Catherine Grieves is the celebrated and devoted music supervisor behind some of the most enthralling films and television shows in the contemporary mediascape including BBC’s female-led espionage thriller series, Killing Eve, Lynne Ramsay’s polarizing You Were Never Really Here, Netflix’s detective drama, Collateral, Toby Haynes’ Brexit, and Sky Atlantic’s opulent mystery serial, Riviera. She presently serves as Head of Film/TV at Faber Music and co-leads their pop publishing division, Faber Alt., overseeing the creative activities and output of their decorated roster, boasting talents such as Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead, Thomas Adès, Valgeir Sigurðsson, and Anna Meredith. In our focused exchange, Catherine speaks on the integral role of the enigmatic band, Unloved in the musical tapestry of Killing Eve and crafting musical juxtapositions within the calamitous world of You Were Never Really Here.
I understand that you are a singer and a multi-instrumentalist in your own right, playing both piano and flute. You also earned the Tonmeister Music and Sound Recording degree at the University of Surrey. After graduating, how did you envision your professional path and what attracted you to take a position at HotHouse Music? How does your own training inform your work in music supervision and in overseeing the roster of film and television composers at Faber Music?
Yes, music has always been my 'thing.' I studied classical flute and piano throughout school and university as part of my sound engineering and music degree, and most of my time at university was spent in studios either recording and mixing music, or hanging out with my friends in their recording sessions. As much as I enjoyed both, I don't think I ever quite had the talent or determination to be a performer or engineer professionally.
I heard about an opportunity to do an internship as a runner at a music supervision and composer agency called HotHouse Music, which sounded like a great job as I was really into film, film scores, and soundtracks. I was lucky to be offered the placement, and then a full-time job after I graduated. I assisted with music supervision projects but also liked working with composers on the agency side.
My sound engineering background certainly helped with the recording co-ordination side of my job, and I think having a musical background helped build a rapport with composers early on, but I think the only way of understanding the film music industry is to have experience working in it.
At the beginning of your career in music supervision, you contributed your talents to prestigious projects, including Ridley Scott's The Counselor and Tom Hooper's Les Misérables. What are some of the most valuable skills you've acquired through work experience?
I assisted Becky Bentham on most of her film projects when at HotHouse, which taught me so much. Becky is the queen of musicals, which bring a whole new level of work and responsibility as a music supervisor, so being involved in films like Les Misérables and Sing Street was a real insight.
One of the first films I worked on was The Inbetweeners Movie, which became the best-selling comedy film in the UK ever. We had a really tight budget and schedule, so it was definitely a case of being thrown in the deep end, but it taught me a lot about negotiating. Things like attention to detail, organization, people management, and power-politics are also really important things to get your head around as a music supervisor.
Killing Eve revolves around a low-level security employee turned spy who investigates a chain of flawlessly executed murders across Europe committed by an alluring assassin by the name of Villanelle. Your female-led musical selections propel the tantalizing and vicious cat and mouse game between the two of them and greatly contribute to the show's undercurrent of suspense. Can you elaborate on the critical components of the musical identity you crafted for Killing Eve?
Killing Eve is an amazing show to work on. I collaborate closely with David Holmes, and we have lots of fun choosing songs that we feel enhance the story and characters, and that compliment David's original score, which he writes with Keefus Ciancia, and songs by their band, Unloved who feature throughout the soundtrack.
We like to help pick out deeper elements of Eve and Villanelle's characters in the songs we choose, whether it's the underlying love, the humor, the fear, or the full-on twisted evil. The characters travel a lot too, so we like to match the country to the music, which adds another dimension to the musical identity.
The music of Killing Eve follows Villanelle's killing spree from country to country, leveraging the work of beloved and lesser-known European artists. Can you identify some of your favorite location specific syncs from the series thus far?
“Roller Girl” by Anna Karina in the first episode of series one sets the tone of the show so well. It's one of our first encounters with Villanelle, and it encompasses her confidence and attitude. Another favorite is in episode four of series two in Amsterdam.
We chose a Dutch cover of the song “Angel Of The Morning” from 1968 by an artist called Willeke Alberti over a scene where we see a beautifully vulnerable side of Villanelle for the first time.
Much of the magic of Killing Eve stems from the ability to blend brutal violent acts with seductive moments and perfectly timed bursts of humor. The series teases and at times, mocks the trope of female passivity and lack of agency. How does this Molotov cocktail of emotional nuance condition how you approach each episode?
We try and keep the music as audacious and strong as we can while staying true to our musical aesthetic throughout. We sometimes use juxtaposition over the more violent scenes, which can add to the dramatic impact, but also mirrors the emotional nuance in the tone. Jade Vincent, who is the lead singer of Unloved, also has a depth to her vocal delivery, so it often feels like she is singing one thing but with layers of meaning.
Digging into this second season, Killing Eve introduced a new assassin much to the chagrin of Villanelle, and we discovered that Konstantin survived among many other surprising twists and turns. Can you tell us about your methods to sonically illustrate this evolving dynamic?
We explore some different emotional states in series two, so we get to push the soundtrack in more extreme directions. Villanelle has a vulnerability in this series that we haven't seen until now, so we were able to draw on that with our song choices. We also use some familiarity in the music to bring out certain nostalgic moments.
Riviera centers around Georgina Clios, an art curator who leads a dazzling life in the Côte d'Azur married to a powerful billionaire banker. When her husband suddenly dies in a yacht explosion, Georgina is exposed to a web of lies and criminal activities in her search for the truth. How did you become involved with this series and what themes in this dramatic plot required the most support from your soundtrack?
Riviera has a score-led soundtrack by the brilliant Ilan Eshkeri, but there were some moments where the director wanted to include commercial tracks, so I was brought on to help find a sound that worked for those spots. It's a really cinematic show with beautiful sweeping shots of the Cote D'Azur and elaborate scenery and architecture, so there was an opportunity to find songs that worked with the visuals, but also brought out some of the darker themes of the show, particularly as Georgina's past is uncovered.
You Were Never Really Here is a gritty psychological crime thriller that follows a traumatized veteran working as a contract killer, who embarks on a mission to rescue a New York State Senator's daughter from the perils of sex trafficking. In concert with Jonny Greenwood's magnificent score, there are several particularly visceral moments enhanced by licensed music, most notably "Angel Baby" by Rosie and the Originals and Eileen Barton's "If I Knew You Were Comin' (I'd've Baked a Cake)." Can you explain the intended impact of this soundtrack?
Lynne Ramsay is an inspiring director, and every element is thought out in detail. The film is dark; in its subject matter, and in the cinematography and visual tone, so the juxtaposition of these sweet, innocent songs really resonates and adds to the horror of each scene. There's a timelessness and familiarity to the songs, that purposely jars against the story.
My favorite scene in the film is when Joe [Joaquin Phoenix] jumps into the lake after his mother has died, and there's this incredible feeling of release, with a moment of bright translucent color and a beautiful abstract ambient synth score cue from Jonny Greenwood. It's very powerful.
As Head of Film & TV at Faber Music, what are your primary duties and what have been some of your proudest achievements to date? Can you tell us about some of the forthcoming initiatives you will be spearheading?
I split my time between music supervision projects and representing Faber's great roster of film and television composers, and I also co-head Faber's pop publishing division, Faber Alt, which we launched a year ago. I'm lucky to work with really talented composers, songwriters, and artists across all of my work, and it's always hugely exciting when I find new collaborators. Proudest achievements are Killing Eve, and it getting the recognition it deserves, and when my composers have been nominated for BAFTAs, Emmy's and Ivor Novellos. Awards don't really matter, but I can't help but burst with pride and love when someone who I know is brilliant, is told they are brilliant by the rest of the industry too.
Who are some of the most promising emerging artists you've had the pleasure of synching in recent years, and why does their music resonate with you?
I think most of the time I sync songs because they work with the show and the picture, and it's how they resonate in connection with the story rather than directly with me. I think that the songs that often work best are those that don't have pre-conceived associations. As a music supervisor, we have to find music that works for the creative vision of the project, and that involves lots of other people's opinions. I use a lot of catalog tracks in my projects but was delighted to get a sync for an emerging singer-songwriter called Tommy Ashby on Riviera, who writes Scottish influenced blues and folk-pop. I've followed his career for years, so it was a great feeling when a spot came up where one of his tunes worked so well, and the creative team agreed.
Interviewer | Ruby Gartenberg
Research, Editing, Copy, Layout | Ruby Gartenberg
Extending gratitude to Catherine Grieves.