Article written by Jimmy J. Aquino
Image courtesy SweetPro and The Last Best Page
Waiting to see what comes next: Louie’s current ‘Elevator’ arc is a great example of the brilliance of the band SweetPro
Louie, which is now in the middle of its fourth season on FX, is currently one of my favorite comedic cable shows, mostly because it’s expanding the horizons of what a scripted half-hour comedy can be. The show follows a fictionalized version of Louis C.K., who stars as himself, as he awkwardly navigates his way through both the dog-eat-dog world of stand-up and the difficulties of single parenting. In most episodes of Louie, there are long stretches that go without any humor, which makes Louie difficult to classify as a sitcom or dramedy or Drambuie or whatever...
Louie is less like a standard single-camera sitcom and more like a pair of different short films each week--or in the case of the third season's three-part ‘Late Show’ arc and this season’s six-part ‘Elevator’ arc, a feature film divided into, respectively, three or six 22-minute fragments. C.K. writes and directs every episode of Louie, and he often edits the show by himself. What might surprise some viewers is that he doesn’t score the show like how John Carpenter would score his own movies. That task actually belongs to the Brooklyn band SweetPro, led by Matt Kilmer and featuring Maxfield Gast, Adam Platt, Ryan Scott, Mike Shobe and Benjamin Wright. Kilmer prefers to call himself the show’s ‘music coordinator’ rather than ‘music director’ because of the collaborative and jigsaw nature of SweetPro’s work, “where all of the band members, and even Louis himself, write their own parts and we put them together,” as Kilmer described it to The Hollywood Reporter.
The band’s original score music on the show is either primarily jazzy or influenced by the sounds of whatever location Louie finds himself in, if the episode takes place in an ethnic part of New York or if it ventures outside New York. The music screams out urbane and ethnically diverse New York in much the same way that Joseph Vitarelli's jazzy score to 1994’s The Last Seduction screams out New York.
SweetPro layers over many of its Louie score cues some sort of audio filter that makes them sound like ancient library music or old vinyl. As a result, the warm-sounding end credits instrumental that concludes every Louie episode feels like it's straight out of a ‘50s Blue Note album. It’s the perfect accompaniment for all those excerpts of C.K.’s act that are filmed inside the place where his on-screen alter ego feels most at home: on-stage at the Comedy Cellar in Greenwich Village.
The band’s cues are the best kind of cues: they don’t heavy-handedly dictate how the viewers should feel, and they’re distinctive without calling attention to themselves. (“As of now, there are no plans to put out the music but we want to do it and Louis wants it... There are issues that have to be resolved legally,” said Kilmer to The Hollywood Reporter in 2012 about the possibility of a Louie score album, which would be fantastic to see; Kilmer hinted that the score album is in the works on Twitter earlier this month, but the release itself has yet to be confirmed.)