In 2009, Ryan Gosling (The Notebook, Blade Runner 2049) released Dead Man’s Bones, named after the band Gosling formed with friend Zach Shields in Los Angeles. Gosling and Shields recorded the tracks in collaboration with the Silverlake Conservatory of Music Children’s Choir. With songs like “Werewolf Heart,” “My Body’s a Zombie for You,” and “Flowers Grow Out of My Grave,” this is most definitely a Halloween spin. It’s also shockingly good.
According to Rolling Stone, Gosling and Shields met in 2005, when both were dating the McAdams sisters. (Gosling was seeing Rachel McAdams, his Notebook co-star; Shields was seeing her sibling Kayleen.) They bonded over a mutual love of the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland and familial ghost stories—Gosling’s parents reportedly moved out of a home because they believed it was haunted—and conspired to create a kind of “spooky doo wop” sound. The two initially performed in front of friends, who were unsure of their sincerity.
“They were would laugh afterwards and be like, ‘That was so funny!’” Shields said. “And we’d be like, ‘We weren’t kidding.’”
For two years, Gosling and Shields worked on the music, adamant that the end result be in tandem with kids. “We'd rather see a high school play as opposed to a Broadway show any day,” Gosling told Pitchfork in 2009. “Not that Broadway shows aren't great, but there's just something about a high school play ... you're not distracted by the achievements, you get to watch the process, the will to make something.”
The initial plan was to have the choir perform vocals, but Shields said that he and Gosling wound up singing along. They eventually did a 12-city tour, using local choirs and opening with local talent acts. The duo played most of the instruments on the record: Gosling said he taught himself the cello.
While many actor-turned-musician projects tend to met with derision, Dead Man’s Bones was generally well-received. “A haunting and meandering effort, across its 43 minute run time, Dead Man’s Bones, is a surprising and beautiful piece of work,” wrote Far Out reporter Arun Starkey. “The choice to collaborate with the Silverlake Conservatory Children’s Choir, which was formed by Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, helps to augment the album’s childish yet brooding sound. Think Damien from The Omen, just much less satanic. It’s gothic, romantic and full of earworms.”
Dead Man’s Bones has yet to release a second album, but that one exists at all is more than anyone expected anyway. You can listen to the entire thing below.
[h/t W Magazine]