The Boys composer
Antony Starr and Cameron Crovetti in The Boys (Credit: Prime)

Composer Christopher Lennertz has been with The Boys since the beginning. It’s a universe he continues to musically define with Gen V and the latest season of the Garth Ennis adaptation. As the laughs, stakes, and horrors escalate, Lennertz’s music gets similarly and deliberately unhinged.

Lennertz first started working with The Boys creator, Eric Kripke, on Supernatural. In addition to their hit shows, he’s scored Sausage Party, Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, and Netflix’s Lost in Space. He’s undoubtably got an ear for comedy, which he recently spoke to us about in regards to The Boys‘ parodies.

Let’s start with the A-Train movie, Training A-Train. Which staples of sports movie scores did you want to parody?

Oh yeah. I think Eric Kripke and I talked a long time ago about how much I love sports movies. I’m way more of a sports fan than Eric. I always tell everybody I work with, “Oh man, I want to do Hoosiers. I want to remember Remember The Titans or Rudy or something like that.” Eric smiled when he told me that this was coming up. He was like, “I got one for you.”

My favorite sports movie composer is absolutely Jerry Goldsmith. He did Rudy, he did Hoosiers. He always had these just heartfelt themes when the coach was trying to get the kid back on track. It was always such a moment. I knew Eric really wanted that feeling of warmth. The more that we played that up, the more that we made this feel like the most sports movie. Then when the camera stopped rolling and they said cut, all of a sudden it would get a bigger laugh. So, the idea was really to sell that with one hundred percent playing as straight as possible. 

So you like to parody with love?

That’s what we do every time. If we don’t love it, we’re not going to waste the time to make fun of it. Whether it was Big Adele Ballad for Starlight, or whether it was the boy band stuff, Supersonic, how would we have the most fun? What are the things we love most about a genre or a stereotypical musical piece or style? And then let’s get a chance to do our version of that with a complete straight face, because that’s what makes it the most funny. That’s what makes it really work as a gag. 

Over the last few years, have you found yourself responding to different elements from pop culture or genre that you can poke fun at? 

Oh, absolutely. I have huge text threads with Eric about this. I’ll either hear a piece of music or see a concert, and I’ll be like, “We could do this. What if Homelander does the Big John Lennon thing?” At four o’clock in the morning, I’ll just text Eric or he’ll text me. He’ll be like, “You know what? What if we did Andrea Bocelli? But instead it’s Frenchie.” It is those kinds of things that didn’t happen, but all those things come up. To have a show that allows you to have that sense of humor and creativity is such a joy. I still can’t believe we get to do this. 

the boys composer
Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Karl Urban in The Boys (Credit: Prime)

This season is Butcher at his lowest. How did you want to change up his theme, to communicate his dire state? 

That’s a big thing. Especially when it comes to emotional music, always play the heart of it and the vulnerability, but also never drift from character. A lot of times we will pare back. Eric will be like, “No, it still has to be even simpler, even more sparse. Butcher’s chest is ripped out at this point, he’s at his most desperate. We just need one or two instruments to bring it back to that.”

And so, that way the viewers will relate to what’s going on in his head or in his heart. That’s the thing I think is what makes The Boys so effective. You have these huge moments of parody or of shock and gore, and then they’ll follow it up with this really intimate moment with a character who’s super flawed. It’s what keeps it real. That’s what makes it feel human in a world that obviously is not real, but it feels real.

Like you said, you needed one or two instruments for Butcher this time around, so which were the one or two you usually found yourself going for?

Well, a few strings but scratchy. We use a lot of scratchy cello and violin. And then the piano that we’ve used, we started when we really did some of the emotional stuff in season two with Becca and then in season three with Butcher’s Brother. It’s an old piano run through effects that make it sound like it was on an old record or old tape player. The music is almost coming out of an old vinyl LP, so it’s all muffled like that and you can’t really hear it that well. It’s scratchy, which is important to Eric. He wants it to feel scratchy and beaten down the way Butcher feels beaten down. 

To make it feel beaten down or a bit screwy, how do you screw up purposefully or artfully on The Boys?

I’m not sure. I’m not sure we do it artfully on The Boys, to be completely honest with you. One of the things from the get-go that’s been so fun is, there were times where I would turn in demos and Eric would be like, “I liked it better than the last version.” And I would be like, “Oh, well what’s the difference between this version and the last version? Oh, I polished it, made it clean, and took out the noisy hum that was coming from the Guitar Amp. Maybe I took out when the mic that fell on the ground after the note finished playing.” Normally as a professional composer, you’re supposed to take out that stuff and make it sound professional, but we realized pretty early on that that was our sound. 

Even when you listen to some of my favorite old records from the sixties and seventies, they didn’t have all of the digital recording and pristine editing that we can do now. A lot of that stuff just ended up on the record. It’s what made it awesome, because it had this little bit of feedback coming from the amp. You could hear the buzz because the tube was a little overheated. And so, a lot of what we try to do here is actually not artfully fucking it up, but actually very brutally and viscerally including it, which is the idea.

Every time I see a picture of Hughie just covered in blood, I’m like, “Yeah, that’s basically what we do with the music, too.” We don’t ever wash it off, just let the blood and the mud lay on the guitar strings or on the bass strings. We make it sweaty and a little out of tune and dirty.

You and Eric always look for what’s the heart of this character. Say for Homelander, a fairly heartless guy.

[Cocks head with a disagreeing smile]

[Laughs] Okay, so his heart in season four, even at its most rotten, do you want to compose? 

Well, I cock my head because I don’t think the Homelander is heartless. I think he’s brutal and a narcissist, but he’s also a little kid who didn’t get his milk and all this other stuff. A lot of the violence and the aggression comes from the years of being that fucked up. Even as he descends into losing his shit as he is throwing that guy in the oven, it’s like there’s absolutely violence and anger in his heart, but if you really listen to some of the chords, there’s a little bit of sadness in it too. There’s a little tiny bit of tragedy.

There are so many times where I’ll do three or four piano notes over top of this dissonance and Eric will be like, “Wait, wait, wait too many, just two.” We will go down to one and be like, “No, no, that’s not enough actually, because he’s remembering also that he used to live here and they used to treat him badly and all this stuff.”

And so, we sort of do this dance of how much emotion peaks through with Homelander. It’s not much, but there is something there. But then when you surround it with distorted, out of tune scratchy violins, just noise and feedback, at first listen when you listen, you kind of miss it. And then when you sit back and watch it again and realize, oh, you know what, I didn’t really hear it, but I did in just a tiny bit of sadness and tragedy mixed with his violence. 

What do you think is next for you with the final season?

I haven’t read the scripts for season five yet, so I’m not totally sure where we’re going, which is a great thing. I love being surprised, but my guess is there is more turmoil to be had with our happy lead. Hopefully, he gets acknowledged for his amazing performance this year. I think all bets are off next year in terms of music. My guess is there’s going to be a lot of really out of tune nastiness to completely coincide with the final showdown.

The Boys season 4 is currently streaming on Prime.

Jack Giroux
Author

In high school, Jack would skip classes to interview filmmakers. With 15 years in film journalism, he's contributed to outlets such as Thrillist, Music Connection Magazine, and High Times Magazine. He's witnessed explosions, attended satanic rituals, and scaled volcanoes in his career, but Jack's true passion is interviewing artists.