Films on Song: Indie Pop’s Cinematic New Sound

Films on Song is a Charlottesville, Virginia indie pop band composed of Jonathan Teeter and Francis McKee. In their own words they “write carefree indie pop inspired by the 80s and various indie legends.” They’ve just put out a new EP written and recorded during the COVID quarantine. They joined us to talk about songwriting, creativity, and why you might want to write songs while you watch movies.

Can you introduce yourself and the responsibilities you have in the band?

Teeter- Hi, I’m Teeter and I write the majority of the ideas for what become our songs.

Francis –  In the ‘before-times’ I played bass in live settings, but now I mostly just work with Jonathan to flesh out songs he’s written. Other than that, I usually record and mix the songs.

How did you come up with the name films on song—do you expect to make films based on your songs?

Teeter – The name comes from writing songs about films! The first song I wrote for this band involved watching the movie ‘Me Without You’ with a pen and a notepad in front of me. It was basically an experiment where I wrote down details from the movie in the most poetic or esoteric way possible. After editing the words and finding a chord progression, it became the song ‘Your Best Friend‘. 

I still do this from time to time with shows and books, as well.  By complete coincidence, Francis carried on the tradition by writing Unholy while watching a movie. It’s a mysterious song so I won’t tell you which movie it was.

“Were you holding on to something that you couldn’t get back?”

Films On Song – “Flowers in May”

Anthony Kiedis once mentioned that he wrote Californication and Dani California about the same girl. Do you notice certain characters or themes recurring in your work?

Teeter – Sure do. I try my hardest not to have any crossover, but it’s unavoidable. For instance, our first single, ‘Potion’, is about the moment you wake up with someone new and the strange intimacy of getting ready for the day together.

‘Flowers in May’ from this EP is about when you’re looking back on something that has ended. The songs were written with the same person in mind. I think it helps to have significant people or figures in your life that you can always refer to when you need a leg up with writing. It’s like having a little toolbox in your head. If I write something that decidedly has an emotion attached to it, I have to pull out my tools and see which one is right for the job. Sorry to the people who are now those tools. 

What’s the best piece of songwriting advice you have for other artists?

Teeter – Not that I should be giving advice, but if there’s an ounce of doubt about a song you’re writing, don’t just settle on something. Work on it until you are excited about it. That’s advice for me, from me.

Francis- Just write music that YOU think sounds cool. There’s no reason to try to cater to what people may like. You don’t have to impress anyone. Just make music that you would listen to.

How has quarantine and the COVID experience shaped your thoughts on creativity in, shall we say, captivity? Are you more productive with lots of time on your hands, or is it better to have only brief moments to create?

Teeter- The three songs I wrote for this EP began to take shape in about two weeks, which is really productive for me. Of course after finishing them,
everything I tried writing afterward seemed juvenile so I took a break. Going out and having some experiences would definitely be helpful. Luckily, I’m over that and am once again writing multiple songs at once. I kind of like quarantine. 

Francis-I feel like we’ve been more productive in terms of recording than before COVID began. The EP that’s coming out soon was all written and recorded over the course of about two months. We’ve been working on an EP since December of 2018, 

Was “Your Best Friend” influenced by Belle and Sebastian? I can hear some echoes of that band there. 

Teeter- Yep! I love them. The one constant that I picked up from Belle and Sebastian is cramming a lot of words into one verse. YBF is the only
song that actually sounds like them though! Proud of it.

What tools do you use to produce your music? 

Teeter- Cheap mics, an audio interface, and equipment that works 80% of the time.

Francis- Ableton.

Name a song that you both wish you had written. 

Francis- Crumb – Nina. Lila’s lackadaisical vocals, those wobbly synths, and the driving yet careless drum beat… ????

Teeter- ‘Together’ by The Raconteurs. I believe it’s a perfect song. It’s in my range, so technically I could have actually written it! They beat me to it though. You win again, Jack White.

What lyric are you most proud of?
Teeter- From ‘Flowers in May’ – “were you holding on to something that you couldn’t get back?” I like it because it’s a simple question
that feels very sad.

What is your favorite song that you’ve released?

Francis- Definitely ‘A Place I’d Rather Be.’ I’m a big proponent of songs you can sing along to, and I think that song has a lot of great melodies and lyrics. Plus I love the instruments, particularly the drums and guitars.

Teeter- It’s likely to change once the newness wears off, but I really like Flowers in May. I love how carefree and woozy it sounds and yet I don’t cringe when I listen to it. Usually when I hear an out of tune note, I have to fix it, but for some reason things like that are perfect for this song and I don’t know why. I love it. 

What’s next for Films on Song?
Teeter- Yeah, we’re going to finish mixing the EP that we’ve been sitting on for a while and release that as soon as possible. We also have a Carolyn now! We’ve gone a while without having a keyboard player, so she’s stepping in and has been learning all the parts while everyone is isolated. Hopefully one day we’ll play a gig.

Francis- Probably nothing too exciting, seeing as, to use your words, we’re all being held “captive” by the evil virus. Most likely we’ll continue writing, recording, and releasing music online. I want to get as many songs released as possible. I love when bands are constantly releasing stuff.

Where can everyone find out more about you and your work?
Teeter- Follow us on instagram @filmsonsong!

Francis- Instagram? I’m not really sure. Let me know if you find out…

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