At an early age, actress Zoe Lister-Jones discovered that song lyrics had a transformative effect. “I was 11 or 12 and I remember reading the lyrics over and over until they were imprinted in my brain to Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted,” she says.
As she wrote Band-Aid, an often poignant indie dramedy about a couple who, in an effort to save their crumbling marriage, turn their fights into songs, she drew upon that love of music, as well as from experiences in her own marriage.
“My husband and I have been known to go to a karaoke bar when we’re feeling low and just sing it out,” says Lister-Jones, 34. “I turned to lyric writing in my 20s as a form of catharsis and I’ve always loved it from a comedic standpoint.” She co-wrote the songs in the film with Kyle Forrester.
The movie which was an official 2017 Sundance Film Festival Official Selection, opens in New York and Los Angeles Friday (June 2) and will be available via streaming and on demand on June 9.
Lister-Jones, who also directed and produced the movie, plays Anna, half of a millennial couple, who is struggling to resurrect their marriage after she miscarries. After they visit a marriage counselor, Anna suggests they sing about their issues as a way to work through them. They start singing around the house and then take their act, with their drummer neighbor, Dave, played by Fred Armisen, to a local open mic night. As the slightly NSFW exclusive clip below shows, it starts off disastrously, but they develop into a competent outfit.
Former SNL cast member Armisen, who leads the house band for Late Night with Seth Meyers, has real chops, which was important to Lister-Jones, who learned how to play bass for the part. Co-star Adam Pally played enough guitar to be convincing, especially since in the film, they are picking back up instruments they haven’t touched in years. “I always knew I wanted the songs to be performed live,” says Lister-Jones, who also stars in CBS comedy Life in Pieces. “I wanted to capture the electricity of live performance in all its imperfections. Since Adam and I aren’t trained, we knew the drums were essential. There are very few actors who are as funny and talented as Fred.” Armisen gets to show off his chops during a stellar drum solo as the group, dubbed The Dirty Dishes (after a salient plot point) perform “Love is Lying.”
Female-fronted band Lucius composed the score, which provides a nice balance to the often raucous songs. “I love Jess (Wolfe) and Holly (Laessig)’s voices,” Lister-Jones says. “The film is already so music heavy, to find a score that fit into that world was a very important thing to do.”
By design, Lister-Jones worked with an all-female crew. “There are many, many, many women hungry to be working in a number of departments in film and they are rarely given the opportunities because of a perceived lack of experience on their resumes or people have connections with men they’e worked with in their past. That creates gender inequality. It was not only important to create opportunities and dismantle those roadblocks, I wanted to see what it would feel like to work with all women,” Lister-Jones says. The experience “exceeded all of my expectations. It was a very supportive and nurturing and patient and graceful set. And, on top of that, it was amazingly productive and efficient.”
An EP by The Dirty Dishes, who have played in New York and at the movie’s Los Angeles May 30 premiere, comes out Friday (June 2) on iTunes, and features the songs the band performs in the movie including emphasis track, “Love is Lying.” “I hope we get to do more playing live,” Lister-Jones says. “It’s an amazing added benefit to this entire experience that I didn’t expect.”