Susan Stone and Tonic make the future sound so much better
Susan Stone has one enviable job. To be able to work with remarkable creatives, music and musicians all day is pretty much the holy grail (and trinity) for music lovers everywhere. Stone is the owner and creative director of Tonic, the people who create the aural landscape of the films and ads that stick in your mind. Have you seen the new Lynx advert with the fallen angels? Though cinematic as always, it’s the score created by AIR and Tonic that makes it.
If music be the food of love, Tonic brings a bit of Ferran Adrià into the equation.
In the world of the screens, be they big or small, music tends not to receive the recognition it deserves. Sound is one of those mediums for which we have very few defenses or vocabulary, and is why it’s so visceral. With this in mind, it’s particularly strange that those who create the soundscapes of the worlds into which we dive – be it in the auditorium or on the sofa – tend to be hidden masters. Ask the person on Clapham Omnibus for the name of a director, cinematographer or even film editor and odds are you receive a gush of names. Do the same with music, and odds are you’ll receive a blank stare and, if you’re lucky, shrugged shoulders and a murmur of Morricone or Carpenter. Tonic, as their name suggests, looks set to change all that and if their list of recommendations is anything to go by, it seems like they’re doing a pretty good job of it too. “We’re making forward progress here” Susan Stone, creative director and owner of Tonic says adding “but the real opportunity to change this starts by being brought into projects earlier so there’s more time to do the great work, which I’m really pleased is happening more and more”.
What makes Tonic different is not merely their ability to enrich the core of their projects by steeping them in the music that they love, but a unique perspective – that is, one from the viewer (albeit an avidly aware one). As opposed to other music agencies out there, the interesting thing about Tonic is that it’s not run by industry veterans, A&Rs or those harking back to the old days. A tight knit group of music loving, savvy individuals from the music supervisor of UK born youth culture jugganaut ‘Skins’ to jazz lovers, this passion and diversity definitely works in their favour. “That’s right,” says Stone. “We’re a team with incredibly different experiences. Alex Hancock was the music supervisor for Skins, which changed the face of UK music supervision. Matt Chlebek runs one of the most successful underground club nights and labels in the UK, Sarah Bridge, the Music Production manager comes from jazz music blood and holds a residency DJing northern soul and rockabilly, whereas our Digital music guru Nisha held the first Twitter festival and runs one of the largest digital music meet up groups. Our network of people extends a lot farther but you get the drift” Of course it’s not only the team that’s unconventional, Stone herself coming from a Choreography background.
“I suppose what’s unique about me is that I’m not a music industry veteran, and I don’t want to be one. There are people who know album distribution and production far better than me, but my background is dance and choreography – I respond to music… it’s a tangible feeling. I’m obsessed with soundtracking life”. No wonder Little White Lies has called them as the future of film making where the collaboration between film-makers and musicians are forged from the outset. Tonic isn’t simply a breath of fresh air, they’re the future.
The most recent example of their prowess was the movie/advert with Lynx for their new scent Axe Excite; a completely collaborative project with Roger Neill, who has created orchestral elements for AIR, visual director Rupert Sanders, and London based creative agency BBH’s film division head Davud Karbassioun (“Dav’s a great friend and terrific producer. The direction to record a choral cover of a classic track wasn't there from the get go - we first explored everything from experimental opera to indie to spaghetti western scores, even bassline remixes of classical tracks. Nine months later we were in Lyndhurst Hall with 35 female musicians. The middle’s a bit of a blur”).
No matter what one’s view on the Lynx/Axe adverts are, one can’t deny the remarkable craftsmanship of the film. The slyly uncanny orchestral version of ‘Sexy Boy’ wafts into ones mind whilst the blasphemous plot of angels falling from heaven (particularly so with the film being set in Italy) to be corrupted by the whiff of Axe Excite meeting male flesh unfolds. Indeed, before the inevitable reveal at the end of the film, the full version screened in cinemas tends to turn loud chatter to hushed tones – the sound of a rapt audience gripped by an engrossing piece of work. This, unequivocally, is connected to the union of music and picture entwined.
With two of their producers in the mix of US based feature films at present, Tonic are paving the way of cinematic/musical cross pollination to come. And you know what, it’s about time.