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    Outskirts: Route 66 is Rapha’s feature length film following the epic adventure four riders across the United States. The soundtrack to the film, composed by Builder’s Tea, was created a long way from the great American highway, writes Stuart Downie

    Outskirts: Behind The Soundtrack

    Outskirts: Route 66 is Rapha’s feature length film following the epic adventure four riders across the United States. The soundtrack to the film, composed by Builder’s Tea, was created a long way from the great American highway, writes Stuart Downie.

    21 July 2018

    On the Face of it

    As the name would suggest, there isn’t much to Builder’s Tea. Julian Smith and James Wilson, the two musicians that make up the double act, describe themselves in simple terms: “We’re two guys on separate islands making music.”

    But the pair, who have been making music for a decade under various pseudonyms, have a depth of talent that was recruited to score Rapha’s new feature film, Outskirts: Route 66.

    Drawn to each other’s work, released individually through London record label West Norwood Cassette Library, they met only twice before forming Builder’s Tea. Based in London, Wilson writes and records music in a cupboard under the stairs (his words). Smith lives in Mallorca, where he makes music and paints. “After 13 years in LA, I wanted to live more simply, in an environment I can appreciate and afford. I also saw a healthy octogenarian swimming in the sea – It was something I needed to explore,” says Smith.

    Even though the pair live and work a thousand miles apart, that doesn’t restrict their creativity. Wilson explains: “Between us we play most things. We both play guitar, bass and percussion. Outside of that, it’s lots of synthesisers, and Julian records drums live in his studio.”

    “After 13 years in LA, I wanted to live more simply, in an environment I can appreciate and afford. I also saw a healthy man well into his eighties swimming in the sea – It was something I needed to explore.”
    - Julian Smith

    Smith adds: “The good thing about slow internet speeds in Mallorca is that you have to take your time with production. If it’s going to take a day to upload it better be something worth sending.”

    Elsewhere, Gus Morton – ex-professional cyclist, founder of Thereabouts, experiential sportsman of no fixed abode – is making films. When Gus started looking for a composer for Outskirts, it was a mutual friend that put him in touch with Builder’s Tea.

    “When I first spoke to Gus I just said we’d like to have a long chat about the film, get his thoughts on it, get a vibe of where he’s at, talk about how he wants the music to sound,” says Wilson.“Once we had this vision of the film, we started writing music right away. We sent some to him and he was like, yeah, great, cool. And that was it. With some clients, working on ads for example, it’s a much more laborious process.”

    Working on Outskirts was the opposite. Gus is a big fan of music – he co-hosts a podcast which draws a line between music and sport.“Gus talked about how he was really into Brian Jonestown Massacre. Obviously it would be easy to go off and do a pastiche, but that’s not what we do,” says Wilson.

    “So we didn’t listen to them. We try not to listen too much to reference – with a band like that it’s enough of a touch point. The premise of the film itself was a good enough indicator of the music. Route 66 – ok, we’re going to go off and make some sandy grit music. We didn’t see any of the film till we’d finished the whole record.”

    Smith recalls: “It was a great way to work. Writing music without a brief is like writing music, not writing a job. Those are the best briefs.”

    “Route 66 – ok, we’re going to go off and make some sandy grit music.”
    - James Wilson

    With Got Grit, Smith’s favourite on the Outskirts soundtrack, we hear one of the interviewees sampled and looped over a guitar riff that’s full of cowboy swagger, while a harmonica dips in and out, haunting the melody.

    “That was one of the only little bits of the film we saw before the final thing was released. It was one of those moments – Julian and I are both from the same background, musically, where we’re really switched on to the potential for sampling. When we heard that line, we knew we had to use it,” says James.

    The track plays with the way that something can stick in your head on a long ride – something somebody says, a line of a song, a bit of a theme tune from a TV programme. Music and cycling are perfect partners. As Smith puts it: “Riding is all about rhythm, there’s an intrinsic cadence and flow you develop, just like in music. The link is uncanny.”

    Outskirts is available to watch now

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