation – original film soundtrack” should be christened at the beginning of 2022, if the pandemic allows …

In addition to stage music, you also composed several songs for the film. They were all rewritten, or you used some drawerswhich fit the mood?
Sonja: The basic songs we composed under the brand Disco Ocultista were really written for this particular film. It is worth mentioning the work on the Russian version of the opening song sung by the actor Aleksey Gorbunov. In cooperation with the language consultant, we had to prepare the Russian version of the text in order to preserve its meaning brotherly love and at the same time it was good to sing. Quite an interesting experience for me, I sang the role model for the actors directly in Russian, even though I really don’t know Russian. Otherwise, this particular song “How to Hold a Gun” contains a motif that basically runs through the film and the song “My Youth” is built on it. It sounds like a different song at first glance, but it’s actually different just vocal line, lyrics and tempo.

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© Tereza Kopelentova

Another remarkable development was the composition that will appear at the end of the film. Originally, the director had a vision that the Russian folk song “Katyusha” would be used as the main motif. Fortunately, he abandoned this idea during the filming and we composed “The River” instead, which is just a paraphrase of the original “Katyusha”. It is also based on the original text, where a Russian girl is waiting for her sweetheart – a hero who is fighting for his homeland. We used this image to give it a different, much more tragic, content. Hank: Since most of the story takes place in a bar where a jukebox is played, it was a direct request from the director that in addition to the stage music, written specifically for the film, there was also background music for the dialogues and the story. In this case, we used ready-made songs from various artists, but we still wanted these things to always have a deeper relationship to a particular scene, ie to support it not only by being there, but also to illustrate emotions or atmosphere and tension. I think thanks to this combination, the soundtrack is a lot more colorful. I enjoy the way the stage music blends with the already finished songs and these two positions represent each other. Sonja: In addition to music from Disco Ocultista and Kill The Dandies, we are on the soundtrack! they also used songs from related bands such as Madhouse Express, Metronome Blues, Old Folks House, Thee Lazy Eyes, Body Wounds, Beps’n’Johnnies. I’m very happy with that selection, they are great bands.

And are there any songs left that will not be heard in “Occupation” in the end?
Sonja: No. Hank: We still have some material left, but not much and most of the recorded stuff has been used.

What will happen next with Disco Ocultista? Will it become another project of yours that will also perform live, or is it purely a soundtrack affair, the name of which may soon appear under another film?
Hank: O living We are definitely not considering concerts yet, however, shortly after the release of the film, we received an offer from director David Šiktance to create stage music for the great theatrical play “American Bison”. It was launched in early October and seems to have been very successful overall. So I would say that we want to continue in a similar spirit.

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INTERVIEWS: Disco Ocultista – Preparing music for a film is liberating

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