Wilson Phillips reaps ‘Bridesmaids’ rewardsPrivileged daughters of rock royalty reaping the benefits of nepotism or three talented women crafting the most feel good, guilty-pleasure pop mantra of a generation? This is the great divide separating Wilson Phillips’ detractors and fans, of which both are legion. But suddenly, the band that disappeared quietly into karaoke obscurity is back with a vengeance thanks to the blockbuster comedy Bridesmaids, which features a cameo from Wendy and Carnie Wilson (daughters of troubled Beach Boys’ genius Brian Wilson) and Chynna Phillips (daughter of troubled The Mamas & The Papas leader John Phillips and singer Michelle Phillips), performing their infamous hit single “Hold On.” Now, for the first time since 1990, the year they became famous, the trio is back in Vancouver, performing at the PNE on September 1. WE spoke with the longtime friends over a conference call about their new reality show, their fathers’ musical legacy and their return to the spotlight.
WE: How does it feel to be “back,” as it were?
Carnie: It feels great. I was thinking about this the other day. God, I remember when I used to do things on my own, whether it was promoting a TV show or something, and I thought, I love doing this. It’s fun. But there was always a little part of my heart that felt sad, like I wanted Wendy and Chynna next to me, you know? And now all of a sudden we’re doing it again, and it really made me happy last night [at the Do Something Awards].
Chynna: Yeah, I got the same feeling, too. It was just really nice to hear them all saying, “Hey Wilson Phillips! Chynna, Carnie, Wendy!” And looking over, having our picture taken with our arms around each other. It’s just a warm feeling to be back in the groove, doing what we love, back in our element and our fans being able to see us again. There’s so much synchronicity going on right now.
Were you surprised to get the Bridesmaids call?
Wendy: Yes, we were. We’d never been in a movie together. We were so excited because we knew that Judd Apatow was a part of it and the girls from Saturday Night Live. We had no idea what kind of a movie it was, what script and we just went in blindly and just went for it. But it was such a great thing that we did it. We’re happy it was a big hit and it gave us a lot of publicity, which is great.
“Hold On” seems to be the rallying theme of BFFs. Do you remember the first time you heard it fully produced? Did you have an idea of what it would mean to people?
Chynna: The first time I heard “Hold On” on the radio, we were driving in Chicago in a van on our way to a radio station and it was my 22nd birthday. I just remember how excited I was that the first time I heard it on the radio was my birthday. I remember that it sounded really good; exactly how I thought it was going to sound coming out of those little speakers. The first time we heard it from beginning to end at the studio, we all just kind of looked at each other and giggled because we knew we had a hit on our hands. You just kind of know. How could a lot of people not like this song? (Laughs) It’s just a positive, feel-good, good rhythm, hooky chorus — we knew we had something special on our hands. But we didn’t know it was going to go viral the way it did. It just struck a chord really deep in people.
There are all sorts of rumours about what’s coming up next, including a new album and a reality show.
Wendy: True and true. We’re about to start a reality show. We’re nervous, yet excited about it. We can’t really say much about it except it’s sort of based on our relationships with each other.
Carnie: It’s also sort of following the reunion and the resurgence. The making of the next record, what it’s like to be with us on the road and our lives, the way that they’re strangely intertwined in that we’ve known each other forever, but we have such separate lives. We’re connected through music, but we have nine children between us, so the show is not going to be focused just on us. It will be more how we integrate this career that is blossoming again with our personal lives. And recording the next record.
Wendy: This record we’re doing right now is not an originals record. It’s a cover record of all of our parents’ greatest music. It’s different for us.
Chynna: It’s very exciting, too.
Carnie: We’ve been performing some Beach Boys and Mamas & Papas now in concert for a couple of years and the response from the crowd is really, really positive. It was actually Sony [Music’s] idea to do this. And it’s not that we were hesitant but we were so anxious to get in the studio and write and partner up with Glen Ballard again — which we know will happen but this was Sony’s idea. We’ve never done it and we almost feel like we have to do it at some point, because it’s such a natural thing. And as we were doing it, we realized just how classic these songs are and how much of a fan base there is out there. Two generations back and then this generation. I think it’s really going to appeal to a lot of people.
Could each of you tell me what your father taught you about music?
Wendy: Even though our mother taught us how to sing harmony, I think just that inherent love of harmony would be from our dad. He taught us how beautiful it is. That’s one thing the Beach Boys and Wilson Phillips have in common: the sound, the voices blending together. It makes it so magical and that’s something that makes us stand out from other people.
Carnie: I definitely think that’s a strong thing that’s been passed down, that it’s in the family. Dad sang with his brothers and Wendy and I sing together and it’s almost like Chynna’s a sister anyways, we’ve known each other our whole lives and when we do sing together, it’s so meant to be, it feels like family. I would say the ability to have an ear, to really hear pitch and harmonies and notes and the blend of it.
Chynna: My dad taught me that when you write a song, write about something that is universal and that people can identify with. Whenever I sit down to write, I always try to think, okay, is this way too personal? Is it something that only a handful of people will be able to understand? I think that’s one of the reasons “Hold On” went viral. So many people struggle and so many people have a difficult time getting through the day. If they can just hold on for this one day and things are going to start going your way, everyone can hold on for just one day. That was a really universal message.
Wilson Phillips perform Sept.1 at PNE Concert Stage, 8pm. Free with PNE admission