3epkano – Music vs Film

Ian Maleney spoke to 3epkano‘s Matthew Nolan ahead of the launch of their second album Hans The Reluctant Wolf Juggler at the IFI on Sunday.

Ian Maleney spoke to 3epkano‘s Matthew Nolan ahead of the launch their second album Hans The Reluctant Wolf Juggler at the IFI on Sunday.


The art of composing music for film is a delicate one. It entails a certain lack of ego, combined with the confidence required of anyone who is willing to be creative. There’s a constant back-and-forth between the need to serve the events on screen and the will to put across one’s own personality. For the best soundtrack composers, there appears to be no tension in this relationship. One element serves the other and is served in turn, creating a whole from two halves. 3epkano fall into this category as a band completely in tune with their purpose. Together now for over seven years, they have put music to some of the most famous and most interesting silent films, re-interpreting classics like ‘Metropolis’ and ‘Faust’ along the way. The seven-piece channel classical and post-rock influences in a direct yet detailed way, never allowing an idea to over-stay its welcome.

About to release their second full-length record, the band are marking the event with a very special performance at the IFI of one of their own personal favourites, Georg Wilhelm Pabst’s 1929 silent melodrama, Pandora’s Box. The group’s guitar player and founding member, Matthew Nolan, is anticipating the special night.

“I think this is our fifth or sixth show in the IFI but I get excited every time,” he says. “You go into a show like this with a lot of anxieties that can only be alleviated once the show happens. You can kind of put the album out there and let it have its life and hope people like it but with an actual event, the logistics involved and all the planning that goes into performing here, you need to cross the threshold many, many months in advance to try and find a free date and I didn’t fully appreciate that October is their busiest month. We arrived at what I think is a pretty good time to release an album but probably not a great time to approach a working cinema!”

While the IFI is not exactly the standard environment for an album launch, there are few places more suited to the 3epkano experience. Their ability to mesh with the film gives the audience an opportunity to become entirely immersed in a performance of light and sound, a journey best experienced within the confines of a theatre. Nolan agrees that the cinema environment makes their job a lot easier.

“Playing in a proper cinema theatre is just a joy because we don’t have to worry about projection,” he says practically. “We’ll have a proper, trained projectionist to take care of all that. On occasion, for budgetary reasons, we’ve had to take ownership of that ourselves and it’s all been fine apart from the very early days when we tried to screen everything from celluloid. Your basic costs shoot up if you want to screen from 35mm but because this is a special event and because the BFI have some really great prints of Pandora’s Box so it was kind of no-brainer to go with the full print. It’s going to look really, really gorgeous in there.”

The decision to use Pandora’s Box as the film for the launch of an album that, on the face of it, has little to do with Pabst’s work, was apparently driven from both personal attachment and creative inspiration. The band was originally commissioned to create the score by the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2007 and, as well as being the group’s first visit to New York, provided them with a new artistic challenge.

“It kind of took us out of our comfort zone,” says Nolan. “Up until that point, we’d done a lot of experimental film and horror, sci-fi, stuff that allowed us to experiment a bit and not worry too much about refining a score. We were always careful about placing music but there were times where you didn’t have to be too refined. Pandora’s Box really imposed a discipline on us. It was a tough process but a hugely rewarding one because it just kind of shifted us onto a different path and a slightly different way of working with each other and in turn helped us gel more as a unit when we were performing because there is an element of improv in every performance.”

Nolan says the film is one of his all-time favourites and the opportunity to perform it again was too good to miss. “I’ve been dying to get back to it,” he says. “I thought it would be a wonderful film to kind of hang an album release on or create a special event around.”

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