Armed with great genes and tight harmonies, Wilson Phillips soared to superstardom off the trio's 1990 debut album and stayed there for three years. Then they were gone -- off to explore new professional opportunities in solo recording and television, as well as marriage and motherhood.
They've found their second wind, thanks to a cameo appearance in the 2011 hit film "Bridesmaids" and a tribute to their famous families on their 2012 "Dedicated" disc.
The California girls -- sisters Carnie and Wendy Wilson, daughters of Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson, and Chynna Phillips, daughter of John and Michelle Phillips of The Mamas & The Papas -- are heading to the Riverside Casino on Saturday night (5/11), riding the waves of their signature sound.
- Wilson Phillips
- 9:00 p.m. Saturday (5/11)
- Riverside Casino Event Center, Riverside
- Tickets: $35 to $55 at the casino gift shop or Riversidecasinoandresort.com
- Artist's website: Wilsonphillipsmusic.com
Reuniting in 2003 after a 10-year hiatus -- then periodically as projects came their way -- wasn't hard at all.
"It was like riding a bike, just picking up where we left off," Wendy Wilson, 43, says by phone from her home in Studio City, Calif.
"These kinds of things are very innate. The way we sing together, we complete each other. It's something that never goes away. It's always gonna be there. It doesn't matter if it's a hundred years or one year -- we're always going to have that same sound," she says.
"It was great. The first thing we did, was sing at a Carl Wilson benefit -- the first time after 10 years of not singing a note together, and it was like everything was just perfect, dead-on. It was really exciting for us. From there on, we knew that we felt very lucky to have each other and to do what we do -- we never wanted to part. We always want to do this as long as we can."
“Bridesmaids,” where the trio sings at the over-the-top wedding reception, gave that goal a big push.
“We got a huge response from the movie,” Wilson says. “People came out of the woodwork and contacted us. The phone rang off the hook for new shows and offers ever since that movie. It kind of put us back on the map. It was a blessing for us – it restarted the engine. It’s a great, great movie.”
The trio also has a great, great new album.
Recording "Dedicated" was sweet and bittersweet, but mostly sweet, Wilson says. It features such family classics as "California Dreamin', "Don't Worry Baby," "Monday, Monday" and "Good Vibrations."
"It was a lot of fun to do it," she says. "It was like a challenge to recreate these songs, but with our own spins. Also, there were times that it was inevitable to feel emotional -- just singing some of these songs and knowing that Cass Elliot is not here anymore, or that my uncle Carl or uncle Dennis aren’t here. It almost felt like they were watching us record. It was a bizarre feeling, but we felt honored to do it. It was really fun, yet it was really kind of like a spiritual experience."
The women typically switch around vocal parts, but Wilson generally sings the high part. She sang lead vocals on "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and the title track, "Dedicated to the One I Love." Her favorite track in the new collection is the sublime "God Only Know."
"It’s my favorite Beach Boys song of all times," she says. "Just the way it came out in our version, we added some really cool background parts that were never there. It was Rob Bonfiglio who produced it. He taught us the background parts, and it really did stand out. It's so much fun singing it on stage. It's great, it's a beautiful rendition. It's hard to compete with the Beach Boys, because they had something so incredibly special, but we love our version."
Wilson Phillips has covered quite a few iconic hits over the years, from "Daniel" in a 1991 Elton John/Bernie Taupin tribute album to their own 2004 "California" album, and now, "Dedicated."
"We really wanted not to depart too far from the original" in crafting these covers, Wilson says. "Why mess with something so great? But yet, we didn't want to be a carbon copy. We wanted to sound like Wilson Phillips.
"There is a big similarity in the Beach Boys and The Mamas & the Papas and Wilson Phillips, in that we're all harmonic groups. We have the same tones as our parents anyway, so it kinda works. We might be reminiscent of them, because you're going to hear voices that are similar"
"Good Vibrations" was the most challenging to cover. With all the "layers upon layers of vocals," it took three weeks to record. Sister Carnie Wilson had the hardest part, hitting the baritone line supporting the lilting melody. Departing from their usual mode, they had to employ some computerized technology to tweak the lowest notes -- the ones that "just weren't intended for a female voice."
Wilson was thrilled with the album's process and the final product.
"I love a challenge, and my sister and I love to sing close harmonies," she says. "We had to see how The Mamas & The Papas and the Beach Boys made this music. We had to dissect it in order to do it. It was fun -- it was really great. I'm really glad we made that record."
Riverside audiences will hear cuts off that album, as all as Wilson Phillips' biggest hits and their favorite covers -- "a little bit of each record that we made."
"We have a really great show," she says. "People feel very comfortable. We're going to make them feel like they’re in our living room."
The comforts of home are important to Wilson, a busy mom of four boys ages 9 to 5, the youngest of whom are twins. When she does get time to herself, she enjoys yoga, walking and swimming in her backyard pool. "Exercise is kind of my zen," she says.
Doing a couple of Wilson Phillips gigs each month gives the trio the right balance of home life and professional release.
"It's a great way to decompress from being a mother and wife and just do something that's artistic," she says. "That's important to us, because we are creative people. To be able to be together and sing these songs we created when we were really young -- it's such a gift, what we do.
"The fact that we can go out and make a living this way is not very common. I just feel like it's a super blessing -- it's a huge blessing. Sometimes our kids come to the show. ... To see their faces out there is just priceless, knowing that one day they might be in a band. It could all happen again."