Nowhere in the literature for Leisha Hailey's new music project does it explain why she and bandmate Camila Grey chose to dub their band with the same name as PJ Harvey's 2004 release, Uh Huh Her. Perhaps that will be explained by the time the duo's full-length album is released next spring. Meanwhile, we'll have the digital EP I See Red to keep us happy.
Back in the 1990s, Hailey gained national attention as one half of the Canadian folk/pop duo The Murmurs. With their tight harmonies and quirky lyrics, the pair developed a devoted following and released three albums before dissolving and then reforming as Gush. Hailey and Heather Grody finally went their separate ways when Hailey joined the cast of The L Word in 2004.
Fast-forward a couple of years, and Hailey was looking to start up a new band when she met Grey, the bassist and keyboardist for Mellowdrone. The pair began collaborating early this year, and over several months they recorded the five track EP I See Red, mainly at Grey's house. They have done such a fine job that the average listener will have no idea that it was done anywhere but a professional studio.
It is a five track EP, but with only four songs. The song, "Say So," is given two different mixes and bookends the EP. The packaging and promotional material does not include details for who wrote and played what, nor does it list anyone else who was involved with the production. After doing a bit of investigating, I found that Alicia Warrington played the drums, which were the only parts recorded in a studio. Also, the EP was produced by Grey and mixed by Al Clay, who has worked with the Pixies and Frank Black, among others. Since it is so short, relatively speaking, here's a play-by-play rundown of the songs and my opinions of them:
- "Say So" (Thom Russo Mix) — This is definitely the single, particularly given the double treatment. The track starts off with driving percussion and bass with a hint of electric keyboards. The vocals come in quickly and sound like they've been put through a processor of some sort, adding to the electro-pop feel of the song. The harmonies are typical pop/rock and don't have the tight, slightly ethereal feel that Hailey and Grody created. This is probably a good thing for helping the band create a separate identity.
- "Explode" — I can't quite put my finger on it, but there is something about this song that shifts it from modern electro-pop into 80's synth-pop. It's a pleasant flashback, and thankfully the rest of the EP sticks with 2007. The mood of the song simmers with a dark desire, which fits in just so with the music arrangement.
- "Run" — This could also be a single, although it might be a little too introspective for commercial radio. The harmonies are sweet, and although it doesn't have the hooks of "Say So," the arrangement and production are solid winners.
- "I See Red" — I find it a little odd that the title track of this EP is not either of the obvious singles, but rather this good but not quite radio-friendly track gets the honor. This track also borders on that wormhole to the 80's that brought forth "Explode."
- "Say So" — Here is what I assume to be the original mix. It has all the energy and drive of the Thom Russo mix, but with flatter production and not so much of the processing effect. It's still a great song.
My one quibble with I See Red is that lyrically there is just a bit too much angst and drama for my taste. A little is good, but I hope the upcoming album includes some songs that are not about dysfunctional relationships.
It is clear that Hailey and Grey know what they are doing and where they want this band to go. The two are approaching the collaboration from different perspectives and backgrounds, which can sometimes spell disaster, but if this EP is any indication, the combination will prove to be a successful one.
Listen to the not-Thom-Russo mix of "Say So":