The eerie inhabitants of the ocean’s depths provided an unexpected muse for the title theme of Apple TV+’s latest show, “Shrinking.”
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Featuring Jason Segel, Harrison Ford, and Jessica Williams, the series delves into the lives of therapists navigating both their personal struggles and those of their patients. Appropriately named “Frightening Fishes,” the theme song, co-written by show composer Tom Howe and Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, draws from the concept of “letting the wreckage of your life sink to the depths of the ocean and the seas – those unexplored places,” as explained by Gibbard to Variety.
The song’s lyrics — “Help me carry this weight, that’s dragging me down/ Pull me out of the drink before I start to drown/ Let the wreckage all sink to where the fishes are frightening” — metaphorically capture the challenges faced by the characters in the show. Ford portrays Paul, a charming yet grumpy man coping with a Parkinson’s diagnosis, while Segel takes on the role of Jimmy, burdened with guilt as he mourns his wife’s loss while striving to be a cool dad to his teenage daughter. Williams embodies Gaby, the best friend of Jimmy’s late wife, navigating her own struggles within a failing marriage.
The melody also drew inspiration from Gibbard’s childhood memories. “I remember watching these documentaries as a kid about what life was like in the Mariana Trench with the Anglerfish of nightmares,” he recalls. “I liked the idea of using that image.”
Despite their collaboration taking place over phone calls and Zoom, Gibbard and Howe have yet to meet in person.
“Tom sent me music cues from the show. I picked one and wrote the theme,” Gibbard details. “We then reverse-engineered the theme song, which we used as the basis of the chorus.”
Their goal was to create an anthemic melody with robust chords. “Tom gave me some directives, [like] you can do low and high vocals to give it girth,” Gibbard explains.
Although the theme’s music aligns closely with the style of Death Cab for Cutie, Gibbard clarifies, “I don’t think Tom was trying to mimic our style or my style. I chose something that felt like something I would have written.”