Kris Bowers is a Grammy-nominated, Emmy Award-winning, and Juilliard-educated pianist and composer who creates genre-defying music that pays homage to his jazz roots with inflections of alternative and R&B influences.
Bowers’ work as a film and television composer is a testament to his versatility as an artist. He established himself at the forefront of Hollywood’s emerging generation of composers and consistently champions the art guided by multidisciplinary collaborations.
Bower’s recent work includes Showtime’s Kobe Bryant’s Muse, Netflix’s Dear White People, Showtime’s Black Monday, Netflix’s When They See Us, FX’s Mrs. America and 2019’s Academy Award-winner for Best Picture, Green Book.
We reached out to Bowers to discuss his recent horror score for Bad Hair with music by Kelly Rowland and director Justin Simien, released on Lakeshore Records with the film streaming on Hulu – just in time for Halloween!
SSM: What inspired you to transition into composing for film and television?
KB: It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I actually told my parents when I was 11 or 12 that I wanted to start off as a performer in the jazz space and find a way to transition into scoring. Somehow, I’ve stuck to that plan haha.
SSM: Bad Hair is a horror satire set in 1989 about terror striking when a woman’s new hair weave takes a life on its own. This is also your second time working with director/ writer Justin Simien. How did your approach to this project differ or resemble the Dear White People television series with Simien?
KB: With this, it was really amazing to work on a full feature with Justin and see how our process of establishing and working with thematic material in the score can be applied to a feature. Justin is so incredible with not only his selection of temp music, but his trust in allowing me to interpret that in whatever way I want to musically. That it’s much more about the feeling than the sound, and because of the amount of time we’ve been working on Dear White People together, Justin and I have a trust that allows for a lot of freedom in the creative process.
SSM: With horror films, the score is so vital in creating the mood and tone for the audience. Can you speak about some of the instruments and choices you made when scoring Bad Hair?
KB: We were really inspired by the horror movies from the 60s and 70s, so a lot of the score is very traditional in its instrumentation: strings, brass, lots of percussion, and choir. In addition to that, I went about adding a lot of analogue synths to the orchestral cues to give it an eerie/ambient texture. A lot of the sound-design elements you hear in the score itself are artifacts from tape delays and insanely long reverb tails.
SSM: What is the worst hair cut/style you ever received?
KB: I had a couple of instances of texturizing my hair when I was in middle school. Not the most fun process haha
SSM: What’s coming up next for you?
KB: I’ve just finished a biopic about Aretha Franklin starring Jennifer Hudson and directed by Liesl Tommy, as well as a new TV show for Netflix called Bridgerton. I’m also currently working on the next Space Jam movie with director Malcolm D. Lee.
Check out the Bad Hair (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) and find Kris on Instagram @krisbowersmusic!