Click to viewWendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman do all of the music for the super-mutant show Heroes. Before that, they were the core of Prince's band, the Revolution, and a key ingredient in the Purple One's creative peak. They've also put out four solo albums, including the haunting Girl Bros.. We caught up with Lisa via email (with a little input from Wendy) and asked about their creative processes and surreal encounters. How did you get involved with Heroes? I know you also worked on Tim Kring's previous show, Crossing Jordan. That is right. We worked with Tim Kring on Crossing Jordan for 6 seasons! Originally, we met Tim through Allan Arkush, who hired us years ago to work on David Kelley's Snoops. Allan is a book and/or movie waiting to happen. His imdb reads like a who's who in crazy Hollywood rock n' roll horror madness. He wrote and directed Rock n' Roll High School, He directed Get Crazy, Death Sport, Hollywood Blvd, just to name a few, and countless television shows from Heroes to Ally McBeal, to the Emmy Award-winning The Temptations movie. Anyway, he is a music fanatic, and we became very good friends in a very short time. The same goes for Tim Kring. We met and hit it off very quickly. When Tim first came up with the idea for Heroes, we were privy to hearing his thoughts and desires for the show. Tim said he wanted us to do the music, and we spent a fair amount of time discussing ideas for the music in the following year as the pilot was written, rewritten, shot and finally finished. How is working on the music for a show like Heroes different than working on movies like Soul Food? First of all, scoring for film is very different than scoring television. The pace of doing episodic television can be grueling! We average 30-35 minutes [of music] per show, and usually have about three days to do it. In film, there is usually about an hour or so of music, and one can have several weeks to compose the score.
The show Heroes is very supernatural, and can tolerate a more experimental score. Also because of our relationship with Tim and Allan, the executives in charge, we do not have a lot of notes and playbacks resulting in rewrites. They let us take the show and write the music, and they have been very happy with what we've done. In the film world, in our experience, there are a lot of cooks, and usually plenty of plates sent back to the kitchen. I just rewatched an episode of Heroes to listen to the music more — it's definitely different from the usual style of bombastic "superhero" music that you'd expect from a show like that. Did the producers ask for something more low-key? Or did you come up with that style on your own?
Yes, that is right. As we said before, in talking with Tim and trying music against different scenes, we came up with a more spiritual, supernatural ideal for the music. Of course, there was a pull to do action music, but when we put the more quiet cues where there would usually be heavy fast drums, we found the impact of the scene was more magical and thought provoking. It seemed to match the soul searching quality of Mohinder Suresh's narrative, and made the scenes more personal. In some of the scenes with Adam or Sylar, you can hear a lot of dissonant synth sounds in the background creating tension. How do you go about making action sequences or sinister moments tense without using a lot of percussion? Well for example, with Sylar, the clocks do take the place of percussion, so that is helpful. We use a lot of wind sounds that right away put the listener in a spooky, empty-feeling environment, and it is almost invisible. You don't notice the sound, unless it is not there. We also use dissonance or unpredictable harmonic structures that make the listener uneasy. In season one, there was more of a jazzy feeling at times, like some of the scenes in Isaac's loft with the paintings. It felt more like Lisa's piano solos from the Eroica bonus disc. Have you moved away from that style for Heroes? We haven't moved away from the piano, but we have defined each character and assigned instruments to them. So that now when, for example, you have Hiro on screen, we use the mallets, and bassoon. When we have HRG, we use a whooshing sound and bowed instruments like viola and sarangi. Mohinder and Claire still have piano sounds for their scenes, but as the show has changed and characters come and go... so will the sounds.
Also, have you stopped featuring Shenkar's vocals as much? Hmmm.... have we? We usually use him to signal events that tie the characters together, or to their discovery of their powers. Perhaps that last season took us into places where the characters were already in full knowledge of their powers, AND the connections between them. Have you watched the new Battlestar Galactica? What do you think of Bear McCreary's music for that show? Does it influence what you're doing with Heroes at all? WE LOVE BATTLESTAR GALACTICA! We love Bear's music to the show. I don't think it has influenced us at all. Although we really love the way he approaches the show and the simplicity of some of the cues. I think he uses percussion in such a great way. . . and it sounds amazing. You have a new CD coming out soon. Has working for shows like Heroes influenced your own music at all? Are you doing any songs that are more science fiction-oriented this time around?
The songs aren't science fiction-oriented... at least no more than they ever were. We do tend to be somewhat searching and imaginative... I hope. We do feel that scoring has influenced our writing, in a way though. We are perhaps a little more textural and dramatic... or maybe dynamic. PLEASE CHECK OUT THE FREE DOWNLOADS AT WENDYANDLISA.COM ! (nudge nudge) Okay, this isn't a science fiction related question, I'm just curious. What is the song "If I Were Brave" from the Girl Bros. album about?
I hate saying what a particular song is about. If it isn't clear... it's kind of cool. I love people to put the meaning they like to it. I will say that each verse has it's OWN MEANING. The song is not meant to be about one thing. It is meant to be about having fears about many things. It is about doing great things and not telling people, it is about having secrets and kind of wanting to tell, but not telling for whatEVER reason. I was originally thinking about Prince and how we did all these cool songs and records under all these fake names! I always thought that the truth of the matter was WAY more impressive than some pretend guy, or some fake girls, or whatever. It is about being afraid to find out things that you wonder about, like if your lover is having an affair. It is about trying to SELL yourself and make it interesting and not be hurt by journalists that talk to you like they are your best friend and then write nasty articles about you. Please don't think that I am avoiding the question. this is my TRUE answer. The other truth is... and almost ALWAYS is... that it is a song, and sometimes you write what rhymes, and what sings well, and... you just make things up! Finally, when you were with Prince, he was in his most Ziggy Stardust-esque phase in terms of his look. Was he trying for an extraterrestrial image at all? No. I think that comes naturally.