For Austin, Texas, synth quartet Survive (aka S U R V I V E), becoming part of a cultural phenomenon was incidental. Their big break in 2016 was supposed to be signing to seminal metal label Relapse for the release of “RR7349,” but the group’s ambition to score films swept them into the rabid fandom of Netflix’s summer hit series “Stranger Things.”
When the Duffer Brothers created a pitch trailer for “Stranger Things,” it consisted of numerous 1980s sci-fi and horror clips like “E.T.,” “Halloween” and “Poltergeist” set mostly to John Carpenter’s “The Fog” soundtrack. It also included two songs by Survive. The brothers learned of the Austin-based group through music licensed to Adam Wingard’s 2014 thriller film “The Guest.” Band member Adam Jones said “The Guest” soundtrack was the first break in a long-term goal to produce film scores.
“We always wanted that to be a big part of our operation, doing songs for films, licensing our songs to be in movies,” he said. His band will perform selections from the series and the new record Saturday, Oct. 8, at Harlow’s nightclub.
In fall 2015, Survive passed a test run to be the primary scorers of the series. Members Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon were asked to quit their day jobs to dedicate the ensuing months to “Stranger Things.” As members of a burgeoning ambient synth scene that shuts off laptops in favor of vintage analog hardware, over the years Stein and Dixon have lived among an overwhelming collection of analog equipment. It gives their Austin home studio the look of a functioning synth museum.
It’s that admiration for vintage technology that gives the “Stranger Things” score its nostalgia trigger and rounds out the homage. It looks and feels like a Carpenter score or like Tangerine Dream’s score for “Sorcerer” because Survive employs many of the same tools those artists revolutionized.
When the series debuted July 15, it was a weekend success as binge-watching critics plowed through the series to publish reviews by Monday morning. Tracking down who produced the theme song became an immediate concern on social media.
“It could have been a complete flop and nobody would have cared about Survive at all,” Jones said.
Jones runs the independent label Holodeck Records, which released many early Survive albums, including the 2010 debut “LLR002.” All the early pressings, released on cassette and vinyl, are out of print.
Jones has noticed a spike in Holodeck sales and his digital distributor might as well have his number on speed dial. But for Survive it still feels like dumb luck, particularly when it comes to the fortuitous timing of the show and release of the new record, “RR7349.”
“There wasn’t any control on our end as to when the show came out or even to when the album came out,” Jones said.
It’s coincidence that the series debuted within a month of the new album’s promotional campaign.
Titled after its catalog number, “RR7349” is already charting favorable reviews. The website Pitchfork Media praised Survive for its ability to inject “a sense of narrative, a story, an energy that replaces vocals and conventional musical structures to give the tracks an augmented dimension.”
After seven years of obscurity, Survive is embracing being the best in their genre with a full schedule. Jones said Dixon and Stein will go to work on the “Stranger Things” Season 2 score soon, and the phone is ringing with more offers. Their deal with Relapse is for two albums, so the group will make time for a follow-up in addition to a heavy touring schedule.
“For me, I’ve already been taking this level of activity with Holodeck and the other bands for a while in terms of time and effort on the promotional front,” Jones said. “It feels good because right now I have more help. It feels like I’m doing a very similar amount of work, it’s just way more effective now.”
When: 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8
Where: Harlow’s, 2708 J St., Sacramento