Behind the Music interview: Bensi and Jurriaans of Ozark


Season 2 Ozark is here and Hidden Remote celebrates by chatting with one-half of the musical masterminds behind the score: Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans.

Behind the Music is an ongoing series that seeks to interview and gain an introspective on both established and up-and-coming composers. These composers, who have worked for everything from television to film to commercials, share their experiences, work ethic, and more. For this edition, we interview Saunder Jurriaans, one-half of the composing duo of Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, who led the scoring process behind the music of the Netflix crime show, Ozark.

Ozark has built a reputation of being one of the most curious successes on Netflix. Not to say the show had any bad press and such baggage prior to its release, but the dark premise of a family being plunged into the crime underworld had Breaking Bad written all over it. With such a show being compared to this one, it’s difficult to stand out and give viewers a reason to be invested in the Byrde family. But the talents working on the show made that an easier task for viewers to complete, standing out as a success among the many projects Netflix has had to offer.

Jason Bateman can take a large chunk of the credit as a successful contributor to Ozark, lighting the screen up as the show’s compelling central character, Marty Byrde. In addition to starring in the show, Bateman has also helped direct some episodes in Season 1, and is poised to do the same for Season 2, proving his versatility as a Hollywood talent by investing himself so much into the project. It’s with this change in attitude for Bateman that we are then introduced to minds behind the show’s score, Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans.

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As Bateman has continued to transition to less comedic roles, there has been a trend of having Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans score his descent into darkness. Bensi and Jurriaans helped score the 2015 thriller, The Gift, which just so happened to star Jason Bateman (while also being directed by Boy Erased director, Joel Edgerton).

Now that Bateman continues his transformation in Ozark, Bensi and Jurriaans are there to hold the audience’s hands through it. Their unnerving and pulsating scores has made for great tension building in their projects and Saunder Jurriaans stops by to explain the method to their madness, as well as their experience on working on Ozark, their working relationship with Jason Bateman, and more here on Hidden Remote!

Hidden Remote: How does it feel to be scoring one of the most popular shows to be streaming on Netflix right now?

Saunder Jurriaans: Feels really great! It’s been such an awesome project in every aspect and we couldn’t be more excited.

HR: When you were young, did any of you imagine you would have a personal hand in working on one of the most popular shows in the country or did you not even have music on your minds in your youths?

Jurriaans: Both of us have been playing music since we were very young, but up until a few years ago we were focused on other musical endeavors… Danny studied the cello and I (Saunder) was more into rock. We never really thought about scoring film or TV until a friend reached out to us with his first feature film and we decided to give it a shot.

HR: How did you two first decide to band together and form this two-man collaboration for projects?

Jurriaans: Danny and I met in 1997 – I was at the Rhode Island School of Design and he was at Northwestern University.  My roommate was Danny’s best friend from middle school so he came to visit sometimes.  We immediately “clicked” musically (both being Iron Maiden fans) and I invited him to come and play some cello in a band I was in.  We have been playing/writing music together ever since.

HR: Listening to some of the music you’ve created for Ozark left me feeling shaken (in a good way) by its moody and grim atmosphere, something which I also noticed while watching Martha Marcy May Marlene and Enemy. What would you both say were your musical influences in helping develop this sound?

Ozark. Jason Bateman. Photo: Jackson Davis / Netflix
Ozark. Jason Bateman. Photo: Jackson Davis / Netflix /

Jurriaans: A lot of our inspiration was in the setting of the series. Jason did a great job of explaining to us what he wanted tonally before even the start of shooting season 1. We were immediately on the same wavelength and started coming up with textures and sounds that would compliment what he was looking for.

There’s a duality between the human presence of the Ozark region and the natural world that we wanted to try to channel. Loud motorboats and run-down trucks, trailer parks and trash mixed with this majestic, beautiful setting. Even if we’re using more “natural” instruments like cellos and violins for a musical cue, we are almost always ‘ruining’ it with distortion or some of other degenerative process. The percussion is mostly composed of literal junk – metal pipes, plastic bottles and stuff like that.

HR: Looking through your catalog, one project notably caught my eye above the rest: The Gift. Joel Edgerton’s feature directorial debut also featured Jason Bateman, which I thought was pleasantly coincidental, considering his heavy involvement in Ozark. Would it be safe to assume that Jason was instrumental in getting you two to work on the show’s music or how did it happen?

Jurriaans: Yes! We actually first met Jason after we scored The One I Love – he is a good friend of the director, Charlie McDowell. He loved the score for that film and then by coincidence we ended up working on The Gift together soon after that. After the premiere, we were talking with Jason and he said “I have the perfect project for you guys.”

HR: With season 2 of Ozark around the corner, audiences should expect the tension to heighten further with the Byrde family. How did you go about with trying to create a different vibe for season 2 of the show? One might say it’s difficult, given the show’s mostly consistent setting, but how did you both decide to go about it?

Ozark Season 1, Episode 10Jason Bateman Photo: Tina Rowden/Netflix via Netflix Press Media Center /

Jurriaans: Season 2 starts right where season 1 leaves off, so we didn’t want to rock the boat too much tonally – but the tension is definitely heightened and we reflected that in the music. More distortion and more darkness! We also brought in some new instrumentation here and there, clarinets and horn clusters, are peppered throughout. A lot of new grinding analog synths also – but we’ve really kept the bones of the score from season 1. We want it all to feel like this seamless, relentless, driving train always headed for disaster.

HR: Ozark has received many comparisons to Breaking Bad and some of those justifications are undeniable. We get a seemingly normal family getting thrust into the criminal underworld and the moral ambiguity of the show can definitely be seen as inspired. With your music, how did you try to create a different tone than Breaking Bad to help it stand out on its own merits?

Jurriaans: Dave Porter’s Breaking Bad score is certainly an incredible and formidable score.  It has a constant presence of slight humor/absurdity, bows to the Arizona setting by desert-like bendy western twangy guitars and shakers, and also has the emotional depth whenever needed to reel the viewer into the lives of the characters.

Finding similarities in both scores is certainly possible since indeed there are crossover thematic ideas in each show…the premise, the scenery, the character’s motives.  But we didn’t really set out to “make it different” than Breaking Bad, we were just super excited to try to create our own sound – which was made far easier by the fact that we had the trust and direction of Jason who urged us from the get go by saying: “Do your thing…I trust you guys…I want the score to be as weird and poignant as you do!”

HR: You’ve had your fair share of experience in scoring filmed narratives, having worked on Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy, the underrated Elizabeth Olsen vehicle, Martha Marcy May Marlene, the 2015 documentary, The Wolfpack and of course, The Gift. Each of these projects of course have their own strengths that they play to, but how would you say that the experience scoring Ozark was different from those other projects?

Jurriaans: Ozark was our first full TV series score.  Our goal was to create a cohesive and symphonic score that ebbed and flowed as the season unraveled – but left room for ever-increasing tension that lasts all the way until the end!  We had to exercise more restraint and subtlety over the course of 10 hours instead of a standard feature film length.

Ozark. Jason Bateman, Julia Garner, Carson Holmes, Marc Menchaca, Christopher James Baker. Photo: Jackson Davis / Netflix.
Ozark. Jason Bateman, Julia Garner, Carson Holmes, Marc Menchaca, Christopher James Baker. Photo: Jackson Davis / Netflix. /

HR: What should audiences expect of season 2? No spoilers, but a little hype for the season premiere at the end of the month wouldn’t hurt for the fans salivating for some teasers towards what is to come!

Jurriaans: Well. Marty and the family move to Canada and live happily ever after. Season 2 is basically a happy family drama-comedy. Kidding, of course. Audiences can expect to be even more uncomfortable and nail-biting than season 1!

HR: If and/or when Ozark is renewed for season 3, would you be open to returning to score the season? From what I’ve heard, you guys seem to be right in your element with this environment.

Jurriaans: Yes! We love the show and love the team!

HR: Your exposure through Ozark could lead to more opportunities in the future, so for reference, are there any specific projects, genres, etc, that you would love to tackle in the future?

Jurriaans: We’re pretty open to everything… We recently finished Fear The Walking Dead Season 4 which was fun and very different from Ozark. Some other upcoming projects include Joel Edgerton’s second feature film Boy Erased, The OA season 2, and American Gods season 2. Each project is quite different stylistically – which keeps us trucking along and excited…


Aaron Stanford as Jim, Lennie James as Morgan Jones – Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 4, Episode 11 – Photo Credit: Ryan Green/AMC /

HR: A couple of personal questions before this wraps up. Besides Ozark, what other Netflix shows and movies do you consider to be your favorites at the moment? There’s a lot of content to choose from, but what would you say are your personal go-to’s?

Jurriaans: At the moment, my wife and I (Saunder) have been watching Baskets lately which I think is incredible (with a great score as well).   Danny and his wife just watched Sharp Objects which they enjoyed – as well as The Terror (also has a great score!)

HR: Out of the vast amounts of film and TV music that exists, what are some of your favorite film and TV scores? Whether they are scores vastly different from your musical style, but easy to appreciate or scores that influenced your style directly, which are the ones that stick?

Jurriaans: Aside from the usual suspects, we love Jonny Greenwood’s scores and are greatly intrigued by Mica Levi’s scores also.  Their scores are bold, stark, poignant, unique, and constantly challenge traditional film scoring.  Their use of string textures is particularly fascinating.

We also find ourselves continually referencing all of Bernard Herrmann’s Hitchcock scores. They are really incredible, we love both the writing and the production – the smaller orchestras and the dry, recordings that make you feel like you’re REALLY listening to music while feeling the presence of the composer as well as the players.

Next. Ozark Season 2 preview: What's next for Marty Byrde?. dark

HR: For the final question, I’d like to know if any of you have any comments or final words you’d like to say towards some of your collaborators on the show? Maybe a final thank-you or just the opportunity to vent your frustrations out or something? Whatever you decide!

Jurriaans: What a nice question!  Well our favorite projects to work on are ones where our collaborators allow us to experiment and do our thing – we are privileged to have such a team on Ozark and we thank them again profusely!

Season 2 of Ozark is available to stream on Netflix now!