Emily Bate Takes a Ride on the Irish Cream
Emily Bate, Philadelphia artist and co-composer of the upcoming A Ride On The Irish Cream, was kind enough to answer a few questions about the music in the project. Check out her responses below, and come see A Ride On The Irish Cream February 16th–18th!
EB: Erin and I are friends from way back—I moved to New York briefly in 2014, and started working on the show with her and our co-composer, Kenny Mellman. By the time I came to my senses and moved back to Philly, I was deep in the project, so I’ve been riding that Bolt Bus ever since!
FA: What was the writing process like? Did you guys start with lyrics or melodies, or did the pieces of the songs all kind of develop at the same time?
EB: Erin usually began the process with lyrics and some melody, and it exploded or meandered out from there. She is a very in-the-room writer, so we would typically work out a draft of a song, and then perform it and assess what needed to change. There is a very deep & fluid relationship between spoken text and music. We often weave in and out of songs and scenes, and finding the right emotional pitch in each moment is extremely important. So as one element was changed or re-written, it affected all the other components. We rewrote almost all the music a few times, and we’re still always kinda tinkering with it.
FA: The musical’s central focus is on the quirky relationship between Reagan and the Irish Cream. Were there any other overarching themes that the music tries to tap into besides love?
EB: Well, from my perspective the show is an emotional relay race between music and text – you carry a scene to the end of what can be spoken, and then in exhaustion or confusion or joy, a song steps in. There are all these intricate layers of meaning between two people who’ve loved each other for a long time, who’ve developed an elaborate language they speak together, and who are frustrated by the limits of that language. The show embraces the tension in there, and sometimes the band acts as a release valve for that tension.
EB: So many! The show is rooted in Erin’s childhood memories, so there are a lot of pretty specific touchstones we pulled from, whether it was Christmas music, VH1 Divas Live, Disney villains, stuff that was swirling around her ears or pulled directly out of her home movies. A big part of the overall sound is the vocal trio of Erin, Chenda and myself. We were interested in creating a lot of different vocal textures – more beautiful, pure-toned choral singing that turns into a Mariah Carey riff that turns into a really angular, aggressive Dirty Projectors sound, all in the same song. We also spent some time during the development thinking about The Phantom of the Opera, which we were both obsessed with as little kids. I’m pretty sure that’s the first musical I had any relationship to. It was great to embrace how ridiculous and poppy and epic that music is, because Irish Cream hits all those points.
FA: What’s your favorite musical moment in the show?
EB: My favorite part of Irish Cream to sing is a song called “Transsiberian,” which is the hinge between the first and second half of the show. It’s got this enormous churning thunderstorm energy, at the height of emotional chaos. I come from a choral background, but making this show, I got a lot more comfortable with huge, let-it-rip singing than I’ve ever been. Becca, who plays Irish Cream, used to sing in a punk band, and they get to be a total badass in this song. It’s about everyone opening up the fire hose full blast.
A Ride on the Irish Cream runs February 16-18 at FringeArts. Click here for tickets/more info.