Photo: Brandi Nicole Photography
Get ready for your new obsession: Brooklyn Sound, a new web series from the minds of comedy-musical duo Julia Mattison and Noel Carey which last week was picked up by Comedy Central after rave reviews at the New York Television Festival.
The pair met while attending Emerson College and have since become creatively entwined through their various endeavors – now, first and foremost, their hilarious brainchild about a fictional Brooklyn recording studio desperate to keep from going out of business. Mattison and Carey created the show and also star in it as the studio’s owners and the various wacky musical acts recording songs each episode – there’s a group reminiscent of folksy bearded men like Mumford and Sons, rapping siblings wearing neon baseball hats, and even a dark, eerie Lorde-esque songstress who makes weird hisses.
We caught up with the duo to find out what it was like filming the show, and how it feels to be on the brink of having their own Comedy Central program. At the bottom of the interview, find the first two episodes – the full series is available here.
BlackBook: So you two met freshman year of college?
Julia: We did, yeah. In the musical theater program.
Did you meet in class and hit it off immediately?
J: We did! I feel like instantly in class we both had a tendency to not be the most attentive, and we got along cracking jokes on the side. We got along very quickly with our humor and our styles creatively. But we didn’t really write – we did songwriting together in college, but didn’t fully write stuff together until we graduated.
Had you both always wanted to do comedy, or was musical theater the original plan? Not that they’re necessarily separate.
Noel: I’d always wanted to comedy, even if that meant bringing it into musical theater. That was certainly a draw for musical theater for me, as a kid – great physical comedians like Dick Van Dyke and Danny Kaye were musical theater guys. And Julia and I were both involved in the Emerson comedy scene, as well, but we were in separate troupes. I was in an improv troupe, and Julia in a sketch troupe.
J: Yeah, I did always know I wanted to do comedy, but it was varying – I got into it through different angles through acting in theater, and writing sketches. Actually musical theater was not really my plan – I’ve always loved it, but Emerson was the only musical theater program I applied to. Everything else was an acting program, or a music recording program. I thought I was going to go onto other creative endeavors for a while, but I ended up at Emerson.
N: I didn’t know that. That’s crazy.
J: I’d done a few musicals, and I’d always loved musical theater, but I didn’t think it would be where I was going, necessarily. I’d seen a lot of rock musicals, and alt-leaning musicals. I loved that scene, and Broadway was absolutely a dream of mine, but I wasn’t really certain I was going to do it full out until college.
So you two knew you wanted to write a musical comedy show. How did the idea to set it in a recording studio come about?
J: The catalyst for the idea was Noel and I wanted to do something where we play a bunch of characters, and get to write music in a variety of genres. Originally it was about bands trying to make it in New York, more generally and using different venues. But it would have been harder to film in a variety of settings. And I’d watched the Sound City documentary about the Sound City recording studio and was really inspired by that, and simultaneously my boyfriend runs the Virtue and Vice recording studios, in Brooklyn, and that’s where we filmed the show. And he had always had stories about different artists, and the random characters you get in and out of the studio.
To me the show feels kind of like The Office in how dry it can be, but then also like Summer Heights High since it’s wacky and you play a bunch of different characters. What shows were you looking to inspiration-wise, and what would you want people to think of when they see the show?
N: I think musically a thing we’re drawn to, and we’ve made this comparison before, is that it’s Parks and Rec meets A Mighty Wind. We really love Christopher Guest, and for me I love how Christopher Guest’s characters always take themselves very seriously, and seem like real people, and the music in his movies can be very funny and out of place at times but still sounds genuine. We didn’t necessarily want to spoof the music industry – we drew from certain artists, not directly – but we wanted to make something that celebrated it, rather. We never poking fun – we wanted you to like these characters and think they took their music seriously.
The music is all really good, I think, which adds to the show.
J: Thank you. That’s what we were going for – that higher quality music that seems real. I think we also drew from Portlandia, where they are playing multiple characters, and trying to make it seem normal. We’re huge Summer Heights fans though, that’s such an honor.
Noel, you’d mentioned that some of the musicians are loosely based off of real people. Were there any direct artists you drew from?
N: Josiah and the Teeth, from the first episode, we definitely wanted to sound like Mumford and Sons. I don’t believe Mumford and Sons is actually a group of homeless hillbilly people. But we did want to write in that town.
J: The core inspiration for the different characters – the “Shee” character I actually created for impressions for an SNL tape, and I was trying to come up with a Lana Del Rey impression. And I always thought she sounded so sleepy, so I wanted to songs literally about how sleepy she is, and then it became this more Lorde, creepy character. I didn’t come up with the crazy high-pitched voice until the day of shooting. Which is so funny to look back on. But I’m happy with the results. That’s the fun of filming, too. We had very big inspirations, but sometimes didn’t know what was going to happen until we started shooting.
Did you have a favorite musician character to play?
J: My favorites were Shee and Why the Lilacs? I think their story is touching and silly and weird, and we just like playing old people.
N: That was just a great opportunity to spend three hours in a makeup chair, having really good old person makeup put on me, and then you start looking at your face in a different way, and using your body in a different way. It was the best pretend I ever got to play.
I saw that the show has been picked up by Comedy Central. Congratulations!
J: Thank you! We had a really exciting week at the New York Television Festival. We won a couple awards, and then were really surprised to get the Comedy Central development deal. So that’s the next chapter. We’re such fans of all the stuff they have out right now. They believe in us and I think they really get the style. It’ll be cool to see where we take it with them.
N: I like how they invest in comedians and partnerships, too. That’s where some of my favorite teams that I look up to come out of, like the Broad City girls, and Key and Peele.
J: It was only about a week ago when we found out about this deal, so we’re hoping to know more soon about what the timeline is!
Are there any other projects coming up for either of you?