Drum Transcription: “No Return” (Theme From Yellowjackets) — Craig Wedren and Anna Waronker
Posted on January 16, 2022
This is an unusual topic, but today we’re talking about the theme music for the recently premiered TV show Yellowjackets. I don’t know much about the show, except that it has something to do with a group of high school soccer prodigies who get involved in a plane crash, as well as their adult lives after the fact. Pretty interesting I guess; almost as interesting as the theme music!
I guess the theme just got put on streaming services this past week because I saw a handful of people in the drumosphere separately ask about the tune’s time signature and rhythms. It’s only 90 seconds, so I whipped something up and I figured I would share it and talk a bit more about it.
The theme was composed/performed by Craig Wedren and Anna Waronker, two bandleaders from 90s grunge bands (more on that here). As far as I can tell, the drums are programmed. I usually don’t pick apart drumming that was cooked up by a guitarist, but I still think there’s something to learn from as a songwriter.
The tune opens up with guitar and drums. The drums are just playing quarter notes on the kick, but the guitar riff sounds to be in 3/4 (I’m actually not sure if it’s a bass guitar or a six–string being sent through something like a whammy pedal).
There’s a surprise bar of 3/8 before the vocals kick in, which is when things get disorienting. Here’s a short excerpt with all three parts:
If you count out the vocal rhythm, it sounds like patterns of 2+2+3+2+2+3+2+2+6. Perhaps you could consider it a polymeter, but that’s a bit academic. The guitar stays more or less the same, but the drums add to the obfuscation with the snare drum being played on beats 1 and 3. It’s not exactly a waltzing feel — in fact, it’s more like a shuffle in this form.
The second part of the “verse” has an even more confusing rhythm, while an organ part comes in that gives the whole thing a 6/8 feel:
I would still count the whole thing in 3/4, as it’s much easier to count the organ in 3/4 than it is to count the guitar, drums, and vocals in 6/8.
There are surprise bars of 7/8, 4/4, and 2/4 that show up in the second part of the tune to subvert some of the motifs we heard earlier.
As is typical with canned drums, some of the details in the transcription might not make a lot of sense to someone who tries to sit down behind a kit and play them. Some of the backbeats are played in unison with what sounds like a floor tom, while the hi–hat tends to come and go as it pleases. The finale also has a flurry of crash cymbal hits that are a bit excessive.
Since the drums are mixed a bit low, they were really hard to hear during certain sections, such as the bit starting around the 1:00 mark. I tried my best, but for something like this, the kick and snare are the biggest things to focus on.
“No Return” on Songwhip.