A conversation with film and pop music composer Amaury Laurent Bernier

Film music composer Amaury Laurent Bernier is the creator behind the music of upcoming film release ‘Totem’, which will be the opening film at the Cinekids Film Festival in Amsterdam. Now is the perfect time for us to have an open and honest conversation on the artist and his upcoming projects before he’ll be taking over the big screen himself!

First of all, could you introduce yourself, where are you based and when did you start releasing music?

Hi! I am Amaury Laurent Bernier, a film music composer and songwriter, born and raised in France but now living in Hamburg, Germany. I have been making and releasing music for about 20 years now.

What came first; releasing music, or creating soundtracks?

I have quite an unusual and rocky career path: I have never been in a school nor have I had a teacher to learn any instruments, music composition or theory. It has taken more time because I taught myself all of it but I definitely developed a more personal way of writing, and am not afraid or breaking any rules thanks to it. I started to play music in bands, so releasing music came first.

But the fear of the stage (few people know about that) and the fact I was feeling so comfortable spending hours arranging pieces alone in the studio led me slowly onto the film music path. It would be a very long, funny and shocking story to list all the turns I made to put myself back on the right path, but it has been definitely fun!

Your latest project is very open, honest. How did this collaboration come about?

I don’t think anything I released previously was not honest and open. Otherwise I should find another job. Some will love it, some will hate it… You cannot please everyone, so better always be honest when it comes to making music. It is a harder thing to do in film music as you always depend on the storyline, the pictures, the vision of the director, the producers. But you always have to find this little space to put a piece of yourself. This is where you sound authentic, and it always makes the project grow into something unique. I can’t really remember how and when I was hired to do this particular film. I know I was not the only composer on the pitch, but after reading the script I honestly knew I should be the one writing the music. I found the story deep, beautiful, and with so much space for music. Ideas were rushing in my head after reading the first pages. I exposed them to the director, and we had the exact same vision for the score. The first piece that was written was a song, as they needed it for the shooting. I remember I bought a Kora – which is an African harp – and started to compose on it right after our first Zoom call. The director and production gave me so much freedom and trust during this film… I am very grateful for it.

What does the story behind the project mean to you?

The story is a very profound one. the kind that makes you think. It is about Ama, a 12 years old daughter of Senegalese asylum seekers, living in Rotterdam, and how she finally makes peace with her African roots after rejecting them to fit the world around her. She is left alone and chased away by the police, searching her missing father… But gets help on this frightening and exciting journey from her totem animal, a gigantic Porcupine…

What do you hope to achieve with your latest album?

I believe the topic is – for a familial movie – very important and I hope it will make some people think about it, even if it is only through hearing the music. But also, I would love to give a bit of the fun I had, what I learned and transmit the energy of the creative process. The score blends Western music, pop, orchestra colours, whether classic or modern and destructed, subtly accompanied sometimes by African instruments and a kids choir singing in Wolof, and even a dog as one of the lead vocals!

What is next on the agenda for you as an artist and creator?

Right now as I have some time off and I will get back to writing a personal project. It has been two years since I have done my last song writing EP, ’34 Days in Lockdown’, and I want to do another one within the next couple of months. It will be different as I grew up as an artist, but I can already tell you there will be one cover song on it (something I usually never do), it’ll be a Beatles-song in a dark cinematic and bluegrass coloured adaptation.

Is there anything else we should know about you?

I am proudly part of a great growing community of musicians and artists, called NAS (which stands for New Artist Spotlight). There is so much talent there, and within various genres that I believe you should absolutely and urgently check them all out.

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