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[rock the dub Interview]: Wendy & Lisa

I don't know about you, but when I was in high school, I was a huge fan of Prince & The Revolution. For those of you who know the score, you should know who Wendy & Lisa are. Childhood friends, and talented artists, they've been through a lot - they were active in music before The Revolution, arguably made their most famous mark with Prince, helping usher in the "blue eyed soul" sound in the 80s, and when they eventually left his fold, something was definitely missing. They weren't, though, making their own music, as well as collaborating with artists like Seal, Eric Clapton, Liz Phair, Sheryl Crow, among others. In December, the digital release of their latest album, White Flags of Winter Chimneys, was self-released through their website, and I got a chance to speak with them about this, their song-writing and other points of interest...

khal: Your new album is being released solely via your website, wendyandlisa.com. When did you decide to put it out in this manner? What are the pros and cons on releasing music this way?

Lisa: We decided to make the record with or without a record deal. I had pretty much let go of the idea of being signed and going through the traditional grinding of the music business a long time ago. I don't think it has served me for what I want to do. The record business is chasing a high that is impossible to catch. It does not exist anymore. There is nothing new about ''Rock ‘N’ Roll", they just keep trying to get bigger and better, more outrageous and more glamorous, younger sexier, crazier… and there is nowhere left to go. The songwriter, musicians and artists have no way to discover a sound or a niche. Musicians have reached out through websites and the Internet because it allows them to create themselves in a comfortable place at a comfortable pace, and to see and feel the direct response from the people they want to reach. No one is second guessing the clothes they wear, or the drum sounds, or any part of the content. It is a horrible feeling to try and please a middle man only to fail in the eyes of the fans! For us the internet and the direct contact with our listeners, it’s a gift of unimaginable riches. With the help of our manger, Renata Kanclerz, we have discovered and are trying all that is at our fingertips LITERALLY through the beauty of Internet communing. HI PEOPLE!!

Wendy: We knew as soon as we started writing these songs that we would release the material on our own. The pros? Because we have a fan base, we can reach them one-on-one, and bypass the 3rd party (labels). This means direct access to the listener. The cons? Don't want to think about that.
khal: In reading up on you two, I noticed you score the TV show Heroes, among others. How did you get involved in a project like this? Are you fans of the show?

Lisa: YES! I have been a comic book and sci-fi fan all my life. It is a dream come true to work on Heroes. We didn't know at the time, but when we met Allan Arkush in 1996 (?), it would become a long lasting and extremely valuable relationship. Allan is something of a cult hero himself, director and writer of Rock n Roll High School, among other cult type films... Get Crazy, and a list of Roger Corman masterpieces. Allan came to us to score a television series created by David Kelly (of Ally McBeal fame), called Snoops. The show didn't take off, but our friendship with Allan did. We worked with him on several projects that eventually lead to Heroes and a relationship with creator Tim Kring.

Wendy: Are we fans? YES! My fingers are crossed that the show gets its heart back. It feels a bit lost in its intentions. The first season was killer! We got this gig because of our relationship with the producers and creator. We spent 6 yrs on Crossing Jordan and they are the same people on this.

khal: While White Flags Of Winter Chimneys contains an array of musical styles, the thing that is constant is your dynamic song-writing. What's your process for writing songs - will you have the lyrics done first with a certain melody, or are you attempting to do, say, a Trance-influenced track and building lyrics around that?

Lisa: We almost always write the music first. Wendy and I play together and create musical environments, or grooves, and we love playing music so it is always the easiest part of the writing process. Then we sit and listen, pencils in hand, and start writing words that come into our heads, or sing melodies. We try to come up with a rhythm or sometimes a number of syllables and then start writing lyrics. From that point on, anything can happen. Sometimes, the music has to change to accommodate the lyrics, and sometimes it just fits perfectly and a song is born!

Wendy: Funny you should ask about Trance… I’m a huge fan of electronic music and the idea of composing a piece of music that would otherwise not need lyrics is really a cool idea to me. Did we achieve that on White Flags? I think we did.

khal: Without delving too deep into your well-documented past with Prince, would you like to comment on your relationship as of right now? You've made a few appearances with him, in live settings and on record, over the last few years. Any plans to work together in the future?

Lisa: We are always open to working with Prince. He calls every once in a while to ask us to do something, and we answer. The unfortunate part that is sometimes frustrating is that it is always on his terms and when he wants to do it.

Wendy: We have told him consistently that we would LOVE to write again and do a project together. No word yet. It's up to him. He needs to make that happen. We are like the friend who always calls to ask you to hang, and they never call back. Ugh.

khal: Which artists of the current music scene would you say are some of your favorites?

Lisa: That is a hard question but off the top of my head, I recently have been loving ELBOW, Little Dragon, Q-Tip, The Roots

Wendy: I love the band LITTLE DRAGON!

khal: Outside of your own music, do you have any current song-writing or production going on with any other artists?

Lisa: We did some fun things with Jill Sobule and want to do more! We also are trying to get everybody together to continue our ideal groove band EDITH FUNKER (known previously as Funk Sway), as seen in the movie Before The Music Dies.

Wendy: It’s ?uestlove on drums, Erykah Badu on vocals, Doyle Bramhall on vocals and guitar, me & Lisa on keys, and Mike Elizondo on bass. Also, James Poyser on keys and Susannah Melvoin on backing vocals.

khal: Why did you title this album White Flags Of Winter Chimneys?

Lisa: The title came late in the game. Only after we had a glimpse of what we had done, Wendy came to work with the title in mind. White Flags of Winter Chimneys is a lyric from a Joni Mitchell song. The meaning is of surrender and to us represents a place of warmth in the middle of a frost. So... not only are we tremendously fond of Joni Mitchell, but we have weathered a storm of life experiences that brought us to a refuge in each other and our ability to create music.

khal: One of the versions of this album is a sprawling colored vinyl opus. Do you two still listen to music on vinyl? People spoke on a possible resurgence of vinyl in the record shops (mainly due to lovers of Punk, and some DJs); do you ever think the music-buying public will pick back up on vinyl, or is it a dead medium?

Lisa: I think people will add vinyl back into the mix because it is just a great way to deliver music. It sounds fantastic, there are thousands of albums out there NOT available on CD; there is no reason to abandon a perfectly good medium. It might just have a chance to be another way to collect and enjoy sound.

Wendy: No, I don't think its dead, but it is sleepy for sure. I would love to see it come back.

khal: Will you be going on tour in support of this release? What can fans expect from a Wendy & Lisa show?

Lisa: We are hoping to tour in the summer. We don't know HOW we will achieve this because we need MONEY to travel and all that. Perhaps with our super band idea, EDITH FUNKER, we can raise money and interest for a show that would be like a five for one night of grooves, gripes, beats and blues!

Wendy: We are going to try and do some gigs this summer.. My goal is to get EDITH FUNKER to go out and be each others band for a night.


khal: How do you unwind?

Lisa: Lately, the thing that makes me happiest and most relaxed is reading a book with my daughter. There is nothing like it.

Wendy: Listening to music and drinking a great glass of red wine.

khal: Who is in your ultimate super group?



khal: What's the song you're most proud of writing?

Lisa: "Beginning at the End" (Sweet Suite)

Wendy: Today? Hmm… “Invisible”.

khal: What's the song you are least proud of writing?

Lisa: “Strung Out”

Wendy: Not telling…

khal: What's your favorite iPod track this week?

Lisa: “Mirror Ball”

Wendy: Grace Jones’ “Slave To The Rhythm”.

khal: What's the most personal song you've ever written and what was it based on?

Lisa: "Jonathan"...

Wendy: "Bring You Back"... my brother Jonathan.

So there you have it. Hit up their website and take a listen to White Flags of Winter Chimneys, and order one of the many versions they have available. Special shouts to Ariel PR for hooking this interview up.

EDIT Stream the entire White Flags of Winter Chimneys album:

Hat tip to Renata for this one!


Suejester said...

A great interview!

Unknown said...

Nice one! :)