Even when they had a song featured on MTV’s “The Jersey Shore” — “the least-likely show possible for us,” as frontman Chris Koza put it — the members of Twin Cities indie-folk band Rogue Valley were still happy about getting an on-screen gig.
So you can imagine how excited Koza and his bandmates are that one of their songs, “The Wolves & the Ravens,” is currently playing in cineplexes worldwide in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” the serious new Ben Stiller movie with sweeping landscapes and poetic symbolism that perfectly suit Rogue Valley’s literary style. Or it’s a much better fit than Snooki, anyway.
Used for nearly two minutes in a climactic scene near the end of the movie, the song is drawn from a series of four “seasonal” albums that the sextet recorded in 2010-11. (It closes the final, winter-themed album, “False Floors.”) Stiller’s production company got turned onto “The Wolves & the Ravens” via In the Groove Music, a Minneapolis-based company that specializes in film and TV music placement.
Last February, Koza got an e-mail out of the blue from one of the movie’s representatives, asking for “stems” of the recording (early, alternate mixes).
“That seemed like a very specific and unusual request from somebody I didn’t even know,” Koza remembered, at which point his hopes were sharply raised — for a while. “I checked my e-mail religiously for a few weeks, but then I finally just had to stop. It’s the kind of thing you can’t have any control over, so no point in obsessing about it.”
He finally got word in September that the song made the cut. And in the end, the film’s editing crew cut up the recording just a little and tweaked it to suit the scene.
“They could’ve put banjos on it, for all I care,” Koza joked. “To me, it’s just such an honor to have a piece of my art play into someone else’s art.”
After rushing out to see it on opening day, Koza believes “Walter Mitty” is indeed an excellent art film, despite mixed reviews from critics. “I think it’s the kind of quirky movie that will live on for years and years on video and cable.”
“The Wolves & the Ravens” is also featured on the movie soundtrack, newly issued on CD and vinyl via Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records. The collection includes songs by Johnson, Of Monsters & Men, Rogue Wave (no relation), and Swedish indie star José Gonzáles, who covered John Lennon and Ryan Adams for the movie and contributed another tune by his band Junip.
While Koza stands to make “a little” from publishing royalties as the movie lives on, most of Rogue Valley’s payment was in the form of a flat fee, he said. Pressed for a hint of the amount, he said, “It’s enough to let us make our next album.”
First, though, Koza plans to finish up a solo record he has been working on for the past year, which features the Laurels String Quartet, Semisonic’s John Munson and other members of Minnesota Public Radio’s “Wits” house band. Rogue Valley guitarist Peter Sieve is also about to hit the road with Jeremy Messersmith for the next few months in support of Messersmith’s new album, “Heart Murmurs.”
Whenever Rogue Valley does get back into the studio, Koza said, “This is definitely a nice little boost for us. We’re seeing more traffic on YouTube and interest from overseas. Movies provide a different level of exposure.”