‘Runways’ Composer Talks the ‘Synth-Heavy but Simple’ Score

Hulu series “Runaways” marks the third entry in a trio of fall projects showcasing the diverse range of composer Siddhartha Khosla. Unlike his organic-infused instrumentation for NBC’s “This Is Us” or surf guitar sounds in CBS’ “Me, Myself and I,” “Runaways,” set to debut Nov. 21, finds the composer crafting a completely electronic score for the story, which is based on a Marvel comic about a group of gifted teens of different backgrounds who form an organization called The Pride to rebel against their supervillain parents.

After meeting with executive producer Josh Schwartz and reading the pilot script, Khosla convinced the producers that a non-orchestral score would perfectly suit the layered storylines.

Reflecting on the sound of electronic bands that inspired him as a teen, such as Depeche Mode and the Cure, Khosla selected vintage synths, including the Roland Juno-60, the Oberheim DX and the 808 kick drum. Working off the pilot script, he wrote music for a few scenes and shared them with the production team, which agreed it was the best sound for the show and main title theme.

“It was nice to break away from what is commonly heard in that universe,” Khosla says. “It’s extremely synth-heavy but also very simple.”

Khosla layered the electronic sounds, weaving an ethereal tapestry that emphasizes the characters’ complex emotions. The only organic elements used are vocals, which are run through a vocoder before being introduced to the mix. To further explore the action sequences, Khosla developed several themes highlighting the intensity of The Pride and the drama of the teen rebellion.

Unlike his music for “Runaways,” Khosla’s compositions for “This Is Us” remain outside the electronic realm and continue to evolve as the show plays through its second season. Khosla experienced a turning point in season one when he was scoring an accompaniment to a flashback by Kate Pearson (Chrissy Metz) to her father’s funeral. Exploring the percussive quality of the sound his fingers made as they tapped against his studio desk, he recorded multiple tracks of the sound, layering them with an acoustic guitar.

For Khosla, that recording touched on a spiritual element of music — something he was exposed to as a child growing up in India. While he doesn’t rely on ethnic instruments to create a “world music” sound, he has continued to experiment, sometimes using objects collected within his studio, to connect to the show’s emotions. This season, sections of the “Us” score use a cracked snare drum head and build new sounds through layered elements, like a cello and a vocal on a single track.

For comedy “My, Myself and I,” Khosla developed a happy yet melancholy ’60s surf sound. With engineer Jeff Peters, he worked at Sunset Sound Recorders, the studio where the Beach Boys album “Pet Sounds” was cut. They crafted a sonic palette heavy with reverb and built a library of sounds and cues the show could pull from.

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