Y: The Last Man has been gracing our television screens for several weeks now, finally bringing the beloved Vertigo Comics series to life in live-action. The series, which is based on Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra's comic of the same name, centers on a unique post-apocalypse, where all mammals with Y chromosomes have died in a mysterious event, outside of a single man named Yorick Brown (Ben Schnetzer) and his pet monkey Ampersand. As Yorick attempts to reconnect with his girlfriend, Beth, the remaining survivors — including his mother, Jennifer Brown (Diane Lane), and his sister Hero Brown (Olivia Thirlby) try to rebuild a new world.
There's a lot to Y: The Last Man that fans have already been dissecting, from its new approach to the source material to its unintentional real-world relevance to its star-studded (and largely female) cast and crew. Among the people bringing the series to life are Herdís Stefánsdóttir, the series' composer. While Stefánsdóttir is best known for her work on The Hate U Give, The Sun Is Also a Star, and We're Here, Y: The Last Man marks her biggest and most ambitious work yet. ComicBook.com recently got a chance to speak with Stefánsdóttir about joining the series, and the various genre influences she drew on for its sound. We also spoke about the experience of crafting the score during the COVID-19 pandemic, the world of comic book adaptations, and more!
Joining the Show
ComicBook.com: What drew you to working on Y: The Last Man?
Herdís Stefánsdóttir: I actually didn't know the graphic novel before. But I got an email from my agent — and I remember it was late at night, like 11:30pm. I was about to fall asleep when I see this email pop up, "Y: The Last Man." And then I opened it, and there was a brief about the story and what it was about. You know when you get this moment of instinct? I was like, "I like this. Whatever this is going to be, it sounds really good." So, that's how I first heard of Y: The Last Man. And then my boyfriend gave me all the books for Christmas, and I actually didn't have time to read all of it, but it was really cool to get to know it. And I can't believe it's been out there for twenty years without me knowing of its existence.prevnext
What was your overall approach in creating the score? It feels like you do such a good job in balancing the seriousness of the world and the levity at the same time.
When I started, I had checked out the first graphic novel. I had read some of the script — not all of the script, I didn't know the whole story — and seen the first two episodes, which I thought was really important, just to get a feel. For me, the cinematography, the colors, all these things — the aesthetics of how the show is made — are really influential to what kind of a score you make. What became the most interesting part of how I wrote score is that, in the absolute beginning, I just pulled up the episode and started writing to cues. And then I was like, "No way. This story is way too big. It's way too complicated and expansive for me to work like this." So, I started reading and reading, and I wrote the entire score to the scripts and the story without even touching the picture. All the themes, the soundworld, and whatever was developed, was written to just pure inspiration from the story.prevnext
Main Title Theme
That's amazing. That is so fascinating. Going off of that, what was your approach to the main title theme?
That was actually a conversation that me and Eliza Clark, the showrunner, had. She was like "This becomes a lawless world, and there are no rules. Infrastructures are falling apart. But in the graphic novel, there is this levity and the humorous there, despite the world becoming in a f-cked up situation." So, we thought a reference that is a little bit ironic, but still has this kind of fun thing, was to go and draw inspiration from Western cinema music initially created by Ennio Morricone, and just the old cowboy Western lawless things. Which was super interesting for me, because I had never touched on that kind of music. But I'm a huge fan of Ennio Morricone, and The Good, Bad, and the Ugly is one of my favorite scores of all time. I think everybody knows the harmonies and the sound that that brings. So I took inspiration from that, but wanted to create something that would feel new, and maybe a little bit of a weird take on whatever we know as Western music.prevnext
Cast and Crew
What was the experience like of working with Eliza and the show's largely-female cast and crew?
It was really cool. I've never had that experience before. We would have Zoom meetings where we were maybe twelve women. The editors, the cinematographer, the directors, Eliza, the music editor, supervisor, and so on, sound producer and mixer, all women. And I thought it was really inspiring and really cool. Definitely. In a way, it's weird that so much of the time, it's mostly men, and you just get used to it, and then one woman here and there. It was definitely a nice change up to be in an environment like that.prevnext
What was the experience like of working in the pandemic? I've spoken to other composers working on a show score during this time, and they've said it's kind of bizarre to be doing it all remotely.
I think, because I live on a rock in the North Atlantic Ocean called Iceland, where you can't get anywhere except for a plane and it's far away from everything, I have done that the whole entire time. I don't know anything else but just doing Zoom meetings and doing it remotely, because nobody's going to fly over to Iceland, to see what I'm up to.prevnext
Do you feel any extra pressure in crafting it all remotely?
I think, as a composer, I'm so used to being alone all the time in my studio. We had it pretty good in Iceland during the pandemic. So, I was able to record. I was able to go up north and record a choir, which wasn't possible anywhere else in the world because of COVID. You could do string orchestras, but not anything with a mouth. So, I was basically in the only place in the world where you could record a choir during the pandemic. And that is the base of the score. It's the core of everything. That's basically the sound of the score.prevnext
What would you say surprised you the most in the experience of working on the Y: The Last Man score?
Having done a few things, sometimes it can be incredibly hard. And I think what was really cool with this, [Eliza] was very free spirited with this, and she gave me a lot of trust. She didn't ask me to do this or that. She just was like, "You do you." I had really free hands with how to create this or that, and a lot of support. It was honestly one of the most fun and smoothest processes of ever writing a TV or film score that I have tried. And I don't want to jinx myself, because I don't know if it's ever going to be this much fun again, but it was really, really cool.prevnext
Have you been keeping an eye on people's responses to your score? Even just seeing social media chatter, it seems like your work is resonating with viewers.
Oh, that's really cool to hear. I don't have Twitter. I have Instagram, so I haven't seen it. But please, I would love to hear from people if they are liking it.
That's awesome. I'm jealous of the fact that you don't have Twitter.
Yeah. I just decided never to go into that wormhole. Maybe I'm better off. But I do have Instagram.prevnext
Y: The Last Man has such a unique position in the comic book and genre space. Are there any other comic book franchises or genre franchises that you would love to compose for?
I think, especially with this one, I might [gravitate towards] the ones that take a little bit of more of artistic touch. I really liked Watchmen. I loved the Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross score for that. So, yeah. Whatever adaptation that would be willing to push the boundaries a bit, musically, I'm in. Because I totally find myself in this world of a little magical realism.0comments