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The little story of The Murmurs...

  "Our acting teacher made us do all these humiliating vocal exercises that sounded like, `Murrrr ... Murrrr ... ,' " Grody said.  "We mocked it all the time and started doing it all the time between songs to clear our throats.  It was too sick not to make it a band name."  Heather.


As luck would have it sometimes, it's in New york, at the end of the 80's, more exactely at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts that the roads of Leisha Hailey and Heather Grody have come together and have involved the two friends in the incredible musical adventure of The Murmurs . Though it was not love at first sight : "We actually didn't like each other at first," Leisha laughs. "Heather thought I was really serious, and I thought Heather was really flaky, so we didn't hit it off until about a year into school."

But once they started hanging out, the two soulmates found themselves a special interest in music and songwriting and what was at first just something fun became a devouring passion and  began to consume them after school time. With some friends, who were all alumni of the same acting school, they rented a condemned building on the Brooklyn side of the Williamsburg Bridge, and started up what was called the "Open Window Theater Group". The Murmurs debuted at an art exhibition and party staged by this troupe: "We wanted to have live music at the theater's opening, but we couldn't afford anything. Leisha and I had some musical experience so we did the music ourselves."

They finally began to perform music in East Village clubs (district of Manhattan, known for its folk or punk-rock bars, its funky coffeehouses , its experimental theaters and its hip shops) and done some informal performances in local parks and subway stations: "We didn't make that much money and the cops chased us away all the time!" Heather laughs.

It didn't take long for the Murmurs to make an impression on the local music scene. The obvious personal and musical chemistry existing between Leisha and Heather, their catchy melodies and their passionately humanistic lyrical message inspired by their personal concerns, their energy on stage, their spontaneity and extravagance, their sense of humor and selfderision  must have been certainely the reasons why.

"We just started to realize that we were in a position where we could speak to all these people, and that we should take that responsibility seriously," Leisha recalls. "We're not claiming to have all the answers, but we definitely feel like we can be an example."

"We don't really have any specific message," Heather adds. "It's just about being real, being true to yourself and following your dreams. We're not perfect and we're not politically correct. We're just human and open minded."

In 1992 they released their first album, "Who Are We", produced by William Basinski (MMLXII/Arcadia Records). Recorded independently over the course of a year (between june 1991 & august 1992), they pressed 2500 records and sold them all at their gigs, mainly in New York City, but also in Texas (where they have friends), Nebraska (where Leisha's from), New Mexico--Santa Fe...

"Heather and I usually write the basic song together. Then we do the rest separate and collaborate in the end," Leisha says.

By this time, a lot of record companies had taken notice of the acoustic duo and more and more producers were showing up at their gigs. They sign to MCA Records in 1994. The same year, they release the self-titled album "The Murmurs" (more than 75,000 copies sold), an intoxicating cocktail of songs about love and life with sweet creamy harmonies. Heather and Leisha sought to capture the spontaneity and spirit of their live performances with a clean, immediate sound based around their voices and guitars:

"We added bass and drums in the studio, but we kept it mainly acoustic," says Heather. "We felt that it was important to get the feeling of our live shows on record."

Occasionally, co-producers Roger Greenawalt, Billy Basinski and Larry Klein sweetened the mix, adding subtly delicious layers of piano, cello, oboe, mandolin, saxophone, even ocarina and Uilleann pipes on top of Heather and Leisha's acoustic guitars and vocals.

Between 1994 and 1997, those two passionately fond of live music concentrate on touring, performing alone or with other artists like Lightning Seeds, Sweet, Joe Jackson, Adam Hunt or Bush.

In 1995, The Murmurs record a new CD, "White Rabbit", whose self-titled song is a cover version of the 1960s classic by Jefferson Airplane. this opus also contains a completely re-recorded versions of "Carry Me Home", "Venom of Violence" and "Shadow Quinta Mix", which was written by the murmurs in the bathroom of the La Quinta Hotel during a concert tour!


Although they started out as an acoustic duo, the Murmurs added some extra crunch to their sound for their 1997 release "Pristine Smut". Leisha and Heather swoped their folk guitars for some electric ones and also hooked up with two regular musiciens: a bassist, Sheri Ozeki, and a drummer, Sherri Solinger. Besides the duo, based in New York until now, has moved in Los Angeles.

Unfortunately, despite the presence of eleven great tracks (yeah ! nothing less !), this new album doesn't meet with expected success. So, in 1998, MCA Records decided to release a new CD called "Blender" in agreement with The Murmurs. An appropriate name for this CD because it contains a blend of new material ( hits again !)and songs from the previous album "Pristine Smut". New album, new challenge :

"Writing with new people turned out to be a whole new spin for us," enthuses Leisha Hailey, "Heather and I have such chemistry together that we don't have to say much. When you wirthe with someone else, you really have to communicate. Everyone has a different way of approaching it, and when you get four people in a room, you have a whole new experience."

Comparisons with The Go-Go's (groupe de légende des années 80) are inevitable and for a very good reason, the Murmurs wrote "Smash" with formers Go-Gos Charlotte Caffey et Jane Wiedlin:

"It was like writing with legends," insisits Heather. "They were huge pop stars when we were teenagers." Leisha agrees, "We were nervous, but then we saw that the way they interact with each other was just like me and Heather! It was exciting and surreal, and we learned so much."

"Jane and Charlotte, we look at them like Heather and me," Hailey says. "They're the same. Two friends, bickering. They actually had a little fight in front of us - a funny one. 'Charlotte that sounds like…' 'No it doesn't!' (laughs) We were like, 'Wow, it's us!' They're so neat, and we've written a couple other songs with them as well. They live in L.A., so it's been easy to hook up with them."

This isn't to say the Murmurs don't bring a recognizable sound of their own to the material, which were partly produced by k.d. Lang:

"She is the most grounded and down-to-earth person," Leisha insisits,"We love the songs k.d. produced because she's not always behind the console, she's an artist and knew exactly where our music was coming from."

Heather grins, "Yeah, she came right into the studio with us and danced around!"                        

Other songs of Blender are produced by Matthew Wilder (who produced No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom). Working with him also brought some enlightening changes:

"Besides writing "Misfit" with Matthew, it was the first time we had ever worked with samples," Heather explains, "and that opened a whole new door for us. We started coming up with tunes off the samples he would create, and that stretched us a lot. He understood that we wanted to sound bigger, but not overproduced. Big enough to be big, but still be able to play it on stage."

Stage is exactely what's the most important for the duo. This year 1998, The Murmurs embarked on the R.O.A.R tour - Rock Out Against Rage- designed to take a stand against domestic violence. All the proceeds went to local women's shelters in every city they played.

The duo' s involvement can be attribuared to how domestic violence changed Heather's life: her mother was killed by her own husband ("Sleepless Commotion" was writen about it).

The murmurs are very big on doing any event for women's causes:

"It's important as women artists to support any cause that will be beneficial to women. I think it's extremely important to give back in that direction." Heather says.

From this point of view, they toured with Lilith Fair in 1999. Founded by Sarah McLachlan, this tour featured female musicians only, and at each Lilith Fair venue, one dollar for each ticket sold was given to a women’s charity in that community. Some artists that performed at the 1999 Lilith Fair were: Sheryl Crow, les Dixie Chicks, Indigo Girls, Queen Latifah, Dido, Nelly Furtado, Suzanne Vega, Tracy Chapman, Shawn Colvin...

The girls support as well the gay and lesbian's cause by playing for exemple at a GLBTA-sponsored concert, or in different events like the Dinah Shore Weekend ( and his famous female golf tournament, fans of The L Word, does it remind you of something?...)

  Our two girls have no problem talking about being gay, and they agree that the important message to send is that sexual orientation is not an issue:

"Coming out publicly, we never really felt like we were coming out, because we never felt like we were in," Hailey jokes. "We never felt like we were closeted and then had to make this big announcement. So we've been very lucky. It's never really been an issue to us nor has it affected our career in any sort of negative way."

By the end of the 90's, some changes have been brought about, first in the group:

Leisha: "We started as an acoustic act nine years ago in New York. It was Heather and me from the beginning. Then we moved to Los Angeles and went electric. We got two girls, Sherri and Sheri, who were our original members. They no longer are in the band. Now we have three guys behind us. Our band sort of evolved over time. Brad Caselden plays drums, Dave Doyle plays bass and Bill Appleberry plays keyboards." Heather adds, "We’ve recently been writing with the guys."

 

photo: Copyright © Steven J. Adam

secondly, regarding their record label:

"We were at MCA for five years and our contract was up, and we could have stayed, and they could have renewed the contract, but we decided we'd rather jump off the cliff into the unknown to see what was going to happen to us. To stay there would have been to us just reliving the same story. We just thought, 'let's take a risk and see what happens,' and it's been nothing but positive." says Leisha.

"I think we've grown up a lot in our writing - it feels that way at least," Leisha says. "I think we're writing about deeper things, and the music sounds more mature for some reason. I also think not being on a record label right now, it's taken off the pressure of, 'write the hit, write the hit,' and then you try to write and you're always thinking about writing that perfect pop song. It's taken the pressure off of that and allowed us to write about what we want to write about, and it's more personal. Not that I don't think 'Blender' has songs like that, but our sound is definitely evolving."

Leisha: "We try to have fun with our music, and the most important thing to us is our live show."

Heather: "We've learned to be content with ourselves and not let anxiety hold us back. The people who come to our shows should know that it's all about having fun. our sound changes and keeps evolving. It keeps getting bigger and bigger. We're a lot more free now."


After many shows given in all the country, the musical adventure of The Murmurs ended at the beginning of the year 2001, but certainly not the friendship which binds Heather and Leisha:

 "We've had our rocky times. But when you become friends with somebody, it's a commitment," Heather says. "It's being available as a friend, and it's being forgiving and being forgiven. Friends are the most important thing you could ever hope for, and for Leisha and me, it's very much family."

 "Because the Murmurs originally stemmed from best friends doing something for fun, it's sort of been what we always look back to," Leisha adds. "When it feels serious and so scary and feels overwhelming, we just look at each other, and it's like, 'Oh my God. We're still doing it.' "

 "Even when times get tough, it's always, 'Well, at least I'm not alone in this,'  " Heather says.

"I don't think it would have ever happened," Leisha concludes, "if it wasn't together."


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Discography


 



Released independently in 1992, the Murmurs made
Released independently in 1992, "Who Are We" was only sold at their gigs.


1. City lights
2. Wastin time
3. Torch
4. Neverending
5. Echoeing
6. Untouchable
7. Venom of violence
8. Game player
9. Lonely man's shoes
10. Doesn't mean anything
11. Nucleus
12. Mother and son
13. Can't hide
14. Make love not war
15. No longer stranger
16. Mountain


 

1994's "The Murmurs" was Leisha and Heather's first album release under a major record label, MCA Records.


1. Bad mood
2. Basically
3. Wastin time
4. Mission
5. Carry me home
6. Untouchable
7. You suck
8. Neverending
9. Ticket to zen
10. Bumble bees
11. All i need to know
12. Beautiful peace





 

Named after a 60s song by Jefferson Airplane, 1995's "White Rabbit" was the next CD released by the Murmurs. It also contains a live recording of their cover version of the title track.


1. White rabbit
2. Carry me home - chex mix
3. Shadow - la quinta mix
4. Venom of violence
5. White rabbit - live


 

Partly produced by k.d. Lang, 1997's "Pristine Smut" was the debut of bassist Sheri Ozeki, and drummer Sherri Solinger. With this new opus, the band also moved from acoustic to electric.


1. Big talker
2. I'm a mess
3. Toy
4. Underdog
5. About nothin'
6. Genius
7. Squeeze Box days
8. Don't lie
9. Sucker upper
10. The country song
11. Sleepless commotion



1998's "Blender" is composed of some songs from 1997's "Pristine Smut" and some new material. It's also the latest album The Murmurs released.
 

1. La Di Da
2. I'm a Mess
3. Big Talker
4. Misfit
5. Smash
6. Genius
7. Don't Lie
8. Underdog
9. Sucker Upper
10. Country Song
11. About Nothin'

 


Unreleased Songs

 


Songs performed live, but not recorded:

What's wrong with me?
Jetfighter
One and only
 Another thorn in my side
Freak
Come and go
Trophy girl
Overcrowded room
Let me down
Half as good (reprise par GUSH)
 

 


Soundtracks and Compilations



Saturday morning cartoons' greatest hits (1995 MCA) : H.R. Pufnstuf

Sountrack All over me  (1997 TVT) : Squeeze Box Days

Sabrina the teenage witch: the album (1998 Geffen): Smash

Soundtrack The L Word (2004 Tommy Boy): Genius

Smash is performed over the lunchroom scene from the movie Never Been Kissed starring Drew Barrymore (1999)

 


According to the following publications:

Murmurs Sing It Loud And Clear - February 17, 1995 - By Jae-Ha Kim  - Chicago Sun-Times

RAD Copyright © 1995, Rational Alternative Digital

© MCA Records 1995, 1998 (Pamela Des Barres)

ACOUSTIC DUO MURMURS TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW - Joey Guerra - Daily Cougar - Vol. 60 - 27/04/05

TWN ISSUE DATE May 18, 2000

The Incredibly True Musical Adventures of the Murmurs - Dian Katz - Lesbian News 2000


2000

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