Bitter:Sweet Symphony

Tuesday morning, you may have noticed something alongside your morning (non-fat, double-shot, soy, no-foam, sugar-free vanilla) latte. On May 13th, Starbucks released Bitter:Sweet’s Drama (Quango) iTunes Digital Release card. We were lucky enough to skip the line and sit down with Shana Halligan and Kiran Shahani of Bitter:Sweet, sans java, whose jazz inspired electronica has been slowly seeping into public consciousness via shows like “Grey’s Anatomy,” commercials for Victoria’s Secret, and movies like The Devil Wears Prada. And since they recently landed the theme song to “Lipstick Jungle,” we’d venture to say you sort of knew them before you actually knew them.

After discussing pirates, Seattle-based lesbians, baby-making music, and Shahani’s fantastic find on Craigslist, the group takes the stage for a sound check. Shahani picks up his bass guitar as people yell over one another shouting light directions, and speaker positions. Then Halligan belts out a note and the scrambling stage hands freeze, temporarily stunned and staring in awe of the fiery redhead. The king and queen of television jingles are just as enjoyable live at Highline Ballroom as they are in your pajamas in front of your glowing plasma.

BLACKBOOK: Why the private engagement? Why can I not stay for the show?

SHANA HALLIGAN: It’s an awards show for advertisers.

KIRAN SHAHANI: You can stay! Forget what they said. You can definitely stay.

BB: You are preparing for a summer tour. Any particular shows you are looking forward to?

SH: I always like Boise.

BB: Bands always seem to like the smaller towns.

SH: Seattle is actually one of my favorites. The crowd is just so warm and hyper.

KS: Yeah, a bunch of lesbians making out.

BB: Do you enjoy touring? KS: Oh yes, we call ourselves pirates.

SH: We have a pirate ship, an old RV that we pile all of our stuff in. BB: East Coast music scene or West Coast scene?

KS: Well, the West Coast is where everyone comes to “make it.” Everybody and their brother is there trying to make it, but we grew up there.

SH: Then you can come to New York! People are very cool here, but we try to offset that by creating an atmosphere. We have visuals, we have lamps and shag rugs and martini glasses. People get really into our world. BB: You’ve been quite prolific on TV and movie soundtracks. How does your sound lend itself to these visual media?

KS: We’re inspired by so many different things that set moods. Our music is very cinematic. We are just so inspired by old movies.

SH: And we love orchestration, you know? We use real strings and real horns—stuff that really evokes the picture in your mind.

KS: Also, most bands are guitar, bass, and drums. We can be anything. We have no rules. The whole world is our oyster. BB: How did you react to hearing “The Bomb” as the theme song to “Lipstick Jungle”?

SH: It was funny because, well, it’s the theme song. So we thought the show would start with the song! We’d gathered all of our friends and were waiting for it to open up the first episode. We’re waiting and waiting and five minutes goes by and we’re like, I guess they’ve changed their minds. But this theme song didn’t start in for a good 15 minutes.


BB: Was the song written specifically for the show?

SH: No, the only time we were ever asked to write a song was for Sex and the City, which was a really cool process. BB: Do you have to like the products you are essentially selling?

SH: You know, I think about that a lot, seeing as how television is the new radio for a lot of bands. But we’ve been really lucky with the products we’ve been asked be a part of. Victoria’s Secret! I mean, who doesn’t love lingerie?

KS: Our stuff always relates to romance and sex. We did have an issue with a Hummer commercial. We were a little on the fence about that one, just because we’re green.

SH: But we figured that if we went through with it, we’d take the money and give it to charity, an environmental organization.

BB: Tell me about Drama. How does it compare to your first album, The Mating Game?

KS: The honeymoon is over.

SH: [Laughs.] I would like to think it has been a natural evolution. The first album was the first set of songs we ever wrote. We were just really scratching the surface, you know, of what we were capable of doing. The second album was made after being together, travelling, taking risks, and just being inspired by so much—New Orleans, street musicians, culture.

BB: In light of my belief that nearly anything can be achieved on Craigslist, tell me about how you came together.

KS: Shana found me.

SH: It was pretty funny because I had never done anything like that before. I was playing with another band at the time, and I was just really disenchanted with the whole music business at the time—the people I was working with and being told how the music should sound. It just wasn’t fun anymore. Then, as a last resort, I thought, I’m going to get on Craigslist and check out some ads.

KS: I actually wrote a personal. She answered. It was under “Casual Encounters.”

SH: That is so not true!

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