“Spooky Never Sleeps” is the mantra for the Halloween hitmaking collective LVCRFT (pronounced Lovecraft). A collaboration between some of music’s hottest singers, songwriters, and record producers to create FRESH, NEW music for one of our favorite holidays, HALLOWEEN! Members of LVCRFT include founders Lil’ Punkin’ (Evan Kidd Bogart), Deep Kutz (Amanda “MNDR” Warner), Norman Crates (Peter Wade), along with Scary Ana Grande (Sarah Barrios), Evil McQueen (Bonnie McKee), DejaVudu (Romell) and Count Trackula (Justin Gray).
I had an opportunity to chat with Evan Kidd Bogart AKA Lil’ Punkin about all things LVCRFT including their fourth studio album Scream Warriors, Disney, that beloved character Skeleton Sam and so much more – just in time for Halloween!
Digital Beat Magazine: Hi Evan. Thank you for taking the time to talk with DBM and give our readers a chance to learn a little more about LVCRFT. First let’s talk “Skeleton Sam” – your 2019 breakout hit from LVCRFT’s debut album, These are Halloween Instrumentals Volume One. I mean, this tune has really taken on its own “identity” & is now featured in the opening sequence of one of the seasons most anticipated sequels to come out in years, Hocus Pocus 2!! So give us a little background on how this whole side project came to be and how did the Hollywood connection come about?
Evan Kidd Bogart aka Lil’ Punkin: So, what’s crazy is we started making music for everything spooky, because, you know, we’re all songwriters, producers and artists by day. That’s our trade, right? That’s our craft…and we all grew up obsessed with Halloween and everything spooky. That’s how we found each other because of our affinity for everything Spooky! We kept saying to each other as we would go to all these different horror movies or Halloween events – “Man, it’s crazy that we’re basically listening to the same Halloween songs that we grew up on. They’re all like 40 years old or more”. – I mean, we’ve all heard “Monster Mash” every year, right? “Monster Mash” is literally 70 years old! Then you have songs like “Somebody’s Watching Me”, “Thriller”, “Ghostbusters”, I mean, we are all familiar with the more commercial tunes but then there are some of the lesser known ones, like “Dead Man’s Party” by Oingo Boingo, “Pet Cemetery” by The Ramones, or “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon, stuff like that. It’s all seventies/eighties music, you know? So we decided as songwriters who just love all things Halloween, it was our duty, our responsibility to soundtrack the next generation of Halloween lovers.
So, we decided to make a Halloween music album. All of our teams & managers were like, “Huh? What do you mean you’re gonna make a Halloween music album?” and we’re like,”Yeah! we’re gonna make an album of New Halloween music! Cuz we love Halloween music and we’ve been listening to the same music for the last, you know, since we were born basically.” and with that we hit the studio in March of 2019 and wrote two songs on the very first day. One of them happened to be “Skeleton Sam”.
There was this debate between us and we really thought about what music is Halloween music? We decided the answer was that it’s really diverse, right? Like with Christmas music, you generally have to have certain elements in the song that lets you know it’s Christmas. But, with Halloween music it can be really diverse. There’s everything from “Monster Mash” to dubstep and anything in between. With that in mind we made our debut album, These are Halloween Instrumentals Volume One. Which was kind of tongue-in-cheek because it’s like, “What is Halloween”?
“Skeleton Sam”, which we called Retro Spooky genre, was our nod to the monster mashes of the world. That same day, we also made another song called “Awooo”, it’s this dark, up-tempo pop song, which was kind of a nod to Rihanna’s “Disturbia”. After completing the record, we found out pretty quickly that people were really gravitating towards “Skeleton Sam”. Then Netflix heard it and licensed it for the series “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” then fast forward a year later, Netflix came back and licensed it again for Adam Sandler’s movie “Hubie Halloween”. We thought, “Wow! This is incredible! There’s really something with this tune!” That’s when we decided to create the character Skeleton Sam in real life. So we basically created a kind-of TikTok personality of Skeleton Sam. We shot a music video with him dancing in it that a friend of ours choreographed. That led to a partnership with Spirit Halloween and then Disney came knocking and said they wanted to use it for Hocus Pocus 2.
I literally almost passed out because that’s such a big deal. (laughs) I mean, That’s the holy grail right? Every Halloween, especially for people that are obsessed with Halloween, we all watch Hocus Pocus! Free Forms 31 Nights of Halloween (which we do all the music for), of course plays Hocus Pocus basically on repeat for the whole month of October. Right? And then to find out they want to use our song in the new movie AND on the soundtrack? OMG! Then we see the movie and they used like a whole minute of song in the opening. We were honestly, like, we wanted to cry. This was the culmination of a dream for us to be creating music that would become the next generation of Halloween music. It is so great that we have listened to Halloween music from the last 40, 50, 70 years and now we have this song we wrote four years ago being used every year! It’s like “Skeleton Sam” has become part of the Halloween music genre. We did it! We made it! We created a song that’s going to be used every year for generations to come!
DBM: That has to be so exciting!
EKB: It’s really everything! We are so happy!
DBM: So you wrote the song in a day. That’s what most of you do. You’re songwriters. And not only that, you are hit songwriters. You yourself are accredited with writing Beyonce’s “Halo”. That’s a pretty big deal. And it doesn’t stop there. Members of LVCRFT can be accredited with such hits as Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream”, Rhianna’s “SOS”, Dua Lipa’s “Levitating” – I mean, the hits go on and on. Is there a different approach that you take as a writing team to create the Halloween themed songs versus when you’re sitting down with an artist to create a pop song?
EKB: It’s not a different approach in the sense of technical aspects. I think we approach it technically in the same way but the inspiration is obviously different. Our process is that we go into the studio the first couple weeks of January (believe it or not) and we deck out the entire studio complex with Halloween decorations as if it’s October. We set the tone which becomes the theme. We bring in candy and lights and animatronics and everything! We fully immerse ourselves in this world that we create and lose ourselves in what we love about Halloween without the distraction of the Halloween season. Plus, as you can imagine, it’s really busy for us during the spooky season. That’s another reason why we try to do it as off season as possible and as early as possible so that we have time to share the music throughout the year. We usually sit down and come up with some kind of direction or aspect of something spooky that we want to focus on that year. Then we kind of disseminate that to all of the different people in the LVCRFT collective and we enter this world of Halloween in “wintery” January. I mean, it’s LA so it’s not that “wintery” but you know what I mean. (laughs)
DBM: It’s funny you say that because that was actually going to be one of my questions, which comes first? The visuals or the music? So you set that tone with the visuals to create and inspire the music.
EKB: It’s not as much visual, it’s more about atmosphere. It’s atmospheric. (laughs) Yeah. We definitely think of thematically where we want to go as far as the musicality, but we always lead with the music. We always lead with the music set within the atmosphere. We definitely create as a collective. There’s kind of a broad direction and within that framework, we just let ourselves and our love for everything spooky run wild within the imagination.
DBM: Halloween music sometimes includes sound effects. With today’s technology you can pretty much get your hands on any kind of “sample tracks” out there. My question is, Does LVCRFT create those sound effects themselves? Or are you more likely to pull a “sample track” to create those effects we may hear throughout the music?
EKB: I think both. We love to sound design. I mean, we do play a lot of live instruments: bass, guitar, keys, horns…
EKB: (laughs) We actually have a mini Theremin in the studio. But then we’ll source some stuff too. We have also created some sound libraries. So, This year we actually created a scream library with the community. We set up a haunted recording studio at the Midsummer Scream Convention in Long Beach, which is basically like ComicCon of Halloween. We had people walk into our scream booth and we would record them screaming. Now, we have this scream library which we’re giving away for people to use for free and of course we use those screens in our songs as well. So, we are really into sound designing and creating at the same time. If there’s something really authentic and spooky out there, we may borrow from that as well. So, yeah, it’s a bit of both. We really want to create and give back, you know. I think this is our third sound design pack. We’ve done two sample packs of spooky sounds that we’ve put out there before and the scream library makes our third.
DBM: How does Christopher Young play into all of this?
EKB: So coming into this year we were like, “What could we do this year that really pushes, not only the genre of Halloween, but also the craft of what we do?” And then we thought, “What if we did something more cinematic? What if we created more room in our music (less lyrics, less melody but more music) and create something that felt more like a score with a song embedded in it – you know like “Tubular Bells” or some of the stuff John Carpenter has done. We were also thinking about score’s that have also been crossover music. So we went into the studio with our core group of people and we wanted to create some of the darkest music that we’ve done to date. Let’s really give a lot of room for strings and instrumental spooky sounds and really make it more orchestral.
After we created the songs, we decided we wanted this to be like the scariest thing ever. We wondered if we could create music that felt like a jump scare. We wanted to create that feeling you get when you turn the corner in a haunted house and something jumps out at you. We wanted to know how you could do that musically? So last year we were fortunate enough to co-host a show about Halloween and Halloween music on Sirius XM (Volume 106) and one of the guests that we brought on was Christopher Young, the iconic horror composer who had done Hellraiser, Drag Me to Hell, Sinister, Nightmare On Elm Street Two and so many more amazing scores. We basically pitched Christopher our idea that we wanted to create the most terrifying album ever and he was like, “Come On Over”!
We came to his house which also is unbelievable. His house is like a Halloween/Holiday Wonderland. Every room is themed up. He’s got a pumpkin bathroom; everything in the bathroom, the fixture, the pictures, the handles on the toilet, everything is pumpkins. And he’s got a room that’s Christmas, but it’s like Halloween Christmas. And there’s a train that runs all around the house. It’s insane. He’s just this mad scientist, brilliant, lovable human. And we pitched him our idea, we played him the music, and he said, “Well, I definitely wanna do this. Is there any direction?” And we just said, “Ummm. Just scare us!”
So we gave him all of our music and him and his team went to town on it! They went into our songs and pulled them apart and reassembled them and added sounds and made changes to the arrangements and sent it back to us. And we were like, “Holy Sh*t!” This is exactly what we wanted. We were all totally on the same page. And for him, he had never got to do anything like that before either. So it was like we were trying to create something completely new, push the genre, push the boundaries of music. So, at that point, we ended up partnering with Dolby to produce it and mix it in Dolby Atmos to create an immersive experience.
DBM: And for our readers that aren’t familiar with Dolby Atmos, can you tell us a little bit about what that is and what you are wanting your listeners to get from that experience?
EKB: Basically when you listen to things, you are generally listening in stereo and you get things in left and right, but in Atmos, you’re able to assign different sounds to speakers all around the room: above you, behind you, different sides around you. And so you’re creating this experience. Like you’re in the middle of the audio. Another example or experience of this is at the movies. There are certain movie theaters that have Atmos as well. Where you feel like somebody’s walking behind you or leaves are rustling to the right of you. We wanted to create that same experience with the music and with what we created with Chris. So when we partnered with Dolby and they put us with this immersive mix engineer Jay Clark, we just said, “Dude, everything you’ve ever wanted to try with an immersive mix, do it here!” With Jay we just took the gloves off. We let our minds run wild. It was fun trying to (again) push the craft of immersive audio. We had our fourth album Scream Warriors. What we created is something that’s truly groundbreaking. We’re so proud of it.
DBM: Absolutely. It’s such a fun soundtrack. It’s interesting as when I listened to it, I felt like it should be from a movie. I felt like I was listening to the soundtrack of a movie, yet there’s no movie. It definitely could be put into any Halloween type series or movie.
EKB: Thank you so much! We like to say it’s a soundtrack to a movie that hasn’t been made yet. (laughs) For our album release party, we went to Dolby and asked to use one of their Atmos theaters? So we invited people to the screening room in Hollywood and we had a little reception and then ushered everybody into the theater. People were getting seated, fully expecting to see a movie. Right? They didn’t know what exactly was going on; they just knew it was called Scream Warriors and our tagline was “the most terrifying album ever”. I made a very brief speech and then we shut off all of the lights and made everybody sit there in complete darkness to listen to the album…fully immersive Dolby Atmos in the pitch darkness for 45 minutes. (laughs)
DBM: Nice. And the result?
EKB: People were applauding after every song. It was the most unbelievably surreal experience. When we turned the lights off, I looked at my partners and I was like, “Oh my God, are they gonna hate us”? And the cool thing is, when I listen to it, I hear, I imagine something different every time. And over time, the more I listen to it; a story has been created in my head. I imagine the visual to this audio component. We wanted people to be captive and we wanted their minds to run and them to imagine their own story. The same way that you would when you read a book. Allowing your mind to imagine what the characters look like, what the location looks like, how the story would come to life. In this case, we weren’t even giving you the narrative of the story. We were letting you create the narrative and the imagery in your head. People have come to us that were at the party and asked if we would do more of those listening parties throughout the course of the year because the experience was so unlike any other thing they had ever experienced.
DBM: That’s incredible. Congratulations!
EKB: Thank you! We’ve really had an awesome response!
DBM: So switching from the album to the single, tell us about “Pumpkin Spice Everything”.
EKB: So, we had just finished Scream Warriors and we were in the middle of mixing it. It was like late July, early August, and we had just come back from the Midsummer Scream Convention and we started seeing ads that were like a countdown to the pumpkin spice season. And I was like, “Man, is there no anthem for pumpkin spice? It kind of feels like we have to do something regarding pumpkin spice”. I mean, every year they are coming up with something new to add pumpkin spice to…It seems like there’s pumpkin spice everything. Then we thought it would be funny if someone like Ludicrous did a pumpkin spice song. You know, kind of like a throwback nineties R&B/Hip-Hop, Ludicrous/Bad Boy Records meets type anthem about pumpkin spice. So we wrote the single and looked up when Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks were going to drop their pumpkin spice flavors and we released it on the same day.
DBM: (laughs) I have no doubt Starbucks is itching to get that in their stores to go along with their drinks and if not, they are missing a marketing opportunity!
EKB: From your mouth to God’s ears (laughs) We did make a “Pumpkin Spice Everything” t-shirt. It’s like our best seller!
DBM: I read that you partnered with Apple Maps and can check out spooky spots in Los Angeles recommended by LVCRFT. How did LVCRFT come up with those locations?
EKB: The members of LVCRFT kinda found each other by our affinity for going to all of these spooky spots all year round. Like horror movies, haunts, immersive theater, all the different spooky museums, conventions. Stuff like that. We’d all been doing it for years before making spooky music together. Apple Music loved our music so much they started promoting it every time we put out a new album. Plus, they knew that we liked going to all these events, so they reached out to us about doing it. They asked us if we would be kind of the champion for all the spooky locations in Southern California.
DBM: Are most of you from Southern California or have you learned of these locations over time?
EKB: I’m actually a Southern California native, so I’ve been here my entire life. I think I went to my first haunted anything when I was super young. I went to Knotts Scary Farm down in Buena Park California and to be honest I was probably too young for someone to go to something like that but my parents were really into Halloween which is where I get my love of Halloween from. Everyone else in the band is from all over. I mean North Dakota, New Jersey, Milwaukee – we’re like a mishmash of America but everybody’s been in LA long enough to have experienced all of these places together. Knotts Scary Farm or The Witche’s House in Beverly Hills are all things I’ve experienced since I was a kid.
DBM: I can really appreciate that. The neighborhood I live in in Indianapolis is known for its annual Halloween Festival. I believe this year’s makes the 76th year.
EKB: And just think, at some point in the first seven years of your Halloween festival, “Monster Mash” was a brand new single! (We both laugh) It’s incredible to think about.
DBM: So let me ask you, What is your favorite spooky soundtrack that’s not a LVCRFT soundtrack?
EKB: Ohh, that’s a good one. Soundtrack or Single?
DBM: Soundtrack. But it could be either…
EKB: Well, if it’s a straight-up horror soundtrack, I think nothing beats the Halloween soundtrack from John Carpenter. I mean, that to me is just everything. You drive around listening in your car and you’re like, you’re just in the feeling of it all right away. Now, if you’re talking about a song, this changes for me all the time. Right now, there’s a song that gets played a lot during the Halloween season that I love that’s called “Ghost Town” by The Specials that’s one of my favorites!
DBM: Along the same lines, What is your favorite Halloween movie?
EKB: My favorite Halloween themed movie…I’m gonna have to say Hocus Pocus…But if you’re talking about horror movies, I gotta go with the original Poltergeist!
DBM: Ohhh, that’s a good one! I remember seeing that in the theater as a teenager. It has the good scare/jump factor!
EKB: I can watch it every time it’s on and get scared every time. Carol Anne; just the whole thing. It always freaks me out and I just love it so much.
DBM: So, you just got to work with Christopher Young! Is there anybody else in the “spooky biz” that you would love to work with?
EKB: So many people. John Carpenter, Elvira. I mean, the list is too long. I will say that on our second album, we collaborated with the legendary Bruce Campbell from Evil Dead fame. He did a song with us on that album called “Exercise the Demons” which is like a zombie workout song. On that same album (The Sequel) we collaborated with John Kassir who’s the voice of the cryptkeeper for another song called “Dead Heart Beat”. So you know we love collaborating with people from the horror world! We’re definitely looking forward to doing more of that in the future so we’ll see who’s next?
DBM: So, I like to ask in all my interviews, what are you listening to right now? It doesn’t necessarily have to be Halloween themed, I know you already mentioned “Ghost Town” by The Specials…anything you’d like to share with us?
EKB: So,Yeah. If you check out our Spotify channel we’ve created a “slaylist” of 24 hours of Halloween. We call it a “slaylist” versus a playlist. It’s actually almost 25 hours at this point. We have been curating and building the playlist for years. And honestly, that is what I’m listening to. I just drive around or walk around with my earbuds on, listening to that playlist. It just never gets old and it keeps going and going and going. (laughs) It was created to start on October 30th at the stroke of midnight and play 24 hours through to the end of Halloween. It literally covers every genre of spooky that has ever been made. If we missed something, make sure to hit us up and let us know; we will gladly add it!
DBM: Ok, Evan, final question. What is your Halloween costume this year?
EKB: (laughs) Every year I am Harry Potter. I just love Harry Potter. Like, no joking…I’ve been Harry for like the past 20 years. I have all the different robes and costumes from the movies. I go all out. (laughs)
DBM: Well on that note, Thank you Evan for taking the time to chat with our readers this evening and letting them have an inside look into all things LVCRFT!!
From all of us at DIGITAL BEAT MAGAZINE, have yourself a Spooky Halloween!
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