Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament Composed Under the Banner of Heaven’s Creepy Tunes

Photo: EW

Jeff Ament is famous for performing on stage – yet now, the Pearl Jam bassist is taking his music to the screen. 

Ament wrote the music for Andrew Garfield’s true crime series Under the Banner Heaven, his first time composing an original song for film or TV. Similar to the show, Ament’s score can be quite emotive and disturbing, blending atmospheric piano and heavy guitar for a scary tune. 

“I’ve always thought that I was going to make some ambient records, and I’ve done pieces here and there over the years,” Ament said in a phone interview with EW last week in between performances for Pearl Jam’s North American tour. “But I’ve never gone all-in on a project, and this felt like the perfect one.” 

The composer claims that he has wanted to score a film or TV show for a long time. However, the perfect project didn’t come along. That is until he was asked to pitch to Under the Banner of Heaven maker Dustin Lance Black, who created the adaptation to Jon Krakauer’s best-seller book. 

Similar to the nonfiction book, the show follows the real-life case of the double murder of Brenda Lafferty and her baby daughter. It also navigates the case’s connection to extremist Mormon fundamentalism and the history of the Church of Latter-day Saints. 

Under the Banner of Heaven was the right project for Ament in countless ways: He had initially read the book a few years back and has been a long-time fan of Krakauer after he got to read the author’s masterpiece in Outside magazine. 

By chance, Ament’s Pearl Jam bandmate Eddie Vedder also scored the soundtrack for Into the Wild, another adaptation of Krakauer’s other book. 

Ament adds that he was interested in how Under the Banner of Heaven brings up questions of faith and fundamentalism, exploring a complex true story with gradation and empathy.

“I had my own sort of religious unraveling,” Ament states. “There were a lot of things about the story that I felt like I could tap into from an emotional standpoint.” 

Black claims he has been a Pearl Jam fan for as long as he can remember. 

“I felt like this show needed to feel like it had the tension of a true-crime thriller, but it also needed to feel bolted to the Earth,” Black says. “That was something I felt Jeff would be able to bring.” 

One of the most significant obstacles was how to transition the show’s ever-changing story. 

“The historical montages were trickier because we didn’t want to go into full banjo mode,” Ament spells out. “I think when you see those sorts of movies, that’s kind of what happens, where they’re playing the instruments of the time or whatever.” 

He, alongside his co-musicians, tried out using ancient instruments to age the tune while still balancing the show’s rock vibe. 

“It allowed us to go into vintage sound without getting into, like, Western music,” the 59-year-old musician adds. 

“There were times when we were leaning pretty hard on the ambient thing,” Ament states, laughing. “Sometimes [Black] was like, ‘I want it to be heavier. I want it to be more rock.’ Which was cool! Initially, we were trying not to be too rock, and he was so great at guiding us without over-directing it.” 

Ament looks forward to more scoring opportunities after Under the Banner of Heaven

Posted by Georgina Stewart

Georgina is a singer and songwriter. She loves writing about music and everything that comes with it.

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