This UBC alum composed the score for Apple TV+’s Palm Royale

This UBC alum composed the score for Apple TV+’s Palm Royale

The retro sound of one of Apple TV+’s latest offerings was brought to viewers by a Canadian composer, one with deep roots in B.C.

Jeff Toyne, a composer based in Los Angeles who studied music at the University of British Columbia in the late 90s, brought the sounds of the 1960s to the small screen with the help of a full, live orchestra. 

Palm Royale, featuring big names like Kristen Wiig, Alison Janney, Carol Burnett and Ricky Martin, follows the story of Maxine Delacourt Simmons as she climbs the social ladder in 1960s Florida. 

The series premiered in March, and its music has been getting some attention; Variety magazine suggested that it could be an Emmy contender

“It was a thrill to work on the show,” Toyne told CBC’s Belle Puri.

“We really enjoyed doing it, and it’s really nice to see that people are enjoying watching it.”

A conductor stands in front of musicians with a projection of the palm royale poster behind them
Jeff Toyne used a live orchestra to record the score for Palm Royale. (Submitted by Jeff Toyne)

Toyne spoke to CBC’s On The Coast earlier this week. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Former Vancouver resident scores soundtrack to hit show Palm Royale

Jeff Toyne, a renowned music composer for Hollywood films and TV series, has a special connection to Vancouver, where he first learned the art of creating soundtracks. Palm Royale, his latest work, stands out for its use of a live orchestra to capture the show’s mood and feel, adding a layer of authenticity to the composition.

You’re from Ontario, but you spent a number of years in Vancouver. How did that time lead you to scoring soundtracks in Hollywood?

I did a master’s degree in music at the University of British Columbia, and around that time, I fell in with the Canadian Armed Forces and became a member of the Band of the 15th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery and had a great time doing that.

a band
Jeff Toyne played in the Band of the 15th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery. (Submitted by Jeff Toyne)

At UBC, I was made aware of a summer camp for adult musicians called the Henry Mancini Institute, which took place in Los Angeles in the summer at UCLA. I applied for that and was accepted. It was transformative. It was there that I found out about the University of Southern California’s film scoring program, which, following my master’s, I came down and spent a year studying at USC and then from there stayed in Los Angeles and started working in the film and television industry.

You used a live orchestra to record the score for Palm Royale, which I understand is not common in television. How did that come about?

I think that was part and parcel of the aesthetic of the show. The show had a mission of maximalism and opulence and authenticity, and the live musicians were how we were going to get the authenticity. There isn’t a more expensive sound than a live, full orchestra. 

One of the driving ideas that the show creator had was that he didn’t want a winking comedy score. He didn’t want plinky plunky. So, the way that we would approach the comedy was from the character’s own point of view, like the situations they were in. As far as the characters were concerned, those situations were deadly serious. So, we approached the dramatic stakes for the characters with the music rather than commenting on the sometimes hilarious situations that they would get themselves into.

A man sits at a sound board
Jeff Toyne lives in Los Angeles, where he is a musician. (Submitted by Jeff Toyne)

It was just my job to keep up with what was on the screen. I really had a great time helping to sink into the 1960s Palm Beach. The pitch that we were given, or that we kind of came up with early on was Henry Mancini meets Bernard Hermann — but Latin.

Did you get to meet some of the cast members?

I did. I’ve been really thrilled to get a chance to meet at the premiere here in Los Angeles. We even had an event that actually celebrated the music. I was really touched that some of the actors actually came out to support that as well. 

Because of the way that we scored the series, we approached it in kind of a retro way. It’s kind of an old-fashioned way to think of the music in terms of themes and melodies. Some of the actors were really struck, their characters hadn’t had themes before. They really enjoyed the fact that they could go to the soundtrack album and point to a track and say that’s my character’s theme.

Can we expect a second season? If there is one, will you be involved?

We’re on pins and needles over here! I’d be the last to know, but we’re very hopeful that that’s the way things will go. And if they do, I’d be delighted to be in both. I think we had a great time doing the first season, and it would be great fun to continue.

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