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Shana & Kiran

A Conversation with Shana and Kiran of Bitter:Sweet

Puremusic: Hi Shana, I'm Frank from Puremusic.com. I'm talking to you from Nashville. I already feel the L.A.-ness of our conversation, having been connected to a three way conversation with you and Kiran by your publicist on a fourth line.


PM: So I've joined the legions of people that are huge fans of Bitter:Sweet.

Shana Halligan:  Great to hear it.

Kiran Shahani: That's cool.

PM: It's just such an amazing record, The Mating Game. I think I ran into it first very serendipitously on MySpace. I was at some friend's page, and I saw something and clicked on it and flipped out.

KS: Oh, wow.

SH: That's really something.

PM: And so to me that's a clear indication--and the whole group's story, as I've come to know it, is a clear example of people making it, and making their way as a musical act almost without--I say almost without the record business, per se. Sure, your label Quango is certainly in the loop, and they're getting the PR out there, and this and that. But I mean, by virtue of the fact that people are finding you on MySpace, that the tunes are getting on major HBO shows, and that because of that really big sponsors are picking up your music for their ad campaigns...I mean, it's a whole alternative stream now to making it as musicians.

SH: Yeah.

KS: Yeah, we feel like we're the guinea pigs sometimes, because with all the major labels folding and stuff, you really got to figure it out on your own.

SH: Yeah, but it's a lot cooler, because there's so many different alternatives.

PM: Absolutely.

SH: You can do it your own way.

PM: In Nashville, for instance, I mean, there used to be 12 labels in town, now I think there are three. It's like, where did everybody go?

SH: Yeah.

PM: Music Row, that used to be lined with nothing but record companies, licensing companies like ASCAP and publishing companies, now there's all these tattoo parlors and lawyers--

KS: Wow.

PM: --and classic thrift stores. It's like, what the hell happened to Music Row?

KS: Oh, my God. I always picture Nashville like the capital of the music business, almost.

PM: Right.


PM: Now, first I thought I was going to be talking to Shana. So some of my questions go right to her, if that's not too rude, and--

KS: Oh, no, not at all.

PM: I thought it was really amazing and interesting that you're the daughter of Dick Halligan of Blood, Sweat & Tears. That's incredible.

SH: He's a cool guy.

PM: I would imagine. It was only last week that I downloaded some of that incredible first record, Child is Father to the Man.

SH: Yeah.

PM: I was after their amazing version of the Harry Nilsson song, "Without Her." You know that song?

SH: Sure.

PM: God! What an incredible song. I went to Harry's site, and found the different versions there, and went, wow, this isn't it at all. It must not be Nilsson's version I knew. And then when I thought about it, it was like, no, man, that was the Blood Sweat & Tears version...

KS: That's hot.

PM: And your dad was involved, somehow, in the making of The Mating Game, right?

SH: Yeah. He helped us with some of the arrangements. He's an incredible arranger. He's great with the horns and all that stuff. So we're going to try to get him a little bit more involved on this next record, I think.

PM: So was he also doing some string arranging on this record?

KS: On this first one, yeah.

SH: Yeah.

PM: And how will he be involved on the record to come?

SH: We definitely want him to help out with the string arrangements, and we want him maybe to do some horn arrangements as well.

KS: And this time he's coming in a little earlier on the songs. Last time the songs were pretty much written, and this time we're getting him in early to play piano and come up with some cool stuff.

PM: Wow.

KS: So we're just getting him involved earlier in the process.

PM: So I'll ask Shana first what her childhood was like--

SH: [laughs]

PM: --musically and otherwise, growing up in such a household.

SH: It was wild, actually. Growing up, there were always a ton of musicians at my house jamming until 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning. In fact, I didn't really like that because I just wanted to be a normal kid, and have like the PTA mom drive me to school. But all my friends thought our house was so cool because all this stuff was always going on there. But obviously a lot of it sank in, whether I wanted it to or not.


SH: The music is in my bones, apparently.

PM: Well, before Bitter:Sweet, and before you guys hooked up, what had your musical or artistic life consisted of? Had you done a whole bunch of other bands, or songwriting?

SH: Mostly songwriting. I wrote a lot on the piano and did a lot of singer/songwriter stuff, and worked with a lot of different people to try to get it out there. Before that I did a lot of session work. I just used to sing on commercials and other people's stuff, just to make money. But I always wrote on the side.

PM: Yeah, you got to make a living. So was your singer/songwriter stuff what might generally be regarded as L.A. style stuff, or pop stuff? How would you describe your pre-Bitter:Sweet singer/songwriter material?

SH: It was definitely during the era of Sarah McLachlan and Tori Amos, and all that. So I had to tap into that, as every girl who plays piano does, I think. [laughs]

PM: Sure.

SH: So it was probably more in that vein. But I've been such a huge fan of electronic music. That's been my whole record collection, ironically, even though I was always writing otherwise. So it's so much fun to be able to use a lot of the same style of songwriting that I've always had, I feel like, but just put it in a really cool and different environment.

PM: And now it's such a different world. I mean, Kiran Shahani brings such intense groove and electronic mastery to the game. Now you're on the other side of the world.

SH: Oh, yeah. I love it. And it's so wonderful to have a partner through all of this when I used to do it all myself. He brings so much, and makes you go in different directions than you would go in when you're writing by myself. That's why collaboration is so beautiful, because it pushes the other person into their world. And it's really fun. It's really fun.

PM: Because that's really what it's all about, it's really all about a partner.

SH: Uh-huh, absolutely.

PM: Yeah, I just hooked up with an old friend myself. And that's what both of our lives were really missing with many of our relationships until then. It's just like, ah, you're the partner that I was looking for. That was the missing link.

KS: Ah, you guys are going to make me cry.



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