Asking for a Guitar in the Third Grade and Meeting BB King Led to My Love for Music by Will Bangs of Music Box Licensing



FC: Where did you grow up?

Will Bangs: Kennebunk, ME. “Quaint” seaside community. Big tourist industry. Known for the Bush family’s summer home.

FC:  Are your parents artists? 

Will Bangs: No. My mom owns and antique shop and my father is a lawyer. They always supported my creativity. They exposed me to a lot of different activities as a kid – primarily sports. But, music wasn’t really on their radar. So the story goes, I randomly asked for a guitar when I was in probably third grade. I was really lucky to have parents who encouraged my musical interests. I remember a few wild experiences with my mom in particular. Once when I was a teenager, we were in NYC and at the time I was obsessed with modern jazz. We heard about this tiny little club, appropriately named Smalls, that had amazing music. It was $10 for 10 hours of music…10pm to 10am.

Will Bangs from Will Bangs on Vimeo.

We ended up going there one night and staying until very late into the night. This was a cool place…but not really a place you’d imagine a mom and teenage son to be. Another time, when I was still a teenager, we were visiting family in Memphis, and BB King was playing in town at another tiny little club. The show was sold out of course, but that didn’t stop my mom from trying to persuade the doorman to let us in. That didn’t work, but she was determined to get me in to see one of my idols at the time. So, no joke she ended up talking with one of the bands horn players who was having a smoke in between songs. Not only did she sweet talk our way into the show, but she also stayed outside BB King’s tour bus with me until about 4am to wait to meet him. We did. It was pretty damn cool. Looking back on it now, it is way more meaningful to know that my parents had my back  100% when it came to my interests.

There are so many more stories, but I’ll stop there.

.FC:  First time you picked up a musical instrument?

Will Bangs: Recorder in third grade.

FC:  What was the first film you watched in the theater as a kid?

Will Bangs:  The Goonies. While it wasn’t in a theater, it was the first movie I can clearly remember watching. I was pretty young, probably 7 or 8 years  old. At the time, my best friend lived right next door to each other. We used to meet at the wooden fence at daybreak between our houses. We’d play outside all day until our cheeks were red and we were thoroughly exhausted. I remember after one of those long, idyllic days playing outside we parked ourselves in front of her TV. Her mom brought in ice cream. I sat on the shag rug carpet and watched the Goonies in total awe. It’s still one of my favorite movies to this day. I think partly because I watched it at the perfect time in the perfect place. The sense of adventure, camraderie and place that Spielberg presents in that film really speak to me. Those are themes that speak deeply to who I am and what I value to this day.

FC:  First album you purchased as a kid/teen?

Will Bangs: Kriss Kross!

FC:  What is your favorite music documentary of your adult years?

Will Bangs: “I’m Trying to Break Your Heart” – documentary on Wilco’s album “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”

FC:  What is your favorite film score?

Will Bangs: Though it’s not a “score” in the traditional sense. Cat Stevens’ music from Harold and Maude left a indelible impression on me. I saw that film when I was probably a freshman in high school. I was depressed and searching for something greater than myself. A lot like Harold in the film. While I didn’t strike up a love affair with an elderly woman, I did find great meaning in that film. It made me feel less alone. It made me feel like it was okay to feel the things I was feeling…that it was a natural part of growing up to feel disenchanted with the world…to dream of a life that is far different than the world you are brought up in. So, it was another one of those films that I watched at just the right time in my life. It buoyed and anchored me. I think the music had a lot to do with that. Those songs became a soundtrack to my life at the time. The songs were guideposts to me growing up. It’s so hard to pin down just one favorite film score…there are so many. I also love the soundtrack to Lost in Translation, Her, Where the Wild Things Are, The Illusionist, Nebraska.

FC: If you could have written one film’s music, which one would it be and why?

Will Bangs: Probably Friday Night Lights.

That was the first soundtrack I heard where not only was I deeply moved, but I felt like I could do that. I’m not trying to say I’m comparable to Explosions in the Sky. They are an amazing, amazing band. But, I understood that post-rock formula. I knew how to write songs like that. I wanted to mesmerize audiences with the epic crescendos, walls or sound and let the music and cinematography play off each other with such magic and irridensence. I also have met so many other people – filmmakers and musicians alike – whose were equally inspired and influenced by that film’s aesthetic. To me, and many others I know, it was a game changer in terms of the kinds of music that make it into films.

Music Box Licensing from Will Bangs on Vimeo.

FC: How do you work with out-of-area clients?

Will Bangs: Skype, phone, email. Sometimes I’m able to travel to where they are. Recently I went to D.C. for the premiere of a film I licensed and scored music for. The filmmakers were able to cover my travel costs. I played a short set before the film. It was an awesome time.

FC:  Once a filmmaker agrees to work with you and turns over a copy of their film, what are some of your first steps with the project?

Will Bangs: Send them samples of reference tracks to start to define the sound for the film. Oftentimes, I’ll send them work that Music Box Licensing artists have recorded. From there we can get on the same page as to what “mysterious” or “americana” or “happy” sound like. What sounds happy to me, may sound too contemplative to a client. So, the first step is to get on the same page about the language we’re using. From there I can start to sketch out rough drafts to scenes and send it to the client for review/feedback. That process continues for a while if time allows.

FC:  What is your favorite part of composing music?

Will Bangs: Having the final finished product take on a life of it’s own and moving people.

FC:  Please explain the differences between licensing options versus original compositions?

Will Bangs: Licensing is a cheaper way to place music in films. The songs are already recorded and are ready to be placed in projects. I’ve met a lot of filmmakers who really enjoy finding a song first and then editing to the song. It can really help guide the cuts in the editing room.

Custom composition is a great way to go if the budget allows. One of the reasons I love working with filmmakers on custom scores is the creative back and forth process of discovering a unique sound for a film. Since I do most of my own composing on my own, working with a filmmaker gets to be the creative feedback loop that I always loved so much about being
in bands.

FC: One mantra you attempt to live by?

Will Bangs:  Work hard. Be nice.



Will Bangs composes music for films, tv and other media. His music has been featured in an Emmy-winning web series, films screened at international festivals, on NPR and PBS. His style is distinctive – with layers of guitars, piano, electronics, drums and string sections. In addition to composing, Bangs is the founder and creative director for Music Box Licensing – a creative music agency dedicated to crafting soundtracks. Music Box Licensing is a small, diverse and highly talented roster of bands and composers with styles ranging from post-rock, hip-hop, ambient and orchestral music.



A Creative Music Agency Dedicated to Crafting your Dream Soundtrack

Music Box Licensing is a creative music agency dedicated to crafting your dream soundtrack. We are a small, diverse and highly talented group of bands and composers. We pride ourselves in approaching every project with care, attention to detail and passion.