From the creators of Cobra Kai, Netflix’s new action-comedy series Obliterated, arrives this week. Before its release, we had the pleasure of discussing the score of Obliterated with composers Leo Birenberg and Zach Robinson.
Obliterated is a Netflix action-comedy series from Cobra Kai creators Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg, and Josh Heald. The eight-part comedy series arrives on Netflix on November 30th, 2023. For a full breakdown of Obliterated, you can find our ongoing preview here.
The series takes place in Sin City, aka Las Vegas, where a team consisting of different US armed forces members has been assembled to stop a deadly terrorist network from destroying the city. After successfully saving the city, the group descends on the town for a night filled with sex, drugs, and alcohol, only to discover the next day that the bomb they defused was fake, and must intoxication and hangovers to find the real bomb and save Las Vegas.
Working as co-composers or individually, before working on Obliterated, composers Leo Birenberg and Zach Robinson worked on Netflix projects such as Florida Man, Cobra Kai, Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous, and Wrestlers.
How Did You First Become Involved in Obliterated?
Leo: Well, it’s made by the same creative brain trust that makes Cobra Kai, which we do, and so they invited us along for the ride.
How Would You Describe Your Score for the Series?
Zach: We have many ways to describe it. We like to say it’s like if Jerry Goldsmith went clubbing with David Guetta. It is very heavily influenced by EDM, like hardcore kind of Vegas music culture, plus 90s film music and 90s action music, like Hans Zimmer’s score to The Rock, or Michael Kamen’s score to Die Hard, or Trevor Raven’s score to Armageddon. It’s got that big epic scope feeling with orchestra, but all tied together with this like Vegas soundscape of electronics.
Leo: We think it’s pretty awesome. But the show is amazing. We’re telling people it’s the best thing we’ve ever worked on, and the score is totally unhinged and awesome. We had so much fun doing it. I think it’s maybe the hardest we’ve ever worked on anything.
You’ve worked together on 21 different projects, 11 of which as co-composers. What are the benefits of composing the music for a movie or television series as a duo compared to working solo?
Zach: Is that how many? I’ve never done the count. That’s literally the first time I’ve ever heard the count. Leo, are you taking this?
Leo: Well, I was just going to say we’re both really creative, and we have a really big shorthand. And so we immediately come up with stuff together that we would not come up with alone, just by the fact that both of our brains are bouncing off of each other, because the way any creative person, and honestly, it’s not even limited to the arts. People in science would tell you this. People in government would tell you this. There’s a collaborative aspect to creative thinking. And sometimes you just kind of need someone to give you the right prompt or to frame a question in the right way or to give you an idea out of context that will then turn your brain into overdrive and make you salt. That’s literally how they landed on the moon. A series of that happening in NASA offices. And so we’re not programming spaceships by pencil and paper, but we are on the phone all day, on FaceTime all day, spitballing concepts. And the way we come up with these crazy approaches to these scenes, we just wouldn’t be able to do, I don’t think, as one of us being like, oh, I’ve got my concept. I’m going to sit in my room and work. That’s a certain type of workflow. And we both do that, too.
We do a lot of work separately. And it just works your brain in a different way. And you end up, I think, with something you could never create alone. And I think it makes us better composers when we are working alone. And I think it makes us an absolute super-powered, super-Saiyan duo. We’re like DBZ fusion when we’re together.
Jacob: Would you say you’re more Gogeta or Vegito?
Leo: I would say we’re Gogeta.
Zach: I would, too.
Obliterated is the second Netflix series in which you’ve worked with the creators of Cobra Kai, did any of the producers have an idea of what they wanted from the score? Or were you given the freedom to experiment?
Leo: A bit of both. We have a really, really open, loose, a lot of trust-involved relationship with John, Josh, and Hayden, who are the showrunners. After doing so many seasons of Cobra Kai, we have a lot of shorthand. They were the ones who, very early on, before they had even shot the series, said to us, we really want to incorporate this concept of Vegas club music and EDM into the score in what feels like an authentic way because those genres of music, and there are a gajillion sub-genres of EDM, and we really tried to hit as many of them as possible to make the score as broad and fun as possible.
They’re very cinematic in the way that they have these long builds that lead to a drop, and it lends itself to a contemporary action sequence in a lot of ways, like the constantly rising tension. They pitched us that, and they said, we don’t know what this would sound like, but we think there’s an inspiration to be taken from this whole genre cinematically, and then they just left it to us to figure out how to execute that within the context of a functional film score.
Jacob: It sounds like you’ve got a very good working relationship between you all there.
Leo: Oh, yeah. They’re dream collaborators. We love working with them. I hope we do it forever.
What is your biggest source of inspiration as to why you both wanted to become composers?
Zach: We probably both have different answers to this. But I think our main, at least for me, the main thing is I love music as a storytelling vehicle. And when I listen to music that’s not related to film scores or anything, I always have had that kind of imagination of what that music evokes to me personally, just via the imagery that it conjures. And I think scoring to picture is the most organic way to have your music be a part of the story. And I am a big fan of movies, I’m a big fan of television and that type of story. So it’s always been this natural thing for me. I’ve known since I was 13 that I wanted to do this. So it’s been really just like, I’ve been so fortunate to be able to have the resources and to have a family and friends and network to support me. But I’m sure Leo has a little different answer.
Leo: Honestly, pretty similar. I always say I feel more like a filmmaker whose pencil of choice just happens to be music. You’re not making music decisions in a vacuum most of the time in the way you are when you’re a songwriter who’s purely just trying to release an album or write hit songs for an artist. We’re always working in the service of the movie, and that’s really what makes me tick. I wanted to make Star Wars movies when I was in kindergarten and used to make them with Legos or build sets out of boxes in my friend’s basement and shoot weird alien movies. It wasn’t until years later, after I became a band geek, and musical theater geek in junior high and high school, that I was like, oh, wait, I bet you I could combine this with the original creative itch I had, and there’s a way to do something with that. And so, I don’t know. It was a natural coalescence. Coalescence! Zach’s the smart one.
How do you feel about Cobra Kai coming to an end with its sixth and final season?
Leo: We are heartbroken, but the happy kind of heartbroken because, you know, don’t smile or don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened. That’s probably the inspo quote that’s on the wall right now.
Zach: It’s like seeing your kid go to college.
Leo: Exactly. It’s like seeing your kid go to college. But we are so excited for the Homecoming Weekend frat party that will be season six. We don’t really know anything about the season yet. We haven’t started working on it, but we are anticipating pulling out all the stops to give everyone the ultimate conclusion.
Aside from Cobra Kai, are there any upcoming Netflix projects we can look forward to hearing more of your work from after Obliterated?
Leo: Oh, Netflix specifically? I don’t know.
Zach: No, I don’t think so!
Leo: But if your audience has not checked it out, we did a show earlier this year on Netflix called Florida Man. And there’s some really fun music in it. Actually, I would highly recommend checking out our album for it, which is like a very musical album.
Lastly, Cobra Kai or Miyagi-Do?
Zach: Interesting. How many times do we answer this, and I still feel like it’s like a…
Leo: I still don’t know because I feel like I’m going to upset somebody. Okay, here’s the thing is: in Cobra Kai, the show, not the dojo, everyone’s constantly changing allegiances, which is kind of the message of the series. And I got to say, I think it rings true because I think when we started Cobra Kai, I would have been like a goody-two-shoes Miyagi-Do. And I think I am no longer a goody-two-shoes Miyagi-Do. And so now I think I’d probably be Cobra Kai. I think I’m basically Sam. I think I’m Sam LaRusso.
Zach: And I almost think I’m the opposite of that. I would think I’m a Cobra Kai because I’m like a hair metal boy. But now it’s like I’m just trying to be chill all the time.
Jacob: What if I added in a third option? Eagle Fang?
Leo: Eagle Fang, that’s how you achieve the balance.
Zach: I love Eagle Fang. I’ve always loved them. I still want to see more of Topanga Karate.
Are you looking forward to watching Obliterated on Netflix? Let us know in the comments below!