Introducing The Music Supervisor Putting the Bounce in 'Broad City'
Pairing a great scene with an equally amazing song is no easy feat. Some might even say (ahem, me) that it’s an art form in and of itself. I’ll never forget hearing Radiohead’s “Talk Show Host” in Romeo + Juliet, or being introduced to LCD Soundsystem for the first time on The OC. The perfect pairing will etch a scene in your memory forever—or at least for a very long time. Every so often a new show comes along that manages to get it just right, episode after episode, track after track. Broad City is one of those iconic shows, and the person responsible for those sounds is Matt FX.
For someone who’s become known as an arbiter of cool, FX’s musical beginnings are in unexpected territory: classical compositions and an all-boys choir. His father was a conductor, and raised Matt on a mix of the classics, from the great composers to Sting and The Beatles. “I specifically remember my dad telling me that he had worked with Sting, and that he could pick up any instrument and within ten minutes make something beautiful,” Matt recalls. “I didn’t even know who Sting was, and hadn’t heard his music, but I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
He attended an all-boys school that he describes as “a stable for professional boy sopranos” from the ages of eight to thirteen, performing in church multiple times per week, and multiple times per day on Sundays. It was a rigorous schedule that led FX to an early “Holden Caulfield” moment. He decided to ditch the prep schools and attend the famed LaGuardia High School for music and art, expanding his musical frame of reference thanks to his classmates, which included a young Azealia Banks. “I had missed out on so much music in my early years,” he says. “To this day, someone will put on a throwback and I won’t know it—I heard ‘Return of the Mack’ for the first time just a few years ago.” Better late than never.
After spending just two months at a university in Glasgow, FX decided that school wasn’t for him, and returned to NYC to figure things out. He worked a series of odd jobs, from manning a food cart on The Highline to a brief stint at a mailbox store, until he got a phone call from on old classmate. During his senior year, he’d introduced her to the British version of Skins, and she’d become obsessed with show. Being a particularly determined young person, she managed to secure an internship with the show’s creator, Bryan Elsley, and they were asking teenagers and young adults to read scripts for the American adaptation and give their input. Naturally, she thought of Matt. After reading the scripts, he inquired about an internship with the music department, and Elsley asked him to make a mix and send it over. Just days later, he was offered a job.
“Bryan asked if I could do all the genres,” he says. “And I thought to myself, ‘Well, I don’t really know country or jazz, but I’ve just got to say yes.’” He was thrown in headfirst to navigate the intricacies of music licensing. It was a steep learning curve to say the least, but one that he seemed preternaturally equipped to handle. Elsley put his faith in FX, backing his suggestions even when MTV felt otherwise—and it worked. When he used Lionshare’s track “Trip to Feza” to accompany a weird and wild mushroom trip scene, the clip was uploaded to YouTube by twelve separate users and viewed collectively over 250,000 times (and that was in 2010). But despite impressive ratings and a cult following, the show was cancelled after one season, and Matt began to focus on making his own music.
“In high school I’d always play random parts in my friends’ bands, singing on one track or playing keys on another—it was like an ‘always the bridesmaid, never the bride’ type of thing,” he says. So he took his earnings from Skins, and built a studio with one of his best friends. For two years, he spent his days recording songs, playing most of the instrumental parts himself, and spent his nights immersed in Brooklyn’s DIY scene, a haven for underground electronic music. He formed a DJ collective with friends who each had their own niche—“like a DJ crew of the different Power Rangers”—playing gigs almost every other night, but still struggling to make enough money to live. Until another out-of-the-blue phone call.
“Skins and Broad City both came to me when I needed them most,” he says. “It was like a cartoon—a crate attached to a parachute falling from the sky.” An old coworker from Skins had landed a gig on a new show, and their music guy wasn’t working out. The new show was Broad City, and it was set to air in three weeks. “As soon as I met Abbi and Ilana, I felt like I knew them: two Jewesses trying to make a buck?” he remembers. “That describes most of my female friends.” Just as before, he dove in headfirst, and it proved to be an ideal match. “I describe the girls’ musical taste and mine as a Venn Diagram, and the center is the biggest part.”
“He is just so cool and so much fun to work with,” the girls have said of collaborating with FX on the show. “A New York, Chinese Jew—you can’t pin him down, and he knows so many amazing young musicians.” For him, that’s one of the most rewarding parts of his job: having the chance to feature artists that he knows and loves and share their music the Broad City audience.
In the current season, Episode 6, airing on March 23rd, stands out as a favorite. “I think that’s the episode that I really did my thing on.” Though he usually picks the music during the editing process (“I got to speak with Hans Zimmer and we bonded over hating reading scripts, so I feel okay admitting that”), there are instances when a scene needs to be shot to the specific song—and sometimes those requests come at the last minute. “Over the summer, the girls called me the night before a shoot, and said they needed an all out banger,” he remembers. “I was at dinner with friends, who wanted to go to Up & Down, but I was planning to go home to search for the song. My friends convinced me to go for one drink, and I walked into this vision in ass-less chaps and a cowboy hat rapping—and I knew that was it.” That vision was New York City rapper K Rizz, and her song “Yes Bitch” not only ended up being exactly what they needed for the episode, they used it in all of the trailers for Season 3. Proof that sometimes going out really pays off.
And while being the music supervisor on one of Comedy Central’s biggest shows is a major coup, for FX, it’s just one of many gigs. He still DJs and produces music with his collective Scooter Island, and hopes to start fostering other artists that he believes in. “I’d love to sign so many producers I know to just basic publishing deals, and create an amazing library of music for shows—music that doesn’t sound like some old dudes making house music for the second time.” Towards the end of our conversation, he shows me a video that a friend had just sent him, a rapper from Brooklyn who rhymes in both English and Mandarin named Bohan Phoenix. “I’m all about opening up genres like that,” FX says. “When he goes from the first verse to four lines in Chinese and then says, ‘Spit a little Mandarin and check if they listen’—that’s so dope.” Not only is FX talented in his own right, he’s got an equally attuned ear for other people’s talent. Now someone just needs to give him the money to develop it. Zuckerburg, you game?
Check out Broad City, Wednesdays at 10 PM, for more of Matt FX’s work.
Stay tuned to Milk for more dope creatives.