‘Shrinking’: How Ben Gibbard Was Inspired by Scary Fish of the Deep Sea for Show’s Theme Song
Scary fish lurking in the depths of the ocean served as the unlikely inspiration for the title theme of Apple TV+’s newest show, “Shrinking.”
Starring Jason Segel, Harrison Ford and Jessica Williams, the series follows a group of therapists as they navigate their own problems along with those of their patients. Aptly titled “Frightening Fishes,” the theme song — co-written by show composer Tom Howe and Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard — stems from the idea of “letting the wreckage of your life sink to the depths of the ocean and the seas – those unexplored places,” Gibbard tells Variety.
More from Variety
Milo Ventimiglia Almost Left Hollywood. Now He's Doubling Down on Broadcast TV With 'The Company You Keep'
'The White Lotus' No Longer Eligible for Emmys' Limited Series Category, Moving to Drama (EXCLUSIVE)
How 'Star Trek: Picard' Created the High-Tech Bridge of Its Newest Starship
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” — serve as a metaphor for the show’s struggling characters. Ford plays Paul, a charming yet grumpy man who is dealing with his Parkinson’s diagnosis, while Segel is Jimmy, a man riddled with guilt, grieving the loss of his wife while trying to be a cool dad to his teenage daughter. Williams portrays Gaby, the best friend of Jimmy’s late wife who is coping with her failing marriage.
The tune was also partially inspired by Gibbard’s childhood. “I remember watching these documentaries as a kid about what life was like in the Mariana Trench with the Anglerfish of nightmares,” he says. “I liked the idea of using that image.”
Gibbard and Howe collaborated over phone calls and Zoom, and to this day, have yet to meet.
“Tom sent me music cues from the show. I picked one and wrote the theme,” Gibbard says. “We then reverse-engineered the theme song which we used as the basis of the chorus.”
The two wanted to deliver an anthemic melody backed by blocky chords. “Tom gave me some directives, [like] you can do low and high vocals to give it girth,” Gibbard explains.
While the theme’s music is very much in the style of Death Cab for Cutie, Gibbard says “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.”
Listen to “Frightening Fishes” below.
Best of Variety
Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.