Itay Amram’s new album Like Me is the original soundtrack for the eponymous film released in 2022. Amram is an award-winning composer for film and TV working on projects such as the award-winning short film “Strangers” directed by Joel Junior, “Hotel Tahrir” directed by Yossy Medved, “Family Distance” directed by Roy Kanevsky, the Amazon Prime Video docu-series “Off the Cuff”, and more. He’s known for combining sounds collected from his middle-eastern heritage (Amram is Israeli and based in LA) with modern sampling technology. Gelo Hau was responsible for the album’s violins, mixing, and mastering. Yuval Lavi provided the additional score and score mixing.
Amram’s eclectic style is a perfect match for the film, Like Me – a story about a high school senior who finds himself in a demanding relationship with an older fashion photographer while secretly falling in love with his close friend. The film deals with the loss of intimacy in the 21st century and the challenges LGBT teenagers face. The score includes 12 tracks of unconventional and intimate scoring for the main character, Tom’s personal conflicts. Amran cleverly interprets Tom’s journey through the genres of techno, dance, rock, and neo-classical/gothic piano.
Amram tells Tom’s story with a soundtrack that’s often brooding, dramatic, and angsty as many coming-of-age stories can be (oh the hormones). His style draws heavily from the Romantic composers. Gabriel Fauré and Erik Satie in particular come to mind. But the score leans more modern and electronic at times to highlight the main character’s facade.
Amran says of the score, “The score of Like Me consists of two musical worlds conveying the distance between Tom’s true personality to his pretend social character. Tom’s inner world is made of a custom palette of manipulated voice, violins, guitars, synths, and acoustic bass. While having a melodic theme, Tom’s introspective score is more ambient and focused on the vibe and texture to immerse the audience in his troubled and unclear mind. The second musical world of Tom’s fake social character is scored with conventional music like techno, dance, rock, neo-classical piano, and funk. Some of it is played as source music, like the music we hear in the party scene, but it’s actually a score “in disguise” that evolves according to the scene.”
Two tracks that really highlight that dichotomy and disconnect in Tom’s life are “Bike Rides” and “Graduation”. The former is a standout that uses sweeping arpeggios and jubilant pop/rock beats that highlight innocence and even naivete. “Graduation” on the other hand uses a harsh, heavy square synth and brings to mind industrial electro-goth club vibes–a persona Tom shows to the world of a mature, even jaded man. Amram balances these two vibes that show Tom dealing with Gen Z social life, the LGBT community challenges, and the struggle to find authenticity and intimacy. Tracks like “Buried Memories” and “Almost Revealed” are more ambient soundscapes. Tonally revealing Tom’s inner thoughts and emotions.
The final track, “Live or Hide” includes notes of danger, adventure, and triumph. Amram combines elements of classical and pop/rock–Tom’s inner and outer selves. Like Me is everything that’s fun about film scores. It compliments and lifts the source material. It’s cerebral and brings a higher understanding of the story. And it stands perfectly well on its own as a piece of music that tells a story.
Was it a challenge to write a score that had a sense of cohesion and unity while the subject matter was all about disconnection and disharmony?
Creating a unified sound was particularly challenging in this film because it had to blend in various genres that played Tom’s separated identities. To achieve that, I adapted the thematic tune on conventional instruments of each genre, while also playing in critical moments a thematic sound made of processed vocals and reversed guitar.
What originally drew you to this film?
I looked forward to scoring this film because it exposed the audience to an authentic truth even when it’s disturbing to watch. It called for crafting a unique sound palette while tapping into a variety of styles.
How collaborative was this project between yourself, your musicians, and the director of the film?
Working with the creators Eyal Kantor and Yoav Keren was very smooth and inspiring since we had the trust to experiment with different options but also committed to whatever worked. Other brilliant collaborators were Yuval Lavi, who wrote additional music and mixed the score, and Gelo Hau, who played all the strings and mixed the album. Having both of them on board wasn’t only critical for the project, but also made it much more fun and inspiring.
What are your major influences, musical or otherwise?
It changes over time, but in recent years and especially in this project, I was influenced by artists who create hybrid sound, free from genre conventions with a sensitive cinematic feel. Some of them are Son Lux, Taylor McFerrin and Atli Örvarsson.
Do you have a preferred instrument that you tend to play while you write or do you go straight to paper?
My writing starting point changes by the essence of the cue. A thematic cue will start with finding an inspiring sound or imagining a melody, a groovy cue with drums but other styles could start with guitar or piano.
Without major film spoilers, what was your creative process like when writing the final track, “Live or Hide”?
At first, I knew that it should feel like a showdown type of cue that should conclude the main conflict in three parts. Starting with the tension of revealing the secret, breaking it into the action of fighting about it, and concluding with a dancy uplifting part that contrasts the drama while conveying the energy of an unresolved conflict. At that point, I had plenty of thematic material, so I started to play with it within the structure and go with what felt right for the scene.