On a recent Tuesday afternoon, Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein were holed up inside a Los Angeles recording studio, surrounded by mixers and stacks of keyboards. You would have found them in the same place the day before, and the day before that. Dixon and Stein are the composers for Netflix’s cult hit series “Stranger Things” — the guys who created the opening theme and synth-driven score that play a key role in creating the show’s spellbinding vibe. And they were up against a tight deadline, with less than a week to finish the music for the final episode of the third season, which arrives in July. The session was going well, Dixon said. “Like ‘Stranger Things’ on energy drinks,” Stein chimed in, crunching a just-guzzled can. Dixon and Stein (who are also one half of Austin-based electronic band S U R V I V E) took a breather to talk about their work and their upcoming performance at the Kennedy Center.
Let’s go back to the beginning: How did you two meet?
Dixon: We met when we were 13, at the skateboard park. The first time we made music together was probably about 10 years later.
How did the Duffer brothers, the creators of “Stranger Things,” approach you about scoring the show?
Dixon: We got an email one day and they said, “Hey, we’re working on a sci-fi/horror series for Netflix.” That was all we needed to hear.
Stein: It came out of left field. They had just gotten greenlighted to do this thing, and we were like, it seems too real to be fake. But why are they emailing us?
Dixon: [In a stage whisper] Nobody really knows …
What was it like when the show blew up?
Dixon: Nobody knew what to expect. We didn’t tell anybody we were working on it.
Stein: I told my boss so I could explain why I was leaving.
Dixon: We both had to quit long before the show came out.
Stein: We definitely had to take a risk and be unpaid for a while. We had to put all our energy into learning how to [compose] properly. We were 100% into this thing.
Dixon: I was fully ready for them to fire us up until it was out — not that I didn’t think it was going well, but you always see these stories, like the artist shows up to the premiere and his music isn’t in it.
Stein: Then it comes out and everybody’s like, “Oh, my god, the music,” and I was like, “All right, I guess it went well.”
What was your directive when you started writing for Season 1?
Dixon: They were like, “We know you can do epic. We know you can do dark, scary stuff. And we know you can make other music. We just haven’t heard it yet.”
Stein: Like the more lighthearted stuff — they needed to make sure we could do that. It was also important to them that the music for “Stranger Things” wasn’t too retro or nostalgic. They didn’t want it to be super-cheesy synth music; they wanted it to be more modern and fresh.
Unlike in Season 1, you now write to picture — but it’s not finished yet, and the scenes you see are poor quality. Does that mean you watch the show when everyone else does, when it debuts on Netflix?
Dixon: I’ve never watched it. I don’t see a reason to; I know exactly what’s going to happen. Though I might watch the new season because I want to see how some stuff ended up looking.
Stein: I think the experience is better if you watch it with other people. My grandmother and her cousin are both fans of the show, and to see their experience or expression — that helps me understand the show a little better.
Dixon: I don’t know, I’m never going to put a song on and say, “Hey, you want to listen to my new song?” and watch how you react. That’s what it feels
like to me. You guys enjoy it on your own; I don’t need to be there for it.
What appeals to you about writing music for TV?
Stein: Sonically, we’ve always tried to create new and interesting sounds, atmospheric stuff that’s more dense or layered. And that stuff just tends to work better to picture.
Dixon: We also don’t have aspirations to become singers, so making instrumental music generally comes with that.
Stein: It’s awesome now just getting to write — waking up and spending all day making music, and just having this puzzle to unlock. It’s like, here’s this scene, and I gotta figure out something I’m happy with to tell the story.
At the Kennedy Center on Wednesday, you’ll perform a tribute to the late Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson with the Spektral Quartet, and then play selections from the “Stranger Things” score. Do you enjoy performing live?
Stein: Some people are like, “I’m a performer, I want to perform,” and I’m like, “I like being alone in this room all day to make music.” But it’s also really great to go play that music for people.
Dixon: Especially in a place like that. We played D.C. with our band one time, but nowhere near as storied as the Kennedy Center.
Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW; Wed., 7:30 p.m., $19-$39.