Even if you don’t know who Joe Wong is, you’re almost certainly aware of his work. The Milwaukee-born (and now Los Angeles-based) composer and producer can be heard on television shows like Russian Doll, Ugly Delicious, Master Of None, and SuperJail, as well as films like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and Seven Stages To Achieve Eternal Bliss. He also co-produced Fred Armisen’s Netflix special, Standup For Drummers, and he interviews some of the world’s most accomplished percussionists on his long-running podcast, The Trap Set.
On top of all that work in a variety of mediums, Wong continues to write and record his own music. Earlier this week, the composer/musician’s personal and professional worlds intertwined when a new Netflix’s animated series called The Midnight Gospel—which Wong scored—used one of his band’s material in an episode.
The Midnight Gospel is created by comedian Duncan Trussell (who voices the show’s main character) and Adventure Time mastermind Pendleton Ward.
“Pendleton was one of the first people I met when I moved to L.A. We were introduced by our mutual friend, Christy Karacas—creator of SuperJail,” Wong tells Milwaukee Record. “On a whim, Pen and I took an improv comedy class together at Groundlings, and we bonded over our mutual mortification of participating in the class. We’ve been good friends ever since.”
That friendship and, more importantly, awareness and appreciation of his impressive body of work led Ward, Trussell, and Titmouse Animation to bring Wong on to provide the series’ musical backdrop with original compositions.
“[They] created an atmosphere wherein they hired the people that they wanted to work with and empowered us to just be ourselves and do our jobs without much oversight,” Wong says. “I think people do their best work, when they are being trusted to provide what they’re uniquely qualified to offer. Pen, Duncan, and I share many of the same musical touchstones, and they were fans of my previous work. They put me in a position to show up as the best version of myself.”
Beyond trusting Wong to create new material to complement The Midnight Gospel‘s sights and sensibilities, the show’s creator’s also decided to use some of the composer’s solo work. Wong’s newly-released single, “Dreams Wash Away,” is featured in the final episode of the first season. The song will be on Wong’s forthcoming album, which was initially scheduled for a May 15 release, but was pushed back on account of coronavirus. COVID-19 also postponed Wong’s tour to October, and he’s still hoping to add a Milwaukee date.
If the all-star cast and top-notch creative team hasn’t already inspired you to check out The Midnight Gospel, hopefully the local affiliation will prompt you to add it to your list. You won’t be sorry. If you’d like to learn more about Wong’s musical background and his interesting career in television and film composition, listen to his episode of our My First Band podcast (released in December 2019).