VH1 Music Supervisor Isaac Ayers Dishes On The Music Behind New '90s Throwback Series 'Hindsight'
What would happen if one day you woke up with your whole adult life ahead of you and you could rewrite all of your biggest decisions? Would things turn out better? How would you handle it? VH1's new scripted series Hindsight, which airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. EST, attempts to answer that age-old time-traveling question with a major dose of nostalgia. The series begins with Becca (Laura Ramsey) on the eve of her second wedding. After a freaky elevator ride, she wakes up in New York City in 1995 on the morning of her first wedding and discovers she has the opportunity to live her 20s over again -- the “right way” this time. The show is full of ‘90s references and some cameos from ‘90s stars, but the real highlight is the music. We sat down with VH1’s Music Supervisor Isaac Ayers to talk about the music behind the show and what we can expect to see as Season One progresses. Here’s what he had to say:
Music Times: How did you get your start in music supervision at VH1?
Isaac Ayers: I studied marketing in college and worked at the college radio station. I interned here for the music department and started working with music and talent. Then Jennifer Stilson, head of VH1 Music Supervision, asked me to join her as Music Coordinator. It was funny it all happened around the time The O.C. was on the air, and I was like, "Oh cool. I would love doing that."
MT: Besides Hindsight, where else might we see your work?
IA: The image campaign for Mob Wives, which just aired Season 5. Our department worked on the image campaign for VH1 Classic, so we used a Hello Goodbye song. We did music for both of the VH1 app promos. Promos are one of my favorite things to work on here, if not my favorite thing. It's a really great job and often times it's heavily driven by music, so it's really interesting. I'm also working on Hit The Floor, which premiers later on this year.
MT: What was the research process like for Hindsight with so much great music to choose from?
IA: When we first started working on the show, obviously it's set in 1995, October of 1995, so I guess the goal was to obviously not use any music after that but also it was too daunting to pick anything before 1990. So the sweet spot we decided on was 1991-1995, just to give us a date range to look at. The genres differed depending on the character and scene, but it was all about researching chart positions on Billboard and seeing what was released [at the time]. Obviously we wanted to use big hits to call out the fact that it is the '90s, but we also wanted to throw in some obscure things to kind of immerse the audience in the era and not sort of hit you over the head. We looked at chart positions on the pop charts but also the dance charts.
MT: What's the difference between music supervision for reality shows and a scripted period series like Hindsight?
IA: The change has been the research involved with it. With the reality shows that we have, it's locking down a genre that we want to focus on for the series then focusing on music that's current -- probably within the last year -- and that's about it. Then you build a folder to send off to production, and they can pick and choose what they want. The research also involved more attention to detail because if it didn't match the timeline of the show, it got the boot.
MT: Did you enjoy the process? Did you like going back and listening to that music again?
IA: Researching it was a ton of fun, and I'm assuming what happened to me is exactly what's happening to the audience. Just listening to everything immediately transports me to a specific place. Going through the Smashing Pumpkins' album and listening to "Zero," I'm picturing myself at summer camp on a bus on the way to a field trip. It's bizarre, but that's how music works.
MT: Were there any songs that you discovered in your research that you hadn't heard before?
IA: There were a few. Letters to Cleo, I wasn't familiar with and also Soho's "Hippychick." I hadn't heard it prior to working on this show either.
MT: With the show being based so much in '90s nostalgia, what is demographic the show is targeting?
IA: The demo is like 25-34, so people who were born in the '80s but grew up in the '90s.
MT: Are there any artists that you haven't featured on the show that you'd like to get?
IA: Oasis, I really like them. But they're not easy [to get].
MT: Will historical music moments be part of the storyline in the show -- The Biggie and Tupac shootings, for example?
IA: That's a great point. The show is no so much '90s rap, it was more rock and pop than anything else. And Biggie and Tupac didn't die in 95. Tupac died in '96 and Biggie in '97. But you present a great point. Maybe in a later season we'll put some reference in there. There is a Biggie song on the pilot, but that's about all the Biggie there is in the show so far.
MT: Yeah back in the '90s, hip-hop wasn't the mainstream genre it is today. It was still underground and community based. But maybe Becca would acknowledge the incident because her future self knows how big of a deal they are going to be one day. Moving on... Are there any notable cameos in the show?
IA: We have a great throwback guest on Episode 107, which airs Feb. 18, and that's Daphne Zuniga from Melrose Place. She plays Becca's crazy Aunt Libby, and that's a nice little throwback for people who remember her from Melrose Place. Then Lolly's dad on Episode 5 is Alan Ruck, who plays Cameron in Ferris Buller's Day Off. So every now and then, someone will pop up like that who were '90s stars.
MT: What kind of music do you envision the main characters listening to?
IA: Becca more alternative. Lolly more pop, but also a bunch of other things because she's so eclectic and eccentric. For some reason Tori Amos comes to mind. Jamie (Becca's brother played John Patrick Amedori) loves smoking pot. So I don't know -- Pink Floyd, Dave Matthews, maybe? Andy (Becca's childhood friend and future fiancé played by Nick Clifford) is straight-laced. I'd say Hootie & the Blowfish. Sean (Becca's future ex-husband played by Craig Horner), I don't know why, but I immediately thought of Silverchair.
MT: Will Becca ever expose music that hasn't come out yet in 1995? Like start singing a Katy Perry song?
IA: I don't see that happening, but it could!
For more on the music behind Hindsight, check out our feature story here. And if you're in love with the '90s as much as we are, you'll definitely want to enter our contest to win a caboodle full of '90s gems like snap bracelets, CK One, and more.
Listen to all the music featured on Hindsight below: