For TV composer and singer/songwriter Josh Kramon, the two years of the pandemic turned into a time of reflection and creativity with periods of love and loss, addiction and recovery, and resulted in a body of musical work that fully encompasses the trials and tribulations of a one’s journey to self discovery. As he once noted in “Thirty Days,” a song that is part of his ongoing “We Are Strangers” project, “Life can take us all down.” For the man who has written scores for shows like The CW’s iZombie and Veronica Mars (both for creator Rob Thomas, including the Hulu reboot), Fox’s Lethal Weapon and ABC’s Forever, among many others, it gave him a chance to write two new songs, “Rainy Year,” about the time spent in quarantine, and “Old Hotel,” a song about escaping into another world outside your home.
“Both were written during Covid while I was battling some physical issues, and spending a lot of time alone” says Josh. “‘Rainy Year’ is about isolation and not trusting people and institutions you had faith in.
“’Old Hotel ‘is about staying someplace where you can forget all the issues and responsibilities at home. For me, hotels feel like an island in time, an oasis, a place where you have no history.”
The Silverlake, CA native, who attended the prestigious USC Thornton School of Music, where he majored in composition, orchestral, and electronic music, continues to create his own music alongside his professional score work in film and TV. As a musician, Kramon was the lead guitarist of The Imposters, who were signed to Interscope in the early ‘90's, then joined The Kays with female vocalist Chauncey Jacks, and from there released his debut solo album, Say It Now, on Universal Music Group’s indie distributor Fontana. In the final months before locking down during the pandemic, Josh began writing with co-producer Luke Adams for a project aptly dubbed “We Are Strangers," where he began the process of introspection that culminated during his tumultuous time in the pandemic.
Those songs were written by Kramon largely as a reaction to a series of life-altering events, including separation from a long relaionship, addiction and recovery which directly led to “Thirty Days,” a song showrunner Rob Thomas was so taken by that he placed in an episode of iZombie.
Kramon taps his roots in ‘70s and ’80s funk and soul in the uptempo, newly revised “Loaded,” an ode to his native California with its Beach Boys-like refrain, “La-la-la-la-la loaded,” and its Roxy Music method of artfully combining rock and techno. The song takes the listener into the mind of the addict watching his world slip further out of his control, only able to observe his surroundings but unable to control his own actions or the activity around him. While the lyrical content recounts a clearly dark, paranoid occurrence, the light, floating melody reflects a sense of peace, as if to denote a coming-to-terms with the notion that a life in the throws of addiction is unsustainable, a relinquishing of the struggle to convince himself to continue using, and an admission that he is in fact, “riding to high.” The song has also been featured in the hit NBC drama “This is Us.”
“Beaches,” with its McCartney-esque bass and slow build, employs California’s unique geography – the mountains, hillsides, the Valley -- as a metaphor for getting out of his own head, the feeling of being trapped and unable to move: “We can go to the water/Can’t go much farther.”
“Nowhere to Go” is a dystopian tale of a trapped outlaw couple on the run that evokes a bleak Mad Max landscape ravaged by destruction, while the angry, discordant “Not the Same as Love” and the EDM buzz of “Take You Home,” with its Prophet-processed guitars, harbor the desire for connection that results in unsatisfying sexual encounters and desultory one-night stands.
“Thirty Days” starts off with a strummed acoustic guitar, moves into a keening synth, and reflects on Kramon’s own experiences in rehab, hoping to cleanse his mind, body and soul as he gets sober, and even rediscovers the Jewish roots abandoned in his secular upbringing by his psychologist parents.
“It’s about getting out of this physical or mental place within ourselves, and being able to move on,” explains Kramon.
“You can’t just chase after the latest musical trend,” says Josh about his latest songs. “You have to be true to yourself.”
Kramon’s new songs could only have been written by someone who is used to matching sound to pictures and telling stories. Each of them is an atmospheric, cinematic short story that exists on its own, but would fit in perfectly for a dramatic scene or an end credit, as many of his previous songs, which have appeared on TV shows including October Road, Miami Ink and The Rachel Zoe Project as well as (with The Kays), ABC Family’s Switched at Birth and Fox’s Ben and Kate.
As for his “day job,” Kramon began work on a Lost Boys pilot for The CW right as Covid hit, and is currently working on Starz’ Party Down reboot featuring much of the original cast, as well as the new Hulu comedy from Modern Family creator Steven Levitan.
For a lifelong music lover, who brought his favorite Beatles album to pre school when he was four and learned to play the guitar at nine, the balancing act between his professional life as a film/TV composer and a performer proves to be second nature to him.
“Writing songs is a very different process than composing themes and scores for TV,” he says. “Songwriting is a more instinctual, subconscious way of working. Ideas for songs just kinda fall from the sky. The work is to gather them up and turn them into a 3 or 4 minute journey that takes the listener somewhere meaningful and hopefully come having connected with something that I feel connected to as well.