Hoppus and collaborator James Ingram (the engineer, not the “Somewhere Out There” singer) wrote the score for I’m Scared, a four-minute stop-motion animated short directed by Pete Levin and produced by Dan Levy, Musa Brooker and Levin.
The film is based on drawings from popular fine artist Greg “Craola” Simkins, illustrating a boy’s explanations to his little brother about what scary creepy crawlies and monsters are lurking in the dark.
Hoppus and Simkins’ friendship goes back nearly 15 years to when Simkins designed T-shirt graphics for Hoppus’ clothing line. Hoppus found out about the film after Simkins mentioned a Kickstarter campaign online and then jumped at the chance to compose the music.
Hoppus and Ingram’s score can best be described as menacing bluegrass, led by a sprightly banjo. “Pete and Dan wanted it to sound childlike and foreboding, spooky but not scary,” Hoppus said. “I was walking this fine line between jaunty and sinister. The banjo we thought would be a good instrument because of the line it walked. We created the banjo on the keyboard. A lot of the instruments are keyboard sounds and samples.”
A portion of the score can be heard in this exclusive clip:
For reference, Levin and Levy suggested cartoons from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, many of which featured a frenetic energy and a big-band feel. “A big inspiration was [Dumbo’s] ‘Pink Elephants on Parade’,” said Levin, who has directed animated segments for IFC’s Comedy Bang! Bang! and Cartoon Network’s Mad. “Greg also has this crazy amount of knowledge of creepy children’s songs, so he made us a Spotify list.”
After watching the cartoons, Hoppus started working on the score, a process that lasted off and on for a month. “It was such a fun experience,” he said. “We’re literally sitting in the studio and thinking, ‘What musically represents a jumping ominous rabbit? What does a shark sound like?'”
Levin said collaborating with Hoppus was far easier than he might have predicted, given his successes.
“He took direction so well,” Levin said of the Blink-182 bassist. “I would expect a rock star to push back and, instead, he’d say, ‘That totally makes sense, let me try it this way,'” Levin said. “He supported his side on a few things. It was a really good back and forth.”
Meanwhile, for Hoppus lending his name and skill set to the project meant a chance to break into film. He said, “I want to cut my teeth and get into that whole world and build up my chops.”
The next step is for Levin, who is married to Hollywood Reporter associate managing editor Jennifer Hoche Levin, to take the short to film festivals with hopes of expanding it into a full-length feature. If that happens, Hoppus, who names Hans Zimmer, Trent Reznor and John Williams as his favorite composers, said he’s “absolutely interested” in scoring the film.
In the meantime, Hoppus continues with Blink-182. He said the threesome — with Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba replacing guitarist Tom DeLonge — will head back into the studio in August.
DeLonge, who left Blink-182 several months ago, recently paired with author Suzanne Young on a series of dystopian sci-fi novels. Each of Young’s three books in the trilogy will be accompanied with an EP of instrumentals by DeLonge’s band, Angels & Airwaves.