Jane Schoenbrun’s brilliant directorial debut, 2021’s We’re All Going To The World’s Fair, follows a lonely teenager who takes part in a viral online challenge. I won’t give away anymore. Just watch it. The film is effectively unnerving — and the work of someone who “gets” the internet and the unhealthy-yet-hypnotic appeal of watching YouTube videos in bed at 2 a.m.

Based on their new film, Schoenbrun also “gets” the hold an old television show can have on you. A24‘s I Saw The TV Glow follows two outcasts who bond over an affection for The Pink Opaque, a Buffy The Vampire Slayer-like series with a deep, extremely silly lore. It’s a remarkable film about nostalgia and trans identity, and much like Buffy and The Adventures Of Pete And Pete, another ‘90s favorite, I Saw The TV Glow has a killer soundtrack.

I recently interviewed four artists who provided songs for the album — King Woman, L’Rain, Bartees Strange, and Sloppy Jane — and asked them about their favorite TV shows when they were younger. Did you know Teletubbies had a disgusting pink name called the Tubby Custard? You’re about to!

King Woman

Eleen Halvorsen

What TV show were you obsessed with when you were younger?

I liked Goosebumps a lot.

That’s fitting for this movie.

I feel like Jane mentioned that was a reference. Yeah, Goosebumps was really cool and scary.

What was it about the show that appealed to you?

When I was younger, I had an obsession with horror. I loved being afraid, and I liked all the creative stories behind Goosebumps. Now, I’m not. I kind of get spooked by horror films, but back then, I had an obsession with scary movies, like I watched them all the time. I liked the feeling of being on the edge of my seat, spooked by something constantly.

Was there a specific movie that made you not like horror as much?

I think I had been watching so many horror films, and I also have a crazy imagination to the point that I would just get scared at night and have a bunch of nightmares. So I kind of had to stop watching them. A movie that I watched recently that really just scared the fuck out of me was Hereditary. That movie really freaked me out. But I did see it.

Were there any other shows you had an affection for as a kid?

I grew up in a really strict home, so if my mom wasn’t around, if she was at church or something, me and my sister would watch, like, Ren & Stimpy and weird shit like. Nick at Nite. Hey Arnold!. Just a lot of that classic Nickelodeon stuff. All That, which I mean talking about that right now isn’t really aging well.

It’s hard to not have that in the back of the brain.

Yeah, exactly. But you know, that stuff was definitely a part of my childhood. And then I also had to watch a lot of weird Christian brainwash cartoons.

Like VeggieTales?

VeggieTales is actually kind of cool. I still think VeggieTales is really cute, but no, creepier stuff like a guy with a ventriloquist dummy talking about morals. Just strange, really strange stuff. And actually, I watched this specific thing. I can’t even remember what it was called now. But I later found out — this is really dark — the ventriloquist guy for this Christian puppet show turned out to be a guy that was scheming with a police officer to, like, become a cannibal and eat children. I found a random article as an adult about the same guy. And I was like, “Wait.” But yeah, I really liked Nick At Nite.

How did you get involved with I Saw The TV Glow?

Jane reached out to my previous manager, and then Jane and I ended up meeting up at Tompkins Square Park and sitting on a bench and talking about our childhood and our experiences. It was a very eye opening, beautiful conversation. From there, it kind of morphed into me actually being in the movie, which I don’t think originally that’s what was going to happen. I think maybe it could have been a thing, but I ended up doing an original song and then a remake of my song “Psychic Wound.” And then also being in the movie. I just feel so grateful that Jane gave me that opportunity and had me involved to such an extent in the film.

If you could record the theme song to any existing show, what show would you pick?

Do you know Pet Shop Of Horrors?

I don’t.

It’s a ’90s anime. There’s this character called Count D.

I’m in already.

I really think it would be so cool if someone made like a live action of it, and I would love to play that character. There aren’t many episodes. But I love the music for it. It’s my absolute favorite anime, and that specific character is very ominous and mysterious and kind of creepy. It’s really cool.


Getty Image

What TV show were you obsessed with when you were younger?

It feels weird to say, after watching the recent Nickelodeon documentaries, but probably a lot of Nickelodeon. I also watched a lot of like older shows through Nick At Nite. There was so many. I watched every episode of I Love Lucy randomly. And Bewitched, and all of those older shows.

Did you come to those shows independently, or were they through a parent or someone else?

It was just through having the TV on. I feel like I grew up in a household where the TV was always just kind of on. It was a constant noise and a constant presence. So yeah, I would just have Nickelodeon on and then it would just get late and then they would switch to Nick at Nite programming. So I would see all these other things or watch lots of reruns. I have lots of memories of infomercials, and sometimes I’ll see them on Instagram and I’ll be shocked by the fact that I know all the music still.

Were there any non-Nick favorites?

I’m sure they were, like Family Matters and the sort of classic ’90s sitcoms. I was watching reruns of Martin. And Living Single. I rewatched all of it. It’s kind of funny, what you remember and what you don’t remember, and what holds up after a lot of time and what really doesn’t.

I hope Martin holds up.

Some parts of it do [laughter].

Do you watch TV when you’re touring on the road? Or is TV not really part of your schedule anymore?

It sometimes is. I did a lot of catching up during the pandemic, like the beginning of the pandemic, and since then have been staying very current with shows. So usually there’s a show that I’ve been watching that I’ll need to catch up on when we’re on tour. And recently, we’ve all been watching a lot of Curb Your Enthusiasm. That was our band show, and one of my bandmates has been rewatching The Sopranos. So that’s kind of caused a wave of Sopranos watching in the van now.

Is there a contemporary or contemporary-ish show that you wish had been available to you when you were younger?

That’s such a good question.

I can give you an example so you have time to think.

Yeah, yeah.

For me, it’s Adventure Time. I’ve watched it as an adult, and I really love it, but I feel like it would have shaped my entire identity if I had seen it when I was 15 years old.

That’s so good. It’s so easy to binge watch. And it’s so wholesome. But also, somehow edgy. And that’s a really difficult line to tow.

Also really good music. Which provides a segue: can you talk about how you get involved with I Saw The TV Glow?

Someone reached out to me. But I very quickly after started talking to Jane directly about their ideas for the music in the film. And as soon as I read the treatment, and I also watched We’re All Going To The World’s Fair, I was hooked and knew it was something that I really wanted to be a part of and just wanted to figure out how I could fit in. So we ended up meeting and got to know each other, and I saw some early footage of the film. And they gave me a prompt about electricity. That really shaped everything that I ended up recording. I originally thought that I was going to be giving them the title track of my last record because I always thought of that as a horror movie-inspired track in a lot of ways. For logistical reasons, that ended up not happening. But it was great because I ended up getting this opportunity to work on a song that I’ve been wanting to work on for a really long time and couldn’t ever find the right application for it. And the more I kept thinking about the film, the more I realized that this was the exact right thing.

If you could record the theme song to any existing show, what show would you pick?

I would want it to be either the most boring, kind of stupid reality show that ever existed and do a really weird… Actually, no, that is my answer. I think it would have to be a reality show of some kind that’s really popular and brain-numbingly stupid. I would want to do a theme song for that.

Your music would be white noise for many millions of people who have the show on during the day without ever actually paying attention to it.

Exactly. There’s lots of weird, subliminal messaging that you can do in that kind of scenario.

Bartees Strange

Getty Image

What TV show were you obsessed with when you were younger?

Are You Afraid Of The Dark?.

An early spooky classic.

That was the big one for me. Goosebumps, the TV show. Gosh, I love horror movies and horror TV. And I always have, even as a kid. I was hooked on it. Hey Arnold!.

There was a creepy episode of Hey Arnold! with the train conductor.

That is very scary. Hey Arnold! was very real for me. I grew up in a small town, so I would watch Arnold and be like, “Whoa, kids in the city have this amazing life.”

The most amazing bedroom you’ve ever seen.

Oh, man, that skyline! He would crawl out and sit on the roof. What a life. But yeah, those were some big ones for me when I was a kid. Oh shit, Courage The Cowardly Dog! That was huge. That kind of spurred a big interest in cryptids for me. Every episode was a new, ghosty little cryptid, which was cool and set in a town that was like my town. I watched a lot of anime, too. I felt like anime was cool because I read a lot of books, and I feel like I hit a point where I was like, “Pokémon is for kids. I need something more heavy.” It was like InuYasha and YuYu Hakusho and a bunch of Cowboy Bebop. Those were big for me, too.

Were shows like Are You Afraid Of The Dark? and Goosebumps your introduction to horror?

Definitely, and my dad. My dad watches a lot of horror movies and he used to watch Tales From The Crypt. That was fun because it was like adult humor horror. As a 10, 11 year old, it’s like the coolest, darkest thing you can imagine.

What are your TV viewing habits while touring?

I love a big, long show, like a Six Feet Under or The Sopranos. I’ve been waiting to watch The Leftovers for the next time I tour.

That’s a heavy one.

But that’s great, because it’s a lot. It almost like pacifies you to be sucked into this humongous, deep, sad, weird world. That’s what I’m loving about Six Feet Under right now. It’s just so weird.

Have any TV shows or movies impacted your songwriting?

Yes, so many. I’ll never forget when I heard the soundtrack to Halloween, but that’s so played out. Everyone says that one, but I remember being like, “Is that a guitar?” My dad was like, “No, I think it’s a piano,” and my mom was like, “That’s a synthesizer.” And I was like, “Like an organ?” I just couldn’t wrap my head around that. And then I did, and I was like, “Damn, you can do anything with this.” Also movies like It Follows where there’s so much natural sound and the scariest thing is when nothing’s happening. I love things like that. But my favorite and the thing that I pull from the most in current-making of music are all those Quincy Jones-produced movies, like The Wiz. That’s probably my number one favorite musical movie situation of all time.

How did you get involved with I Saw The TV Glow?

I didn’t know Jane, but I think Jane liked my first record [and] they found a way to get in touch with me. I honestly don’t know how they found me. But I know that I’m friends with a lot of their friends, like Lucy [Dacus] and Phoebe [Bridgers] and Sloppy Jane and that whole hang. So they probably put Jane onto my music. It definitely feels like a community of people that are kind of hovering around each other.

Have you seen the movie?

I have.

What were some of your thoughts while watching it?

It’s a great movie. I watch too many horror movies, but I thought it was special because I’m into the whole story of kids and the intense connection you can have with another person your age when you feel like you’re the only two people that understand a thing. I love how little dialogue they share. It reminds me of being a kid and walking up to someone in high school and being like, “Yo, do you like InuYasha?” And they’re like, “Oh my god, I love InuYasha,” and that’s the only thing you need to know about that person.

When you were younger, was watching TV shows and movies a solitary activity for you, or was it usually with others?

Group. Me and my brother and sister did everything together when we were kids. I was the oldest and so TV was how I could get everyone to chill. So we watched everything together. Horror was actually the thing that I did by myself because it was like I was old enough, or I thought I was. I knew my little sister would get too scared. And then my dad loved horror, too, so that was how I had my little connection with him that no one else had.

If you could record the theme song to any existing show, what show would you pick?

The Jamie Foxx Show. Just ’cause I want to hang with Jamie Foxx. That would be the greatest honor of my life. That, or like The Wayans Bros. or In Living Color or Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper. All those Black mid-’90s TV shows. That shit, that was fun. They were really going hard on the music, too.

Sloppy Jane

Getty Image

What TV show were you obsessed with when you were younger?

This is a busted opinion, but I have, and will always be, a big Teletubbies stan.

OK, interesting.

I love that show. There isn’t too much to say about it, but as a kid, I was really entranced by their universe. And when I watch the old episodes, I still feel that way, like it’s really imaginative. It’s uncanny and very spooky. I love that it’s actually like a bunch of full-sized adults in the costumes. Teletubby world is much bigger than we think. I would really love to go on one of their old sets. They have that — what’s it called? The vacuum cleaner Noo-Noo that comes and cleans up their mess.

I have no memory of this.

They have a vacuum cleaner character who, when they make a mess, they’re like, “Oh no, Noo-Noo.” It comes over and slurps up whatever they did. It’s so weird.

I mostly remember the culture war bullshit about the purple Teletubby.

Oh, Tinky Winky’s purse! So controversial. Woke king.

Things really weren’t that different 25 years ago than they are now.

There was also the Tubby Custard. I don’t know if you remember this, but…

I hate that collection of words: “the Tubby Custard.”

It was like they literally eat this pink slime in a bowl that comes out of this big machine. And then at one point, do you remember there was a big internet controversy about meat or something where it was like, “All processed meat is actually pink slime,” and they showed this video of the pink slime but, I believe, it was debunked to be a video of the Teletubbies Tubby Custard. It was just someone trolling everyone. It was one of the early internet everybody-believing-something-that-could-be-easily-disproved things.

Were there other shows you loved?

Let me think for a second. Embarrassingly, Lost.

No embarrassment. It’s great.

I was such a huge Lost-y. I’ve actually been meaning to revisit it as an adult. But yeah, I was a big Lost fan. That show jumps the shark every episode. Fucking crazy-ass show. Very formative to me. Also, early Degrassi. The Drake-era Degrassi.

Wheelchair Jimmy himself.

Started from the bottom.

Truly. Do you like to watch TV when you’re on the road?

I love hotel TV in general. I feel like when I go to a hotel, I’m like paying to have a niche fetish satisfied of like getting to turn on a TV and flip through channels. Like the old way. I love QVC on tour. I love watching the really slow jewelry QVC ads and commercials.

It’s oddly comforting knowing that no matter which hotel I stay at, there will always be an episode of Friends or Modern Family waiting for me on the TV. And I don’t even love those shows or anything.

I love being given limited options as a member of modern society. I love being like, you have to pick between Forensic Files, QVC, Shark Tank, football, Golden Girls, and some weird kids show in another language. It’s so nice. Then I’m like, “Well, I guess I’ll just put this on.” I do like watching trash TV, but I don’t like the shame involved in picking it.

Can you talk a little bit about your involvement with I Saw The TV Glow?

I got involved through Phoebe [Bridgers] and Jane. They were kind of talking about options. And I think that Phoebe recommended me to do a song for the soundtrack, and I think that Jane resonated with my work after looking into it. We got on a call shortly after, and they sent me the script, and I really, really connected with it. A lot of the visual motifs are ones that I really resonate with. I have a lot of blue dye involved in my own stuff. And I have a lot of VHS TV motifs and stuff, too. I really connected with it when I read it. I also watched We’re All Going To The World’s Fair. Amazing. Movie. Their work is super of the time in a way that I think will be timeless.

How did you land on contributing “Claw Machine” to the soundtrack?

Jane was super generous and very open to whatever song I was going to write, they were like, “I trust you as the artist to write a song.” The one thing that they kind of suggested was, they were like, “This going to be in this pivotal scene in this movie. I think that it should start with the title of the song.” And actually, as a writer, that was super helpful. I love homework because it gives me somewhere to start.

Your performance in the movie reminds me a lot of the music scenes from Twin Peaks: The Return.

I love Twin Peaks as well. So good, and like awesome to be in a moment that was kind of referencing it. The song was actually not 100 percent recorded because the turnaround time is really fast. It didn’t have strings on it yet, and it was still missing a couple of other things, but the vocals were done, and the piano was done. It was all done to a click, so we could perform to it. It was really cool. It was cool to have a movie star moment.

If you could record the theme song to any existing show, what show would you pick?


You should come out to that on your next tour.

I always have trouble with walkout music, so maybe we just solved that.

You can stream the I Saw The TV Glow soundtrack below.

I Saw The TV Glow is out in limited theaters now, followed by a wide release on May 17.