Wendy and Lisa (occasionally also known as The Girl Bros.) are a musical duo consisting of Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman. Best known for their collaborations with Prince in the early-mid 1980s, Melvoin and Coleman began their career as a duo in 1986.
The two were childhood friends, both from musical families which often performed together; Wendy’s father, Mike Melvoin, was an in-demand session musician and was president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) in the 1980s, while Lisa’s father, Gary L. Coleman (not the actor) was also an in-demand session musician for jazz artists.
Although Wendy and Lisa may be better known for being part of The Revolution, their careers began long before joining the group. As a pre-teen, Lisa joined her sister Cole Ynda, brother David Coleman, and Jonathan Melvoin (Wendy’s brother) to form the band Waldorf Salad. In addition to music, Lisa also ventured into acting appearing in Sarah T - Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic, a movie starring Linda Blair and released in 1975.
In 1980, Lisa Coleman replaced Gayle Chapman in Prince’s touring band. Coleman was asked to contribute vocals to several tracks over his next few albums. In 1983, Dez Dickerson left the band over religious conflicts. Coleman suggested Melvoin as a replacement. Prince accepted Melvoin into the band as they began to record Purple Rain. The film and album were a phenomenon, turning Prince and the newly named The Revolution into superstars. Prince’s personal life also became intertwined with Melvoin’s when he began dating her twin sister Susannah.
The team of Coleman and Melvoin worked extremely well together. Prince saw this and tapped their talents for the albums following Purple Rain. Their influence was particularly heard on several tracks on the Parade album, the soundtrack to Prince’s film Under the Cherry Moon. In an ironic parallel to the conflicts in the film Purple Rain, the duo felt they were not getting the recognition and credit they deserved despite their growing contributions. Unhappy and vocal about their feelings, they were eventually convinced to remain with the band and to go on tour that year with the “Hit and Run” shows. However, Prince felt spurned and by the end of the tour he had already decided he would dissolve The Revolution once the tour was complete. Hence, by October 1986, Coleman and Melvoin (along with Bobby Z.) were dismissed by Prince.
Their pop/blue eyed soul/funk hybrid can be heard on Purple Rain, Around the World in a Day and Parade. Their influence is also extremely prominent on a number of unreleased songs recorded together with Prince during 1984, 1985 and 1986, during which they either co-wrote, co-produced or co-composed material. Prince often created the basic tracks and left it to the female duo to finish, adding their own unique embellishments along the way. After their departure, Prince’s music became significantly more funk-driven, while their more psychedelic and ethereal style can be heard clearly on their first few albums.
The next year, the duo released an album simply entitled Wendy and Lisa with Columbia Records. The lead single, “Waterfall” received some airplay, and the music video was played on MTV and VH1. The album was a moderate success, but did not approach the sales figures of The Revolution. The sound was a continuation of the ethereal/dance/R&B fusion that had been the hallmark of their work with Prince. They released a follow up album, Fruit at the Bottom, which although not a commercial success, did receive some critical acclaim.
After a few years, the duo signed with Virgin Records (already their label in Europe) and released Eroica, an album with a more alternative rock feel. They had a minor radio and dance club hit with the single “Strung Out”. In 1991, Virgin UK released Re-mix-In-a-Carnation, a selection of club mixes from the first three albums.
In the mid-nineties, Wendy and Lisa worked on several movie projects with record producer Trevor Horn, including session work with Seal and vocals on the soundtrack for Toys and their first scoring work for Dangerous Minds. During this period, they worked to record a full length album under Horn’s production, however, the project (sometimes mistakenly called Friendly Fire by fans and bootleggers) has never been released.
Feeling confined by the “Wendy and Lisa” moniker, the duo enlisted alternative producer Tchad Blake (Soul Coughing, Cibo Matto) and released a CD in 1998 under the name Girl Bros. Their sound had begun to evolve on Eroica and while Girl Bros. was still pop/funk based, it also could be categorized as alternative music.
Wendy and Lisa’s alternative sound (which is a hybrid of funk, jazz, R&B, electronica and classical piano) that was born on Eroica and further developed on Girl Bros. is more fully developed on their most recent album release, White Flags of Winter Chimneys. The album marks Wendy and Lisa’s first in ten years and is described by Wendy as “their best work”. A gorgeous kaleidoscope of song-compositions with influences ranging from trance to electronica to 70s funk and straight up rock and roll, White Flags was released completely independently. .
While the initial release was solely through their website, the album was subsequently released via retail channels (such as iTunes, Amazon.com and the like). The album represents the fruition of their goal to produce an album without the constraints and forced musical direction of a major record label. During interviews, Wendy and Lisa have commented on how they felt pressured by record executives to put out music more reminiscent of Prince’s music and cite their first two albums as examples. However, White Flags of Winter Chimneys represents Wendy and Lisa’s most self-controlled project to date. All music, lyrics, and instruments are written and performed by Wendy and Lisa.
They currently score the music for the NBC hit “Heroes” as well as the upcoming Fox series “Virtuality” and Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie”.