We chat with composer Mathieu Lamboley about Lupin…
When Netflix released their French language mystery heist thriller series, Lupin, they probably never imagined it would have become the international hit it has. Five months later and over 70 million subscribers tuning in, Part II was just released, picking up after Part I’s cliffhanger finale and having just seen Omar Sy’s Assane Diop become “the most wanted man in France”. Cue the music, literally. In the case of Lupin, the man behind the noteworthy score is French composer Mathieu Lamboley. While most composers only work behind the scenes, Lamboley can also be seen in the Part II finale as the orchestra conductor at the charity concert. Since the music plays such an important part on Lupin, we conducted the below exclusive interview with Mathieu to hear more about his creative process. The Lupin Part II score is now available digitally.
When you first began working on the show, how did you approach creating the initial sounds for the Lupin score?
I first spent some time thinking about what Lupin really stands for, as I always want to give each project a unique soundtrack. To me, Lupin is all about heritage, a father passing on a literary heritage to his son, and the latter continuing the legacy in the present time. The question then became, how do I translate this in music? I decided to take a hybrid approach and mix my classical heritage with more modern sounds, as if I were myself trying to make my musical heritage live in the present. And this is what you can hear in the soundtrack: classical writing blended together with hip hop beats.
Lupin is a French show that has crossed over and achieved worldwide success. When you first started working on the show, did you ever think this would happen?
Not really, for me it was just a great show! But today I try to understand the reasons for this massive success. One of them is that the show is showing the French culture, and our city Paris at a time when people weren’t able to travel at all. And then like I said it’s a pretty good show! I believe people enjoy the character of Arsène most of all. Omar’s interpretation is fantastic, playful, friendly and fun with this touch of low-fi tricks. He makes Assane profoundly human, that’s what it’s all about right?
What are you personally most proud of, when it comes to Lupin?
The symphony was the most challenging piece and I am very proud of it. I had to compose an orchestral piece that on one hand had to be part of the scene (diegetic), like a repertoire piece played during a concert, and on another hand had to fit perfectly the action of the scene (extra diegetic). It was a lot of work, but a real musical spot where I had the opportunity to expose all the themes of the series, in a musical genre that was not heard earlier in Part I.
How has your score evolved from Part I to Part II?
In Part I, I introduced the main themes and really explored Lupin’s hybrid musical style. Part II was a great opportunity to go deeper in my writing. This is what I liked with the series format. For a composer it’s a fantastic opportunity because you have time to develop your ideas. Viewers get used to your music during the first episodes, and then you can go way further in terms of creativity. For the final episode, I wrote a symphony where all themes of the show blend together. It’s very complex and challenging music for the viewers, and it was made possible only because you have nine episodes before that, so the viewers are somewhat prepared.
Is there any new characters in Part II that you gave specific themes you would like to discuss?
In Part II, the characters are mainly the same as those presented in Part I. Thus, most of the themes are the same ones. There are some new characters appearing punctually but most of the main characters, already established in Part I kept the same themes. What is exclusive though, is the grand finale: a symphony blending all of the themes together to create unheard sounds and unlived emotions. The composition of this symphonic piece was a fantastic challenge for me as I had to propose something really new.
You released your Lupin Part I album in January. If you could only pick two tracks from that album to suggest people listen to, which ones would they be?
Indeed, the original soundtrack of Lupin is available on all streaming platforms! What I suggest people listen to is obviously the main theme, called Arsène. It is the essence of the show and sets the scene for the following tracks. Two tracks that people don’t usually listen to are Lupin and Les confidences d’Assane. These tracks display different types of variations as the arrangements are a bit less focused on a hip hop style. To me, these three tracks present well the different shades of the arrangements and the versatility of the music I composed.
On your IMDB page it says you were encouraged by Hans Zimmer, who praised your work during an ASCAP workshop in LA. Can you talk about this a little more? Did you learn anything in particular from him?
I did meet Hans Zimmer at an ASCAP’s masterclass. I displayed my work to him and he listened to a piece I composed and he found my aesthetic very interesting and enjoyed the Frenchy aspect of my composition work. I learned something very important from him, and it is something I try to think about every day because it is really inspirational to me. He told me that it wasn’t about the music in itself but about the idea behind it. You see, what is essential is to propose something special, that stands out from the crowd, to the director you work with. In other words, it is fundamental to come out with strong elements and sounds to be able to give the film a unique identity. This is an advice I never stopped thinking about every time I had to compose for films. And I guess this is what I tried to do with Lupin, give the series a unique soundtrack.
Your recently scored film, Between Two Worlds, starring Juliette Binoche is currently getting a lot of great buzz. Can you briefly talk about your score for this movie? How would you describe it?
At first, the director Emmanuel Carrère didn’t want any music for his film. When writing, the most important thing was to create the perfect balance in terms of the emotion I wanted to translate with my music. He wanted the score to be sensitive but not too expressive. Regarding the musical color, I managed to put the obstinate aspect of the social workers’ daily lives to music by composing a score based on the idea of a routine mechanism. Listening to the score, you have the ability to experience their life by hearing ostinatos and ritornellos. This film is a masterpiece, and it was a fantastic experience for me to work with such a great director. He’s an amazing novelist and it is something you can feel in his way of making films: he’s always looking for the right tone, the right emotion. It’s very subtle and I’m very proud of this project.
What is one thing that people don’t know about you?
When I was 5, I wanted to become a Judoka. My parents were musicians and they convinced me to keep on studying music. Today, I wouldn’t trade my baton for a kimono for anything in the world!
Many thanks to Mathieu Lamboley for taking the time for this interview.