The Living Sisters Let Themselves Go, And Their Harmonies Are More Remarkable For It
The Living Sisters serve sweet vermouth, cheesy puff pastries, dark chocolate and red wine at a late-November get-together, which they hold in the cozy living room of founding member Eleni Mandell's Echo Park apartment. Her 2-year-old twins sleep in a nearby bedroom. True to their whimsical musical vibe, they merrily toss around ideas for "The Living Sisters Dating Game" (wherein unattached members are set up, with no say in the matter, by the others) and swap stories about toddlers who want to eat only cookies.
Heather Holty Newton The Living Sisters
A compelling lightness defines the approach of the quartet, which can accurately be called an indie supergroup, as its members are drawn from beloved local acts including Lavender Diamond, Touché and The Bird and the Bee. "Our goal was just to get together and sing in harmony, and that's really what has propelled us," Mandell says.
Bohemian-leaning founder Becky Stark christened the group the first night she and Mandell met: "It just sounded beautiful to me -- The Living Sisters." As a threesome along with scene luminary Inara George, in 2010 they released their much-praised debut, Love to Live. But even then Stark imagined a foursome, and the newest Sister, Alex Lilly, formally joined the act for their sophomore effort, the all-covers EP Run for Cover, out today. It features versions of tunes by Parliament Funkadelic, Patsy Cline and Doris Day.
"Being in this group is like taking a vacation [from our other projects]," says Mandell, whose solo work tends to plumb darker themes. The Living Sisters join forces for brief but intense stretches when they find time off from their gigs as full-time musicians. It seems to be great fun for them -- and it had better be, as it requires day-planner jujitsu concerning international tour dates and the needs of young children (including two sets of twins).
Collaborating with one another for maybe two concentrated weeks per year, they stay in close orbit and look out for the rare moments when their planets align.