In a delightful corner of the internet, William Shatner sits perched atop a scenic mount. As the YouTube clip plays, Shatner, backed by a catchy 16-bit funk score, poses the following profound question: “Captain Kirk is climbing a mountain, why is he climbing a mountain?”
The same could be asked of Williamsburg-based audio wizards Fall On Your Sword (FOYS), the sound production company responsible for this viral gem as well as dozens of film, television and commercial scores. Having also recently created a twelve and a half-foot video sculpture for Siemens, which you can watch below, FOYS seems to be climbing many a mountain. But, why?
“Initially we were just a music production company with one tiny studio,” said FOYS co-founder Will Bates, talking with us inside his now considerably larger space, off bustling Bedford Avenue. “We were just really lucky to get in here when we did, our timing was good.”
British bred Bates first moved to New York in 2002, finding Williamsburg the way most did at the time. “The first thing I did was get a studio on Hope Street for my band,” said Bates, fondly recalling his days as lead vocalist of The Rinse. Prior to this, Bates (primarily a sax player) lent his booming horn talents to the ever-energetic Basement Jaxx and disco rock outfit Electric Six. To this day Bates still maintains a side-project called Evil Cowards with Electric Six frontman Dick Valentine.
Not relying on The Rinse to bring home the bacon, Bates received his introduction to commercial scoring courtesy of Amber, a composition house in Soho. In the years spent there, Bates came to learn the trade, winning the company several awards and meeting his future FOYS partner, Lucy Alper.
In 2009, together with Alper and then-partner Phil Mossman of LCD Soundsystem, Bates formed FOYS. Since then, the growth of FOYS has come to reflect that of the surrounding neighborhood. “There was nothing around here when we arrived,” said Bates. “To the point we were nervous that we’d have a hard time getting our clients over here.”
These fears were short-lived, though, and as the FOYS client list grew over time so did their offices, with two extra studios and an art space for Bates’s wife, Sarah Berenza.
“We started doing fun collaborative pieces that were interactive and music-driven,” said Bates, recalling the company’s foray into the world of installation art, which all began with a piece they made for the 2012 Armory Show. After that, FOYS continued to contribute to the annual Armory Show and slowly began taking on more commercial work, creating pieces for Pringles (you may recall the Pringles organ that was created for Gawker’s throwdown at the former Williamsburgh Savings Bank), Jose Cuervo and most recently the Siemens sculpture, which was featured as part of their keynote presentation delivered at the American wind energy convention in Florida.
The 2,000-pound sculpture – part video installation, part live organ performance – began its life last year when Bates was first contracted by Siemens to compose a piece of music using the sounds of wind from wind farms.
Taking the video from this composition, the various wind sounds were chopped up into separate components and tuned to a respective note on an organ built by Sarah.
Apart from the frame and tech components that were outsourced, Bates and co. put together everything else including the original piece of music, “America the Beautiful.”
“It was kinda terrifying,” said Bates, who performed the piece moments before the CEO presented his speech. “But everyone seemed to get a kick out of it, so guess it was all worth it.”
From playing to proto-hipsters in the burg to energy innovators in Florida, it’s been quite the journey for Bates. “There with tons of other bands when I arrived [in Williamsburg] and it was fun, playing at each other’s shows… you just don’t see that as much anymore,” said Bates, who ‘s quick to recognize the benefits of this change in terms of his own trajectory. “The march of progress is inevitable. I saw it growing up in West London, it’s what happens to cities… none of us can complain about it really because we’re all benefitting from it… having said that I miss having my mates around, no one really lives here anymore.”
Correction, July 28: The original version of this story was revised to correct the spelling of Lucy Alper’s surname.