Netflix’s new series Orange Is the New Black has gripped audiences and the media with its clever portrayal of female prison life. It’s a quick hit, and then some: before the show started streaming on July 11th, it had already been picked up for a second season.
One asset of the show is Regina Spektor’s original theme song “You’ve Got Time,” which she wrote exclusively for the show’s creator, Jenji Kohan (who also created Weeds). This isn’t the first time the two have collaborated: Spektor covered the Weeds theme song “Little Boxes,” and a few of her other tracks were used in the show. However, this was the first time that Spektor had ever written a theme song from scratch.
Spektor – who called Rolling Stone from Stockholm, as she is currently on a European tour in support of last year’s album What We Saw From the Cheap Seats – says Kohan approached her to write the song. “When she [Kohan] said she wanted to meet and talk about this new show that she was writing, I was very excited because I really love her work. I think she’s a hilarious and a super-bright, really great person.” She also appreciated that Kohan understood her songwriting process. “She sort of gave me [an attitude] like, ‘If it works, it works, and if it doesn’t, don’t worry, because I know you write songs when you write songs and you’re not a machine. So just do it if you can.'”
To craft the song, Kohan explained OITNB‘s premise to Spektor and discussed some of the narratives in the show. “I started to get some ideas and then as they were shooting, she would send me some rough, unfinished episodes, and so I got to really experience the world of the show and got to see what the characters were really like and it kind of helped me finish the song,” Spektor says. She recorded the track in Los Angeles over the winter and then nervously brought it to Kohan.
“She was listening on headphones,” Spektor recalls, “and then she just turned to me: ‘This kicks ass! I love it! This is awesome! This is perfect.’ She played it to the title sequence and then I saw the photos of all the prisoners and it just made sense. I was like, whoa, this really fits.”
For OITNB‘s viewers, Spektor’s aggressive guitars and vocals are the first things they hear; there’s no cold open (except in the pilot episode). “You’ve Got Time” softens during the bridge, though, generating an aura of hope. When Spektor sings the title refrain, it works literally for the prison motif but also alludes to the show’s themes of redemption and forgiveness.
“I feel really, really glad because it’s such a great show and such a cool look – obviously a fantastical look – but a really great look at the whole prison system and the interaction and the human connection between the people in that environment,” Spektor says. “It’s one of those things where you see something that’s really great and you’re like, ‘I hope everybody else likes it, too.’ There’s so many great things that sort of don’t get the attention that they deserve, but this one is getting a lot of love, so that makes me happy.”
Last month Spektor was focusing on the release of her new song, but this month, she’s centered on her current European tour, for which she is playing festivals in the UK and Sweden and will perform in new countries like Estonia, Latvia and Hungary.
“I love touring the UK and Europe and this whole part of the world because besides the fact that all the audiences have been beyond sweet and just a really good vibe, you keep waking up in a new country. It’s very different because in America, there’s these long freeways and you can just drive and drive and end up in a different state but everything looks kind of the same – you have a little bit of a Groundhog Day. And here, it’s like one moment it’s canals, the English rolling countryside; the next, it’s the Alps. You keep having this really changing cultural backdrop, different languages and completely different geography, and it’s really fun to have such drastic changes almost every day.”
Spektor will be on tour through the end of August; once she’s back in the States, she’ll most likely start writing more songs for another album. She also plans to finish binge-watching OITNB, as she ran into a slight snafu before heading out to Europe last week. “We watched Episode Nine before boarding the plane and then we were like, ‘Fuck, our Netflix doesn’t work in Europe!’ Now we have four more episodes left and we’re going to have to probably watch them after we come back from tour.”