Interview with the Music Supervisor for The O.C.

Music From The O.C. Mix 4You know what the best job in the world has got to be? Music Supervisor. Especially for a hip TV show where the main characters love indie rock.

So I just spent 15 minutes on the phone Alexandra Patsavas, the music supervisor for “The OC.” Warner Brothers is releasing the fourth volume in its series of Music from the OC Mixes (review), and Patsavas is making the rounds talking to dorks like me so people will go out and buy the new release. She seems like a very nice person who really does love great music as much as you and I do. No surprise there, I guess, because the music choices on the show are stellar.

So you’re probably wondering how someone ends up becoming a music supervisor? I was too. So I asked her.

Patsavas: I’m from Chicago, and I started out booking clubs in Champaign during college. I eventually moved out here and got a job working for Roger Corman. [Editorial note: some of this is paraphrased due to the lack of a telephone recorderEd.]

GLONO: It’s obvious that music plays a huge part on the show.

Patsavas: Definitely. Music is a character on the show.

GLONO: How’d that come about?

Patsavas: Josh Schwartz is totally into indie music. And from the very beginning, there was always a big focus on the music, and on indie rock in particular.

GLONO: Have you ever had any pressure from FOX to put certain songs in episodes that maybe they own or whatever?

Patsavas: None whatsoever. There’s really been no pressure at all.

GLONO: Anyone ever offer you money to get a song on the show?

Patsavas: No, never.

GLONO: Really?

Patsavas: No, they never have. Really.

GLONO: How do bands get their songs on the show?

Patsavas: We get sent around 400 to 500 cds a week.

GLONO: What are the last cds that you actually went out and bought and paid for?

Patsavas: Let me think. I just bought the Dears. Oh, and Death Cab. They’re going to be on camera in an upcoming episode…

GLONO: At the Peach Pit?

Patsavas: The Bait Shop. But I realized I didn’t have all their cds, so I went out and picked up the rest of their releases.

GLONO: Any other exciting music coming up in future episodes?

Patsavas: We’re going to have Bloc Party. And Spoon! We’re going to have the new Spoon.

GLONO: That’s cool. I just heard a thing about how “WKRP in Cincinnati” will probably never come out on DVD because they don’t have the rights to use the music anymore. That’s not going to happen to “The O.C,” is it?

Patsavas: Ha ha. No, they clear for all TV and video. The industry changed a lot with DVDs.

GLONO: Back to the OC Mixes. How come there’s only, like, 12 songs on them? There’s obviously plenty of room for more?

Patsavas: I honestly have no idea. But Warner Brothers Records has been very good to us. Sorry I don’t really know about that, but I can talk all day long about how great the new Aqueduct album is.

GLONO: What’s the deal with that Boys II Men song in that one episode? That was hilarious. And awesome.

Patsavas: That was all Josh. That’s him being inspired, and writing to the scene.

GLONO: Ha. But it really is amazing how much good music you fit into the show. Ever have any licensing problems with a song you really wanted to use?

Patsavas: That’s actually one of the things I’m proudest of: bands who never license for TV who we’ve got. Like Bright Eyes, Beck, the Beastie Boys…

GLONO: I think you expose a lot of great music to a lot of people who wouldn’t otherwise hear it. You’re not going to hear it on the radio or on MTV.

Patsavas: I hope we’re playing that role. The whole team is extraordinarily involved in the music.

GLONO: I’m surprised how well music fits the scene. Although I’m not sure if I believe that Caleb would be playing Kings of Convenience at his cocktail party…

Patsavas: He might! But really, we choose the songs that fit the emotion of the scene.

GLONO: Oh yeah, I know. Hey, one final question.

Patsavas: Uh oh.

GLONO: Any chance you can kill off Marissa?

Patsavas: I love Marissa.

GLONO: She’s got to die.

Patsavas: No way, I love Marissa. I do.

So there you have it. The person with the best job in the world. After the interview I discovered that she also supervises the music for “Carnivale” on HBO. I love that old-time crazy shit. What a wild record party you could have at her house! Mixing it up between Death Cab and Cab Calloway. Fade from Sufjan Stevens to the Carter Family.

Be sure to catch up on all of the previous Glorious Noise OC coverage.


Sidebar

We throw around the term “indie” quite a bit these days, pretty much forgetting the etymology of the word. It was originally an abbreviation for “independent” referring to bands that were not signed to any of the major record labels. Well, it’s pretty much lost that original connotation since many of the bands that now play “indie rock” are signed to major labels. As someone who still believes in supporting truly independent music, I think it’s important to point this out.

So here’s a fun little game. We’ll list the tracklists of all four OC Mixes, and you write in and argue about which of these bands are actually on independent labels. For the purposes of this exercise, let’s define an independent label as one that is not more than 50%-owned by one of the Big Four major labels: Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, EMI Group, and Warner Brothers Music.

We’ll even help you out by showing the label for the songs on the first OC Mix. Good luck!

Music from The O.C. Mix 1

1. Paint The Silence – South (Kinetic Records)

2. Just A Ride – Jem (Ato Records)

3. Honey And The Moon – Joseph Arthur (Universal)

4. The Way We Get By – Spoon (Merge Records)

5. Move On – Jet (Elektra)

6. How Good It Can Be – The 88 (Mootron Records)

7. Caught By The River – Doves (Capitol)

8. Rain City – Turin Brakes (Astralwerks)

9. We Used To Be Friends – The Dandy Warhols (Capitol)

10. Dice – Finley Quaye & William Orbit (Sony)

11. Orange Sky – Alexi Murdoch (Mind Blue Music)

12. California – Phantom Planet (Sony)

Music from The O.C. Mix 2

1. Saturday Morning – Eels

2. Hello Sunshine – Super Furry Animals

3. Smile Like You Mean It – The Killers

4. A Lack of Color – Death Cab for Cutie

5. Specialist – Interpol

6. Something Pretty – Patrick Park

7. You Got Me All Wrong – Dios Malos

8. If You Leave – Nada Surf

9. Big Sur – The Thrills

10. Little House of Savages – The Walkmen

11. Trouble Sleeping – The Perishers

12. So Sweet – Jonathan Rice

13. Popular Mechanics for Lovers – Beulah

14. Walnut Tree – Keane

15. Maybe I’m Amazed – Jem

16. Eastern Glow – The Album Leaf

Music From the O.C. Mix 3: Have a Very Merry Chrismukkah

1. The Christmas Song – The Raveonettes

2. Last Christmas – Jimmy Eat World

3. Just Like Christmas – Low

4. Merry Xmas Everybody – Rooney

5. Rock of Ages – Ben Kweller

6. Christmas With You is the Best – The Long Winters

7. Christmas is Going to the Dogs – Eels

8. Christmas – Leona Naess

9. Maybe This Christmas – Ron Sexsmith

Music From The O.C. Mix 4 (review)

1. Decent Days And Nights – The Futureheads

2. Goodnight And Go – Imogen Heap

3. Fortress – Pinback

4. On The Table – A.C. Newman

5. To Be Alone With You – Sufjan Stevens

6. Play – Flunk

7. Scarecrow – Beck

8. The View – Modest Mouse

9. Hardcore Days & Softcore Nights – Aqueduct

10. Cartwheels – The Reindeer Section

11. Eve, The Apple Of My Eye – Bell X1

12. Champagne Supernova – Matt Pond PA

One more hint: use the always handy RIAA Radar site!

33 thoughts on “Interview with the Music Supervisor for The O.C.”

  1. Maybe, Mac. But she sounded sincere. Like maybe the Man doesn’t want to mess with a winning formula. Who knows?

    One thing though that should be pointed out is that The OC is a Warner Brothers TV production that Fox just broadcasts. So I probably should’ve asked more specifically about Warner Brothers’ pressure on the music selection.

  2. That’s a fun interview. Muy interesante Señor Morado, muy interesante.

    That’s really amazing that she’s the supervisor for Carnivále as well. Where does she find the time to not only listen to 400-500 CDs a week and be an expert on creepy, old-timey music as well?

    If I listen to more than two new discs a week I get confused.

  3. It’d be hard not to call a band like Death Cab indie, no matter what label they’re on. I think the word really has two meanings. One refers to genre (indie rock sounds different from say, modern or alternative rock, while indie pop sounds different from plain ol’ pop). This may have nothing to do with the size of the label it’s being released on.

    The other meaning is “independent,” referring to small or no record label. And I’m down with the whole 50% thing. That seems fair.

    The two meanings can be confusing but I’m okay with that. Would you call a boy band on Sub Pop indie pop? Probably not, becuase you’d be going with the genre definition. (Extreme example, and very unlikely, but you get the point). And you would probably call Modest Mouse on Universal indie rock, because again, it seems to describe their style.

    Can we all agree that ‘indie’ has two meanings and move on with life?

  4. I have to step in and defend Marissa. Please, people, we all NEED her. She keeps our hatred focused away from what an anoying SOB that Chino is.

    I can’t wait for the season finale when that teen pregnancy chic shows up to surprise Chino!

    Ha ha, I love it.

  5. Umm…Marissa+Death by monkey knife fight with Julie Cooper

    = big fun, better ratings, joy for all the children. P.S.- Chino is a good man under a tough exterior, you leave him alone…or more knife fighting may ensue.

  6. Nate, I agree that indie has two meanings, and I said as much in the article. I’m just reminding people of the first definition, which had more to do with commerce and organizational structure and power and politics. The second definition is all about genre/style. That’s fine of course. Language changes and evolves.

    This, of course, happens with lots of descriptors for music. Like “alternative.” There was a time when that actually meant what it says. It was an alternative to mainstream music. But now, Alternative Rock is a genre within the mainstream.

    Do you see how the Man co-opts the subculture and counterculture? The Man assimilates this stuff into the mainstream, and thereby removes any threat to the status quo that it might’ve originally posed.

    I’m not saying that this process necessarily makes the music less good. Good music is good music, whetheer it’s performed by teenagers in their basement or by Swedish producers in Hollywood. If it’s good, it’s good.

    But if it’s no longer independent, is it still indie?

  7. Back when Rolling Stone was a two-color, newsprint broadside, often an ad with the headline “The Man Can’t Bust Our Music” was run. That righteous message was brought to your by Columbia Records. Faux independence–at most. But it helped Wenner get to where he is today. But I digress.

    I agree with Jake that “good music is good music,” tautologically speaking. What seems to be lost from the discussion is that context matters–a lot–when a label like “indie” is applied. I’d suggest that a boy band on Sub Pop would probably be indie something due to the nature of its venue. Spend a little time looking at the Sub Pop site (www.subpop.com) and you can sense the ethos. I am dubious of purportedly “indie” bands on monster labels (props to the band members for getting a good job with a division of a multinational, but let’s face it: that’s what they’ve done) just as I am of hearing the lyric “gotta revolution” on an E*Trade ad. Blows Against the Empire, indeed.

  8. My bad – Modest Mouse are on Epic, which is a division of Sony BMG Music Entertainment. Still huge.

    The thing about a band like Modest Mouse is that they don’t purport to be fighting against the establishment. Isaac Brock is/wants to be a rock star in the fullest sense. But still, even though they’ve softened their approach a bit over the years, I’d like to call them ‘indie rock.’

    I think that what you really need to consider before you label a band ‘indie’ is threefold:

    1) Roots, origins

    2) Intent, motivation

    3) Sound, style

  9. That’s interesting. So 1 and 2 have to do with artist credibility, while 3 is a musical genre classification. I think we’re getting somewhere here…

    So can anybody call Jem “indie” in any sense of the word?

  10. > Isaac Brock is/wants to be a rock star in the fullest sense.

    No offense intended to you, nate, or Mr. Brock, but could there be any less a description of “indie” than that?

  11. Well, the point is, if you go by my criteria above, then he’s fine. Yes, he likes to have fans, to do drugs and party and sleep around and have an ‘attitude’ and whatnot. So does Pete Doherty. But I don’t sense that to be his main motivation or intent in having a band, in making records, and in touring. That, of course, would be making good music and connecting with his audience. That’s my perception at least, gleamed partially from an interview with him. Combine this quality with his indie roots and indie sound and I maintain – Modest Mouse are still indie rock.

  12. Okay Nate, I’ll give you Modest Mouse. But what about Phantom Planet? Or Jet? Or the Dandy Warhols? Is there anything indie about any of them?

    Remember, this has nothing to do with whether these three bands have good songs or not… But do they belong on a compilation of indie rock?

  13. Ah, “indie”, the new “punk”. I’m with dieblucasdie.

    I think “indie” has pretty much been co-opted to the point where it basically just music writer shorthand “this music doesn’t sound desperately commercial”, or as Mr Benchley Rock Star would say, indie is “so not Creed”.

    To me the line between what’s an “indie” label and what’s a “major” is kind of irrelevant. I mean, pretty much every label has to have at least SOME semblance of a business plan to stay in business. There is of course some truth that the smaller labels cater to their artists’ whims more readily, while the majors’ are in it to push gobloads of “product”, in very general terms. That’s not to say that a major will never respect artistic freedom. And the coolest indie label in the world isn’t doing anyone any good though if it can’t market enough records to keep the enterprise going and keep re-investing in its artists.

    Anywho. I was struck by the thought that if a new band came out today and sounded exactly like Warrant but were signed to someone smallish like Merge then they might be classified as “indie”. A hilarious yet sobering concept.

  14. Okay, let’s just say we can agree that “indie music” has become strictly a genre classification. Is there still such a thing as an indie label?

  15. If you really think about it, most labels are ‘indie’. Because what’s the word indie is derived from? Independent. Taking it that way, any label that isn’t attached at the navel to a massive company (like Warner) is independent, because they make and manage all their finaces, artists etc. without having to check back with the suits in the boardroom…thus, indie.

    Now, can we make indie the new poopy pants? Please…?

  16. That’s exactly the point. How many of the recordings listed above are owned by labels that are “attached at the navel to a massive company”? On the first mix: Merge, Mootron, and Mind Blue are independent labels; Kinetic Records, I think, is part of BMG, as is ATO; Astralwerks, as great as they are, is owned by EMI; and the rest are obviously majors.

    I’m starting to realize that I may be the only person who cares about this issue. But it seems particularly insidious for the major labels to be co-opting the word “indie.” Because this is really a black and white situation. You’re either an independent label or you’re a major label. It means something. And it’s important.

    But then again, in this world of exclusive distribution deals and 49% ownership, it’s enough to make anyone cynical. Or apathetic. Who cares, right? Oh well. Whatever.

  17. Vide my comment above about Columbia: The major corporations have long co-opted the sense of independence and rebellion. Not only in music, either. Consider the whole “Pepsi Generation” notion. What’s somewhat troubling is the fact that there seems to be an abiding sense of, “Aw, who gives a damn?” with regard to ownership, profits, opportunities, etc.

    Face it, folks: Record labels that are attached to giant corporations don’t have the luxury to operate in an accounting-free manner. If their ink is red, you can be certain that the fat guys in the boardrooms turn red.

    Does it matter? Yes, in many ways. For one thing, if the distribution and communication channels are filled with the “product” of the majors (even if the majors are pretending to be “indie” or “quirky” or “indi-vidual” or whatever), then the opportunities for those who don’t fit within the currently accepted genres (with “accepted” being defined as that which generates signficant positive cashflow) are somewhere between slim and none.

    Another way to look at it: Imagine you’re one of those guys sitting in a boardroom. You have two discs. One you’re assured will be salable at Wal-Mart. One won’t make it near the shelves of the world’s largest retailer (let’s posit the reason has nothing to do with RIAA warning stickers, either, just that the music on the disc doesn’t fit with prevailing norms). Your salary, bonus, free neckrubs, limo, etc. depends on big sales of product.

    Which do you pick?

  18. Is this a pop quiz? Cause I didn’t study. I’ll go with the one on the left. If you squint you can almost see her nipple.

  19. Jake, I think there is some value in understanding the split between indie and corporate labels, as it would shed some light in a general sense on the kind of relationship you might expect between a particular band and a particular label. But with affiliations and distribution deals and the 49%/51% split interests in subsidiaries etc. becoming epidemic in the music business, it would be a complicated, ever-changing, hard to digest list. Some majors keep boutique labels so that they’ll look cool (Lost Highway?). Some indie labels undoubtedly whore the worst flavour of corporate drek just to keep a cash cow on the roster.

    I’m uncomfortable with the implication that if a band is on a corporate label their music must be coerced by The Man, whereas a band on a smallish label would always have 100% artistic freedom. That seems to be the subtext of labelling certain bands or labels as “indie” or “corporate”.

    Blah blah blah, ok I’ll get on with it. All I really wanted to say was just because a band is on a “major” it doesn’t mean their music can’t sound “indie”. There’s arguably a tendency for the major labels to market the hell out of the most mainstream stuff; the Wal-Mart allusion above is all too true. But there are exceptions, the daisies that grow through the cracks in the pavement. I don’t think Radiohead has done anything since their first album that is even remotely “mainstream” sounding, yet I doubt anyone at Parlophone would have the balls to interfere with what their next album will sound like. I would hate to find myself thinking that, just because Hot Hot Heat is jumping to a major, the rules dictate that this band must now suck.

    Maybe the bigger question is whether there’s any labels left that will nurture a new band long enough for them to get strong enough to call their own shots (Radiohead, REM, U2 etc.). I sure hope so.

    Or is the era of bands looking to a label (of any size) as a crutch to support them while they try to evolve coming to an end?

    What are the chances that “indie” is going to become the latest “grunge”? Will popular culture pick up on this in a huge way? Will all the halfwit kids at the mall be rocking their Modest Mousewear next weekend? Will you hear the local entertainment reporter gush about “indie” lifestyles in the fluff piece during the evening news? Will Conor Oberst make it into the CNN ticker? Will I be tempted to ask my barber for a Franz Ferdinand?

    Just some random thoughts after a long day. I find this topic kind of interesting, apparently. But now I need beer.

  20. Man, do I ever know how to bring a thread to a screeching halt. Sorry for the buzzkill.

    Alternate indie thread idea: Conor Oberst is dreamy. Discuss.

  21. Even if a handful of the music is good music, the rest of it is GARBAGE, as well as the show. She gets credit for putting together a cliche tracklist for a cliche show. What a drab!

  22. I’m impressed with her ability to get such artist as beck, beasties etc. That’s not easy to do (even with big budgets) having worked on project (much smaller)I’ve been amazed at the amount of red tape one must cut through.

  23. Sandy is a moron who flunked out of college and has been lying on her resume ever since. I would say she slept her way to her job, but she’s so fat and ugly, no one would ever take her up on it.

Leave a Reply