How Ryan Lofty Helps Make Every Day Sound Like Saturday on Harvey Street
Ryan Lofty comes from humble beginnings in Robins, Iowa, raised in a log cabin his parents built. With his insanely sweet, talented piano-and-organ-playing mother, he grew up in a household that appreciated music in all its forms. “I went through all the phases… played trumpet in high school band, went to college on a jazz scholarship, toured the country with a rock group, and ended up in California as a DJ… turns out, experience with a lot of genres really helps with producing music for TV. You have to be able to switch very quickly and it would be impossible if you weren’t truly a fan of all music.”
This love of music, combined with hard work, dedication, and a little luck, lead to a career in music production that would take him across the country.
“I met a music supervisor in a bar… Peter Davis, who works for a production company called Bunim/Murray. He’s really great at finding and supporting new artists. He asked if I had any original songs that I would be interested in licensing and a few of my aggressive electronic and dirty trap tracks were a great fit for two of their shows: The Challenge and Bad Girls Club. After we learned that licensing music could be a career, my then-girlfriend-now-wife and I cataloged the 300 songs I’d written over the course of my life and made a music library. We pitched them out to other people and started getting placements on more shows, a few ads, and a couple of indie movies… that lead to creating theme songs and scores.”
These songs and scores eventually lead to Ryan’s current job in L.A. as a producer and composer. He explains the difference between the two:
“A music producer takes a vision for a song or piece of music and manages the creation process from start to finish. This could include songwriting, production, tracking vocals, recording instruments, and mixing the record…. Composing means creating a score to picture, it can involve some of the same responsibilities but not always. A composer may also be a producer or they might hire someone else to produce their ideas.”
From the upbeat EDM music you hear on Keeping Up with the Kardashians, to powerful drum tracks on The Challenge, to happy boy band sounds for Harvey Street Kids, Ryan’s creativity and ability handling a wide range of genres has been put to the test. He shares how he helps make every day sound like Saturday on Harvey Street Kids, and how music impacts stories.
You’ve worked on reality TV (including Keeping Up with the Kardashians) and a few animated shows, can you tell us about the difference between making music for reality TV vs. animation?
“For the reality shows I’ve worked on, the job is creating a bank of music for the supervisors and editors to pull from. Every show has an overarching musical style. For example, Keeping Up with the Kardashians typically uses uplifting EDM and trance to create a feel-good vibe, while The Challenge uses aggressive electronic music and intense drum tracks to create a competitive vibe.
My production company, Future Vega, will make custom cue packs by season…earlier this year we made 60 cues for The Challenge Season 31 that merged traditional Spanish instrumentation with electronic music. I recorded live trumpets and flamenco guitar and sent the samples out to a group of producers. We were able to chop up, remix, rearrange, and edit an amazing variety of different cues that all had a similar element to create a cohesive sound.
Composing for animation is very different. There are much longer lead times, sometimes years, and you’re creating exact music to match the picture. It’s an exclusive, contracted engagement, so you spend time developing themes for the characters that will remain consistent throughout the seasons.”
What are your responsibilities on Harvey Street Kids?
“On Harvey Street Kids I am a song producer and assistant composer for Jay Vincent. I write approximately one third of the music. Some of my responsibilities include the score for Lotta, one of the three main characters, and co-writing and producing songs for the show’s boy band Crush4U (voiced by Nick Lachey of 98 Degrees, Joey Fatone of *NYSNC, Joey McIntyre of New Kids on the Block and Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men). I generally handle anything that involves electronic music and synths.
How does music help tell the story?
“Harvey Street Kids is about three best friends who adventure through a neighborhood without adults where every day feels like Saturday. Each of the girls has a very distinct personality and their music reflects this. Lotta has a great heart, she is extremely excitable and sees the best in everyone. As you can see in the trailers that have been released, some of her hobbies include glitter, cuddling animals, and dancing to songs by her favorite boy band Crush4U.
For Lotta’s score I use a lot of major chords and arpeggiated, sparkly synths to amplify how cute and sweet she is. I’ve had a lot of fun using techniques like EQ filtering and VSTs like Sylenth and Serum that I’d typically use in a club track. Some of the same methods used to create a build in an electronic song can be used to build anticipation and excitement in a score. It will be interesting to see if any EDM-loving parents watching with their kids will pick up on this!”
What’s the best thing about working on Harvey Street Kids?
“The best thing is that I get to wake up and make music every single day. When I first started working on the show, I never imagined that I’d end up in a recording studio with some of the original boy band members that made the music of my childhood, recording songs I co-wrote. Co-writing the songs with the screenwriters is definitely a highlight. We’ll get scripts with lyrics and have the absolute best time transforming them into fully produced songs. Brendan [Hay, EP] and Aliki [Theofilopoulos, SP] are so hilarious and clever; there are a lot of layers of social commentary and jokes for adults built into the script. I wish I could give examples of the songs we’ve made but you’ll have to check out the show! June 29 on Netflix!”
What advice can you give other producers/composers that want to get into this industry?
“You don’t need an expensive studio or lots of equipment. When you get a little bit of money: buy a fast computer, legitimize your software, and find a chair that doesn’t hurt your back. Keep your overhead low. By staying out of debt and having minimal expenses you will be able to be more selective with your projects.”
What projects are you working on now and in the future?
“In addition to Harvey Street Kids, I am working with Jay and his team on an animated series based on the world’s most downloaded mobile game: Subway Surfers. It’s crazy; the game has been downloaded over two billion times! The first set of episodes will be released online here. My contribution is the hip-hop and electronic beats.
I also recently scored a short film written and directed by my friend Andrew Rudick, which just premiered at the Dances With Films Festival here in Hollywood. And the reality work continues! The current season of Total Bellas airing now on E! features Future Vega music and we’re always working on adding to our library.”
What would be your dream project?
“I have a whiteboard in my studio where I write all of my goals, it currently has a few things on it…. I want to write songs for movies like Elton John’s Circle of Life in The Lion King. I want to create an electronic score for a racing game like Trials by Ubisoft. I want to write something as memorable as the Rugrats theme by Mark Mothersbaugh. I want to score a scripted MTV series, particularly one of their recently announced animated reboots. I want to co-write with my idols Max Martin and Calvin Harris. Some of these sound crazy but I’ve reached a lot of my goals over these past few years and I need to keep dreaming up new things to do!”
With his knowledge and diverse experience, Ryan’s future is sure to be bright.
Featured Image: Audrey, Lotta, and Dot from the iconic Harvey Comics franchise are reimagined for a new generation in this Netflix Original series out June 29. Photo credit: DreamWorks Animation Television / Netflix