One of the discovery highlights of SXSW 2015 was the thriller “Two Step” from director Alex R. Johnson. Starring Beth Broderick, James Landry Hébert, Skyy Moore, Jason Douglas and Ashley Rae Spillers, the movie is a fast-paced Texas thriller in which the lives of a directionless college dropout and a career criminal with his back against the wall violently collide. But one of the things we enjoyed about it so much was the emotional heft mixed in with the taut tension of a tradition thriller. Our review from SXSW called the movie “deeply human and quietly unsettling,” and the picture should be one that lands on your radar.
Set in Texas, music is an important part of film, and country, alt-twangy tunes sit alongside a score from Andrew Kenny of the ’90s and ’00s indie rock bands The American Analog Set and The Wooden Birds. With the film’s release on the horizon, we asked Johnson to do a soundtrack mixtape breakdown for us and he dutifully obliged. You can hear the “Two Step” Spotify soundtrack exclusively below as well as a new track from Andrew Kenny.
Alex R. Johnson: We weren’t going to make a film that takes place in Austin without using as much Austin music as possible. The songs obviously needed to fit the film and the scenes, but I also wanted a diversity that reflects what’s happening with music here. It would have been great if we could have squeezed in some John Wesley Coleman III or The Sons of Hercules for some more variety but they just didn’t mesh stylistically with the scenes. But I still think we did pretty good.
Jesse Dayton – “One of Them Days” + “Tall Walkin’ Texas Trash”
Jesse’s a friend and I’m a huge fan. He plays the Broken Spoke every Thursday night and is a joy to watch. His guitar playing seems effortless, and he’s got one of these voices that just comes out and covers the room in a velvet cloth. “Tall Walking Texas Trash” fits perfectly into Dot and James’ bar scene. I love it.
Dale Watson: “I Never Had the One That I Wanted,” “If It’s Over, Say it’s Over” + “Heaven’s Gonna Have a Honkey Tonk”
I knew from the start that I wanted Dale somewhere in the film. He just epitomizes true Texas to me, true Austin. We were hoping to shoot his scene in Ginny’s Longhorn Saloon, a famous old bar here in Austin that Dale saved from destruction a few years ago, but they were deep in renovations when we were shooting. Between Dale’s saving chicken shit bingo at Ginny’s, his saying “fuck you” whenever possible to the Blake Shelton-ifying of country music, his general charm and that goddamn baritone voice, he’s the best. As a filmmaker, if you have the opportunity to have Dale Watson say words you wrote, do it.
Wild Child – “Rillo Talk”
Wild Child has grown so much in the past few years. I needed something quiet and mellow and this track from their last record is one of my favorites. And they’re nice folks.
Laura Cantrell – “Kitty Wells Dresses” + “The Letter She Sent”
This is where I cop to being a hypocrite about the Austin thing. Laura’s the one artist on here that doesn’t live in Austin — she’s in NYC and originally from Nashville. But I just love her so much. I used to listen to her old WFMU show “The Radio Thrift Shop” pretty religiously. And having a song about Kitty Wells during a major Dot scene works perfectly. I thought a lot about Wells’ personality and songs when writing Dot, so it was great to use something that connects them.
Whiskey Shivers – “Gimme All Your Lovin'” + “Tell Me Do You Want Me”
Both these tracks are playing through the radio in Duane’s country store when Webb enters and leaves. I just really wanted something high energy and joyous — something completely devoid of the dread that’s heavily hanging on the film at that time.
Gina Chavez (featuring Grupo Fantasma) – “Gotta Get”
It was important to me to have some Latin music in the film and Austin native Chavez is great. I love how her music is a such a seamless blend of Mexican, South American and North American styles. And the horns in this track are amazing.
The Wooden Birds – “Long Time To Lose It”
This isn’t the version that’s in the film but we put it in here for a bit of an extra track (the film’s version can be found over on the film’s score on iTunes). Kenny and I have been collaborating together for a long time — he did the score to my short film “Pickup And Return” back in 2008 and I directed two tracks from his 2012 The Wooden Birds release Two Matchsticks. One was “Criminals Win,” and the other was this track, “Long Time To Lose It.” In discussions with Kenny over the score for “Two Step,” I knew I also wanted a track of his to kick in after the cut to black. I wanted something to sort of act as a salve to that last intense act of the film. Kenny kept saying, “I got it, I got it,” but he didn’t actually play it for me till a little before we headed into our final mix. It was the piano version of “Long Time To Lose It” and it was pretty goddamn perfect.
The score is out digitally on July 28th (you can buy it here), NYC premiere is July 31st (you can get tickets here) and the L.A. premiere is August 7th (tix here). Listen to the “Two Step” Spotify playlist below, plus Andrew Kenny’s “Long Time To Lose it,” a piano version of a Wooden Birds song he wrote and modified for the film’s soundtrack.