As the screen faded to black and the credits of Edward Scissorhands rolled, Garrett Komyati and Matthew Childers were still wrestling with the abrupt ending to Kim and Edward's relationship. So they penned the tragic "As Sharp As Knives," which emulates the chord changes and dark mood from Danny Elfman's melancholy score.
"We would basically take the feelings and emotions that were conjured up by those movies and we would put them in music," says Komyati, who does the vocals, piano and guitar for the Modern Electric.
The friends were part of the instrumental-only Dr. Salt and the Brown Sugar Blues Band along with Willoughby South High School classmates Holden Laurence and Michael O'Brien, but they wanted to incorporate vocals. So they entered the Tri-C High School Rock Off in 2008 with fresh songs, including "As Sharp As Knives," as the newly formed the Modern Electric and won third place.
Cinematic pop became their signature sound, inspired by classics The Graduate and Annie Hall. In 2009, they released an eponymous first album with sweeping, lush epics about love and loss, and hook-driven melodic pop symphonies.
The Modern Electric's use of cinema to navigate life has resonated with scores of fans. "We feel like there are a lot of people out there, our fans in particular, who are after that same thing," Komyati says.
Last year, they performed at South by Southwest and their music was featured in the Cleveland International Film Festival trailers. Beginning in January, the group will release one single a month off their 12-track sophomore album, Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, due out in June on Bandcamp and iTunes. By releasing the songs over the course of a year, the Modern Electric is attempting to compose a soundtrack that follows along with fans' lives.
They point to a married couple whose first date was at a Modern Electric show. "We will always be a part of their relationship," says Childers, who plays bass and drums. But it's not just about being background music. It's about forging lasting emotional connections.
The band recorded the new album on 2-inch tape in Austin, Texas, with Mike McCarthy, who has worked with Komyati's idol, Spoon. A stickler for quality, McCarthy pushed each member. "He brought out a toughness in us," Komyati says.
From the soul-laced, piano-driven "The Summer of Lou Reed" to the stadium rocky "The Wait," Soundtrack shows the Modern Electric's edgier and more sonically diverse side. Hear glimpses of how film influences their process in the country-laden "Trouble," which examines the pattern of suffering to achieve bliss in Walk the Line's story of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash as well as other popular romances.
Each monthly single will have a visual component. Expect story-driven music videos that star other actors with the band making a cameo, like in the Twilight-esque vampire saga "All We Have Is Now."
January's song, "Great Expectations," which is a heavier reboot of the version on the first album, is a scathing outcry against heartbreakers influenced by the 1946 movie. The quartet shot the video, which stars an ice queen character drawn from Clueless, Cruel Intentions and Mean Girls, in their high school.
Like the movies, Soundtrack is an escape to a larger, more sublime life but there's enough humanity for us to keep listening.
"Just because life hasn't lined up perfect," Komyati says, "we can't give up. That's why we're always searching for the happy ending."