The Living Sisters: Perfecting The Three-Part Harmony United by a taste for pop, folk and vocal jazz, Inara George, Eleni Mandell and Becky Stark began collaborating in 2006. While they focused on their solo projects, their work as The Living Sisters was pure hobby. But in 2009, they recorded Love to Live, released last month.

The Living Sisters: Perfecting The Three-Part Harmony

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block thinking if there's anything better than close three-part harmony, right now I'm not sure what it is.

(Soundbite of song, "Double Knots")

THE LIVING SISTERS (Music Group): (Singing) I want to walk down to the boulevard. I want to buy a candy bar. I'm going to drink two martinis. Going to jump in the fire, I'm going to get burned.

BLOCK: And this new CD, "Love to Live," from the L.A.-based trio The Living Sisters has me happily singing along.

THE LIVING SISTERS: (Singing) My baby ties me up in double knots. My baby ties me up in double knots. Hey, hey, he's going to loosen me up.

BLOCK: The Living Sisters are Inara George, Eleni Mandell and Becky Stark, and they join us from our studios at NPR West. Welcome.

Ms. ELENI MANDELL (Member, The Living Sisters): Thank you.

Ms. BECKY STARK (Member, The Living Sisters): Thank you.

Ms. INARA GEORGE (Member, The Living Sisters): Thank you.

BLOCK: And on this song, "How Are You Doing?" why don't you let us know which voice is who is here.

(Soundbite of song, "How Are You Doing")

Ms. MANDELL: That's me, Eleni.

Ms. STARK: Oh, that's us.

Ms. GEORGE: That's us.

(Soundbite of laughter)

THE LIVING SISTERS: (Singing) How are you doing? I'm fine. What about you?

Ms. STARK: Oh, that's me.

Ms. GEORGE: That's Inara.

THE LIVING SISTERS: (Singing) I'm fine too.

Ms. MANDELL: That's Eleni.

Ms. STARK: Eleni.

(Soundbite of song, "How Are You Doing?")

THE LIVING SISTERS: (Singing) How is it going? How is it going? This is...

BLOCK: Eleni, your voice is the lowest?

Ms. MANDELL: My voice is the lowest and I lead in each verse I start.

BLOCK: Becky, your voice is the highest one?

Ms. STARK: Well, Inara and I both sing the highest parts.

Ms. GEORGE: Yeah, we switch off.

Ms. STARK: Yeah.

(Soundbite of song, "How Are You Doing?")

THE LIVING SISTERS: (Singing) Something to eat. Watch a show. After that...

BLOCK: Well, I wonder if part of the fun of this is that your voices blend in such a way that it's really maybe harder for us to tell whose is who.

Ms. GEORGE: That's our goal.

Ms. MANDELL: Yeah.

Ms. STARK: To have our three voices become one voice.

Ms. GEORGE: No individuality in this.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MANDELL: When we first started performing, sometimes I wasn't sure which one was me and which one was Inara.

BLOCK: Really?

Ms. MANDELL: She sings a little bit lower.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. STARK: And that feeling is so beautiful and relaxing.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. STARK: Isn't it?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MANDELL: When you're like, who am I?

Ms. GEORGE: Yeah.

BLOCK: A little identity crisis there, maybe?

Ms. STARK: A little bit. I mean in the best possible way, yeah.

(Soundbite of song, "How Are You Doing?")

THE LIVING SISTERS: (Singing) How are you doing? How are you doing?

BLOCK: I'm listening to this, wondering if the three of you just instinctively know where you're going to place your voices, or did you have to map that out?

Ms. STARK: It's work.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MANDELL: You know, it's not like a musical. We don't just break into song.

Ms. GEORGE: Well, no. Don't tell them that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: You are so bursting my bubble right now. Inara, do you think that you know just exactly where your voice needs to go if you're hearing a melody line?

Ms. GEORGE: I think that you get your ear used to it. But I definitely have had my troubles with the harmony.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. STARK: But I think it's important for everyone out there to try cause it's so fun.

Ms. GEORGE: Well, if you just sing a third.

Ms. STARK: Yeah.

Ms. GEORGE: It's the easiest thing and it's the most appealing harmony.

Ms. STARK: Mm-hmm.

BLOCK: Why don't you demonstrate what you're talking about in terms of finding a third?

Ms. GEORGE: We can do like a simple chord. So if Eleni starts...

THE LIVING SISTERS: (Singing) La, la, la.

Ms. GEORGE: That's just a simple harmony but it's very - it's pleasing.

BLOCK: Okay, now make it trickier. Now do something that wows us.

Ms. MANDELL: That lovely jazz chord.

Ms. GEORGE: The jazz chord at the end.

Ms. MANDELL: Sorry, it'll take just a second.

(Soundbite of singing)

Ms. STARK: No, I go the high one.

Ms. GEORGE: Yeah, this is how our rehearsals are very hilarious.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of singing)

BLOCK: Oh, nice.

Ms. GEORGE: But, as you witnessed, just then we get each other's voices confused. And...

Ms. STARK: But I think it's very important that there's laughter and harmony together in the same space. I don't - I'm not sure it's proven, but I don't think perfect harmony can exist without laughter.

(Soundbite of song, "You Make Me Blue")

THE LIVING SISTERS: (Singing) Shabopshawop. I always think if only when I'm feeling lonely because (unintelligible) I'm sick and tired of crying and all my empty nights seem (unintelligible) without you, without you.

BLOCK: Now, Inara, this song "Blue" is your song. This is you on lead vocals?

Ms. GEORGE: Yes.

BLOCK: And whose idea was it to put the shabopshawops in there?

Ms. MANDELL: I don't remember.

Ms. GEORGE: I think we all decided to do it.

Ms. STARK: Spontaneous.

Ms. GEORGE: That was just like a musical.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MANDELL: While that goes on, let me get the colorful umbrellas.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MANDELL: We'll figure this out.

(Soundbite of song, "You Make Me Blue")

THE LIVING SISTERS: (Singing) What can I do? You make me blue. You make me blue.

BLOCK: You know, as I'm listening to these songs, I, for some reason I have in my mind a picture of a listener. And she is wearing like a midriff shirt tied around her waist. And she's got pedal pushers on and a transistor radio in the backyard. And she's kind of hanging the laundry, swaying from side to side.

Ms. GEORGE: That's nice.

BLOCK: Yeah.

Ms. STARK: So cool.

Ms. GEORGE: I like that.

Ms. MANDELL: Sounds like a summer day.

Ms. GEORGE: I know.

Ms. STARK: I love to think of like a family listening to our music, puttering around the house on a Sunday morning. The kids are playing with blocks. And maybe they're cleaning up after a delicious breakfast together. And birds are outside.

Ms. MANDELL: Blue bird at the window.

Ms. STARK: ...singing because they've heard the music too.

Ms. GEORGE: There's a pie singing along.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GEORGE: Actually, you know what? I want to tell you that sometimes when we're singing and we have the windows open, the birds will come to sing with us.

Ms. MANDELL: And they sing in perfect harmony.

Ms. GEORGE: Well, they don't quite sing in perfect harmony.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: This is a Walt Disney movie right there.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: Now, Eleni, you brought your guitar in today. And I wonder whether you might all take us out with a song.

Ms. MANDELL: Ooh. What do you think, ladies?

Ms. STARK: We do it.

BLOCK: What are you going to do?

Ms. MANDELL: We're going to play "Ferris Wheel."

(Soundbite of song, "Ferris Wheel")

THE LIVING SISTERS: (Singing) Take me up on the Ferris wheel. There's something soft that you ought to feel. Traveling around. Hold tight, I'm feeling crazy tonight. Ooh, baby, I was wrong, ooh-ooh-ooh, when I thought you should be careful, get along. I'm high above the ground. Hold tight, I'm feeling crazy tonight.

I'm going to howl. I'm going to squeal when you're rocking my car on the Ferris wheel. Ooh-wah-ooh. I want to know if you're for real. I know that I am. Ooh-ooh-ooh-woo-woo. Take me up where the night lights burn. Ooh. There's something hard that I need to learn. I'm traveling around. Hold tight, I'm feeling crazy tonight.

BLOCK: Just lovely.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: Thanks so much to the three of you for coming in.

Ms. GEORGE: Oh, our pleasure. Thank you for having us.

Ms. MANDELL: Yeah, great pleasure.

Ms. STARK: Yeah. Thank you so much.

BLOCK: The Living Sisters: Becky Stark, Eleni Mandell and Inara George. There are more songs from their new CD, "Love to Live," at

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